Seven judges of the Atlanta Metro Export Challenge have selected 28 companies out of nearly 100 applicants for $5,000 grants to help boost their export sales.
The awardees are now semi-finalists in the second annual competition, which launched in 2016 thanks to a $200,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. This year, the bank donated $100,000 toward the effort, joined by $25,000 in shipping credits from UPS and $5,000 from Partnership Gwinnett.
Later in the year, participants who take advantage of the initial grants will be invited to pitch for up to $20,000. They’ll share how the first grant benefited them and what they would do with additional support.
Last year, winners used the pitch session to describe how overseas trade shows helped generate leads that turned into paying clients. One winner, IronCAD, even attributed a $250,000 deal to the grant’s enabling the company to focus on harder-to-get customers.
There was no overlap in this year’s 28 winners and last year’s 38, but that was expected: Previous winners were barred from applying in 2017.
But a few of the 2016 winners still have a chance to be engaged. About 20 of them decided not to participate in Pitch Day, so they’re eligible to come back and compete for the three prizes that will be doled out in this year’s Shark Tank-style faceoff: $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000.
The challenge is administered mainly by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, which is using some of its own funds to cover the Pitch Day prizes. Some of the award cash from last year went unused and is being applied to this year’s crop of winners. About $200,000 will be distributed overall in 2017.
JPMorgan, still the main donor, has long backed the Brookings Institution’s broader Global Cities Initiative, which uses research to help metro areas participate more fully and thoughtfully in the global economy. In 2015, Brookings helped Atlanta join many other cities having crafted export plans. The challenge is an effort to put it into action. View the plan here
Atlanta’s plan identified the need to focus on intensifying exports in industry clusters where it was already strong, especially technology and logistics. Applicants from those fields received extra weight, but they didn’t need it, according to Jen Yun, the chamber’s program manager for the Global Cities Initiative. It was really those who told their stories best who became semi-finalists.
“We tried to tell them, don’t just give us the quantitative things, but also the qualitative stories behind the numbers,” she added.
Those who failed this year need not fret, she said. Part of the value of the process is that it requires companies to fill out an export readiness assessment, which gives participants the change to reflect and regroup. Some of last year’s unsuccessful applicants came back this year and won.
Read on after the full list of this year’s winners:
The chamber focused on diversity too, and this year’s crop of winners features both women- and minority-owned businesses. It didn’t fare as well in diversity on the county front: Of the 29 counties in the overall region, only nine were represented. Fulton County accounted for half of the the 28 winners, while 21 of 29 counties had none at all.
A few of the 2017 semi-finalists attended an info session hosted by the chamber, Global Atlanta and Red Brick Brewing Co. at the latter’s brewery in May, a week before the deadline. Three companies — Vayando, Red Brick and TradeRocket — shared how the grant changed their views on exports and how they used the $5,000 award.
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Later in the year, the challenge and Global Atlanta will host Export Stories, an event releasing a special report showcasing Georgia-based companies’ export journeys.