Under-The-Radar Investors in the Atlanta Startup Ecosystem

Charlton Cunningham
Jun 22 · 4 min read

AngelList lists the number of investors interested in Atlanta startups to be 5,319 (pause for laughter). But although our capital landscape isn’t as robust as those in the major startup markets, the local angel and venture ecosystem is truly growing and evolving.

Events like Venture Atlanta and Pitch Atlanta expose investors from across the country to local startups. Homegrown competitions like Atlanta Startup Battle dole out $100K investments each quarter, plus introduce a large and enthusiastic crowd to emerging companies. Engaged angel investing groups like the Atlanta Technology Angels provide entrepreneurs opportunities to pitch accredited investors. To Atlanta’s own, our “godfather of investing” is finally getting his just due by being immortalized in bobblehead form (actually, this time I’m not joking).

There’s a lot of momentum pushing the investment community forward, but there are still many under-the-radar investors in town with money who are looking for deals, but that you may not be as familiar with.

Here’s a list of names that you should know:

Emmanuel Seuge — DirtyLemon, Outdoor Voices, High Snobiety, & Maude(notable investments)

After 19 years in marketing at Atlanta’s most storied brand, Coca-Cola, Emmanuel made his move to the venture capital space, founding Cassius Family in 2017. The firm focuses on early-stage startups in the consumer products, content and services sectors. To date they’ve made 15 investments, most recently participating in a seed round for Maude, a startup making modern sex essentials.

Mike Ross — Luma, PartPic(acquired by Amazon), Techturized, & Monsieur

Mike’s investment portfolio reads like a proverbial who’s who of the Atlanta black tech ecosystem. After founding a successful construction management firm, Mike found his way into investing through his own research and learning from local investors. Often coming in for a founders’ “friends & family round”, his seed investments primarily go toward entrepreneurs of color.

Brian Cayce — BillMo, Localize, PharmaSecure, & RentBureau

Brian has been a quiet force in the field of impact investing over the past decade. As principal of Gray Ghost Ventures, Brian has helped the firm become a pioneer in the global impact investing movement focusing on early-stage ventures. In 2016, Brian joined the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative to encourage impact investing across the state.

Donray Von — DSTLD, Battlefly, VR Global, & Speakaboos

Donray spent his first act building a successful career in the music industry, managing artists such as The Roots, Cody Chestnutt, and Outkast. In 2015, he joined partner Nick Gross to found Castleberry & Co., a tech-focused angel investment fund. His focus is on digital software and e-commerce companies across the consumer, education, finance, and media sectors. Donray’s most recent venture through his recently founded Elevator City Partners is the redevelopment of West End Mall with co-founding partner, Ryan Gravel.

Lisa Calhoun — Rented, Candidly, Vermeer, & The Gathering Spot

Lisa has the unique distinction of being the first woman to launch a venture capital firm in Georgia. After success with marketing/PR agency Write2Market, Lisa sought investing as her next challenge, opening Valor Ventures in 2015. Her primary focus is early-stage companies at the forefront of technology, with an emphasis on underrepresented founders. In 2016, she continued to show her commitment by founding the Startup Runway event, which connects top minority founders with professional seed-stage investors.

Jon Hallett — Bark, Faraday Bicycles(acquired by Pon Holdings), Terminus, & SalesLoft

Jon is easily one of the most active investors in the Atlanta venture ecosystem. He carries his more than 30 years of entrepreneurship experience investing through his venture firm, Hallett Capital. He has acted as lead investor for multiple successful local startups including CloudSherpas, acquired by Accenture in 2015 for a reported $350-$400 million. Jon specializes in seed and early-stage technology investments with an affinity towards B2B SaaS companies.

Honorable Mentions (aka not quite under the radar, but should be on yours):

Ashish Mistry — UserIQ, TripLingo, BetterCloud, & Thistle

As partner at BLH Ventures, Ashish has helped lead the firm to becoming one of the top three investors in local startups. He focuses on enterprise IT, consumer internet and e-commerce markets. Prior to BLH, Ashish gained operating experience at Virtex Networks and AirDefense, and spent two tours at ATDC as Entrepreneur in Residence. Additionally, he leads lifestyle gaming startup KontrolFreek as CEO and is one of three partners responsible for launching the online startup publication Hypepotamus.

KP Reddy — TommyRun, Infotycoon, Hummingbird Kinetics, & ICON 3D

KP has been a fixture of the Atlanta startup ecosystem for a while now. With an engineering background from GT, multiple stints as a startup founder, and experience launching products for corporate clients, he brings a wealth of knowledge to his current focus, Shadow Ventures. KP’s investments are focused on the “built tech” industry, with a belief that the built environment is one of the last industries ripe for disruption.

Michael Cohn — Storj Labs, RoadSync (formerly MyLumper), Sequr, & Monetizer

Following the successful exit of his company, CloudSherpas, Michael has been an active and involved member of the local startup and venture ecosystems. As the Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta for three years, he has had his hand in mentoring and advising some of the top promising startups. Usually focusing on cloud software, healthtech, and B2B SaaS, Michael’s portfolio includes many of those successful Techstars grads. With multiple investments made over the past decade, he’s seen a few exits already including IoT startup ParkiFi, acquired by DISH.

Are there other great local investors that should be included on this list? Let me know in the comments below.

Charlton Cunningham

Written by

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder. Building up social capital, leveraging it for others. Musing on ATL’s startup scene, & other things. charltoncunningham.com

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