Where are the Rockstars?

I had a fun lunch with Drew Ermenc from Catalyst Magazine last week. Our office is actually upstairs from theirs, so it was pretty convenient. Among the many things we talked about was the status of “rockstar entrepreneurs” here in Atlanta. Specifically, they are working on some events for later in the year, and were trying to put together a list of entrepreneurs that would make great panelists and/or speakers.

I was asked if I could suggest some “rockstar” caliber entrepreneurs that they could engage here in Atlanta (or Georgia). Ideally, this would be someone who was currently enjoying a great deal of success, and who also had “name recognition”. Obviously, the combination lends itself to “street cred”, and the ability to draw enough people to fill a venue.

I thought about it for a few minutes, and I must admit, I was a little stuck. I mentally sifted through a few dozen names, but they generally fell into one of the following buckets:

If I were to plot this as a distribution curve, there are lots of people on either side of the bell (the long tail!), but not many people inside of the sweet spot (currency/relevant now, street cred, success, etc.)

The only name that really jumped out at me was Mitch Free from MFG.com. MFG went from being bootstrapped from an Excel spreadsheet/sneaker-ware marketplace to an international B2B player backed by Jeff Bezos. And they are still going strong.

Who am I missing?

While I think there may be some gaps now, this won’t always be the case. I think in the next few years we’ll have a new wave of rockstars that will emerge from what is happening here now. But boy, if we were to hold a Woodstock and try to populate it with current Rockstars in Georgia, it wouldn’t be a terribly long show.



  1. You might consider Chris Klaus (ISS and now Kaneva)

  2. John Baumstark, Warren Bare, Ed Trimble, Sanjay Malik, and Mike McQuary come to mind. They are all working on an early stage venture (or soon to be doing so). Only you and your readers can tell if the names are recognizable.

  3. More considerations…. James Davis (Harbinger, Flamenco, TerraGo Technologies…)…
    What about Tripp Rackley (nFront, Noro-Moseley, Broadsource….)?
    Lance and Blake certainly bring a list of notables that cannot be ignored for sure….

  4. The problem with ost of the names you guys threw out is that they are unknown outside of Atlanta. I think the point of the post was to try and identify rock stars that are actually widely known *outside* of atlanta. some of those names were big maybe 10 years ago but not so much now and some Ive never heard of. Klaus is a maybe as lots of people know him but the rest I’m not so sure about. Atlanta has some really successful people in it but it just doesn’t have a lot of people like Matt Wullenweg, Jeff Bezos, or a Steve Case.

  5. seamusr: Perhaps Jeff Arnold of WebMD fame and now at HowStuffWorks? Ain’t no Steve Case but there are not a folks that start $10 billion companies.

  6. What About Brian Patrick Cork?

    He arguably has one of the most successful companies in the country and has influence around the world. This man is one of the most quietly influential people in your business community. For example, last year he generated over $60 million is new business dollars for his clients simply be recommending them to one another. He works with companies that change the world. On any given day he helps other companies find the best people, capital and new business. He is in your own backyard.

    Jon Bartol

  7. Well, he was ultra successful so he may not have the same challenges as a normal entrepreneur — Chris Klaus of Kaneva? Also Eric Hartz of RentBureau come to mind.

  8. Janet Whitehead · June 25, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I am interested in developing this who’s who and the visibility/credibility campaign. Chris Klaus does come to mind and the Mindspring Founders, JBoss Founders, then we have vendors. Are we wanting Atlanta Technology Entrepreneurs?


  9. Janet Whitehead · June 25, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Cbeyond is another. Then there are biotechnology – Merial, Ciba Vision. There are a good deal of these.

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