Notes from the 2017 TENN Roadshow

Growth-stage startups in TENN Master Accelerator gain critical business development and investor connections

Launch Tennessee’s TENN Master Accelerator cohort of eight companies recently wrapped the Tennessee leg of its annual Roadshow. The startup founders met with investors, mentors and business leaders around the state, providing a warmup for upcoming trips to New York and San Francisco in March that will provide critical exposure to capital resources and other networking opportunities in America’s top startup markets.

“The TENN program has expanded our reach in both Tennessee and around the country,” said Dennis Lally, cofounder and CEO of Rendever. “The team at Launch Tennessee opened their personal networks and provided introductions to relevant investors and key decision makers at our customer organizations. This Roadshow is an opportunity to pitch these individuals and organizations and win new business.”

The Roadshow is a unique and critical component of the TENN accelerator program, as it offers these growth-stage startups (more than half of which are led by female founders) additional exposure to business development opportunities and investor connections in Tennessee as well as to startup hotbeds on both coasts.

“Launch Tennessee helped us with a critical connection to the veterinary market, which is a new market for us, and to universities that we didn’t have access to before,” said Kayla Rodriguez Graff, cofounder of SweetBio. “Being a member of The TENN is like having an additional team member.”

At each stop, the TENN Master Accelerator companies have five minutes to pitch to C-level executives, investors, media and other thought leaders. In addition to an explanation of their core value proposition, the pitches focus on challenges, needs and opportunities that can be facilitated by support from the audience.

“The TENN Roadshow allowed us to meet investors and potential customers from across the state,” said Jessica Harthcock, founder and CEO of Utilize Health. “After every pitch, someone offered to help us in some way. People have been incredible about opening their networks to help with some of our most crucial needs, whether that’s access to new customers, investors or advisory board members. Every event that Launch Tennessee has hosted for us has been packed.”

The TENN Roadshow leaves Tennessee in March to host two national events at which the startups will connect with investors in San Francisco and New York City. The first event is in San Francisco at Galvanize on March 1, and the second in New York City at the Blender Workspace on March 22.

Although the cohort’s members are excited about the mentoring opportunities and investor contacts from both coasts, they’re quick to acknowledge that the Roadshow started inside Tennessee for a reason.

“We relocated here, and chose to operate our company here because of the openness we’ve found in Tennessee,” Graff said. “As we toured Tennessee on the Roadshow, Launch Tennessee connected us to people whom we know will make a huge difference in our growth. It might be an oral surgeon who’s interested in our product, or an investor who wants to talk more with us, but in every case, it’s an opportunity we wouldn’t get on our own. We’re getting advice, input and perspective that we haven’t had access to before.”

The TENN Master Accelerator companies will be at 36|86, the Southeast’s premier technology and investing event, hosted by Launch Tennessee in Nashville in June. The conference brings together investors, entrepreneurs and industry titans to discuss how the region is innovating in industries such as health care, logistics, manufacturing and agriculture and leading America’s next wave of entrepreneurship.

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