This week, 352 was excited to host Alex Gonzalez, Chief Innovation Officer at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, for an Off the Record conversation. Alex’s tremendous background in customer experience and innovation with companies like GE and Equifax has put him in the ideal position to be at the forefront of the Atlanta innovation ecosystem at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Robert Berris, SVP of Innovation at 352, moderated a timely conversation exploring the dynamics of the innovation community within the metro-Atlanta region, including:

Atlanta’s diverse communities sets the city apart as an innovation leader

Alex shared that the diversity of thought and industries leads to natural and productive collisions of thought and collaboration, making Atlanta important and unique in the innovation space. “We have inclusive innovation, especially entrepreneurial-driven innovation,” he said. The diversity of our industry is a key factor. We have access to just about any industry. One day you’re working on consumer goods and the next day it’s logistics. There’s a lot of strength that comes from that kind of versatility.

We loved Alex’s analogy that Atlanta innovation is like a teenager figuring out its identity. He added that there’s a desire to create collisions within our diverse industries. We often talk about the strength of our startups and entrepreneurs, but the corporations bring a lot to the table when it comes to being innovative.

Innovation is more important than ever

Alex set a reassuring tone as he mentioned that the Atlanta community has been through downturns before. Even though it may not feel like it due to freezing budgets and organizations making cutbacks, this is the time to innovate. What makes COVID-19 unique, is that it’s not just an economic crisis, it’s a health crisis too. 

Alex also shared that he feels innovation is more important now than ever, and that through real-time problem-solving, we can answer the hard questions like, “How do we solve the problems we face today? How do we help small businesses? How do we serve our customers who can’t access us directly?” Alex highlighted two pieces of advice for innovators right now, rapid reprioritization and internal/external empathetic communication.

Keeping humans at the center of innovation is top priority

Alex also talked a lot about how well large businesses in Atlanta have been able to make smooth transitions to a remote working environment without losing productivity. However, he stressed that the real driver of how companies will respond to the situation is going to be adapting to the shifts in consumer behavior post COVID-19. How will their demands change? Alex hypothesized that consumers might reevaluate what they can do at home versus what provides a unique experiential, premier experience that is worth leaving the comfort of their homes in the future. Companies have to respond to these new needs because COVID-19 is going to change consumer expectations.

Inspiring things are happening everyday in Atlanta

There are so many inspiring innovation stories coming out of Atlanta. Alex shared examples including the work that The Gathering Spot has done to quickly adapt to the current situation and provide real value to their members virtually, and he praised Goodr for partnering with larger Atlanta organizations to solve access to food issues people are struggling with in real-time. It was great to hear how Atlantans are coming together to help each other, and bring innovation to the problems of our communities today.

Metro Atlanta Chamber Resources

Want to know more about how you can share your organization’s story with the Metro Atlanta Chamber? Check out the resources below:

Please join us next week on Tuesday, April 28th at 9AM EST as we host Scott Sanchez, Chief Innovation Officer from Nationwide. You can RSVP now. We look forward to seeing you there!


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.