Endeavor Atlanta is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and our global organization is turning 25! Our Southeastern-focused office is graduating from the “StartUp” to the “ScaleUp” phase, where we accelerate our work and begin to see the longer-term impact on the ecosystems we serve. There are many ways to measure impact in the world of entrepreneurship, including job creation, revenue growth, capital raised, company valuation, wealth creation, and the number of startups launched. These outputs are very hard to tie back to any one entrepreneur, early employee, investor, mentor, or entrepreneur support organization since it takes a village to start and scale a company. And most importantly, it takes a crazy founder or two to create something from nothing.
That’s why the word “ecosystem” is so often used in the startup world, borrowing from the world of biological systems that interact to create something extraordinary. But if you dig further into the background of the most successful companies, you’ll often find a few individuals that mentored, personally invested in, and inspired these big-thinking founders. At Endeavor, we call these inspirational entrepreneurs “Big Bubbles,” named after the visual depiction of their positive impact laid out over time. When multiple big bubbles come from a single startup, you often hear the term “mafia” used to describe them (e.g., The Paypal Mafia). Endeavor has seen its own entrepreneurs generate startup mafias around the globe, from Rappi in Latin America, who’ve spawned over 100 startups, to the Careem mafia in the Middle East. We call this paying-it-forward mindset The Multiplier Effect, when an individual reinvests their own entrepreneurial success and multiplies it across many other startups. As former Endeavor President Fernando Fabre points out in this great TedTalk, these “Big Bubble” entrepreneurs don’t measure success by the size of their wealth or their companies, but by the size of their influence.
To celebrate our anniversary, we’ve decided to highlight the Big Bubbles within our Atlanta ecosystem. Over the coming weeks, we’ll release bubble maps of several inspiring entrepreneurs who embody the pay-it-forward mindset that Endeavor hopes to accelerate throughout the Southeast. This week we are releasing maps of four of the biggest bubbles in Atlanta: David Cummings, Tom Noonan, Jon Hallett, and Chris Klaus. These founders turned investors and mentors have collectively helped kickstart over 150 startups in our ecosystem, several of which are valued at over $1B.
Have you been inspired or mentored by any of these bubble maps, but don’t see your company?
After the successful sale of Pardot to ExactTarget in 2012, David decided to reinvest his knowledge and financial gains straight back into Atlanta’s startup ecosystem. As you can see above, he has influenced many of Atlanta’s most successful startups including unicorns SalesLoft and Calendly along with Terminus, Rigor (successful exit to Splunk), and GreenPrint (successful exit to PDI Software). Perhaps most importantly, David launched Atlanta’s largest home for tech startups, the Atlanta Tech Village (ATV), where founders and investors gather and startups are born every week. ATV was also launched before co-working spaces were ubiquitous, a non-obvious bet on the future of our city. In addition, David’s original company Pardot is now the core of Salesforce’s marketing cloud, employing hundreds of tech workers in Atlanta and generating hundreds of millions in annual revenue.
One of the region’s biggest bubbles, Tom co-founded Internet Security Systems with Chris Klaus (see below) in the mid-90’s, scaled it through an IPO and eventual sale to IBM for $1.3B in 2006. He’s since gone on to start Joule-X (sold to Cisco Systems) and invest in many of Atlanta’s most successful technology companies including SalesLoft and FullStory. He’s also advised other founder-led Atlanta success stories like Manhattan Associates, where he has served on its Board since 1998. Tom continues to be one of the most active angel investors in the Southeast, betting on the next generation of high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurs.
The technical brains behind one of Atlanta’s most successful IPOs, Chris Klaus led Internet Security System’s technology development where he eventually teamed up with Tom Noonan to scale the cybersecurity platform all the way through the challenging dotcom era. Chris has continued to pay forward his success by angel investing in many Atlanta startups. In 2014, Chris led the creation of one of the most successful startup “factories” in the world, Georgia Tech’s Create-X program, which enables students to launch their startup idea as their summer internship. Chris also offers mentorship and investment in Create-X companies, including Stord, a multi-billion dollar logistics company launched inside of the program.
Jon is one of the most under the radar angel investors and entrepreneur advisors in our ecosystem, but one of Atlanta’s biggest bubbles. He started his first software company in in the late 1990’s (NMP Inc.) and took that early success forward to lead, co-found and directly invest in many startups including Northridge Systems, Cloud Sherpas, BetterCloud, MessageGears and many others. He’s a sought after mentor and advisor by many of the region’s top startup founders.