Major tech companies are opening offices in Atlanta, hoping to capitalize on the technology talent in the city, especially the Black talent.
Headquartered near San Francisco, payments giant Visa is also opening a new office in Atlanta later this year, and its chief diversity officer will be based there, with a focus on building connections with various start-ups and workers.
“We know that our customer base at all levels includes the Black community, and we are not shy about wanting the Black community in our workforce,” Visa’s diversity chief, Michelle Gethers-Clark, told CNBC.
Atlanta-based Georgia Tech produces the most technology graduates per year in the U.S., according to research firm CBRE, which listed Atlanta as the eighth-best city for sourcing tech talent in a 2021 report.
Over the past five years, Atlanta has seen 15% growth in tech jobs, comparable with other notable tech cities — 16% for the San Francisco Bay Area and 10% for Austin, Texas, according to CBRE.
“Atlanta is uniquely poised to rewrite what tech should look like,” said Nakia Melecio, whose start-up catalyst iDesignproject is located in the city. “We’ve got such a robust, inviting ecosystem that makes sure when we bring Black tech talent in, they know who the players are, they know what resources are available to them and we make sure they can actually grow.”
There is a wide range of tech incubators, accelerators and innovation centers in the greater Atlanta area that provide support, mentorship and networking opportunities for start-ups, including the Atlanta Tech Village, Atlanta Tech Park, and Propel, an HBCU tech hub supported by Apple and Atlanta-based power firm Southern Co.
More than a dozen companies started or based in Atlanta have grown to valuations over the past decade above $1 billion, the threshold for so-called unicorn status.
Among them are digital asset marketplace Bakkt, which went public in 2021; small business data provide Kabbage, which was acquired by American Express last year; and scheduling platform Calendly, which now has a more than $3 billion valuation.
Calendly founder Tope Awotona, who is Black, said the success of his start-up and others proved tech can thrive in Atlanta.
“We’ve definitely seen many more investors coming out to Atlanta to source companies,” Awotona told CNBC. “They’ve just seen a lot of activity with start-ups here in Atlanta.”
“It’s been really exciting to see that,” he added.