Charlie Goetz is that rare academic whose classes are steeped in not just research, but practical real world experiences. As Distinguished Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Emory University, he brings a perspective shaped by founding and selling nine successful companies before taking on the University’s Entrepreneurship program.
He sat down with Venture Atlanta recently and shared his views on entrepreneurship and the future of the Atlanta startup community.
Venture Atlanta: Is Atlanta a good place for starting a tech company?
Goetz: Atlanta has always been in the top of producing new startups in the country. That’s exciting. Besides the universities, there have been some new additions helping that process like Atlanta Tech Village. They have helped foster (a community in) what used to be a totally decentralized process of entrepreneurship. We teach them how to do entrepreneurship in the universities and then as they came out, they are provided with additional support in vehicles like Atlanta Tech Village and some others.
VA: What happens to startups as they being to mature?
Goetz: While we’re very good at starting (companies) we’re not very good at keeping them as they grow. The reasons that a lot of the successful companies leave is they can’t find investment money. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of $1 to $3 million kinds of investments in the Atlanta market. So when they get investments (from outside Atlanta) the VCs encourage them to move tow where they are.
VA: What about angel financing?
Goetz: Angels are wonderful, but they’re good for $250,000 to $500,000. Requirements of greater than $1 million become a problem. Now groups like Atlanta Tech Angels are starting to do participation. Management takes a lot of time for the VCs and the angels too. If you have a large enough investment or too many companies you can’t manage them all effectively. So you participate with others who you trust who are in the same space and the same kind of background. It’s the way VCs tend to work more effectively.
VA: Can the State of Georgia do more to foster startups?
Goetz: The state definitely needs to get involved. Here’s the thing that’s interesting: 80 percent of all new jobs come from small businesses. The vast majority of small businesses are startups. If you want the state to increase the number of jobs available then you have to encourage more startup businesses which means you have to be able to help the companies not only start but grow. That’s what is somehow missing here. And it’s really hurting the Atlanta community and it’s hurting the Southeast too.
VA: Are more people willing to take the entrepreneurial risk?
Goetz: When I started it was not normal to see many entrepreneurs. These days the students coming out of universities are much more likely to go into entrepreneurship. It used to be the top ones wanted to go into investment banking consulting. Not as much anymore. Now they’re excited about creating their new venture – the new opportunity out there. That’s going to be change the world.
VA: What’s your top advice to entrepreneurs forming startups.
Goetz: Get a good mentor – somebody who’s done it before. Assemble an experienced board of advisors – people with credibility in the industry.
NOVEMBER 2015 NEWSLETTER