Andrew Schwartz poses with a Razor scooter slung over his shoulder, at the offices of

Panthers Are Thriving At Startups Around Atlanta

Panthers Thrive In Atlanta’s Startup Scene

By Leslie Johnson

Georgia State students and alumni are entering Atlanta’s burgeoning world of technology startups, building companies that are getting support from big-name investors, picking up notable clients and developing promising careers.

Here’s a look at some of the innovative minds making their mark in up-and-coming companies. (All three were recently named in Creative Loafing’s “10 Atlanta Startups to Watch.”)

Jovanni Pharr crunches code at Nuracode. This image shows him hunched in front of multiple computer screens.

Jovonni Pharr crunches code at Nuracode.

Jovonni Pharr, Nuracode

Computer information systems major Jovonni Pharr, co-founder of the startup Nuracode, is enjoying the attention his brainchild app, SayRoom, is getting.

SayRoom lets users share their thoughts about photos, videos and other online content by recording their comments on the topic. More important, the app will analyze and catalog the emotions people express, a capability that could appeal to businesses interested in brand management.

SayRoom got about 20,000 downloads in the first two weeks of its introduction in early June. It’s now approaching 30,000 downloads, Pharr said.

The New York native is looking at a May graduation, juggling six classes and his work with the team at Nuracode, co-founded by Iziah Reid. Nuracode has built products for clients such as Kodak (a mobile app accompanying its “So Kodak” campaign), AARP (a recent assignment for this recurring client was creating a desktop kiosk for a conference) and Veggie Tales (creating “spotisodes,” a mobile app that combines video clips and games for children).

Pharr, who enjoys DJ work on the side, has also secured a Sprite sponsorship. The 12-episode deal allows him to showcase Atlanta talent in fashion, music and street art. Sprite’s brand is in the videos, shot with a film crew and with Pharr in a reporter role, interviewing the featured artists.

Pharr, 24, hopes that as more people learn about the work he’s doing, especially in the startup arena, they’ll feel good about what they see.

“I want them to say there are people at Georgia State doing cool things,” Pharr said.

Andrew Schwartz,

Andrew Schwartz poses with a Razor scooter slung over his shoulder, at the offices of

Andrew Schwartz is the COO at Photo by Meg Buscema

Andrew Schwartz is the chief of operations at, a service that records audio of meetings, then generates a transcript, including a summary of key points.

“I really liked the idea,” Schwartz said. “All the implications of what we can learn about language are really interesting to me.”

Schwartz, a 26-year-old Connecticut native, is an MBA candidate with a marketing concentration and president of the Graduate Business Association.

Schwartz first ventured into the startup world by writing a blog and creating a marketing campaign for Atlanta-based Tunefruit, which describes itself as “a modern music marketplace” connecting people who make music with companies and others who need licensed music.

Schwartz, who plays the tuba, attended the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music before moving to the Manhattan School of Music.

He decided to take a different career path because he didn’t like the direction some orchestra managers were taking. He moved to Georgia for personal reasons, then decided to come to Georgia State. He expects to graduate in May.

Schwartz said he enjoys working at startups because they offer “the love of creating something and doing something new and fun.”

But the hours can be long, projects and deadlines are constantly shifting and the path to profitability can be hard to see.

“You’ve got to really want it,” Schwartz said. “It’s not easy.”

Rob Kischuk, Badgy

Rob Kischuk, CEO and founder of Badgy, sits at a computer in the office, with exposed brick walls in the background.

Rob Kischuk is the CEO and founder of Badgy. Photo by Meg Buscema

Rob Kischuk, a 2009 graduate of the Robinson College of Business, is the person behind Badgy, a startup whose investors include Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban.

Two-year-old Badgy offers strategies to help marketers post content to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter at the ideal times to reach their audiences.

Kischuk met Cuban in Indianapolis last year at a watch party for “Shark Tank,” the reality TV show that gives budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas to Cuban and other potential investors, known as “sharks.” That meeting with Cuban led to $600,000 in seed funds for Badgy, according to the PandoDaily technology website.

Kischuk, 36, says his Robinson education has helped him with the basics of entrepreneurship.

“There are pieces of where we are, and where we are going, where my time at State has been helpful,” such as marketing and financial statement knowledge, Kischuk said.

For a budding entrepreneur with a great idea, it’s vital to know how to present financial information to potential investors, he said.

And then you’re ready when it’s time to make a deal with a shark.