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Georgia TILE Program Trains Future Tech Entrepreneurs

The Technology and Innovation Learning Experience (TILE) program will give $3,000 plus mentorship and training to 13 students from five startups from Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges.

Atlanta TILE program participants
Participants and leaders of the the Technology and Innovation Learning Experience (TILE) program on Monday, June 3, 2024 at Atlanta City Hall. The program gives college entrepreneurs funding, mentorship and training.
Mirtha Donastorg/TNS
(TNS) — In January, at a splashy event in Midtown, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens laid out his vision for making Atlanta a major technology ecosystem.

To do that, about 2,000 tech startups would have to be launched in Atlanta annually for the city to become one of the top five tech ecosystems in the nation as measured by venture capital funding.

Now, the city has started a new program aimed at retaining underrepresented student tech talent currently studying in Atlanta that will hopefully foster more homegrown startups. The program was born of a consortium of local universities also announced in January.

“I think our schools, far and away, are better than any other ecosystem, so how do I leverage the talent to encourage them to take these risks but let them do it in a safe space and make it so they don’t have to leave Atlanta if they want to build a business?” asked Donnie Beamer, the mayor’s senior technology advisor.

Through the Technology and Innovation Learning Experience (TILE) program that began May 13, 13 students representing five startups from Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges are getting $3,000 stipends, and are receiving free housing, meals, mentorship and training for their companies. The TILE program runs through August 1.

On Monday, the students met with Dickens at City Hall as the water crisis continued to bubble in the city.

Ella Lawler, Keylem Collier and Aaron Kelly are three of the students in the program. Last year they founded Aayats, an online marketplace connecting musicians to other industry professionals. Lawler goes to Georgia Tech while Collier and Kelly are GSU students.

“This program has been an amazing opportunity so far for us as young entrepreneurs to lay our mark here in the city of Atlanta, build tech startups that are hopefully one day gonna offer a lot of tech jobs supporting the mayor’s goals of being a top five tech hub in the USA,” Collier said.

The program costs about $15,000 per student, Beamer said. The initial funding is coming from the city and Georgia Tech, but Beamer hopes to have a larger pool from more institutions so future cohorts can be expanded.

For Mya Swaby, a senior at GSU from Snellville, the TILE program is convincing her to stay in the city after she graduates.

“Before this program, I was trying my best to find a way to go out of Atlanta because I wanted to go and do my master’s program abroad,” said Swaby, who founded an education technology platform. But now she’s had opportunities to network and resources she can tap for her business through the program.

“As someone from Atlanta, it’s making me feel that Atlanta pride again, really feeling the culture and the amazing entrepreneurship that we have here,” she said.

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