The Athens startup community came together with area supporters and local business leaders on Thursday, January 26th at the fifth annual Four Athens Open House event to celebrate Athens entrepreneurship and recognize the impact of our member companies fueling economic growth in Classic City. Nearly 100 guests crowded into our main offices at 345 West Hancock Avenue to hear about the successes of our local startup scene over the last year, and learn of plans to expand and improve those outcomes in 2017.
Starting off the evening at 6pm, Chris Blackmon from the Athens Downtown Development Authority (ADDA) shared a vision for establishing a centralized hub in the downtown area to nurture startup companies and tech-based businesses with shared office, meeting, and event space in the heart of Athens. Chris is working with Four Athens to coordinate among stakeholders, including the ADDA and the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, to secure a site and explore terms for its occupancy by the end of this year.
Director of the UGA Terry Entrepreneurship Program, Bob Pinckney, then took the stage to relay the various entrepreneurship education programming and events on campus designed to identify and support student startups. These include support of the Idea Accelerator, facilitated each Spring and Fall by Four Athens, the Entrepreneurship Certificate option managed through his office, and efforts to connect student entrepreneurs with investment through hosted competitions such as the Next Top Entrepreneur, and linking to similar opportunities across the region.
Four Athens Education Director Terrell Austin spoke to the crowd about our expanding youth education programming, now in a dozen Athens Clarke County middle and elementary schools, and soon to include classes held in partnership with community-based youth programs as well. She also announced our Youth Scholarship Campaign, in which we aim to provide the opportunity to learn code skills for free or reduced tuition for at least 200 kids in Athens this Spring.
A major highlight at Open House each year is the announcement of the annual award winners, recognizing those who represent the best of the local startup community and true entrepreneurial spirit. Three annual awards are given: Founder of the Year, Startup of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year. Winners are chosen by the community via online voting, announced at the Open House, and presented with a unique trophy crafted by a local artisan. And the winners are…
Volunteer of the Year - Matt Miller, UGA Society of Entrepreneurs
Startup of the Year - Ichor
Founder of the Year - James Preston, LiveSyphon
In addition to the awards ceremony, the evening included the presentation of the second annual State of Athens Startups report, delivered by our new Executive Director Jordan Burke. This new annual report highlights the successes of our startup community in the past year based on revenue, investment, and job creation data gathered from member companies quarterly, and applies economic impact data to demonstrate the impressive contribution of Athens startups to the local economy. “Four Athens members generated $22.7 million dollars in revenue in 2016”, says Burke, as well as “70 jobs with an average salary of $44k/year.”
For a total rundown of the numbers, view the complete Second Annual State of Athens Startups Report.
Our fifth annual Open House was a great evening of energizing our friends, partners, and supporters with the good news of our successes in the past year. The Four Athens community is a powerful, positive, and creative engine driving innovation, growth, and economic expansion in our city. It is our privilege to host an evening of celebration and recognition for those leading the way.
More about our annual Open house event is at fourathens.com/open-house. Curious about what 2017 holds for startups in Athens? Join us at an upcoming event, check out our Facebook page for resources, and become a member to get connected.