Atlanta hasnt always been known as a hotbed of entrepreneurship, but when Gardiner Garrard III graduated from Emory Universitys Goizueta Business School in 1999, at the height of the dot-com bubble, he saw the Georgia capital as perfect for pursuing his dream of being a venture capitalist. Georgia was a good place to start a venture firm because we had so few of them, explains Garrard, who teamed up the following year with longtime IBM Corp. executive W. Thomas Smith Jr. to co-found Total Technology Ventures now TTV Capital with $37 million, the bulk of which came from Columbus, Georgiabased bank Synovus Financial Corp. The firm focused on investing in technology that could transform financial services in particular, banking and payments well before fintech was in fashion. Atlanta is kind of a worldwide headquarters for all things payments, says Garrard. The 46-year-old Georgia native notes that all of the major credit card, debit card, and prepaid card payment processors are close by: Elavon, First Data Corp., Global Payments, Total System Services (TSYS), and Worldpay. Two of those Global Payments and TSYS (which was spun off by Synovus in 2007) are TTV investors. Garrard says deep relationships in the payments ecosystem give TTV an advantage in competing against big West Coast venture capital firms. I cant think of more than three or four deals that we wanted that we didnt get in, the managing partner adds, pointing to TTVs relationships with incumbents that could be very, very valuable to the entrepreneur. An example: The firm made an early-2000s investment in Pasadena, Californiabased Green Dot Corp., now the largest U.S. provider of prepaid debit card services. TTV introduced the company to Synovus (to issue its cards), TSYS (to process the cards and transactions), and MasterCard (for branding). The firm made more than 60 times its money after Green Dot went public in 2010 in a deal co-led by JPMorgan Chase & Co.s Stephen Stout, who this year joined Financial Technology Partners (see Steven McLaughlin, No. 5). Recent TTV investments include DefenseStorm, a Seattle-based cybersecurity company, and Featurespace, a Cambridge, U.K., operation that employs machine learning to analyze customer behavior. We found Featurespace because they came to Georgia to meet with TSYS to talk about using their machine-learning engine as a fraud management system, Garrard says. In total, TTV has raised $227 million in capital, including a $70 million fund in 2015.
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