The Coca-Cola Company is joining Engage—a collaborative innovation and corporate venture program comprised of Fortune 500 corporations, enterprise startups and research universities—to pursue a shared mission to elevate Atlanta and the Southeast as a leading technology and innovation hub.
The investment fund in support of the Engage program, managed by Tech Square Ventures, is backed by 14 Atlanta-based corporations representing 13 unique industries, including Delta Air Lines, Invesco, Cox Enterprises, The Home Depot, UPS and Chick-fil-A. Early-stage, B2B enterprise tech startups are selected for the bi-annual 10-week Engage Program in cohorts of six to eight companies—networking with and learning from their fellow founders, university researchers and corporate partners like Coca-Cola.
To date, 50 startups have completed the program, which is offered in the spring and fall. Engage portfolio companies have signed more than 90 paid contracts with enterprise partners.
“We are excited about our new partnership with Engage, joining other corporations in Atlanta in attracting and supporting the fast-growing startup and innovation ecosystem that is quickly emerging in the Southeast,” said Marie Quintero-Johnson, vice president and head of corporate development at The Coca-Cola Company. “Engage provides Coca-Cola access to companies and talent with novel solutions in key areas of interest to us. It also offers the opportunity to collaborate with other Engage corporate partners.”
Enterprise partners provide funding, mentoring and insights in areas where innovation is needed. Coca-Cola CFO John Murphy serves on the Engage board of directors, and Quintero-Johnson is a member of its board of advisors.
Engage companies focus on six key enterprise areas: Customer Experience, Supply Chain & Manufacturing, Future of Work, Big Data, Analytics & Security, Logistics & Mobility, and Climate Tech & Sustainability. Engage invests in startups all over the country, and more than 50% are Southeast or Atlanta-headquartered.
“We very much look forward to partnering with Coca-Cola as we work to strengthen Atlanta’s enterprise-focused startup ecosystem,” said Ángel Cabrera, president, Georgia Tech. “Our entrepreneurs will all have the opportunity to work with and learn from an innovative global consumer brand that leads the world in everything from logistics to commercialization. This partnership is yet another illustration of Georgia Tech’s longtime commitment to drive economic development and support innovation in Georgia by partnering with both well-established companies as well as new startups. We are excited to see where this collaboration will lead.”
Atlanta has emerged as a hotbed of innovation due to a unique combination of entrepreneurial talent and established, category-leading corporations. Unlike most other startup hubs focused on high-tech, healthcare or finance, the city’s ecosystem is diversified across industries.
“This ecosystem has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years,” said Engage Managing Director Daley Ervin. “The flywheel is starting to spin and create a waterfall effect of both talent and capital.”
Ervin highlighted the value of having hometown access to Georgia Tech’s in-demand engineering graduates, who “no longer have to leave for one of the coasts” to start their careers.
Engage serves as the “connective tissue” between corporations, startups and research institutions like Georgia Tech. “We want to be seen as major problem-solvers for the Fortune 500,” Ervin said. “We help them see around corners, working closely with our partners to understand their strategic priorities and innovation roadmaps to identify leading startups who can help address these pain points and opportunities.”
In addition to having access to the innovative offerings of participating startups, enterprise partners learn to embrace startup entrepreneurial thinking in their respective cultures. They also can share insights with their fellow sponsors, many of whom face similar challenges.
“It’s a unique model that delivers value to all stakeholders in this ecosystem,” Ervin said.