There is no one reason why an individual may decide to become an entrepreneur. But for David Cummings, the unofficial “mayor” of Atlanta’s startup scene, there is one very specific reason that he looks for in an entrepreneur if he is going to become an investor.
“I look for people who are empire builders,” says Cummings, the founder of Atlanta Tech Village, a 103,000-square-foot entrepreneur center. And who exactly are empire builders? “They want to build something big and great and fabulous,” he says, speaking to me at the Venture Atlanta technology and investor conference earlier this fall.
Empire-building entrepreneurs are in contrast to lifestyle entrepreneurs, says Cummings. Lifestyle entrepreneurs are those who are have decided to become their own bosses because they want to control their own schedule and fortune.
“A lifestyle entrepreneur is attracted to entrepreneurship for reasons like freedom of time, control of their own destiny, the ability to build something that the more effort they put into it, the more they get out of it, which are all great reasons,” says Cummings. But he does not invest in lifestyle entrepreneurs.
Cummings earned his status in the Atlanta entrepreneurship scene at a young age. He’s only 35. But he has already co-founded 10 companies. Ten. All of which are currently active and operating. He explains away this remarkable achievement by saying that he is only the “co-founder.” He comes in with an idea and money. And then the co-founder of each business runs day-to-day operations.
The startup that has been the biggest success for Cummings is Pardot, a marketing-automation software company that was sold to ExactTarget and then later Salesforce.com. Cummings sold Pardot for about $100 million and invested $30 million of his own money into the Atlanta Tech Village.
As Cummings spreads his wings and expands his own empire, he looks for other entrepreneurs who are also looking to take flight.
“The empire builders — they start companies because they want to have huge teams of people that get to do cool things that they dream up,” says Cummings. “They want to create tremendous amounts of wealth, they want to create products that lots of people use and so it’s really just thinking about it in terms of scale of what their ambitions are.”
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