As we come to the end of 2014, I feel that it’s important to take an audit of one’s accomplishments and successes achieved throughout the year. In doing this exercise, we at Launch Tennessee would have to say that 2014 has been a fantastic year. We continue to bring in talented entrepreneurs from around the state and beyond to our accelerator network, and then connect that talent with businesses and investors in Tennessee, the Southeast and across the country.
This has been a year where we celebrate the quantity of connections we’ve made with both new companies and investors. We’ve placed greater emphasis on the quality as well, making sure that the companies who enter into, and engage with, our accelerators are primed for success.
The network held more than 2,000 screenings this year – one-hour meetings with any entrepreneur who wanted to find out about the accelerators and options for support for his/her company. They also held more than 600 events, ranging from meet-and-greets to angel-investor education meetings and pitch contests.
Our accelerators and the companies in them continue to expand their scope and quality of services. They are a calling card for this state as we attract and develop more entrepreneurs and companies.
2014 has been a record year of investor and we are off to a good start in meeting our goal of $1 billion by 12/31/17. It’s ambitious, but we believe it is completely obtainable based on the interest we’re seeing from the financial sector and the entrepreneurial growth across the state.
This investment level is a huge win for our state and can be attributed in part to the creation of programs like TNInvestco and the INCITE Co-Investment Fund, which was created with the federal funds received through US Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative. The INCITE Co-Investment Fund, which is managed by LaunchTN, began in 2011 with $29.7 million to put towards Tennessee businesses. Today, over $22 million of INCITE dollars have been invested, leveraging an additional $73 million in private capital.
Most important, early-stage private capital is flowing again in Tennessee. We now have a record amount of TN-based angel funds and several established venture funds have raised significant new funds in 2014. All this activity bodes well for our entrepreneurs and gives us hope that our $1 billion goal can be obtained.
We also had our second successful technology and entrepreneur conference, which now will be known as 36/86 to reflect the meeting place for Southeastern entrepreneurs. We were due to shake things up a bit, and the name change is the first of many innovations that will make the 2015 event bigger and better than its two predecessors.
We wrapped up our inaugural class of The TENN this year, and several of the companies are making substantial progress in scaling their businesses.
We’re now working with the second class, putting these founders together with Master Mentors and topical experts who are increasing their working knowledge of everything from marketing and public relations, to technology, finance and legal issues. The TENN is performing as we had hoped in terms of gaining traction with customers and investors. The first quarter of 2015 will be a great showcase for them as we conduct road shows across the state as well as New York and California.
Another key goal at Launch Tennessee is not just putting our entrepreneurial class in front of major companies, but also working with them to solve their issues. To that end, we have created initiatives such as our Reverse Pitch program, which brings representatives from major companies into a room with developers and entrepreneurs. They put their pain points out there, and then the attendees get to work on innovative solutions. Programming like this is vital for Launch Tennessee, because it hones in on one of our core functions: connecting talent with business.
Through all of our programs, it is our goal to open doors for entrepreneurs that otherwise might stay shut. We at Launch Tennessee want to build on the successes of 2014 and continue to be a viable driver of business and innovation for 2015 and many years to come.