By Phoebe Knight
Enough with the “things we’re looking forward to in 2017” lists—we want to know what people, not publications, have in store for the new year.
Atlanta is full of startups, which means it’s also full of startup leaders. As we began to approach the end of 2016, we found ourselves curious: What does the open possibility of a new year mean for a young company?
Georgia Tech entrepreneurs are particularly fortunate to have mentorship and support throughout the year. We spoke with an educator and organization leader to learn more about how they will guide their students in 2017.
— Startup Exchange (@startupxchange) November 11, 2016
Startup Exchange, the largest entrepreneurial community at Georgia Tech, is dedicated to helping students start their own businesses, however ambitious their plans may be. The organization’s programming includes speaker events, panels, competitions and community get-togethers that give students the tools they need to become entrepreneurs.
“The idea is to inspire students to express their ideas, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, in the hopes that they will eventually pursue their ideas and turn them into reality,” said Co-Director Indra Sofian.
It’s been a big year for Startup Exchange. They’ve grown and structured their organizing team, redesigned their website and transformed their mission from teaching students to empowering them to start their own ventures.
— Tech Square ATL (@TechSqATL) October 25, 2016
Still, there are big plans for the upcoming semester. According to Sofian, the primary goal for 2017 will be connecting resources around Atlanta to Startup Exchange students and expanding the organization’s reach to be as inclusive as possible.
“We’ll be hosting meetings and events in collaboration with HackGT, Dorm Room Fund, Contrary Capital and Sequoia Capital, to name a few,” Sofian said. “In addition, we’re starting a new initiative at Georgia Tech called 1000 Pitches, a two-month pitch competition where students of any major and any year can pitch an idea in a variety of categories, ranging from consumer product to research to education to campus improvements, for a chance to win prizes at the end of the competition.”
It’s a big undertaking, but with help from the university community, it’ll happen. “We’re currently raising sponsorship for the event and have already brought on the Residence Hall Association and Buzzfunds at Georgia Tech as sponsors,” Sofian said.
Additionally, enthusiastic entrepreneurial educator Brandy Nagel consults and leads entrepreneurship classes at Georgia Tech. In her classes, she gives her students the tools they need to reduce professional and personal risk in their enterprises.
— Joyce Drake Ory (@joycedrakeory) September 17, 2016
Her primary goal, however, is to motivate her students to spotlight the most critical aspect of any business: the customer. Nagel encourages her students to ask questions and gather data in order to gain customer insight. She’s adamant that overcoming cognitive biases (predetermined ideas about who customers are or what they want) is necessary to meet and support customer need.
We asked Nagel where startups and young entrepreneurs should focus their energy in 2017. Her response? Teamwork.
“Focus on a couple of mentors that will help guide you through the challenges,” Nagel advised.
With support from mentors like Sofian and Nagel, young Atlanta entrepreneurs are on the right track toward an exciting 2017.
Us, on the other hand? We’re more than ready to document their stories.