Justin McLeod, Founder/CEO Event Tent at Atlanta Tech Village’s rooftop patio (photo credit: Jerome Dorn)
Just two months shy of his 23rd birthday, Justin McLeod is well on his way to becoming a successful technology entrepreneur.
The Georgia State University alum has hit the jackpot with his innovative events app that’s a perfect fit for digital savvy millennials who would rather spend cash on experiences than acquiring “stuff.”
McLeod, who majored in marketing, says he first came up with the idea for his Event Tent app after he noticed a disconnect between students on campus and event promoters. “We saw the opportunity and capitalized on it and I put the idea down in a business plan.”
He describes his platform as “a mobile app that allows users to create, discover and preview live events from multiple perspectives. It’s a community for event goers and event organizers to connect.”
“We’re like a real-time event discovery,” says McLeod, founder and CEO of Event Tent.“So people promote their [live or upcoming] events on the app but the magic happens when the actual event is live.”
The mobile application features numerous categories from sport, music, fitness, nightlife, and networking. “People that are looking at stuff that’s going on at that exact moment can get a peek and inside look at a live event. They can see real-time photos and videos and then decide whether to go or not.”
McLeod met his co-founder and CTO, Duvall Smith, on the football field. Both fellow GSU college footballers, Smith’s tech savvy perfectly complements McLeod’s passion for events.
“We actually played football during my freshman year. I told him I’m trying to build this app and he [Smith] said my major is Computer Science and we took it from there.”
It’s taken a good three years to create a winning team and build a sleek online platform and mobile application. Now the five-strong squad is ready to take on the world.
All hands are on deck ahead of this week’s highly anticipated soft launch as the beta testing phase winds down. Then the team has a busy schedule of traveling across the country pitching at early-stage startup contests.
They’re hoping to make a splash on the competition circuit, meet potential investors, and of course win much-needed prize money (with zero equity) to help towards the running costs of their business.
McLeod says winning six months of free hot desk space at Atlanta Tech Village couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. “My plan was to do Event Tent full time so everything is going to plan,” says McLeod, who currently works as a part-time Communications Assistant at Georgia World Congress Center.
“Atlanta Tech Village is a tech startup’s dream come true,” he adds. “It fosters some of the most innovative tech companies in the city and has gained an enviable reputation nationwide. I’m so excited to be part of this ecosystem.”
UrbanGeekz and Tech Village joined forces in February for a startup competition open to talented women of any background and/or minority tech entrepreneurs. McLeod has won six months of free co-working space at ATV’s state-of-the-art facility in Buckhead.
This is an amazing chance for McLeod to kick-start his startup without having to worry about the cost of office space. It is also an invaluable opportunity to network, exchange ideas, access curated mentors, and much-needed resources.
Still, McLeod and his crew are no strangers to winning. Last year they competed in GSU’s Business Plan Competition, winning a $10,000-second place cash prize, along with a business-consulting package for their mobile app.
He says what distinguishes him from other aspiring young entrepreneurs is his hard work and diligence centered on the life lessons he’s learned from playing team sports.
“I use the knowledge and discipline from being a student-athlete and apply it to running a tech startup,” says McLeod. “Approaching business as if it were sports allows me to have a never give up work ethic centered on teamwork to accomplish goals.”
In fact, ever since McLeod was kid he dreamt of being an entrepreneur. “When I was about 6-years-old me and my brother sold candy to our neighbors. At high school, I had my own DJing business.”
“My main inspiration has been my dad,” says McLeod, who was raised in a middle-class household in Atlanta’s suburbs. “He was an entrepreneur with several businesses and my mom preached about multiple sources of income. In college, I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and it just confirmed everything.”
McLeod and Smith, along with the rest of the team, have an ambitious five-year plan: “Eventually, we want to be the number one event discovery resource.”
Their initial focus is to gain traction in Atlanta and surrounding areas before branching out to major U.S. cities, eventually venturing into the main global markets. With McLeod’s drive, focus, and dogged determination, the sky’s the limit.
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