Four Athens Executive Director may be one of the woke-est Athenians in tech. Before taking over his post at the helm of our local tech start-up incubator, Burke — a developer by trade and co-founder of entities like RoundTable Development — had already won the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015, all while serving as one of the organizers for the Developers in Athens meet-up and a mentor for Athens Women in Tech. Throughout his career, as a developer and now as a director, Burke has consistently focused time and energy not only on helping the local tech and developer communities thrive, but also on encouraging and facilitating women, people of color and other minority groups to take part.
As one of his first orders of business as executive director at Four Athens, Burke announced during February’s annual State of Start-Ups event that the organization would be aggressively pursuing both funding for and opportunities to expand access to the various coding classes they offer for minors. The classes — for which any family requesting scholarships may send their children for free — represent one of Four Athens’ major efforts to help alleviate the cycle of poverty by providing training for marketable skills to students in underrepresented communities.
In 12 weeks, you can take someone who doesn’t know much about computers at all, and by the end of it, they can be actually creating something out of nothing. That’s what coding allows you to do.
In addition to teaching up-starts, Four Athens provides an array of services to support start-ups in refining their business models, seeking funding from investors and connecting with resources from office space to a community of fellow entrepreneurs.
In 2016, Four Athens member companies hired for 70 positions at an average salary of $44,000, not bad for a group that in 2013 hired for 12 jobs at half that average salary!
Weaving It All Together
Burke’s community-focused perspective has already led to exciting new strides, not just for Four Athens. He was also instrumental in helping bring together a coalition of folks representing the Athens business, university, nonprofit and city government communities to launch the city’s first-ever innovation festival, Acropolis, this month, under the banner of the local economic development department. With a month-long series of events spanning life sciences education, hackathons, community-building, Acropolis supports Four Athens’ mission of helping Athens tech businesses thrive.
Somehow, Burke also manages to find time for fun, whether it’s dressing up as his favorite alter-ego, Burt Macklin from Parks & Rec, settling into the new home he just bought with partner Asheley Faris, or helping My Athens come up with wacky icebreaker challenges for the guests at October 2016’s Athens Taco Takedown — which his RoundTable Development sponsored — to compete for prizes.
Both in his new role as Four Athens director and over his many years as a leader in our community, Burke has carried himself with professionalism, a heart for equality and, always, a little room for play.