A Brief History of the Atlanta Tech Community
A few of days ago I attended the retirement luncheon of Tino Mantella, the President and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia. He took TAG from concept to world-wide reality. All of us in the Atlanta technology community are grateful to Tino for his vision and flawless execution.
He did something I didn’t think possible. He brought together the F500, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, startups, mid-sized companies, and education, in addition to local and state government. Now we are all working together as a community. Simply amazing!
The motion was carried unanimously. I had just been approved as the new Chairman of High Tech Month of Georgia 1995. That was November 1994 at a Business & Technology Alliance (B&TA pronounced “beta”) board meeting. High Tech Month was an invention of this Atlanta technology community association. The purpose of this month-long event was to promote technology in Georgia to the rest of the world. Big mission with no resources.
Small Companies, Terrific Leaders
As I looked around the room at the twelve board members, the only company of size represented was Scientific Atlanta. Everybody else represented a startup, professional services, bankers or commercial real estate firms. This was my support group.I pulled together a group of terrific leaders, all from small companies. We decided to take High Tech Month from a budget of $100k to $500k. This meant we had to include the big companies because they had money, and we didn’t.I was invited by Ann Cramer, IBM’s former Director of Community Affairs, to meet with Tom Smith, who was the Southeast Regional Manager of IBM.Tom asked me, “Why should I commit IBM’s resources to this event?”I said, “IBM is one of the biggest employers in our community. Because of this, you have a responsibility to help us tell the world the Atlanta tech community is growing and important.”
IBM Sees the Vision
Tom agreed and threw both his network and the muscle of IBM behind our effort. With IBM as a sponsor and Tom on our side, we landed AT&T, Scientific Atlanta, the Atlanta Olympic Committee, the city of Atlanta and the governor’s office.Looking back, this was the first time the Atlanta technology small business community partnered with the big company community. High Tech Month 1995 not only told the world what was happening in Georgia technology, but it also brought the smalls and the bigs into a joint community project.
Atkinson Founds TechLinks
Then came TechLinks, a magazine published by Mike Atkinson. Mike, a former helicopter gunship captain in Vietnam, started the magazine to promote the Atlanta tech community.By the late nineties, he shifted his focus to encouraging big Atlanta companies to buy from little Atlanta tech companies. His pitch was innovation and employment for the state. Mike brought the big companies even closer to us being one community.
Coleman Envisions TAG
Next came TAG in 1999, which was envisioned by Chris Coleman of FolioZ. It was organized by the presidents of the three small community organizations made up of lots of small companies.Five years later, the small companies played a minority role on the then expanded board. TAG fully integrated the big companies into the Atlanta tech community. But we still weren’t working together.
Bending the Market Acceptance Curve
Fifteen years after the internet’s dotcom bust, small companies look big and big companies look small. We are all competing in the global market. Every company, person, and device on the planet is connected. We now recognize the only way to be successful is to work together by leveraging off of each other’s strengths.Small companies are full of innovation and passionate life commitment. Big companies bring money, market, and credibility. Working together, these companies can bend the curve of market acceptance.Because of Tino and the leaders he brought together, we are now one community. The future of our community is indeed bright.God bless, Tino, and thank you for your leadership!