Looking for a French Connection? Apply for the Atlanta Startup Exchange (07-19-2018)

Four young companies from both Atlanta and Toulouse, France, this fall will take part in an annual exchange program promising broad international exposure.  

As the Atlanta International Startup Exchange returns for its third year, it’s once again focusing solely on Toulouse, a sister city of Atlanta since 1974 and the founding partner as the program launched in 2016. 

Eight companies overall will participate, four from each side, with winners gaining the opportunity to delve into the other’s startup ecosystem and build relationships that could blossom into transatlantic business. 

In Atlanta, for instance, Toulouse companies will have a chance to attend Venture Atlanta andTechstars Demo Day as well as pitch to airport leaders at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s Aviation Innovation Demo Day. The French consulate in Atlanta will host them at a reception, and they’ll get pointers from experts on how to pitch American investors. That’s all over a packed six-day period trimmed down from two weeks in years past. 

They’ll also be part of a pilot “international stage” where 10 foreign companies with no Atlanta presence will present pitches during Atlanta Startupweek Oct. 15-19, said Noelle London, assistant director for innovation and entrepreneurship at Invest Atlanta. The winners will get access to their ideal introductions in Atlanta.

That’s part of the plan to broaden the exchange’s appeal beyond just its sister-city origins as Atlanta increasingly attracts international tech firms looking to break into the U.S.

“This is a very outcomes-driven program where we want to see business relationships formed,” Ms. London said, noting that last year saw some of the French and British participants net pilot projects with Atlanta-based Fortune 500 firms. About half expressed interest in setting up an Atlanta office.

This year, one representative per company is to receive lodging, airfare, event tickets and dedicated co-working space for what’s billed as a one-week residency program designed to acquaint companies with resources and connect them with investors and partners. 

Last year, Atlanta companies — airline software firm Volantio and travel platform Vayando — spent time at the Airbus incubator in Toulouse, which is home base for an aircraft giant that now has a massive Alabama factory and a drone ops headquarters in Atlanta. The year before, it was Carbice Corp. and Partpic, both local firms, that had received the benefit of dealing with France. 

Newcastle, United Kingdom — another sister city — joined the fray last year, sending four companies to Atlanta and hosting two Atlanta firms. It will not participate this year. 

The program was “curated” this year and pared down to just Toulouse, but Ms. London said it could be open to other cities with complimentary tech ecosystems in the future, sister city or otherwise.

A Toulouse delegation, meanwhile, visited Atlanta earlier this year to lay the groundwork for the exchange, according to the French consulate. From its summary of the visit, which included meetings between the cities’ respective international affairs arms:

Together, Atlanta and Toulouse are formidable titans in the realm of technology, research and business. Connecting their two economies, as well as cultural and humanitarian institutions, creates a leading transatlantic force, which is at the forefront of innovation and French-American cooperation.

Applications for this year’s exchange are due by Aug. 5 and can be completed here.

A round of five finalists on either side will be selected and evaluated, with four of those set to be named winners on each side for a total of eight participants. 

The program runs from Oct. 14-20 and begins just after the Oct. 8-12 Atlanta Cyber Week. 

Download the Atlanta agenda here or visit www.atlstartupexchange.com.