By: Sara Warden
3 min read December 2020 — Amid a challenging year for all, one of the beacons for Atlanta’s economy has been the tech sector, which has flourished during the pandemic. Within the sector, fintech has been a particularly strong contributor. With the prevalence of digital and contactless payments soaring, the innovation in payment technologies has helped turn Atlanta into “Transaction Alley.”
Deloitte’s 2020 North American Technology Fast 500 measured the fastest-growing public and private companies by revenue growth, and 24 Atlanta metro companies made the list, compared with just nine 10 years ago. “The tech sector has been one of the real hot points for jobs growth in the last few months,” Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told Focus: Atlanta.
The Fintech Times lists the region in the same breath as San Francisco and New York as a fintech hub. The sectors linked with fintech have flourished over the COVID-19 pandemic, including healthcare, insurance, payments, wealth management, banking and crypto. Dozens of Atlanta-based tech startups have appeared and grown during the pandemic, including payment processing firm Paya, which recently went public on the Nasdaq, and AssureSign, an electronic signature platform. Fleetcor Technologies is a business payments company and Aptos is a retail software company. Cryptocurrency software business BitPay and fiber infrastructure provider FiberLight also call Atlanta home. “Fintech continues to be a high-growth industry with 70% of all credit card transactions passing through Georgia,” Dr. Eloisa Klementich, CEO of Invest Atlanta, said in an interview with Focus: Atlanta.
One of the reasons why Atlanta has become such a hub for startups is the wealth of talent coming from surrounding universities. Some of the top engineering and technology universities in the country exist in Atlanta, including Georgia Tech. “As COVID-19 is deeply transforming the retail industry, tech jobs are booming as a result of the bustling e-commerce activity,” Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department Of Economic Development, told Focus: Atlanta. “We continue to focus on ensuring we can provide the workforce to supply those jobs and keep them going.” The department created the Fintech Academy with the collaboration of Georgia Tech, Emory University, UGA and all the colleges in the University System of Georgia. The state has also invested in the Georgia Cyber Center and the Cyber Workforce Academy.
“There is a strong focus on growing jobs, especially the new jobs of the future, and making sure the graduating workforce is anchored in the latter,” Wilson adds. According to Klementich, these high-paying tech jobs are exactly the kind the city needs to expand. “We are targeting companies that can create sustainable, middle-wage jobs within the $35,000 to $80,000 salary mark,” she says. “Atlanta welcomes businesses of all kinds, but we are very interested in those that address this niche to reduce the income inequality gap.” The city also has the upper hand in terms of diversity due to its substantial Black middle class.
The addition of the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead also has acted as a catalyst for this growth. Tech entrepreneur David Cummings invested $20 million to renovate a 100,000-square-foot office space into a tech hub, attracting more than 180 companies. As of July, the Tech Village has launched over 300 startups and raised more than $826 million in capital. But this success doesn’t come cheap, and money is needed to invest in the ecosystem. Coming full circle, new venture capital firms are springing up to take advantage of the innovation coming from the city. Entrepreneur and investor Mike Dowdle recently launched Atlanta-based Circadian Ventures, which, as the name suggests, is looking to invest in businesses that can generate revenue 24 hours a day.
Next up, the authorities are looking to replicate Atlanta’s success elsewhere. “Atlanta has emerged tremendously as a tech and innovation hub, most notably being ranked the No. 1 Tech Hub by Business Facilities Magazine, but we zoomed out to look at other parts of the state,” said David Nuckolls, interim executive director of the Georgia Centers of Innovation, said to Focus: Atlanta. “The need for innovation in rural Georgia is just as great, and our team supports those areas too.”