The ballroom of the Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson Student Center at Clark Atlanta University was filled with smiling faces, nervous energy, and the perfect complements to both — glasses of wine, mixed drinks, local craft beer and passed kabobs — as the 2019 Atlanta Startup Awards were getting ready to begin.
Once a decent amount of pre-event mingling had been accomplished during the cocktail hour, the program began, with help from host Rose Scott of Atlanta’s WABE radio station. Scott consistently-but-playfully peppered the crowd with humorous asides and ribbings of the DJ’s choices of song (decidedly on the lounge-y side of things), but was also keen to acknowledge that this was a ceremony focused on opportunity.
“You must always pay it back,” Scott reminded the crowd, recognizing prominent members of Atlanta’s startup community, which, among others, included the legendary Sig Mosley, while also praising them for mentoring those still establishing themselves as leaders, including Candace Wheeler, senior producer for Scott’s own WABE radio program “A Closer Look.”
Inclusion was a big theme for the third-annual Atlanta Startup Awards, which were held in the Atlanta University Center and celebrated not only those startup community members impacting Atlanta and beyond, but also culture and the entrepreneurial contributions of the city’s historic westside. The venue was chosen in collaboration with CAU’s School of Business Administration and the new Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is located at the edge of the HBCU’s campus, just a few blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and downtown Atlanta.
After a welcome from Dr. Silvanus J. Udoka, dean of CAU’s School of Business Administration, and Jay Bailey, president and CEO of the Russell Center, both of whom spoke of the past, present and future of Atlanta as an entrepreneurial base, the awards program got underway, with opening words from Amy Love, assistant director of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for Invest Atlanta.
As in previous years, the program had eight awards categories. Here are the categories, nominees, and winners (in bold, with asterisks):
SCRAPPIEST STARTUP AWARD: Startup that has achieved significant milestones over the last 12 months without ever raising equity or debt capital.
COMMUNITY BUILDER: The Community Builder Award recognizes a local leader who has made a tangible and lasting impact in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Keshia Knight Pulliam and Arian Simone
BEST B2C STARTUP: Startup that provides product(s) to consumers and has achieved significant milestones over the last 12 months.
BEST SOCIAL IMPACT STARTUP: The Best Social Impact Startup Award recognizes a mission-driven for-profit or non-profit startup who has made the biggest impact on the Atlanta community and beyond.
Secure Data Kit*
Black Girl Group
Glymph & Associates
BEST B2B STARTUP: Startup that provides product(s) that solve(s) a problem for businesses and has achieved significant milestones over the last 12 months.
Jonny On It
THE ART OF THE PIVOT: Growing a startup is hard. The Art of the Pivot Award celebrates a startup’s ability to change its business model and successfully revamp their business in the face of adversity.
BEST GROWTH STAGE STARTUP: The Best Growth Stage Startup Award recognizes a startup that has shown strong product-market fit, ARR over $3-5M or 40+ employees.
EQUITY CHAMPION: The Equity Champion Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant impact in the entrepreneurial ecosystem by removing barriers or providing access to underrepresented founders.
Halfway through the program there was a panel conversation between UrbanGeekz’ Kunbi Tinuoye, Joey Womack, and Dan D’Aquisto of 2U Laundry, who spoke about their own experiences in Atlanta’s startup community, and the value of not only building relationships but losing your ego, asking key questions, making sacrifices and being vulnerable to criticism in order to be successful.
Closing out the program were lifetime achievement awards for Bernie Dixon and Charlie Paparelli, who inspired the crowd with encouragement for startup investors, entrepreneurs, and especially women founders.
“Enthusiasm and passion do not overcome a bad plan or a bad market,” Paparelli cautioned, while cheering on those with the spirit of entrepreneurship.
“If you don’t have women on your team,” Dixon said, “you’re losing value.”
Congratulations to all the Atlanta Startup Awards 2020 nominees, winners, and organizers!
And a BIG shout-out to Holly Beilin, former editor-in-chief of Hypepotamus, for winning the Community Builder award!