ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Alpharetta attorney Karen Cashion, who was founder and president – later chairwoman – of the Greater Alpharetta Tech Network, has a new full-time job as CEO of the Alpharetta Technology Commission.
“Yes, I have put away my legal career to take on this new role with the ATC,” Cashion said, sitting in her office at the ATC Innovation Center. “This is the work I’m passionate about – working to grow the Alpharetta techno-ecosystem we have now.”
The ATC Innovation Center, which opened in 2015 on Webb Bridge Road, is the main thrust of the ATC mission which is to incubate new technology companies. With the support of the City of Alpharetta and the Alpharetta Development Authority, it is set up so that entrepreneurial techno-geeks have the means and opportunity to develop their ideas into viable products or even companies.
The Innovation Center, which Cashion calls the “Innovation Epicenter because it is truly the epicenter of startup technology and innovation in Alpharetta,” is designed specifically for nascent tech companies before they are a company.
“This is where startups start,” she said.
The Center provides a 24/7 tech co-working environment. That includes event, office and conference room space.
“We have more than 30 tech startups and four early stage tech companies working out of this center now,” Cashion said.
In addition, there is a venture capital fund and startup foundry, led by Eleven Eleven Investments, moving into one of the Innovation Center offices in March.
But this center is far more than just working space for tech startups, Cashion said.
“This building houses a community of tech startups who meet, collaborate and innovate. We’re really a community and a support system for startups here.”
The Innovation Center has flexible spaces for innovators that start with just a “hot desk,” which is a co-worker space available 24/7 (the key is an erasable app that opens the door) for just $99 a month.
Meeting rooms are available to pitch an idea, and short-term leases for a room and a desk are available for $1,500 a month.
“It as reasonable a price as it can be in this community,” she says.
It is a diverse group of innovators whose fields range includes biotech, internet security, educational technology, film technology, manufacturing software, wearable technology and others.
“The ATC wants to help support Alpharetta’s start-up innovators, help them grow, and encourage them to stay in Alpharetta as they grow,” she said.
That last bit is the carrot for Alpharetta. Greater Alpharetta has more than 900 tech companies in Greater Alpharetta and 643 just in Alpharetta alone. The city would like to grow and retain those companies.
First, the center reinforces Alpharetta’s place as the Technology City of the South. It also grows a clean industry in the city that offers higher paying jobs and promotes the overall economic health of the area.
Finally, innovation begets more innovation, so it keeps the “pot boiling” to create more opportunities that are as yet undreamt.
So the Innovation Center provides the space, a community for tech innovators and supports the many start-up groups with ATC events that are hosted here:
•ATDC startup circle meets Friday mornings
•One Million Cup entrepreneur’s group meets Wednesday mornings.
The Greater Alpharetta Technology Network also hosts educational events at the Innovation Center.
GATN’s next event March 29 is EchelonCommunicate’s Pitch Present program.
This is a program that teaches tech companies how to effectively pitch to investors and customers, Cashion said. So it is not necessarily just for startups.
It is part of a regular rotation of events and meetings here intended to help support the Center’s startup community.
“My goal as new CEO of the ATC is to help to identify and develop new opportunities to foster the growth of Alpharetta’s technology ecosystem, from startups through the Fortune 1,000.”