A critical component to economic success and job creation in Georgia is through the support of early- to growth-stage, Georgia-based technology companies. In order to ensure this success, the state of Georgia should pursue policies that stimulate innovation, encourage entrepreneurial activities, retain intellectual capital and grow knowledge-based jobs. This can be accomplished by assuring access to capital, implementing creative and effective tax reforms, and encouraging support programs that advance the competitiveness of Georgia technology companies.
- TAG encourages the support of early- and growth-stage Georgia companies that have the ability to impact the technology industry and support Georgia's economic development.
- TAG supports policies to increase access to capital for technology companies.
- TAG supports creative and effective tax reform legislation that will help foster innovation and support for statewide entrepreneurship activities.
- TAG supports legislation that stimulates innovative business concepts, fosters competition, reduces barriers to entry and provides retention and growth for high-tech entrepreneurs and technology businesses.
- TAG supports legislation that will result in greater innovation and support for R&D activities.
- TAG supports efforts to increase opportunities for technology transfer to create new technology companies.
- TAG supports policies that create an environment that increases technology-enabled entrepreneurship.
The lack of access to venture capital funding is causing Georgia start-up companies to relocate to other states such as California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Other states such as North Carolina and Florida have seen an outstanding rate of return from state venture capital funding. In fact, the North Carolina Innovation Funds first round of $232 million has already shown a 20% internal rate of return. Florida’s Growth Fund which has nearly $400 million experienced an internal rate of return of 14.96%.
In 2013, the state established Invest Georgia, a state-based venture capital fund designed to provide up to $100 million in funding for Georgia Startup companies. However, the Invest Georgia fund lags behind other southeastern states’ venture capital investment programs. As of 2015, the state has appropriated $10 million into Invest Georgia; whereas, North Carolina has nearly a $500 million VC fund and Florida invested nearly $400 million to its VC fund. If Georgia does not keep up with the national trend of state venture capital funding, Georgia will continue to lose tech startups inevitably jeopardizing the growth of Georgia’s technology sector.
KEY POINTS TO KNOW:
1. Invest Georgia Fund will grow businesses that in turn will create and retain jobs in Georgia.
2. Invest Georgia is an accountable program with a clear oversight mechanism in place with an advisory board and third party fiduciary, which is required to report all metrics related to investments to the General Assembly & Governor annually.
3. Invest Georgia addresses the funding gap for growth stage companies-like ISS and Secure Works which were later acquired by IBM & Dell respectively.
4. The Invest Georgia Program requires venture capital firms to raise private funds to match tax credit funds - minimum 10% for early stage funds, minimum 50% for growth stage funds.
5. Invest Georgia is an evergreen fund where 100% of tax credit investment is returned to the program plus 80% of the profit, 20% profit resides with VC funds, as occurs in the private sector.
WHAT TAG SUPPORTS:
- Funding the Invest Georgia fund which will increase access to capital for investments into early- and growth-stage, job-producing companies within Georgia. The Invest Georgia program has a significant amount of accountability, high level of governance structure and state oversight throughout the life of the program.
FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGIES & PAYMENT PROCESSING
Atlanta, along with the surrounding areas of Georgia, has evolved to become the epicenter of a growing segment of the financial services industry – a sector often known as Financial Technologies or FinTech. This sector encompasses the product and service companies that support the technology needs of the financial services industry and, ultimately, the payment-processing infrastructure of the economy. Financial technology companies with employees, contractors and/or partners in Georgia recognize the wealth of talent, innovation and extensive financial industry network in the state. The favorable business climate and lifestyle for employees are major reasons for doing business in the state.
The Georgia FinTech sector encompasses about 100 companies ranging from Fortune 500 bellwethers to early stage startups. There are firms whose time in the state dates to the 1800s (Equifax), several that moved to Georgia at varying stages of their evolution (NCR, CheckFree, Groundfloor), one that left Georgia only to return (First Data), and one that recently undertook a national search for a headquarters location before determining it already had the ideal locale (Worldpay).
The roots of Georgia’s critical mass in payments can be traced to 1987 state legislation that lifted caps on credit card interest rates and annual fees of 18% and $12, respectively. Georgia bankers argued that allowing market forces to prevail would spur job creation- and the results in this case certainly bear them out. The increasing regulatory burden facing the financial services industry since the Great Recession is a well-documented and continued source of frustration for firms at all stages of the ecosystem. The need to build awareness for the impact of such laws served as one of the catalysts for Georgia’s largest FinTech companies choosing to adopt a more visible profile. The American Transaction Processing Coalition, based in Atlanta, was created to promote FinTech companies’ interests in the legislative arena.
WHAT TAG SUPPORTS:
- The implementation of an innovation district that cultivates crowdfunding systems, financial data analysis and security, which certainly complement the other FinTech initiatives in the state. Such a move could attract more talent, capital and startups from around the nation and strengthen Georgia.
Autonomous vehicle development has rapidly grown in the United States, and legislative decisions are required on federal and state levels as development continues. States have been proposing and voting on autonomous vehicle legislation for several years, and the Obama administration released a set of guidelines on autonomous vehicles in September 2016. To date, five states and the District of Columbia have passed bills related to autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles have posed a new and unique set of challenges for lawmakers, from questions about their research, development, and testing to uncertainty about the legal implications of a car with no driver. The Georgia House of Representatives created the House Autonomous Vehicle Technology Study Committee in 2014 through the passage of House Resolution 1265. While some states are rushing to implement new regulations and requirements on autonomous vehicle technology, committee testimony overwhelmingly cautioned against this hurried action. To best promote the development of autonomous vehicle technology states should allow the market to further mature and grow without government intervention.
WHAT TAG SUPPORTS:
- The development of autonomous vehicle technology and discourages the implementation of any legislation or regulation which would impose limits on research and innovation.
SMALL BUSINESS INNOVATION RESEARCH PROGRAM
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a national program which offers support for domestic small businesses engaging in research and development with commercial applications. SBIR benefits companies, the government, and the economy, by stimulating and encouraging American innovation. Eleven federal agencies currently participate in the SBIR program, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Though each agency follows Congressional guidelines, they administer their own programs independently. The SBIR program consists of three phases of funding, which each have their own criteria for qualification. The three phases offer funding and support in increasing amounts when these criteria, which build upon each other, are met. As the government has a limited amount of funding reserved for this program, SBIR funding is extremely competitive.
A complement to the SBIR program is the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, which expands research and development funding for small businesses with a focus on technology. STTR is unique from other funding programs in that it requires small businesses to collaborate with a research institution. Only five agencies, including NASA and NSF, currently participate in the STTR program.
WHAT TAG SUPPORTS:
- The expansion of funding for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. TAG also supports expanding agency eligibility so that more federal agencies can participate in SBIR and STTR.