Atlanta’s “Hidden” VC Market

backroom-deals.pngMy pal Justin Rubner at the Atlanta Business Chronicle recently published an interesting piece covering the PwC Money Tree Report. I wrote about this the other day as well (sorry again for scoopin’ ya, JRub). While you can’t really dispute the facts, some here in Atlanta think that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than is getting publicized.

In this piece, Justin quotes local Atlanta tech attorney, John Yates. Here is the quote from Yates (so as not to mispresent him):

There’s no need or desire to stick a flag in the ground and declare victory. I know there are deals getting done that aren’t being publicly proclaimed.

Additionally, the piece goes on to illustrate how Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) agrees with Yates. Heesen adds that he feels that many VC’s are weary of letting the world know of their investments, especially if they are startups. He seems to think that they will seek the publicity once those investments gain traction.

Now, while I personally (still) think the capital market here in Georgia is atrocious, I have no reason to question John and his beliefs. He is a very well-respected, upstanding member of the tech/legal communities here in Atlanta. I also have no reason to necessarily question Mark and the views of the NVCA. However, I do question the rationale behind the argument. Not their rationale, but the rationale of the entrepreneurs and investors to whom they refer.

Their statements lead you to believe that there are all sorts of deals being done behind the scenes, and the entrepreneurs and investors involved in them are simply not making a “big fuss” about them. I can neither confirm nor deny this. But I can comment on it.

Atlanta has a reputation right now (and has had for some time) of being a town not necessarily friendly to entrepreneurs, especially the ones of the early-stage variety. The deal flow here has always been perceived as mediocre at best, and right now, it is perceived as being downright horrible.

If there exists this bucket-full-o’-deals that are being inked in backrooms, then it is in Atlanta’s collective best interest for someone to shed some light on them. Certainly these folks are deserving of their privacy. I’m not suggesting that we deprive them of it. However, if Atlanta-based entrepreneurs and investors, as well as their out-of-state counterparts, felt like there was some traction here within the Georgia market, then we’d all be better off. At a bare minimum, we’d all be better informed.

I know of entrepreneurs who are leaving this market to build their dreams elsewhere. When this type of thing happens, Atlanta loses. Those jobs go elsewhere. The capital allocated for the services necessary to build those businesses goes elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. Often times, perception is reality. You can’t change the reality until you alter the perception.

What say you? I’d be curious to hear some other opinions out there. Feel free to use the comment form below to submit your comments on this issue!



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