As a leader and serial entrepreneur in the Atlanta community, Blake Patton loves being around other startups and finding new ways to help them succeed. The team of three at Tech Square Ventures helps startups each and every day to align them with investors and build the companies of their dreams. Blake has inspired and helped many startups in the Atlanta and Southeast community to grow profitable businesses. Here’s his story:
As an entrepreneur, what’s your typical morning look like?
Usually I am woken up by my two kiddos. With an 8 and 5 year old, there isn’t any time for sleeping in. I’m a pretty big fan of breakfast too, so I try to kick most mornings off with breakfast meetings. It’s a great way to start your day and you can stay in touch with more people in the community.
What spurred the creation of Tech Square Ventures? Was it truly an ‘aha’ moment or did it happen organically?
I’ve spent most of my career in a managing or operating position and I’ve been helping build tech companies for years. I had an opportunity to be the interim General Manager at ATDC, and that’s where the story really started. While at ATDC, I discovered I really enjoy working with entrepreneurs and helping them grow their companies and ultimately reach success.
It was a great moment when I realized I could serve others in both a personal and professional capacity. The huge struggle was having access to the capital these businesses needed to thrive, and I saw this great opportunity as a way to help others build their dreams and open their businesses. I wanted a profession that could merge everything I loved and held important into one position, and it definitely all occurred during an ‘Aha’ phase of my life.
Can you tell me more about the Tech Square Ventures business model and how it works?
The business model is a venture capital firm, who uses the money that is given to them to invest in companies. The main industries we work within are typically software, the Internet of Things (IoT) or university spin-outs.
Sometimes we seek out opportunities and other times they come to us. Depending on how much we know about the startup, the initial step is see if they’re a good fit to work with us. We want to know what they’re working on and get to know them a little better.
In both seed and early stage startups, we need to fully understand the person, market and company. Ultimately, we are betting on the opportunity, founders, problem they are trying to solve and understanding what has to change in the current marketplace for them to succeed. We need to find an investor who’s a good match for that specific company, because when we invest, we are signing up to be their partner — we are in it for the long-haul.
It seems you’ve always been interested the tech startup space. What do you love about it?
The Southeast tech startup scene and I have a great relationship – we’re like eggs and bacon. We just go together. I enjoy that everyday I get to help build tech companies and serve others in this wonderful community. I have a passion for it and how could I not — I get to help entrepreneurs reach their dreams and create financial success. Plus, the Southeast is a very underserved region since only 3% is invested in this area. It was a great opportunity for growth.
What tools helped you scale your business?
It all boils down to managing your information and relationships. The tools we use to help fulfill those needs are CRM processes for opportunities and relationships, and tools to access data and understand their markets. Our key to success is all about the relationship, so we mostly look for tools that allow us to have more time to do just that.
It’s also helpful to have connections in the community that we can refer our startups to, like Acuity. We know they are a trusted partner that will always deliver for our clients. We like for our startups to use Acuity so that we can have confidence that the startups’ time is being spent wisely (because the last thing you have as a startup is extra time to waste). We know the financials and reporting will be correct and our investors rely on this information. It’s always a great feeling to know I can call either Matthew or Kenji directly since they are both so involved in the startup community in Atlanta. They really understand any situation and can provide solid advice.
Being a venture capitalist means you wear a bunch of hats; we have to be good at helping our companies succeed while running our own business and managing relationships with our own investors. Acuity allows us to focus on all those activities and produce our financials and reports so that our communications with our investors are reliable – it’s a time saver that we can trust and that’s priceless.
Where would you like to see Tech Square Ventures go in the next 5-10 years?
When I launched TSV, I called it that because of all the activity we’ve seen here reflects the emergence in ATL. I wanted to build a sustainable VC firm that is able to continue and invest in these early stage companies and continue to help more entrepreneurs reach their dreams and beyond in the first round of funding. We’re a little bit of a startup ourselves because we want to make our initial investors a great return. It’s a startup helping startups.
How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
It’s definitely hard to do but if you’re doing something you love and you love the people in your life, you’re going to naturally find a balance. My advice would be to focus on your purpose and passion while at the same time don’t forget the people that have spurred and cheered you on to that point. It’s more about being conscious about your relationships and growing as a person.