NCR, the FinTech giant, chose Midtown Atlanta for their new HQ. This month, they are transitioning a few thousand of their employees from their Gwinnett campus into midtown. Today, they had a press tour of the new midtown campus. To say it’s impressive is an understatement. In the tour and subsequent executive briefing, NCR made it clear that their beautiful new campus is for “reinvention and partnership to make Atlanta the ‘Silicon Valley of the East.'” Silicon Valley means tech startups. So what does a big, beautiful, brand new Fortune 500 Headquarters Campus overlooking Tech Square mean for Atlanta tech startups?
Why Did NCR ChooseATL?
You know the game: airport, cost of living, great universities, diverse workforce, etc., etc. Not to degrade all that, but you’ve heard it all before. Is it enough? The unequivocal answer is YES, but there’s more. In the executive briefing after our tour, the three NCR execs cited the following other reasons they chose Atlanta.
- Invest Atlanta and the GA Dept of Economic Development are “extremely competitive”. That means we have the right people working to make Atlanta compete with San Jose, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Chicago.
- Quickstart – Training for companies who choose to locate in Georgia
- Megatax – According to Marija Zivanovic-Smith, NCR’s VP of Corporate Communications, Public Affairs & CRE, and Chief of Staff to CEO Bill Nuti (yes, that’s her actual title), Georgia’s tax program to attract big companies to make Georgia their HQ or at least a primary location, is “clever and very creative.”
- Corporate Branding on the busiest highway in the region. Today, you can’t drive through midtown Atlanta on the 75/85 connector and not see the big white-on-blue NCR logo on the side of that beautiful new building.
Once they chose midtown, NCR did something incredibly creative for a BigCo. They conducted an employee scavenger hunt in midtown, and rewarded employees for finding and experiencing all that midtown Atlanta has to offer. Genius. When you live and work in the ‘burbs, heading into town can seem like the end of the world. But when you experience a new location by doing the best of what it has to offer, you can change your mind very quickly. Well done, NCR.
First thing you notice when you walk into 864 Spring Street is the non-typical textures. Immediately, you know this is not just some corporate office building. Everywhere you look, there’s wood and polished cement and crazy lighting. I know that all sounds weird and ethereal, but it’s just plain different. And that’s just the skin on the building, for which the executive order was “no rectangle office buildings!” Gensler and JLL delivered an excellent product for NCR and owner Cousins Properties.
I may be a bit out of the mainstream of corporate America here, but today was the first time I had heard the term “hoteling“. I suppose I’m used to the actual definition of the word in practice, since it means co-working. But co-working in a corporate HQ? Yes. Ninety percent of NCR’s employees in this new midtown HQ will be “hoteling”, meaning they have no assigned desk, office, or workspace.
If you’re an NCR employee, you reserve the space where you want to work for up to a week at a time. Again, I’m used to that as a member of ATV who only uses the hot desk option. Will big company employees embrace such a work space? Before we try to answer that, let’s be clear, the work spaces are ridiculously cool. Ninety percent of the work spaces in the building have a window. Some of the others look like this, which is very reminiscent of a booth in a ROAM location.
Obviously, there’s blazing fast WiFi everywhere, including public WiFi throughout the very open first floor. Most of the other work spaces will quickly remind you of your local co-working spot, namely Atlanta Tech Village, with great chairs and standard white table desks. The main difference is that, here at NCR HQ, every desk has 2 large monitors built in. There’s also a kitchen on every floor, five restaurants, and the “Mr. Merchant” store, where you can shop for a snack or meal. Of course, it’s right beside three of the NCR restaurants, each of which is named for some part of NCR’s history. “The National” is a reminder of NCR’s previous name, National Check Register.
Does your building have its own mobile app?
Your answer might be yes, if your office is at a sweet new high tech co-working spot, again, like ATV. Most everyone else who works at a corporate HQ would answer “no” to that question. You’d have a security badge, of course, but not a mobile app. At NCR HQ, you book your desk, your conference room, your meals, your exercise or yoga class on the NCR HQ mobile app.
Did you catch the “book your yoga class on the app” part? Yes, the yoga studios (plural) are just part of the gym. And the gym is outrageous. It’s most of an entire floor of the “north tower” (south tower coming Q4), and has everything you could possibly want for a solid workout. That includes treadmills equipped with video monitors so you can do that video conference while you’re getting your steps in. All this, and free parking in midtown Atlanta, is really just scratching the surface.
So, What’s It Mean for ATL Tech Startups?
The prevailing opinion is that more Fortune 500 HQs is better for tech startups. But I’ve heard it both ways. If you’re a fresh faced Engineer graduating from Georgia Tech, and you’ve seen that big NCR logo overlooking the GT campus for a couple of years, you’ve stopped by the coffee shop and open first floor of the midtown campus, you might be more than a little tempted to see what they have to offer. When you see the campus makes many “cool” co-working spaces look like a highway rest stop, it might not be so tempting to “start your own gig”.
There is a big advantage to having lots of Fortune 500 firms in town. Tech talent has a way of leaking out of big companies when they discover that their talents can lift them higher than a corporate roof. But when a big, attractive, and obviously forward thinking company plops down such an impressive campus on campus, my question is, will NCR spill out talent and resources towards tech startups, or will NCR more talent away from Atlanta’s tech startups? Here’s what Andrea Ledford, EVP, Chief Administration Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer had to say.
“We plan to work with the local start up community through our NCR Innovation Lab, which will serve as an incubator for the future and – in addition to working with students from local universities like Georgia Tech, Georgia State and many others – will also rely on local tech startups and developers. We are hosting a variety of hackathons with universities and online developer communities and forums.
And while it is true we will be drawing from the same talent pools as local tech startups, we also recognize and know from experience that the University System of Georgia is a strong source of bright young minds that will drive the next generation of innovation.”
Make Atlanta The Silicon Valley of the East
That goal is part of the reason NCR chose midtown Atlanta. The other part is the continuing reinvention of NCR from cash register maker to technology juggernaut. Only NCR can control their own reinvention. But if we want Atlanta to produce the same results as Silicon Valley, we first have to put a stop to the number one technology export currently coming out of Atlanta: people.
If NCR doesn’t only bring new talent into Atlanta, perhaps they’ll also prevent some of the best talent from leaving.