While Atlanta is characterized by a concentration of world-renowned research universities and Fortune 500 companies, a lack of venture capital in the information technology sector keeps it from being the IT entrepreneurial hub it could be, said Emory University business professor Jagdish Sheth.

“Our biggest weakness is that we don’t have a very strong venture capitalist community here,” Dr. Sheth told GlobalAtlanta in an interview that assessed the city’s entrepreneurial capacity in the IT and bioscience related fields.

Although Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and major corporations such as Coca-Cola Co. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. foster high-tech innovation in Atlanta, in-flows of capital to the city’s IT and bioscience industries have been lackluster.

“IT entrepreneurialism here is average, and it’s because we don’t have a good ecosystem to nurture it,” said Dr. Sheth. “Most of the capital here has gone into more traditional businesses,” he said, citing the city’s hospitality, franchise and real estate industries as having attracted substantial venture capital.

The “ecosystem” that Dr. Sheth would like to see involves technology-related startups getting healthy investments from local banks and seasoned entrepreneurs as well as access to government-subsidized trade parks would provide the incentives to attract venture capitalists here.

“The government should give strong incentives to start a venture capital community here,” he said, citing the Hinschu Science Park in Taiwan that creates special economic zones for venture capitalists and technology-related startups as an example to follow.

But the private sector should also be working more closely together to nurture entrepreneurial growth here, he said, adding that he would like to see more wealthy entrepreneurs set aside some of their own monies to support up-and-coming businesses.

Once local financial institutions start seeing some of the city’s own businesspeople investing in startups, they might be more inclined to loan them entrepreneurial capital as well, he said.

Georgia has also not experienced the same sense of urgency that other Southeastern states have felt to develop their IT and bioscience industries, he said, citing the decline of traditional agricultural industries as reasons for neighboring states to develop their technology industries.

“North Carolina’s done a great job. Virginia has done a good job, but it’s because they knew tobacco [farming] was not the future,” he said. “We have been doing so well in every other place, there’s been no sense of urgency here,” he said.

Nonetheless, the city has a resource pool of some IT and bioscience entrepreneurs.

This special issue of GlobalAtlanta features video interviews with some of them.

Jeffrey Hoffman, a former executive with Priceline.com, who had successful ventures in computer-related start-ups, discusses his work with new entrepreneurs — as both investor and a mentor — as well as his own interest in Georgia’s film industry.

Christopher Klaus, founder of security software provider, Internet Security Systems, discusses his latest venture, social networking site, Kaneva Inc., during an interview taped at SoCon07, an Internet-oriented conference held at Kennesaw State University in February.

Brad Fallon, an e-commerce entrepreneur who specializes in search engine optimization, talks about the wedding favor business that he and his wife started in their basement in 2004 that grew to become a $32 million business by 2006. Mr. Fallon also discusses his business relationship with China and FreeiQ, a new Web site that he and business partner Andy Jenkins launched in April to collect business-related information in a YouTube-like format.

Edwin Marcial, chief technology officer for IntercontinentalExchange Inc., an Atlanta-based online energy trader that July 9 lost an $11 billion bid to buy the Chicago Board of Trade, discusses the company’s business activity in Atlanta during a video interview taped in November.

Tom Glaser, president of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast Region, appears in a December video interview with Homi Shamir and Christopher Rowland, executives at Israel-based medical device company Given Imaging Ltd. The bioscience company, headquartered in Duluth, has developed a camera pill that can be used to detect ailments like Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease in the small intestine. The company recently got approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market a similar pill for the esophagus in the U.S.

Narsi Narasimhan, co-founder and CEO of Paalam Inc., which facilitates software development and call center outsourcing operations in India, discusses his company and monthly roundtable forums that he has facilitated among chief technology or information officers in local businesses.

Local entrepreneur Ani Agnihotri’s newly formed company, U.S. India Business Research Center, which facilitates U.S.-based businesses’ entry into India, is featured in this issue.

An initiative by the Georgia Department of Education and Global Achievers, an international education nonprofit, to train high school teachers to address international entrepreneurship is also profiled in this issue.

Entrepreneurs interested in learning about entering the Costa Rican, Danish and Japanese markets can enlist the aid of Master’s of Business Administration students at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for International Business Education and Research, another article details.

And information on a newly published book by Dr. Sheth, “Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies…And How to Break Them,” also appears in the “People in the News” section of this GlobalAtlanta Entrepreneur Special Report.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Jagdish Sheth (404) 321-5966