Venture Atlanta investment conference showcases Atlanta's growing startup scene

Panelists speak at Venture Atlanta's conference in 2022. Venture Atlanta 2023 takes place Sept. 27-28. (Courtesy of Venture Atlanta)

Venture Atlanta’s annual investment conference has connected startups and investors from around the world for over 15 years. The two-day event began on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Woodruff Arts Center.

The success of the conference is emblematic of the growth of Atlanta’s startup and small business scene. The city has emerged as a key market for innovation in the South. 

Allyson Eman has worked with the conference since its inaugural year 16 years ago. Now the CEO, she said venture capitalism within Metro Atlanta has come a long way.

“You know, 16 years ago, I think we had like five local funds,” she said. “Now we have like 50 to 60. So, way more, but still not as much as maybe are in Boston or San Francisco or some other markets. But I think Atlanta has definitely grown significantly in terms of venture capital.”

Venture Atlanta 2023 is hosting pitch competitions between selected companies. There’s a “Startup Showcase Live” pitch event for pre-seed and seed-stage companies, with the winner receiving a $500,000 investment prize. The audience will decide from the first round of pitches who will move on to the next round, where companies will be judged by a panel of investors. 

Every year, the staff freshen up the event by introducing new activations and opportunities for startups to receive funding.

The reputation of Atlanta being a major market for fresh ideas, creativity and tech innovation has grown substantially as more investors are looking outside of the West Coast to fund startups.

Mark Flickinger of BIP Ventures, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm, visits the conference every year. 

“In the southeast more broadly, there are a lot of investors that are either visiting to make investments on a regular basis, or even they’re setting up offices here …  a lot of young talent is still in businesses and successful entrepreneurs,” Flickinger said. “That kind of circle of innovation continues to happen, where you’re attracting both great companies being built and then capitalize upon those companies for the same place.”

Eman said that the City of Atlanta has worked to highlight the innovation in Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the Venture Atlanta conference in 2022. (Courtesy of Venture Atlanta)

Venture deals into Georgia companies totaled $2.25 billion across nearly 300 deals last year, according to PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association’s latest report.

“So folks in Silicon Valley, they put it on their calendar,” Eman said. “I’ve talked to a lot of folks, and they’re like, ‘If I’m going to come over to the East Coast once a year, I come to Venture Atlanta.’”

She said that in 2021, investors were flushed with cash at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it easy for companies to raise capital.

As many around the country keep a close eye on interest rates, Eman said that investors are watching their bottom line. 

“Investors are, if they’re putting money in, they’re putting money into their portfolio companies to continue to support them and give them more runway, but they’re making fewer new deals, she said. “But if 400 plus investors are coming to Venture Atlanta, there’s a reason they’re coming.”