Together-ish: Running a Tech Hub During a Global Pandemic

May 6, 2020

The Atlanta Tech Village team has been hard at work figuring out how to run the 4th largest tech hub in America during a global pandemic. From the virtual to the physical, we have evolved to meet the challenges and are proud of where we have ended up. Our community and 103,000 square foot building are now a great experiment. It's kind of weird. But, these are weird times and entrepreneurs are the most adaptive and groundbreaking people in the world. Pivoting and problem solving? We eat that for breakfast.

Making it happen.

So with no playbook on how to do this, we went to work. Hours of research, discussion, forecasting, and budgeting went into each decision. We remained open to our members for essential services, provided guidance for the hard to come by PPP loans, and never stopped hosting virtual workshops, advising sessions, meetups, and happy hours. But don't be fooled- if you think this season has been easy for us, it has not. Our events, parking, and coffee shop revenue went to zero overnight, we had to reduce our team, and of course many of the startups we serve are contracting and doing what they can to survive.

But despite the challenges, we feel good about the decisions we have made. From being one of the first Atlanta businesses to cancel events and close to the public to our cutting edge building plan that we have in place today, we are ready to take back what COVID-19 has taken from all of us.

Ready to be together-ish.

Atlanta Tech Village has the unique burden of knowing that each choice we make impacts hundreds of startups who call the Village home. So while it is their choice to return when and how they feel is best for their teams, our job is to be ready. And we think we are.

First, please note that as much as we wish it was, it is not business as usual around here. We continue to monitor local and federal guidelines and CDC recommendations and are committed to making choices intended to serve all our people to the best of our abilities. This includes social distancing and wearing masks. Second, our team has literally been on our hands and knees physically measuring 6 ft distances throughout our entire 7 story building to ensure safety and accuracy. So if you can't find your measuring tape and need a 6 ft expert, we got you.

19 ways we created our new normal:

  1. Members have 24/7 key card access, but we remain closed to the public and visitors.
  2. Masks are required to enter the lobby and in all our community spaces including kitchens, bathrooms, and elevators. 
  3. We have purchased 600 reusable masks that are available for members upon request.
  4. If you feel sick, have any COVID-19 symptoms, or been exposed to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you may not enter the building.
  5. Due to density concerns, stairwells have been divided into up or down travel only and we have created one way traffic pathing to prevent hallway passes whenever possible.
  6. Elevators are a max of 3 ppl at a time, and masks are REQUIRED to ride. (the # of ppl was hotly debated, but we are trying to find the right balance of efficiency and safety.)
  7. We have removed or automated 50+ doors to decrease touch points.
  8. To adhere to social distancing in meeting spaces we've removed chairs and have placed Xs to remind people where to sit and not sit to remain 6 feet apart.
  9. We have reworked our HVAC systems in the bathrooms for increased ventilation and air flow.
  10. Bathrooms have increased ventilation, hands-free doors and contactless faucets and soap dispensers.
  11. We have installed 31 HyperHEPA air purifiers that run 24/7 throughout the building that remove 99.5% of harmful ultrafine pollution particles down to 0.003 microns in size. This is 10 times smaller than a virus.
  12. We have increased sanitation cleaning so that all public areas and door handles are disinfected multiple times a day.
  13. We have purchased a non-toxic, disinfectant misting system that reaches throughout the space and kills pathogens within 30 seconds of contact. It then harmlessly evaporates.
  14. We have reworked all community furniture and removed any that was within 6 ft of another person.
  15. Hand sanitizer stations have been placed by every entrance, exit, and elevator lobby.
  16. All reserved desks have been repositioned to be 6 ft apart.
  17. We have purchased glass side screens that can be installed on desks in addition to front screens for offices who need further separation and a sneeze screen for our lobby desk.
  18. We have placed signage throughout the building to remind Villagers to social distance and be aware of their surroundings.
  19. All workshops and events will remain virtual until Q3. At that point we will be closely monitoring the Rt for bookings and will retain the right to alter or cancel based off the current COVID-19 climate and CDC recommendations.

Weird, but right.

The new normal is certainly weird, but it is the "right normal" for us in this season. We have done our best to infuse what could be a little scary with the trademark Village culture of kindness, candid and transparent communication, and a dash of wit and humor. Even while we sheltered in place, our community has been together-ish every step of the way.

Atlanta Tech Village has been, and will always be, a safe place for entrepreneurs to weather any storm. We hope you find this helpful as you plan to return to whatever place you call your work home.

May 6, 2020
Karen Houghton