I attended the Georgia Innovation Summit in Atlanta a few weeks ago and spent a lot of time talking to leaders from Macon, Augusta, Athens and Rome about stimulating entrepreneurship outside of Atlanta. One thing everyone agreed on is that innovation bubbles up from an active and engaged community, and there’s no better way to foster a community than to give people places to gather and collaborate.
Savannah has a number of community-oriented gathering places. Gamers gather at The Guild Hall. Makers gather at The Creator’s Foundry. And I’m proud to announce a new gathering place for entrepreneurs and innovators: Bull Street Labs.
Located at 2222 Bull Street in Savannah’s Starland District, this 6,000 square foot facility is a collaborative space where technologists, creatives and entrepreneurs can brainstorm ideas and get feedback on a daily basis. It’s part event space and part co-working facility that was founded by The Creative Coast in partnership with The City of Savannah, SEDA and Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center.
It works through a simple membership model. Just visit BullStreetLabs.com and fill out a short form. Then drive/bike over and start participating. At a basic level there’s a coffee lounge, shared table co-working areas, Wifi access and other amenities. For those wanting a bit more, there are additional membership options that include dedicated desks and private offices.
There’s also a full calendar of member-based events. You can participate in meetups, informal lectures and a variety of networking events. “Everything is designed to help our citizens create and grow stronger businesses through collaboration, education and unique experiences,” says Chad Warner, board member at The Creative Coast.
Kevin Lawver helps organize events like Refresh Savannah and Rails Bridge for TechSAV.co, and he agrees. “I work at Planted, an NYC-based startup, but I like living in Savannah. It’s great to have a place where all the different silos in Savannah can come together: designers, coders, suits, educators…everybody. That’s when the best things get created.”
When you gather more designers, more developers and more business founders under the same roof, what exactly bubbles up? First, you generate more startups. People meet and their concepts collide. These collisions result in better ideas and more robust teams, teams that can build successful prototypes and therefore grow into successful businesses.
Second, you generate more capital. Potential investors come off the sidelines when they’re part of things and have access to more opportunities. They also band together and form investment clubs, angel groups and even venture funds.
“The deal flow in Savannah has exploded in the last two years, with local startups closing over three million in financing in 2017,” says Yvonne Jouffrault of ATDC and an organizer for the Savannah chapter of the Charleston Angel Partners, “but a lot of investors in the area are new to the startup game. Bull Street Labs gives us a place to bring together those that are investing and connect them with those that want to invest.”
Finally, with all of the above going on you create the workforce needed to seal the deal. Not only do you advance and organize the talent already in the area, but you open up new avenues for growth. High school and college graduates no longer have to move to Atlanta for an active tech scene. Experienced technologists want to relocate here from the northeast because there’s cool stuff happening, there are job opportunities and it doesn’t snow all the time.
So if you’d like to spend a little more time around startups, creatives or even crank up a business of your own, check out BullStreetLabs.com for a full event schedule or drop by for a tour. It’s a great way to create partnerships, learn something new or just stay motivated.
Blake Ellis is a board member with The Creative Coast, and has been involved in dozens of Savannah-based start-ups including Color Maria, CommerceV3, Rails Machine and RappidApp. He recently served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Georgia Tech’s ATDC technology incubator. Blake can be found online via Twitter at @blakeellisjr or LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/blakeellis.