By Doug Ring, Principal and CTO at Daras
As technology continues to advance, investors are looking for new and exciting innovations to back. In recent years, we’ve seen a noteworthy rise in the population of tech companies in Alpharetta, leading to its nickname, the Technology City of the South.
Today, the city is home to more than 700 technology companies and counting. This strong base of domain expertise and talent makes for a great location for investors. Two industries that represent a rich opportunity for investments are healthcare and financial services. This is led by the city’s strong talent pool and close proximity to established companies, rich with domain expertise and potential for partnerships and sponsorships.
However, the variety of companies – both emerging and established – is what makes Alpharetta so unique. For example, if we look at the startups in Tech Alpharetta’s Innovation Center, we see a strong mix across a number of sectors. This includes technologies that can be leveraged across industries, such as data platforms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), software engineering, smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
As Alpharetta’s tech eco-system continues to flourish, I want to share some advice for the many tech startups looking for funding to grow their business.
Investors are looking for teams that are addressing real-world problems through technological innovation, combined with sustainable differentiation and the right business model. Many investors are searching for talent, and all consider where the proposed technology fits in terms of the market. Software development traditionally followed a bottoms up approach:
- Set of features – Ability to rate performance
- Product – Software with a set of features (Performance Review System)
- Suite – A collection of products (Talent Management Suite)
- Platform – Software to construct more software (Workday – they have evolved into a platform)
When you look at the evolution of software up until recently, it commonly started out as something that had a set of features, those features then morphed and became a product, the market demands shifted and people realized that several products should be offered together as a suite. Ultimately, the suite doesn’t address all the needs of the buyers as the market matures and buyers requirements expand. This then led to the need for a platform upon which additional things like customizations, integrations and products could further be built out.
In today’s software world things are inverted. Platforms are built first, and the products are built on top of the platform knowing that their future products can be built faster and cheaper as they expand. For instance, Amazon is an online retail platform. Amazon started by selling books. Over time they have expanded to selling all sorts of other things.
Part of the reason software was built bottoms up was that people looked at software with an emphasis around optimization – the most effective way to capture transactions. In fact, many developers and investors focused around transactional optimization for decades. It was ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) in corporations and manufacturing and EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) in Healthcare. However, what has become more important is communication and how to collaborate on top of these transactional applications. The opportunity to create technology has elevated beyond just transactions – how people collaborate and communicate better in the flow of work has become much more important and has led to this need for a platform approach which is supported by the technology advancements related to Cloud Computing.
My advice to Alpharetta tech startups is to make sure that they are able to clearly articulate the problem they are solving, and how their solution is better and different than other platforms coming to market. They also need to be able to illustrate this through storytelling backed by facts. You don’t have to know everything right away, but you should know how the tech is going to get from where it is today to something bigger, how the platform will evolve or support evolution. The future can be unclear, but you should focus on how you’re going to get there by thinking about it now. Can you be the next platform?