Managing Director of The Farm, a Comcast NBCUniversal startup accelerator
The Farm is a corporate accelerator focused on innovation, sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal and powered by Boomtown. The Farm provides early stage startups with the resources, access, expertise, and advice they need to succeed. The Farm’s twelve-week, bespoke program provides a customized curriculum, company-building guidance, industry mentorship, and a network of startup ecosystem supporters. Housed in The Battery Atlanta — a community of offices, shops, and restaurants next to the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park —The Farm also offers co-working spaces, a cutting-edge hardware and 3D design lab, and premium incubator office space.
Burunda Prince is Managing Director of The Farm, a Comcast NBCUniversal startup accelerator powered by Boomtown. Burunda excels in leading complex organizations and high-performing teams, with extensive experience across Fortune 500 corporations, management consulting, education, and civic engagement. Under her direction, The Farm has become a hub for learning, collaboration, innovation, and diversity, both in Atlanta’s startup ecosystem and the global tech accelerator community.
Burunda’s work builds on her expertise in helping teams develop greatness and guiding organizations through problem-solving and process improvement. She has held management positions at consulting firms Temple, Barker & Sloane and Bain & Company (where she was the first female consultant of color), and at Fortune 500 firms Rohm & Haas Company and Procter & Gamble (where she was one of just a handful of female engineers). More recently she was a managing partner at Prescott College Consulting and founded her own company, B6 Consulting.
Burunda received her chemical engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, and she has a passion for education and community-building. She has served on the Wissahickon School District Board of Directors, the President’s Council of Gwynedd Mercy College, the MIT Enterprise Forum, Southeastern Investors of Atlanta, the Harvard Business School Club of Atlanta Board of Directors, and the Black Alumni Association of MIT.
Burunda was recognized as the 2018 Community Influencer by the Atlanta Startup Awards, and under her leadership The Farm received the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) 2018 Diversity Leadership Award. She received the 2018 Essence Women En Blanc Award for Technology, was named a Cobb County Woman of Influence, and has spoken at tech events including TransAct 2018, the Digital Empowers Atlanta Forum, and Innovation Leader.
My journey to the world of tech innovation was non linear and somewhat unexpected. Yet, the narrative fits. The role of The Farm Managing Director combines three of my passions — technology, a joy of learning and helping others– with three of my superpowers — intelligence, relational leadership and the ability to forge new paths.
It’s been reinforced that disruption and innovation have long been part of my career narrative. I traveled from Atlanta to Cambridge to become one of eight African Americans in my class to graduate in Chemical Engineering from MIT. As a young engineer at Procter & Gamble, I piloted the continuous manufacturing process to commercialize PertPlus. An MBA from Harvard Business School was followed by becoming the first woman consultant of color at Bain and Company. That led to a career at Rohm & Haas, an entrepreneurial venture in leadership of high performing teams and educational consulting and even eight years in civic leadership as a publicly elected official. You get the picture. I excel at disrupting, leading disparate groups and leveraging synergies for exceptional outcomes.
So, while being a Baby Boomer woman of color may not fit the traditional tech influencer model, I can’t think of a better illustration of disruption at its best than me and technology. Technology first of course!
Technology is one of the greatest enablers of advancement. From the computer to the mobile phone to virtual reality, technology is at the forefront of at once making our world smaller and more expansive. And technology is an extension of innovation.
We continue to see shifts and patterns that reinforce ways to better utilize technology, identify more effective business models and infuse almost every aspect of life and business with innovation. Corporate accelerators are but the latest example of technology evolution.
Corporate accelerators are the direct result of a recognition that entrepreneurs excel at transformative innovation while corporations are great at incremental innovation. The Farm is an equal partnership between Comcast NBCUniversal, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, and Boomtown Accelerators, a 20 person powerhouse that has invested in and supported more than 100 startup companies. Together, they combine their respective strengths to promote technology and innovation, build strong ecosystems and encourage creative thinking irrespective of job, title, responsibility or organization.
Accelerators are on the leading edge of business innovation. And cities are realizing that technology and business build strong ecosystems and strong cities. Hence, you see the proliferation of accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces, more than 45 in Atlanta alone. And you see cities encouraging partnerships, investments and policies that support entrepreneurs. Yet, while the ingredients of a strong ecosystem — talent (colleges/universities), ase of industry (corporations), ingenuity (entrepreneurs) — are understood, getting it right is difficult. Each ecosystem has its own base of investors and brand of innovation. Boston is known for biotech; Silicon Valley for celebrated dotcom investment; Austin and Boulder for its creativity. Each of these have investors with different risk profiles. Atlanta’s strength lies in its diversity (thought, leadership, industry and talent), low cost of living, presence of Fortune 500 headquarters and strong colleges and universities. Finding a model that is sustainable while matching the risk profile of investors and extends the footprint of corporate industries is tricky, requiring intentional planning, collaboration, ongoing commitment and yes, a bit of luck.
The Farm was inspired by the desire to support founders on their entrepreneurial journeys. Both Boomtown and Comcast NBCUniversal share a profoundly personal connection to entrepreneurs and innovation. Boomtown was motivated by the belief that being an entrepreneur is hard yet important work and that founders are s/heroes for defying the odds and being faithful in their dogged commitment. We also know firsthand that with the right resources, connections and foundation, success can be learned. Everyday, we endeavor to fight for and alongside founders as they shape our world for the better. To do so, we do exactly what we teach our startup companies to do — engage in continuous customer discovery, focus on your value proposition, and experiment, test and iterate to get better at delivering your product.
ComcastNBCUniversal is well known for being a multi billion dollar corporate conglomerate. So, it’s easy to forget that they, too, started out as daring entrepreneurs. Ralph Roberts once sold belts and built an empire by shrewdly acquiring cable companies. The Comcast story is a compelling one of grittiness, risk and reward, disrupting the leading an industry. Who can’t be inspired by that?
So, The Farm is the culmination of shared goals, objectives and support to help entrepreneurs while simultaneously encouraging innovation, building communities and shaping the world.
When it comes to leadership and motivation, there is no one size fits all. My recommendation is to lean into what you do well and use that to model, coach and encourage. Most great leaders have an array of competencies and techniques that are situational and contextual. The key is matching the best technique to the current context. With that said, for me, there are 4 core leadership truths: 1) Be Authentic in your communication and aspiration, 2) Value the person as well as the contribution, 3) Be open to and willing to learn. That will help you surround yourself with people who not only complement but improve your own skill set, 4) don’t underestimate the power of leading by example.
Be coachable. Connect with others; you never know where it may lead. Focus on how you do things more so than what you do. That is, understand what types of environments inspire the best in you. Even when an opportunity looks different or outside the norm, it may still be a fit for you. Most of my career decisions reflect the priorities of identity, community, necessity and fulfillment. That is, with experience, I learned what I did well, the types of environments I thrive in, what I enjoy doing and what I require to meet my familial obligations. While the balance of those factors changed, they were always the underpinning of my career decisions. So, while seemingly different or even disparate, each choice shared a common thread of my core values, aspirations and needs.
I connect with all kinds of people, embracing their journey and am eager to understand their story so that I can help them be their best selves. My love of the written word has cultivated a love of reading and writing which also means that I’m constantly being exposed to new ideas and learning. And we know that practice makes perfect so through that love has grown a certain competency of written expression whether it be business, journalistic, or reflective writing. It’s one of my greatest gifts and assets.
The desire to be helpful to others, vulnerability, and an innate curiosity that underpins resiliency and adaptability. I also know that challenges contribute to the best version of myself, allowing me to grow and learn. These challenges aren’t always welcome, can be acutely uncomfortable but experience has shown that getting through them makes be better.
I aspire to help others, make the world better and relish the journey. I’ve already accomplished the greatest feat possible by giving the world three amazing people. So, I have nothing to prove but much to give and share. That allows me to use my considerable experience to help others unlock their power and pursue their dreams.
Despite my academic, professional and civic accomplishments, my biggest success is being mother to three amazing, incredible children. They are accomplished adults in their own right. Yet, I’m most proud of the individuals they are — empathetic, adventurous, grateful, brilliant. In them, I have already given my best gift to the world. Nothing could possibly ever top the gift of them. So, that frees me to focus on giving back, helping others, learning, growing and soaring myself.
My personal mantra is B6. It reminds me of who I am and aspire to become. One day, I’ll share what it stands for. Let’s just say, it’s as unique as my name.
I love anyplace I can meet new people, learn their stories and share in their journey. Fortunately for me, my role as Managing Director of The Farm requires that I travel the world to meet startup founders, some of the most interesting, persistent and brilliant people. So, I enjoy traveling to Lisbon and Toronto to share a cup of coffee with entrepreneurs as well as attending pitch competitions in Boston and Atlanta. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, learn, support and share. I’m grateful and privileged that my travels are both enjoyable and informative. And that every now and then, it involves beaching in the British Virgin Islands or the Bahamas. Not a bad life!