Alan Dabbiere on building and sticking with your startup

One of the biggest lessons Airwatch co-founder and chairman Alan Dabbiere has learned is the importance of people — who you work with, what their passions are and how they can help a startup grow.

“People really make the difference,” said Dabbiere. “One of the secrets of recruiting is finding people who are passionate about what they do. People are really great at doing what they love to do.”

Aside from finding the perfect people to build your startup team, Dabbiere says the most important quality an entrepreneur must have is tenacity and patience.

Before he saw success at Manhattan Associates, his first Atlanta company, it took him five years to grow from a startup to a company of 30—and from there, three years to get to a staff of 800.

“Your first idea doesn’t have to be your only or your last idea, you just stick with it,” he said.

Startup Roundup 10.15.13

We know you’re busy running your startup. You don’t have time to search for all of the relevant content out there for entrepreneurs and small businesses. But we do. Each Tuesday, in Startup Roundup, we compile smart stuff we’ve seen. If we leave out something good, post a link at the bottom for others. This is a community, and Atlanta will keep thriving if we keep sharing.

Atlanta chases its Silicon Valley dreams Atlanta’s startup community has come a long way since David Cummings moved to the city 11 years ago. The Buckhead serial entrepreneur, considered one of the most important leaders in the city’s tech scene today, struggled to find a community of like-minded businesspeople back in 2002. Find out more about how things have changed in the last decade.
From the same issue of Creative Loafing, be sure to check out the Q&A articles from David Cummings, Michael Tavani, Startup Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed.

‘Choose ATL’ campaign to market metro Atlanta as ‘digital hub’ A collection of some of metro Atlanta’s largest companies and business groups is launching a campaign to promote the area as a “digital hub” to attract high-tech minded newcomers and prospective entrepreneurs. Read more in the AJC.

Mobile startup rings up $2.5M from Valley, Atlanta VCs Mobile software startup StarMobile has raised $2.5 million from West Coast and Atlanta investors.
The Georgia Tech spinoff says its technology can convert desktop enterprise software, such as, Oracle and SAP, into mobile applications for 80 percent less than third-party mobile platforms. Read more at Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Crowdfunding Atlanta Style For those still not in the know,crowdfunding is a way for people looking to raise money, primarily through the Internet, from a broad audience interested in the company’s project or cause.  Generally there is no financial return for the donor on the money raised during a crowdfunding effort. It should be noted the crowdfunding industry, as is the case here in Georgia, is evolving and investing terms in the future may change. Find out more here.

Vonage picks up Atlanta’s Vocalocity for $130M Atlanta’s tech industry M&A truck barrels forward, delivering a pay day for several local venture capital firms.
Holmdel, N.J.-based telecommunications provider Vonage Holdings Corp. said Thursday it will acquire Atlanta-based Vocalocity for $130 million.
Check out the story here.


Terry Allen on marketing, design and civic projects in the tech space

A twenty-year veteran of the design, development and marketing industries, Terry Allen recently joined Atlanta-based startup ShootProof as director of user experience. A formally trained product designer, he oversees the design and user experience of the online photo proofing service across all platforms. Allen is also co-founder of Govathon, local organizer for the Interaction Design Association, and chair of Random Hacks of Kindness Atlanta.


Terry Allen, director of user experience at ShootProof

In this edition of Startup Q&A, Allen discusses the state of the Atlanta tech scene, civic projects and the role of marketing in the startup world.

Tell us how you got started in the Atlanta tech scene.

Allen: I have always been involved in the local design community, beginning with my time at Georgia Tech in the early 1990s. After designing environmental, medical and hi-tech products, I was led to web design by the Internet boom. I learned basic HTML and began making websites for friends and small companies. However, my love for technology really took off when my team won top prize at the landmark Random Hacks of Kindness Atlanta hackathon, an event that aims to create tech solutions for challenges facing humanity on a local and global scale. The organization hosts hackathons, app competitions and more to create “technology for social good.” Participating in this event was a thrilling experience that quickly formed an addiction. In addition to organizing hackathons, I am active in the design community, spreading the idea of creating delightful experiences to build great brands.

Earlier this year you co-founded Govathon, an event that aims to better communities in Atlanta. Why do you find it valuable to spend time on civic projects?

Allen: Projects that work to solve big problems like food scarcity, government transparency, transit, medicine, disaster recovery and other issues are so important. We started Govathon to engage citizens to make a difference by being proactive. Watching the teams organically form to design, develop and create amazing, innovative technology was amazing to behold. This process builds lasting relationships that go on to strengthen the startup community, and results in products and companies that make Atlanta an even better place to be.

Your past roles include leading and directing roles in marketing and design. What role does design and marketing play in the tech scene?

Allen: Design and marketing are critical to the new tech space. Unlike a few years ago, it’s very common for founders and early employees to be designers, but now it’s mainstream. I think this is because customers are more sophisticated now, and that means companies must take the product experience and brand more seriously. The local tech scene has really exploded in the last year and with that a good deal of marketing and good PR for Atlanta. We are doing a better job of telling our stories, but still need to be careful not to create an echo chamber of all talk and no action. Lately there has been a push to connect Atlanta’s large enterprises with the startup community, as that is where much of the innovation is happening. If this is successful and sustained, this key differentiator has the potential to distinguish Atlanta in the long run.

What’s next? 

Allen: Hack for CF, a hackathon for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), takes place the weekend of Oct. 5. This unique event will bring together CF subject matter experts, designers, data scientists, technologists and others interested in furthering CF causes to make a difference.

The Wall Street Journal: David Cummings on finding success in Atlanta

Atlanta ranks as one of the top 20 startup hubs in America, and Atlanta entrepreneur David Cummings knows why.

Atlanta’s deep roots in history, high concentration of Fortune 500 companies and Southern hospitality make it the prime location for startup activity. Cummings explains this in his recent Wall Street Journal article, “David Cummings: Finding Success in Atlanta.

“Atlanta might not be the first city that comes to mind to build a tech startup, but it’s the best in the country if you want to bootstrap your way to success due to the large number of Fortune 500 companies, access to talent, local capital, strong community and low cost of living,” said Cummings.

Atlanta’s student enrollment in universities is also a factor that makes Georgia’s capital great for entrepreneurs. Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia enrich and develop intelligent, creative individuals ready to contribute to the community.

Sweet tea and warm smiles make Atlanta a perfect startup hub, too. Cummings notes that Atlanta’s Southern hospitality, combined with a big city feel, has made way for the Atlanta BeltLine, Piedmont Park expansions and more. Companies grow in amenity-rich cities.

The Atlanta Tech Village, created by Cummings, along with Hypepotamus, ATDC and other resources have created a great sense of community for startups. “Atlanta has a vibrant, growing startup community,” said Cummings.

And, with all of the talent in Atlanta, it’s sure to continue expanding.

How Techturized, Inc. is capitalizing on Atlanta’s strong startup energy

Identity, community and hair — in these three things, the founders of Techturized Inc. discovered a viable market. The Atlanta-based startup, founded by recent Georgia Tech graduates, has created a social network focused on African-American hair care for women.

“Coming from engineering and science backgrounds, we set out to find a technical solution to something that’s so close to our identity — hair,” said Jess Watson, co-founder of Techturized.

Credit: JASPHOTO From left to right: Chanel Martin, Candace Mitchell, Jess Watson

From left to right: Chanel Martin, Candace Mitchell, Jess Watson

Techturized plans to capitalize on Atlanta’s startup energy to expand its business after receiving awards, funding and much attention. There is a lot of buzz around Madame You, the startup’s site where women of color discuss best hair care practices and discover products. The site generates revenue by collecting user behavior information that interested companies can access for a subscription fee.

“Our concept is innovative, because Madame You combines all aspects of hair care for women of color,” said Watson. “Women can purchase products, share reviews, offer advice and share experiences all in one place. This has never been done before.”

The founders of Techturized, including Candace Mitchell and Chanel Martin, went through Georgia Tech’s FlashPoint, a competitive project that hosts 10 to 15 startups at a time. Mentors guide participants, and intensive sessions allow all to showcase ideas to investors in Atlanta, New York City and Silicon Valley.

“Flashpoint was a way for us to mitigate risk before starting to generate revenue,” said Watson. “We were able to test our ideas and get valuable feedback from other participants and entrepreneurial experts.”

Techturized has raised $25,000 through an Indiegogo campaign and $40,000 from family and friends. The team also won $50,000 cash and more than $100,000 in donated services from the Atlanta business community as a result of taking top prize at the 2013 TAG Business Launch competition. In addition, Techturized won the 2013 BIT pitch competition at SXSW, a set of film, interactive and music festivals.

While Techturized has seen many accomplishments, its founders have faced many challenges along the way. Proving to investors that the African-American hair care market is viable was the most difficult obstacle: “African-Americans have a strong influence in the hair care market,” said Watson. “They spend about three-times more on beauty and hair care products on average, but this was hard to prove to investors.” With so much on the horizon, the founders of Techturized see growth in the near future. The startup will expand to cover hair needs for all ethnicities.

“The startup soil is very fertile right now in Atlanta,” said Watson. “Georgia Tech and all its resources, like ATDC, are right down the street from Hypepotamus. Atlanta has the right pieces to solve the startup puzzle.”

And, the founders of Techturzied are figuring out how to put those pieces together.

Govathon-sparked mobile app curbb to improve parking in Atlanta

What can ruin your day in an instant? Here’s a hint: it’s yellow, sits on your windshield and mocks you for being just a moment too late. You guessed it — a parking ticket.

The frustration that comes with parking tickets was the inspiration for curbb, one of the top winners at Atlanta’s first city-run hackathon, Govathon. The event gathered more than 150 developers, programmers, designers and members of the community for a two-day hackathon, an assembly of tech-savvy individuals to develop software for city improvement. Ideas were presented that addressed issues like crime, poverty, transit and homelessness.

“While I originally attended Govathon to support friends in the startup space, I received a parking ticket on my way to the event and decided to take action,” says M. Cole Jones, concept creator of the mobile app. “After receiving the ticket, I thought of creating a way to pay for parking meters and other curbside services using your mobile phone.”

Jones, a co-founder of covello, a group that helps startups grow, joined forces with eight other experts to create curbb. Following the success of the mobile app, the City of Atlanta prompted Park Atlanta, the city’s parking services organization, to issue a RFP so that the technology can become an everyday reality and convenience.

The Atlanta startup community harbors great talent. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is not solely composed of tech whizzes. Marketing, corporate communications, development and management play vital roles in the successful development of mobile apps and other innovations. Luckily for curbb, its team had representation from each of these disciplines.

“We had a great team that filled vital roles in the development life cycle,” says Firaz Peer, user experience designer and frontend UI developer of curbb. “From marketing to development, we had it covered.”

How Atlanta-based KontrolFreek is using social media to drive serious revenue growth

With an outsized social media marketing program, Atlanta-based gaming gear company KontrolFreek has seen its revenue almost double annually since inception. The early stage company has added Best Buy online and GameStop online as retail partners.

KontrolFreek sells aftermarket upgrades for Playstation and Xbox controllers designed to increase performance for serious gamers. Among KontrolFreek’s products: FPS Freek, an extended analog stick that provides a greater range of motion and comfort and also decreases the fatigue that can come with gaming.

KontrolFreek was conceived in late 2007 and was launched in 2009 when serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ashish Mistry joined as president and CEO. The company has been on a fast-growth trajectory ever since.

A key contributor to KontrolFreek’s success is its sophisticated use of online marketing technology, including the “together marketing” platform from Sideqik (an Atlanta startup success story). KontrolFreek recently partnered with eight gaming personalities and gave away 10 Microsoft Xbox One consoles on Facebook. The promotion awarded gamers points for completing a series of actions such as liking KontrolFreek on Facebook, following KontrolFreek on Twitter and recruiting friends to sign up. Within two weeks, there were more than 75,000 entries.

Though KontrolFreek is still a relatively small firm with under a dozen employees, it plays like a bigger company on social media. KontrolFreek has aggressively and successfully leveraged YouTube, which drives one-third of its website traffic. Also, in the past year, KontrolFreek has had 228 percent growth in Facebook likes to 220,000 fans and 641 percent growth in Twitter followers to 126,000 followers.

Startup Roundup 8.27.13

We know you’re busy running your startup. You don’t have time to search for all of the relevant content out there for entrepreneurs and small businesses. But we do. Each Tuesday, in Startup Roundup, we compile smart stuff we’ve seen. If we leave out something good, post a link at the bottom for others. This is a community, and Atlanta will keep thriving if we keep sharing.

Atlanta ranked top for social. recently conducted a study on the top U.S. cities for social media jobs, and Atlanta is in the top 15. Georgia’s capital was ranked No. 6 for the number of social media jobs offered in the city. Others on the list were New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Read more on VentureBeat.

Schooled on Ecommerce. Atlanta co-working space and startup center Hypepotamus hosted Ecommerce School this past week. The event gathered local ecommerce experts from N4MD, The Home Depot and Nine Labs to present on best practices for entrepreneurs. Read more on Hypepotamus for slide decks and more.

Finding the right fit. If you’re involved with a startup, you know the value of finding the right market fit for a product. David Cummings, Atlanta-based entrepreneur, gives advice on how to best do so on his blog, David Cummings on Startups.

Failure is what you make of it. Sara Blakely, an Atlanta startup success story, faced many obstacles on her way to creating the Spanx empire. Read more on how she redefined failure as success on the Huffington Post.

Boosting startup success with incubators. Choosing the right incubator for your startup is crucial. So is making sure your business idea is ready. Read more tips for launching your business on Forbes.

Alan Dabbiere talks mobile device management success in Atlanta

In today’s world, there is one thing that makes us feel a little more put together, or complete. Without it, we forget meetings, don’t know where we’re going and lose track of time. That one thing is none other than our mobile phones. And, because nearly six billion people in the world have cell phone subscriptions — and that number is constantly on the rise — there is a great need for mobile device management. That’s where AirWatch comes in.

“We are watching the whole world get connected,” said Alan Dabbiere, co-founder and chairman of AirWatch. “AirWatch provides management software for essentially any market that uses phones, and the field is evolving every day.”

The Atlanta-based software company, founded in 2003 by Dabbiere and John Marshall, helps companies manage and secure employee mobile devices, content and applications around the globe. AirWatch’s software allows companies to find innovative uses of mobile technology to improve their business.

Dabbiere has seen AirWatch grow from a company of 150 people to 1,400 employees in a matter of two-and-a-half years, something he attributes to its Atlanta location: “Atlanta is a great place to live, work and secure a loyal workforce,” said Dabbiere. “Atlanta’s innate talent, and the relocation of topnotch employees from around the world, is creating a diverse ecosystem here.”

However, this isn’t the first time Dabbiere has utilized the benefits of Atlanta’s world-class airport, premium education system and young talent. In 1990, he founded Manhattan Associates, an Atlanta-based supply chain execution software company that today has more than 2,000 employees and earns more than $377 million in revenue.

“AirWatch and Manhattan Associates could not have been as successful anywhere else in the country,” said Dabbiere. “Atlanta’s tech swagger is being rebuilt by numerous innovative companies. The city is just a great place for business software.”

Meet John McSwain, Atlanta freelance mobile technology architect

John McSwain, a mobile architect based in Atlanta, likes participating in hackathons because they “are a great way to create whatever you want.”

McSwain was a member of the winning team at Invest Atlanta’s city-run hackathon, Govathon. McSwain’s team built Crime Blotter, a mobile app that would allow the Atlanta Police Department and citizens to easily track and access incident reports, which won first place.

McSwain said he particularly enjoyed Govathon because “I was excited to be able to give back to the community and positively impact Atlanta in a technological way.”

McSwain, part designer and part programmer, makes his living as a freelance mobile architect. He designs screen flows, creates user interfaces and discovers improvements and features for mobile software. McSwain got his start at NBA Digital group, a division of Turner Sports.

McSwain has worked for Verizon, Intercontinental Hotel Group and more. Among his many projects is mbrace, an app by Mercedes Benz that connects driver and vehicle.