Life in Atlanta’s thriving tech community is more than just a day at the office. The city’s startup scene has become one of the largest in the country, producing both consumer and business-focused (“B2C” and “B2B”) brands like Mailchimp, Scoutmob and Calendly. Coworking spaces are popping up like coffee shops, in just about every corner of the city, serving as incubators for creativity and collaboration. They’re more than just rented offices with shared water coolers, instead offering amenities like free craft beer and community events.
ATLANTA TECH VILLAGE
Perhaps the most well-known in the city, Buckhead’s Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) is the fourth-largest technology hub in the U.S., established in 2013 by Pardot founder David Cummings. More than 300 startups companies call this place home. Amenities include an Octane Coffee outpost, “nap rooms,” game rooms, a fitness center, electric car charging and free beer and lunch on Fridays.
Potential members go through an application process to make sure they’re a good fit for the culture of ATV. The four tenets are “be nice, dream big, pay it forward, and work hard but play hard.” Companies can start from the hot desk level and move up to a 40-person office. The village also holds more than 400 public events a year, including their weekly Startup Chowdown. Held on Fridays, the event brings together the community with the public to share lunch and ideas. Pitch Practice is another event the village operates, where startup groups register to pitch their ideas to the experts, held immediately after the Chowdown.
SWITCHYARDS DOWNTOWN CLUB
Founded in 2016 in a 1928 Downtown building, Switchyards was the brainchild of Michael Tavani and Dave Payne. The pair previously started Scoutmob, a popular app that finds discounts based on your location. They describe the space as “not a building,” but so much more. The restored 19,000-square-foot space is in the center of it all, connected to public transportation and surrounded by restaurants of every cuisine type. Switchyards features Western & Atlantic, a members-only coffee shop, a 250-seat theater, 12 conference rooms, and even a pingpong table. Atlanta-pride pennants and murals cover the walls. A neon sign in that window that says “Made with Soul in Atlanta” is a frequent spot for selfies by passersby, curious about the club.
“Switchyards Downtown Club is the only consumer and design-focused startup hub in a city filled with B2B Internet security and fintech startups,” says Tavani. But more than anything, “it’s about shared values.” Members also include a social media marketing firm, lawyers and even a filmmaker.
Free community events are at the heart of Switchyards’ ethos, and usually include pizza and beer. The monthly “Made in Atlanta” lecture series hosts the best brands in the city, like Arden’s Garden, The Bitter Southerner and Third Rail Studios. The Consumer Show is another popular event, bringing in five companies to pitch “Shark Tank” style to an audience of 200-plus.
Industrious has locations around the country, but the Ponce City Market space is the largest in the nation at more than 55,000 square feet and spanning two floors. The sleek offices are full of modern furnishings and glass walls in the former Sears, Roebuck and Co. building. Members range from small startups to individual lawyers. National companies like Pinterest launched their regional offices here and Spotify still calls it home.
By the end of 2017, Industrious is adding three more locations in Midtown, Buckhead and the Westside Stockyards. But it’s the one at Ponce City Market where you have access to the Atlanta Beltline, shops and a food hall just steps away. Members also have access to local coffee, a kitchen and snacks, all included with their monthly fee, along with basic furniture, Internet and printing. They also have access to events and programs, like frequent happy hours.
Industrious doesn’t focus solely on tech businesses, but many flock here to get their work done. There’s a large communal area, meeting rooms, phone banks and offices of varying sizes of one to 10 desks. Best of all, Industrious members can use their membership at any location, making it an ideal choice for business travelers, and can expect the same features as their home location.
Atlanta’s first coworking space, Strongbox West opened in 2009 by Amy Hoover and Rick Myers and quickly outgrew its Westside warehouse. They relocated to the current 49,000-square-foot space in 2015, catering to all types of small businesses from the technology-focused to makers to food trucks. A fashion incubator and coding school both have a presence, and countless success stories have come out of this space. Uber launched in Atlanta in 2012 from offices here, followed by Lyft. Scoutmob and Mailchimp also “graduated” from the Strongbox West community.
“We have a pretty specific vibe,” Hoover says of the space, which is eclectic in its design elements and the businesses drawn to it. Colorful artwork covers the industrial walls of the former 1980s office building and a pirate flag flies proudly. Every office size is different and all ranges of space options are available, from communal workspace to larger offices. The dog-friendly “Box” offers daily tours to the public as well as day passes for visitors. Included with membership are Internet, conference rooms, 24-hour access, coffee from Firelight Coffee Roasters and access to community events. There’s even a private club for members looking for an after-work drink.
With more coworking spaces, including WeWork and Post Office, opening in the city, perhaps the next great company will come out of one of these Atlanta communities, partially in thanks to the tech-friendly spaces that have welcomed their innovation.