A “Sandy Springs Tech Village” workspace to help technology start-up companies may be created by the city and the local Chamber of Commerce.
“How do you think [the digital currency exchange] BitCoin came around? How do you think [alternative taxi broker] Uber came around?” said Tom Mahaffey, president and CEO of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, who is spearheading the plan. “I need somewhere in Sandy Springs [for such a facility]…We’re going to miss it if we don’t do it.”
What Mahaffey has in mind is a popular trend: shared workspaces where tech entrepreneurs can rent desks, meet investors, attend seminars and possibly launch new companies. He’s borrowing the name from Atlanta Tech Village, a giant, privately run workspace in Buckhead. But a more direct inspiration is the Alpharetta Innovation Center, created with funding by that city but now run by a nonprofit.
The Alpharetta center opened last August and “has already graduated its first start-up company from the ranks,” said Alpharetta Economic Development Director Peter Tokar III. That company is Basecamp Networks, a Wi-Fi network and agriculture-related apps business.
Tokar said the center originated as a suggestion from the Alpharetta Technology Commission, a city-created advisory group that later became a nonprofit. A City Hall move eventually allowed the city to offer 8,500 square feet of free space and funded a $30,000 build-out for the Innovation Center, which is now run by the Technology Commission, Tokar said. Besides start-up business programs, it also hosts coding camps for children, he said.
Mahaffey proposes a local workspace managed and operated by the Sandy Springs Chamber with city funding assisting only with the build-out costs, after which it would be “self-funding” through space rental.
Mahaffey is eyeing a 3,500-square-foot space in the Northpark Town Center towers at Abernathy and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads. He estimates costs to get the facility running there at $50,000 to $60,000. He said he’s had early talks with Northpark landlord Cousins Properties and city officials, including City Council member Gabriel Sterling and city Economic Development Director Andrea Hall, and is now working on a business plan to formally submit soon to the City Council and the city Development Authority.
“It’s something I’d like to have done by the end of the year,” he said.
City spokesperson Sharon Kraun and Cousins senior vice president Bill Hollett declined comment pending a formal submission of a plan or signed deal, and Sterling did not respond to questions.
Why a Chamber-run tech workspace instead of bringing in one of the private companies that offer such services? Mahaffey said he’s gotten several requests from tech developers, and “nobody else in Sandy Springs was doing it.”
The workspace chain Roam does operate in Sandy Springs, though it calls the Perimeter Pointe mall location its “Dunwoody” branch.
Roam is a Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber member and located near the Northpark site. Roam did not respond to questions.