Tech Square Labs in Atlanta : Your Questions Answered? (OK, the SEO part is done, lol) I can know refer to it as TechSquare Labs. You’ve got questions, and I hope to answer most of them, but the real answers will only come over the next decade.
What is TechSquare Labs?
Everyone immediately wants to put it into a box, why, that is how our brains work, and honestly, that is part of the entire problem. Stop comparing it to everything in Atlanta that you know because that is what makes you feel comfortable, there is an entire world out there. If you need an analogy because it makes you feel more comfortable, then look at FireSpotter or BetaWorks. TechSquare Labs is a “company-building studio”, why those words, because it is “not” about money, or a desk, or free-lunch fridays, all those things are great, I like money, I need a desk of some kind, and although I have enough experience to know there is “no, free-lunch”, I will keep sponsoring Startup Chowdown at Atlanta Tech Village (why), because its the right thing to do. Think of TechSquare Labs simply as this “a place that is focused on fewer things, that have a core technology at the center, that believes in “technical founders” leading their companies, and we would rather fail big going big than stay in business”.
Why TechSquare Labs?
I’ve been studying the scaling of businesses for some time. I keep asking myself, over and over, why are all the industry leading technology companies started in other cities, why not Atlanta? Why is Atlanta the place that creates really good little(ish) businesses that other people buy? I looked in the mirror, I looked at the businesses I’ve invested in, and I started meeting with every single person I could who had scaled a large enterprise, think “Billion Dollar + Exits” (again, please don’t list the three people in Atlanta you can think of, yes I’ve met with them, but also think outside of that). I would ask them simply, walk me through the process, what did you do? Bottom line, investing in general is difficult, investing in venture(ish) deals is scary, and investing in early stage deals is almost impossible. However, every single person said the same things: “invest in core technology that is defensible, invest in brilliant people, invest in huge markets, and be ready to raise money to scale quickly and take a leadership position in the market”. I then looked at myself, and my early stage investments and asked, how can I invest like that?
Where is TechSquare Labs and Why?
Do you seriously not know where Technology Square is? The real question I guess is why there, I live in Buckhead, why not just roll over to Atlanta Tech Village and invest? It is because of what I said before, my primary interest is investing to create a technology pillar, a market leader, a company that other companies build businesses around. If the primary goal is to invest in core technology that is defensible, I just believe that is far more likely to come out of Georgia Tech than Buckhead, could it come out of Buckhead, of course, but be honest, it is simply “more” likely to be down on campus. I love breakfast at WhiteHouse, or OK Cafe, etc, but honestly that is not what I am looking to invest in, some powerpoint (or if they are really hip, Keynote) that someone walks me through. I know what you are thinking, that is exactly how I started my first business, but hold on, that is my entire point, I didn’t start my business to be a big, meaningful, valuable company (that would transform an entire market). I should have, but I didn’t. (Let’s be clear, I love Atlanta Tech Village, every time I go over there, I tell David I would love to work there some day, but this is not about that, it is about what is it going to take to invest in, and seed a transformative technology pillar.)
What is TechSquare Labs focused on?
TechSquare Labs is focused on “Working with Technical Founders to Create Something from Nothing”. Please take this statement literally and don’t turn it into incubator, co-working, ATDC, Atlanta Technology Village, Hypepotamus, or whatever other thing someone opens or starts. I like all those things, places, people, etc. Here is the wonderful thing about being an entrepreneur – go work on what you want to work on, and what you are passionate about. I’ve become completely obsessed with how Facebook won, Twitter pivoted, Uber happened, Square wasn’t started in Atlanta, and I could keep going on and on – but these are all fairly recent (this same story has played out 2 or 3 other times over the last 50 years). TechSquare Labs is going to work with “technical founders, developers, coders, engineers, and stone cold hackers”. Please don’t take that as we hate your business idea if you have a powerpoint slide, there are lots of places you can take that. We truly believe in “builders leading and building their businesses”. If you want to meet with TechSquare Labs you’ve got to be a hacker and be ready we want “you” to build your business.
How the “f” did you get Paul to partner with you?
OK, admit it, you skipped down to this question. I pursued Paul, I chased him like a giddy school boy. I am not ashamed to say that. You didn’t! That is your problem. I studied the market, this was no accident. I asked myself a simple question, who do I know that is “a stone cold hacker, has scaled a business, raised money, had both success and failure, and is a natural born leader” – Dr. Paul Judge. Another interesting thing lead me to Paul, I am sitting having drinks with Adam Ghetti (yes, we drink often together), and I start asking him what he thinks. Adam is completely honest with me, “Allen, people love you, BUT, (ok I thought, here it comes) these stone cold hackers won’t follow you, they just won’t”. Adam and I have that kind of friendship, dude will straight drop a mic on my head. My first reaction, are you crazy, then about two seconds later, I thought, how many truly brilliant technical founders have approached me, then I bust out laughing (not many). Joe Reger immediately popped to mind at Springbot, but that relationship was built over a decade. So I committed to doing two things: 1. Teach myself to code. 2. Find a Partner that was Technical.
More importantly, seriously, how “f” did you get the @TechSquare handle?
Are you nuts, I am not telling you. But come on, the name is “banging” admit it! Go follow the twitter handle, I know you can’t wait: @TechSquare.
I have blogged about, spoken about, and complained about “going big”. #GoBig. Investing is not something new for Paul or I, neither is betting on great leaders, trying to help, picking up the phone and making an introduction, or sharing an idea over breakfast, none of this new. We’ve been doing it. This is really a more focused, deliberate, organized vehicle to do it. I am thrilled that people are interested, I would simply ask that you not try to make TechSquare Labs what you want it to be to fit your idea that you are working on, well, I guess you can, but it won’t work. Lastly, if you are interested in showing something to TechSquare Labs, visit the website: www.techsquare.co, fill out the form and schedule a time (but) be ready, be a stone cold hacker, and show something!