Friday, March 9, 2012 was a unique and inspiring day for me and a dozen other Atlanta technology company CEOs. Invest Atlanta, the official economic development authority for the City of Atlanta, invited us to New York to ring the NASDAQ Stock Market opening bell and meet with Wall Street investors.
Our day started at 8 AM at the NASDAQ market site in Times Square. We took a few individual photos in the lobby before heading into the newsroom, where the bell ringing ceremony takes place. The NASDAQ team welcomed us with coffee and breakfast, and we were joined by an impressive group of investors who had been invited to spend the morning with us.
The backdrop for the ceremony is a massive digital wall that displays market conditions in real-time, highlighting rising stocks in green and falling stocks in red. It consists of 96 high-definition displays that span an area more than 44 feet wide by 14 feet tall. Throughout the day, the wall serves as a backdrop for reporters from major financial news networks like MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, BBC and Bloomberg.
While we were finishing breakfast and chatting with investors, each of us was invited up on stage, individually and then as a group, to have our pictures taken “ringing the bell”. We didn’t know it at the time, but our event was being broadcast live on the giant MarketSite Tower, right outside the newsroom in Times Square.
Standing more than seven stories tall, the MarketSite Tower is the largest stationary video screen in the world. It’s approximately ¼ acre in size, consisting of nearly 19 million LEDs displaying market information, NASDAQ news, and that day’s studio ceremonies throughout the day.
Exactly 8 minutes before the market opening, David Wicks, vice president of NASDAQ, welcomed our group “to the cross roads of the world in Times Square to officially ring the NASDAQ opening bell.” He then gave a brief overview of NASDAQ, describing his organization as “the world’s largest exchange company, with more than 3,500 listed companies,” before inviting Brian McGowan, CEO of Invest Atlanta, on stage to tell the world about Invest Atlanta and the many exciting investment opportunities that our city has to offer.
Brian spoke about Atlanta’s rich history “of both social and business innovation” – mentioning transformative Atlanta leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King and President Jimmy Carter as well as industry-leading Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot, UPS and CNN. However, he spent the majority of his time talking about the Atlanta entrepreneurs, “who are creating Atlanta’s next game changing companies,” emphasizing that, “it’s companies like these that are creating America’s next economic chapter.”
After Brian’s speech, the rest of the Invest Atlanta delegation was invited on stage to ring the opening bell. During our bell ringing, the entire wall was covered in green, signaling the beginning of a positive day for the market. After the cheering subsided, we all stepped outside to take a group photo in front of the MarketSite Tower, before heading back inside for one-on-one meetings with investors.
I hesitate to describe this morning’s bell ringing ceremony as a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience only because Friday morning’s event served as a strong inspiration to come back and ring the bell with my fellow employees and investors. Oh and the markets? The NASDAQ was in positive territory all day, closing firmly in the green – just 12 points shy of the 3,000 mark. Hopefully a telling sign of what’s to come for Atlanta’s burgeoning technology community.
Andrew Ibbotson is the CEO of Digital Assent, a venture-backed digital media and marketing company in Atlanta. He was among the CEOs invited to participate in the ringing of the NASDAQ opening bell last Friday by Invest Atlanta, the official economic development authority for the City of Atlanta. This is his account of that experience.
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