Traversing West Paces Ferry you will find the Governor’s Mansion sitting on a hill overlooking the steady stream of cars coming and going throughout Buckhead. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve passed this out of earshot, capacious (24,000 sqft) home that houses our Governor. As I pulled into the entrance, which I’ve rubber necked for decades, it was a bit surreal.
Today’s visit wasn’t a tour. It wasn’t a fundraiser. Governor Kemp wanted to meet and listen to several of Atlanta’s leaders in the venture capital world. Atlanta Ventures was fortunate to be included in the discussion. Guests parked on the right before a quick walk towards the entrance. I donned my brand new Sid Mashburn tie that was given to me during Christmas of 2019 and started towards the entrance. The 30 Doric pillars surrounding the house are even more grandiose when standing next to them. The plethora of sculptures, art, and artifacts are too numerous to enumerate; however an enclosed Olympic torch was pretty cool along with several reading rooms.
Governor Kemp is doing his best to learn how to attract (and keep) business and talent to the state. Early stage start-ups, as we’ve learned over the past 15 years, can transition to multi-billion dollar businesses in a short period of time with the combination of a growing market, net negative churn, superb execution, and exponential growth.
After a coffee cup that could hold a water balloon and a blessed breakfast, the ideas began flowing. Several programs that have started years (and Governors) ago like Invest Georgia, ATDC, GRA, and GTRI are all ingredients that add tremendous gravity to the ecosystem. I’ll let their websites share their success stories and metrics, but it’s clear those programs put Georgia in a league of our own.
There are four suggestions I have for Governor Kemp and his team to attract and grow the early-stage business community.
- Seven, even five years ago, when an entrepreneur raised over $10M, it was a big deal. Atlanta Twitter went nuts, everyone was excited. Just this year, several billion dollar businesses have spawned, home grown — with another five on the horizon. All those decisions that Governors years prior made on this way-out-in-the-distant future has paid off. There is funding news weekly of early stage companies and the Governor and his team should be shouting those headlines from the rooftop of the Capitol. I would hire a team to sort and sift and distribute the news straight from the Governor’s office. This is 2021, you don’t need the local news outlets (although helpful) to broadcast your news.
- Create a “Landing on the Moon” goal that galvinizes every engineer in the state. Yes there is a cult of personality, but if Elon Musk can create rabid fans for an underground tunnel then we should be able to do so with something in our geography. We have ambitious initiatives like The Ray and Plant Vogtle, yet there isn’t a JFK like goal of “Landing on the Moon.” Imagine the Savannah Port being the number one hub for Cargo Airships?
- Create an ROI Calculator on starting or moving your company to Georgia. In the software world, ROI calculators are fairly common, especially when you get to a certain stage in the sales cycle. The vendor helps you do the math. Do this but for CEO’s and entrepreneurs. They have the option to start their company anywhere and, yes right now remote is the default when starting a company, yet that too will evolve. Either way, having a simple mechanism in place to calculate the cost compared to other states from a cost of living, taxes, and housing perspective is an easy way to communicate value.
- Create an Eagle Scout of Science for high school students. Simple program. The top science student in the 808 high schools throughout the state gets recognized by a prestigious program and tour of the Governor’s Mansion with a scholarship to any state school of their choice.
As breakfast came to a close, I was still so curious about the home. After spending a bit of time wandering around, I came across a few more observations: the outdoor pool situation is perfect for some summer day parties, the bust of Benjamin Franklin is spot on, and I could spend months in the libraries reading all the historic books on Atlanta and Georgia.
In 2013, then Mayor Reed and I had a Coca-Cola at the Atlanta Tech Village and the takeaways weren’t too dissimilar.
Politics aside, visiting the Governor’s Mansion was a surreal experience I never expected to feel. I was grateful of Governor Kemp and his team for putting together the breakfast and proud to represent Atlanta Ventures.