Originally published November 2010
Inspired by Joe Stump’s, most excellent blog post “Your city sucks! (And so does mine)”, about tech hubs Seattle, Portland, Boulder and San Francisco, I decided to write a version for Atlanta and Seattle.
One of the things that I liked about Joe’s article: he calls it like he sees it. Unlike most recent articles I’ve read that cheerlead for cities, Joe writes about the good, the bad and the ugly. And his contrarian headline cracked me up.
So I contacted some of my favorite Atlanta entrepreneurs and business leaders to contribute to a list of pros and cons for the ATL. The only rule I gave them: keep it real.
I moved from Seattle to Atlanta in 2006 to be an “intrapreneur” at Turner Broadcasting. Otherwise, Atlanta wasn’t on my radar. A quick compare and contrast: Seattle has more scenic beauty. Atlanta has a lot more violent crime. Seattle has Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Atlanta has Ted Turner and Arthur Blank. Seattle is known for grunge and flannel. Atlanta is known for hip-hop and bling. The tech scene in Atlanta can sometimes be more old school – it’s not uncommon for me to see people in suits and ties at events where on the west coast I would see jeans and t-shirts. All my tech friends in Atlanta have embraced social media, but a surprising number of business people I meet are way behind the curve. Certainly, the cost of living is far lower in Atlanta – a big advantage in starting a company. People in both cities are super nice. But it’s easier to make friends in Atlanta (Seattle is known for what has been referred to as “The Seattle Freeze“). Do I like Atlanta? Yes, a lot. But I really loved living in Seattle.
The following “pros and cons” for Atlanta, submitted by the contributors, don’t necessarily reflect my views; or the views of the contributors as a group. (But I think many of these are spot on…)
- Atlanta is less of a city and more of a collection of neighborhoods pieced together. This is awesome for raising a family while still experiencing in-town life.
- Easy city to live in with a variety of lifestyles available (in city, suburbs, mountains).
- You get all four seasons (Spring and Fall are amazing). Just enough snow to make it fun. Palm Trees are for wimps.
- Winter ends in the first of March, and you get warm days throughout the Winter.
- Cheap housing. A family of four can live in a 4k sq. foot home in metro Atlanta for under $400k.
- Cheap commercial rents!
- Great restaurants. More good restaurants come here and stay open despite the tough economy.
- Vibrant music scene.
- The Atlanta airport is the largest and busiest in the world which means you can fly directly to most any location – no connections!
- Fantastic entertainment industry tax incentives have driven a ton of projects and companies to GA.
- Atlanta is a hotbed for Internet security companies, financial transaction services, energy and biotech startups, and a growing number of social games and digital media startups.
- Incubators like ATDC (Advanced Technology Development Center).
- World class universities. Georgia Tech and Emory are a mere 5 miles apart. There are over 250,000 college students in the metro area. GA Tech – produces many world-class, top-flight engineers.
- The city is young and growing. Many young professionals see Atlanta as a great place to begin their careers.
- There is a strong culture of collaboration and community around entrepreneurs. People lending time, expertise and contacts is the norm.
- The Atlanta social web community is very giving and caring. Lots of help, sharing, and collaboration. Easy to get ideas, feedback, and inputs when you throw out questions and ideas.
- A lot of local industry org’s, meetups, and groups.
- With diligent networking, you can gain access to almost any resource and any person in town.
- A city of transplants so there are people from all over the country in Atlanta.
- Diverse economy with 4th largest number of Fortune 500 corporate headquarters in the US and many high tech firms.
- A large representations of Google, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle business units headquartered in Atlanta.
- AT&T Wireless, Turner Broadcasting, CNN, The Weather Channel headquartered in Atlanta… with numerous spinoffs.
- Summer heat and humidity.
- Atlanta is landlocked – a 4 hour drive to closest ocean.
- Allergies. Don’t have them? You will.
- Violent crime much higher than national average.
- Traffic can be horrendous, especially for those who live outside the city but work downtown.
- Cycle? It’s not a matter of if you get hit by a car, but when. Not bike friendly.
- Growth has led to generic looking suburbs with big box retail and chain restaurants.
- Metro Atlanta is very spread out. Sometimes the different parts of the city feel very disconnected.
- The business community is diffuse – there are no true “hot spots” to see and be seen where entrepreneurs and vc’s cluster, (except perhaps StartupLounge and StartupRiot).
- For a city of of its size, Atlanta has very little early stage venture capital.
- There is little capital. No idiot can get his stupid idea funded. Smart people with good ideas can.
- Most wealthy people focus on real estate investing rather than venture/angel investing.
- There are few if any visionary business technology leaders. No Jobs, no Ellison, no Schmidt, no Zuck. The leaders in Atlanta are all service providers.
- There is a lack of proven executive-level venture building talent.
- A lot of wantrepreneurs who talk about startups but don’t start startups.
- No critical mass of startups within one field. ISS created that somewhat with multiple security spinoffs, but there are few other examples.
- Some people are very status conscious and materialistic.
- People wearing Bluetooth earpieces 24/7 are a common sight, more so than other cities. They look like d-bags.
- Commonly seen “fashion” on men: pleated khakis, tucked in shirt, cell phone holster on hip, anchorman haircut.
- Sometimes very cliquish.
- The city is quite segregated (mexicans, white, black, asian, etc are in certain areas and don’t often mix).
- Metro Atlanta might be a melting pot of differing political views, but come election day – not feeling the melting so much.
- An abundance of narrow-minded people (as compared with San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boulder).
- City government and city schools are not very good.
- Older (more established) community is motivated by “appropriateness.” If seeking entrance into this community, then need to toe the party line.
- Passive/aggressive is the dominate social paradigm.
I lived in Seattle for seven years. From the dotcom boom, to the dotcom bust and beyond. A fantastic city to live in. Walked to work every day, with Elliott Bay and snow-capped mountains in the background. The rain never bothered me. A GORE-TEX jacket is all you need. You’ll never meet more people who are more polite and well-mannered. (There’s an old joke about a car approaching a crosswalk and a pedestrian on the sidewalk at the crosswalk. The car motions to the pedestrian: “after you…” The pedestrian motions to the car: “No, after you…” The car motions to the pedestrian: “No, no, after you…” This goes on for 15 minutes, each one trying to out-polite the other.) Tech scene is vibrant, with alumni of Microsoft, Amazon, RealNetworks, and others doing cool stuff. A true pioneering spirit exists.
- Quite possibly the most beautiful city in the country, with Elliott Bay, snowcapped mountains and a magnificent skyline.
- Spectacular summer:
every dayaverage temperature is 75 degrees and sunny with low humidity. Stays light til like 9:45pm.
- Lots of very smart people. Easy to have intelligent conversations.
- Entrepreneurs who have great exits tend to re-invest in the startup ecosystem.
- Incredible hiking, kayaking, cycling and other outdoor sports.
- The rain never stops anyone. Most people deal with it. People rarely complain about the weather.
- Great restaurants. (Gotta disagree with Joe Stump on this one. I miss El Gaucho, Etta’s, Marco’s Supperclub, and many more.)
- Fantastic seafood.
- Awesome off-leash dog parks.
- Casual attitude and dress.
- There’s nothing like a summer Sunday at Safeco Field for a Mariners game.
- Rarely snows in the winter.
- For the most part, open-minded, accepting people. You can be whoever you want to be, and people will generally accept you.
- Great live music scene.
- Relatively easy to get to Hawaii for vacation and SF for business.
- Many people who grow up in Seattle never leave, and many know each other from the University of Washington. Can be cliquish.
- Homeless problem.
- Higher cost of living than many cities (although lower than SF and NYC).
- Traffic (if you have to commute). I lived and worked downtown, so this wasn’t a problem for me.
- Seattle lost its NBA basketball team.
- Very short summer.
- “Seattle Freeze” (Yeah, I know Seattle natives hate hearing about this, but it’s real.)
- Long flight to east coast for business.
Chris Lea: The City of Lost Angels
Have you written a “Your city sucks! (And so does mine)” article for cities you’ve lived in? Let us know, and we’ll link to it here.
What do YOU think? Are these right? Are they wrong? What are the pros and cons for YOUR city? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
- Selah Abrams, managing partner of Party Republik (Selah has one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve done business with)
- Don Addington, Executive Vice President, ORTEC (and fellow Business Launch Competition judge)
- Michael Blake, Director of Valuation Services at Habif, Arogeti & Wynne and President of StartupLounge (Michael does what he does for all the right reasons)
- Greg Foster, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Chrysalis Ventures (and fellow Turner alumnus)
- Jackie Hutter, Chief IP Strategist, The Hutter Group, LLC (savvy IP strategist with great field vision)
- Chris Klaus, CEO of Kaneva (I could white-board business ideas with Chris for days at a time. And he’s like the Bruce Wayne of Atlanta)
- Rachel Orston, Co-Founder, CoThrive (Rachel beat me in a startup pitch competition last year. I have a long memory! She’s a fantastic business person and I’ve learned a lot about customer development from her.)
- David Rudolph, CEO, PlayOn Sports (David recruited me from Seattle to Atlanta. He’s far and away the best leader I’ve worked for in my career)
- Paul Sansone, CFO, Better World Books (Paul and I started at IBM on the same day way back when. Not only a smart business person, one of the funniest people I know.)
- Todd Schnick, INTREPID business blogger, marketer + political strategist (Super cool and genuine. Hang out with Todd and you’re sure to become an even better person.)
- Lance Weatherby (Lance works tirelessly with Atlanta entrepreneurs. One of the really good guys in town.)
- And me, David Eckoff