Startup Stories with Will Leitch
In partnership with Thinc, Four Athens held its third Startup Stories event on Monday October 19th, bringing two startup founders to the downtown Live Wire stage to share their entrepreneurial experiences with the Athens community.
The keynote of the evening was new Athens resident Will Leitch, distinguished sports writer and founder of deadspin.com. A senior writer at Sports on Earth, culture writer for Bloomberg Politics, contributing editor at New York Magazine, and the author of four books, Will Leitch founded Deadspin, a sports blog owned by Gawker Media, in 2005. He spoke to the audience of local business owners, startup teams, and community supporters about his experience growing the idea for an independent sports media outlet into a successful startup venture through determination in the face of doubt, answering phones in a Manhattan doctor’s office by day and building the concept and content for Deadspin at night. Leitch also highlighted the challenges of “letting go” as a company founder, recognizing when and how to hand over the reins in the best interest of your company and your team.
Also sharing his story of entrepreneurship was Tom Robertson, CEO of Athens-based educational technology startup Cogent Education. Born and raised in Manchester, England, Tom Robertson came to Athens in 2001 for a position at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and resigned his tenured position in 2014 to become the CEO of Cogent Education (formerly IS3D), which he co-founded in 2010. Cogent builds cross-platform interactive software focused on helping students develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills from their offices in downtown Athens with a current staff of 20.
Tom spoke of discovering his initial interest in data analysis and nascent business savvy through a fondness for horse racing while growing up in Manchester, then translating those interests into a love of science and a passion for the scientific method. He described his unusual journey from part-time pub employee during university to PhD candidate, to eventually taking the personal, financial, and professional risk of building his own company.
Some common themes between the evening’s stories were the importance of working with the right team at a startup’s beginning, true belief in your idea, and making a commitment to maintain the quality of both your product and your business approach.
Bob Pinckney, former CEO of Athens sports tech startup EvoShield and current Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at the UGA Terry College of Business, was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, introducing both speakers and guiding the open Q&A with the audience. During the Q&A, both speakers offered further insight into the singular nature of the startup business life cycle and advised audience members contemplating startup entrepreneurship to soundly consider and accept the risks involved.
Startup Stories events provide the unique opportunity for the Athens community to hear the raw stories of startup entrepreneurship directly from the source. Describing the event, Tom Robertson said, “Events like this are important for a thriving startup community to communicate the real story behind startup success– it isn’t luck, it’s the relentless pursuit of an idea in the type of supportive environment for entrepreneurs that Four Athens is creating here.”
Previous Startup Stories speakers have included founders, CEOs, and UGA Alumni from startups such as Scoutmob and Insightpool, among others. We sincerely thank all our speakers for generously sharing their insights, and Thinc, the community of aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs at the University of Georgia and organizers of UGA’s Thinc Week, for helping to make Startup Stories happen for the Athens community.