The Atlanta Metro Export Challenge (Atlanta MEC) wrapped up this past month, announcing winners and thousands of dollars in awarded grants to help the participating companies jumpstart their international exporting plans. Two of the companies have since gone on to conduct successful exits – Triatek Holding’s acquisition by Johnson Controls and Car360’s acquisition by leading e-commerce platform Carvana.
Metro Atlanta, through initiatives like the Atlanta MEC, has deep resources available to companies looking to build or expand their export programs. The region is at the intersection of innovative startups and larger international companies with globally recognized products and services. Alone, the Atlanta MEC awarded $175,000 in export grants this year and $400,000 since the Challenge’s inception, due in large part from the support of JPMorgan Chase. Additionally, $25,000 in shipping credits were provided to the competition by UPS.
Recently, the Atlanta MEC announced the competition’s three winning companies for 2017, including Triatek Holdings taking first place with an awarded $20,000 in grants. Triatek's products control the directional flow of air in critical room environments such as hospitals, laboratories and operating rooms.
“Triatek's involvement with the Metro Atlanta Chamber introduced us to many resources available to help business grow and also to export. We were helped by many agencies including the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia State Small Business Development Center, and the Gwinnett Chamber,” said Triatek CEO Jim Hall. “One of the unique opportunities was our participation in the Export Challenge which provided not only the grants to fund our initiatives, but additional access to resources that helped increase our exports.”
Triatek participated in the Challenge in 2016 during the first edition of the grant program. Through the Atlanta MEC, Hall and Triatek were exposed to fellow exporting companies in the region and received funds to build their operations, including by attending international trade shows where the company could build its brand recognition. Johnson Controls, with a technology portfolio touching security systems, energy management, fire protection and HVACR, serves customers in more than 150 countries. Johnson Controls acquired Triatek for the company’s range of HVAC airflow control systems. Triatek will be donating their Atlanta MEC grant winnings back to the competition for use in the 2018 cohort, which will be announced soon.
“Our growth as a global brand was an attractive asset that played an important role in our acquisition by Johnson Controls, Inc. I would encourage any business interested in growing to get involved with the Atlanta Metro Export Plan, as many of the resources are free or very low cost and focused on the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses,” Hall said.
Car360 is another success story which, through participation in the Atlanta MEC, expanded an agreement with a customer in the UK, kicked off a new project in Germany, and signed a new license agreement – also in Germany. An early iteration of Car360 launched in 2012 as a 360-degree panoramic video app called Cycloramic and at one point became the No. 1 downloaded app on the Apple App Store with more than 20 million downloads. In 2013, the app caught the attention of Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, leading to an initial investment that eventually increased as part of a $3.55 million Series A financing round for Car360 in 2017.
“Expanding internationally is challenging for any organization. MEC’s willingness to assist in that challenge is a benefit for many companies, as it was for Car360. As a startup, every advantage helps and MEC is working hard to deliver one of those advantages. It’s yet another thing that makes Atlanta a great place to build technology companies,” said John Hanger, president and CEO, Car360.
The acquisition of Car360 increases Carvana’s 360-degree photo technology capabilities with 3D computer vision and augmented reality. Atlanta’s tech community, coupled with the presence of leading universities producing tech talent, were initially highly attractive to Car360.
“The combination of a mature technology industry, strong universities, and committed organizations like Atlanta Tech Village and Tech Square makes Atlanta a productive environment for innovative ideas to germinate and prosper.” Hanger said. “As an example, some of our top engineering talent has come directly from Georgia Tech’s leading computer vision program and have been influential in developing Car360’s stabilization and 3D reconstruction technology. The team we built in Atlanta is a significant factor in Carvana’s attraction to our company.”
The Atlanta Metro Export Plan as a whole seeks to spur the development of proactive international business sales plans and drive local companies to act on them. The region’s community of exporters benefit from the success of these companies. Two other success stories include Cocoatown Inc. and GF Health Products, Inc.
“The grant money allowed us to pay for registration fees and travel for the Salon du Chocolate. We exhibited our equipment in a booth and networked with 100+ international craft chocolate companies. Because of the connections we made at this trade show, we had almost 50 percent higher sales in the last two months of 2017 when compared to 2016,” said Cocoatown Co-Founder Andal Balu.
GF Health Products, Inc. conducted business reviews with 10 authorized distributors from Spain, Portugal, the U.K., Germany, Belgium, Singapore and Qatar. The organization also received interest from 11 potential distributors around the globe.
For more information on the Atlanta Metro Export Plan and Challenge, powered by JPMorgan Chase and UPS, please visit: https://www.atlantaexportportal.com/