The Atlanta tech ecosystem came together once again for the second annual Startup Atlanta Awards. The event took place at The Garage at Tech Square where eight founders and startups were recognized for their contributions to making tech in the city more vibrant, top-notch and diverse and inclusive.
The eight categories and their winners are:
The Art of the Pivot Award – BigTeam
Scrappiest Startup – Sifted
Best Social Impact Startup – Goodr
Best B2B Startup – Gimme Vending
Best B2C Startup – 2ULaundry
Best Growth Stage Startup – Gather Technologies
Community Influencer – Burunda Prince-Jones, Managing Director of The Farm ATL
Startup Atlanta, lead by Executive Director Charlton Cunningham, is a neutral non-profit that aims to grow and connect the local startup ecosystem. In addition to the awards, each year Startup Atlanta publishes a Guide to the Ecosystem, which lists all of the key players and entities doing the work in the metro area.
Atlanta tech has a unique landscape [for entrepreneurs to “play” and grasp(hold) of the industry, so says Scott Henderson, CEO and co-founder of Sandbox Communities. Henderson has been working out of Tech Square for six years.
“Over the course of the last six to seven years, there’s been a really strong shift towards a stronger community and identity in the Atlanta startup scene,” said Henderson. “Doing my work, I get to travel to different cities and different ecosystems. Without a doubt, every time I go somewhere and let people know that I’m from Atlanta, they all know that Atlanta has a great vibe going on. A lot of great companies are being built here. There’s a stronger awareness across the country. A lot of that comes from on the groundwork that various people have done by building companies but also all the great people in the community helping the entrepreneurs build what they need to build.”
Diversity and inclusion fits into the equation, as well.
“One of the best things that I love about Atlanta is we have this advantage over other cities where we have a very strong, rich collection of people who are actively building companies,” said Henderson.
“The AUC campus is building out companies, Georgia Tech is pumping out companies, and we have a lot of strong programs for women entrepreneurs that I think is easy for us to take for granted in Atlanta. But when I go to other cities they don’t have the organizations that are dedicated to minority and women-led startups that Atlanta has. Certainly, without a doubt, you look around at the great organizations. And more importantly, I think it’s the mindset of those individuals who are out there helping companies thinking through how do we make sure? Who’s missing from the table? And who can we invite to join us at the table, so that we can have that mindset?”
Equity Champion winner Joey Womack is one such figure who’s been at the forefront of making sure technology is inclusive and opportunities are open to diverse communities of color and backgrounds.
On the award, Womack said, “It feels pretty good to be recognized for this hard work. I think Scott put it best. That this work often times is really thankless or really doesn’t get a lot of recognition, especially in this part of the country. And so it feels good to know that people are paying attention, and more importantly, that we’re having a great impact.”
His startup Goodie Nation will be hosting their first virtual pre-accelerator cohort this month focused on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Applications are now open.
Another member of Atlanta Black Tech, Community Influencer winner Burunda Prince-Jones spoke about how it felt to win her award. She mentioned the dynamic energy she feels as part of the ecosystem. According to Prince-Jones, it’s the people who make the ecosystem so special.
“This is a tribute to how collaborative and appreciative the Atlanta ecosystem is,” said Prince-Jones. “I want to say congratulations to all my fellow nominees. Because it could have been them up there just as well as me. But we all do it because we love startups.”
Prince-Jones leads The Farm, which is gearing up for its second annual Demo Day next month at the Coca-Cola Roxy located at The Battery.
“I’m inspired,” said Prince-Jones. “I’m going to take this back and share it with all my teams because this is just the warm-up. But my teams are truly the real stars. I’m just in the background, encouraging them and pushing them on. But they’re the ones that shine.”
The Atlanta startup ecosystem certainly has no intention of slowing down.