Friday, August 12, 2011

Challenges and Opportunities for Southeast CEOs

The below is a Q&A with Tino Mantella, President of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Tino, and the TAG team, are hosting the Southeast Technology CEO Retreat in November. If you're interested in learning more about the event, click here.

Q.  The southeast is becoming a major player in the growth of technology-based companies. What are some of most apparent challenges that you are finding or hearing from CEOs regarding this growth? 

A.      Tino Mantella:
Today’s economic condition is slowing down the sales cycle.  Therefore some companies are not selling at their targeted pace, which often causes a shortage of cash.   Banks are less apt to lend while venture capitalists and angel investors, until recently, have been more difficult to part with their resources.  Now, if a tech company can show ways to save money (e.g. software as a service (SAAS), cloud, virtualization, BI) they are likely doing well.  If they are in a hot industry, like health IT or data storage, they may also be faring well.

Q.     What are some of the largest challenges you are finding for CEOs from an internal leadership standpoint?

A.      Tino Mantella:
TAG’s Economic Gardening program focuses on the need for early and second-stage companies to focus on market research more than most do today.  One of the largest challenges we are discovering, especially among younger companies, is a lack of in-depth research and understanding of their business environment. Executives may sometimes think they know their competition, target market, and price points better than they actually do. But, with the rapid evolution of technology and the challenges of today’s economy, industry research is more important than ever.

Workforce is another key challenge for CEOs today. TAG’s Economic Gardening program helps early-stage CEOs assess their staffing needs.  Often the lead executive may not fully define or understand the full range of skill sets and/or cultural temperament necessary for key new hires. 

Finally, difficulties in accessing capital continue. Whether they are seeking funding from a private source or loans, money to fund businesses from outside sources is much more difficult to come by these days.  According to a 2010 survey conducted by, 18 percent of small businesses reported they were unable to access the credit needed to support their businesses in 2010. This is why programs, such as the TAG/GRA Business Launch Competition and Venture Atlanta are so important to connect companies with the resources and access to investors they need.

Q.     TAG hosts a Southeast CEO retreat in partnership with other technology focused organizations like CED. This event provides a unique opportunity for CEOs to connect and build relationships with other CEOs. From what you learned at last year’s retreat, what are some tools and/or resources that are must have’s for small to mid-size technology company CEOs and their leadership?  

A.      Tino Mantella:
The CEO retreat was, and is (since we are doing it again this November) a great way for technology CEOs from North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana to discuss key issues in more depth and breadth than they normally would have an opportunity to do.   Last year we had tremendous speakers discuss issues around leadership, the economy and cyber-security. Between the retreat and primary research we conduct annually with technology leadership, we learned that small and mid-sized technology company leadership are most in need of funding (small companies) and better tax-breaks and incentives (mid-sized companies).  

This year’s program promises to be even better.  We already have 7 CEOs registered from Georgia and NC.  TAG & CED would like to see 20 in attendance.  Frankly, the best part of the retreat, which received exceptional ratings, was the time CEOs had to bond on the golf course and over cocktails in one of the most prestigious settings in the USA.

Q.     Earlier this year, TAG launched its “Where Georgia Leads” campaign, can you talk a little about the program and how it directly relates to technology company CEOs and how this information can be used as resource?  

A.      Tino Mantella:
“Where Georgia Leads” highlights Georgia’s leading technology clusters – health IT, information security, communication services, financial technology and logistics.  WGL provides information on Georgia companies and employees that work in these spaces and the innovation happening in our state.  It is part “wow factor” and part education which will lead to job growth and business recruitment.  We also hope it will enlighten service providers in the southeast about business development targets in the state. People outside of Georgia may know us for our peaches, but most don’t know, for example, the Georgia is number one in the nation in health IT.  We are flying the flag that technology will lead us out of the recession and to new heights. This may be a good model for other southeast states to replicate. 

Q.     What do you believe are some of the greatest opportunities for new technology CEOs in the southeast?  

A.      Tino Mantella:
The southeast has its share of Fortune 500 companies who are looking to improve their ROI and grow their businesses through technology (Georgia alone is the headquarters for 14 Fortune 500 companies).  Our region also has an enviable entrepreneur base (Georgia was ranked number one in entrepreneurial activity by the Kaufman Foundation earlier this year).  So, from big to small companies, they need and want technology.  The competition is tough, but opportunities abound to innovate and provide new services and solutions that make businesses operate more smoothly and bring in more revenue.

Q.     Your CEO Retreat is bridging the gap among technology CEOs in the southeastern. Are there other ways TAG is helping to connect and provide resources to other CEOs in the southeast? If so, tell us what they are and how can these resources be accessed.

A.      Tino Mantella:
Yes, TAG has created a number of initiatives that could benefit CEOs outside of our borders.  Our websites (;; offer rich content and an opportunity to interact.  TAG’s job board is a great place to post a job or seek a job.  TAG Radio and TAG TV also are rich in content.  TAG’s annual State of the Industry: Technology in Georgia reports provide additional statistics and information valuable to Georgia’s technology industry and can be accessed online at

Additionally, TAG supports connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and venture capitalists through our Business Launch Competition and support for Venture Atlanta, the state’s largest investor showcase. Since 2006, winners of the GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition have reported back investments in their companies totaling nearly $20 million. Venture Atlanta companies have raised more than $160M since 2008.
Finally, if CEOs are interested in engaging further with Georgia, sponsoring TAG events will enable them to reach our 13,300 members and a data base of 18,000.

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