by Sharon Hatfield
A few years back, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in Atlanta found itself in a thorny — though some might say enviable — position. Owing to a mixture of success, tight budgets and geography, it could not serve everyone who would benefit from its services.
Resources were spread thin among the dozen or so staff members. Demand was fast outstripping ATDC's capacity to respond. When none of these factors promised to change much, the staff took a sharp turn onto the information highway.
"Not only did we find a lot of companies that desired to be in the incubator but we found other talented, promising companies around the state that could benefit from our resources," Mark Kazlauskas, the ATDC staff member who manages Netcelerate, recalls. "As a way to leverage the resources and relationships that ATDC has, we decided to put a virtual incubator online, which gave incubator companies easier access but also gave geographically dispersed companies access, period. With this model, location became less and less relevant."
ATDC launched the virtual incubation community in October 1997, in cooperation with charter sponsors Bell South, Georgia Tech and the Georgia Research Alliance. The "citizens" include ATDC client companies and other select Georgia entrepreneurs looking for resources, information, capital, employees, alliances, products and services. ATDC-prequalified vendors seeking new customers, as well as ATDC-approved mentors interested in making a contribution back to the community, add to the demographic mix. Investors, too, can peruse the Web site for what ATDC calls "marriages made in cyberspace."
The Netcelerate site has received rave reviews from many — including NBIA, which bestowed upon ATDC its Innovation Award in April.
Keywords: best practices, new technology, technology incubator, virtual incubation
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