In the innovation world, differentiators are everything. What sets you apart is what creates your success in a crowded marketplace.
When Launch Tennessee hosted its 36|86 conference last month, we were able to show off Tennessee entrepreneurs and the remarkable range of products and services they are creating. That base of talent is a differentiator for our state, and much of it is nurtured in our unique accelerator network. With nine sites around Tennessee, we have one of the largest, and most diverse, groups of incubator sites in the nation.
That matters both in terms of size and scope. Having so many sites, from one end of the state to another, means that entrepreneurs can engage with potential mentors and investors without having to travel far from home. And because our accelerators offer everything from high-tech cohorts to basic business building blocks, anyone with an idea is met and engaged, wherever they are in the process.
This means that we keep homegrown talent, along with the businesses and ideas these people produce, in Tennessee. Additionally, our diverse network is a significant draw for outside talent, as evidenced by the 19 companies from outside the state who are currently participating in our cohort programs. We certainly hope that some of these entrepreneurs will have such a great experience that they will decide to stick around in the Volunteer State past this summer.
To give an idea of just how broad the scope of innovation is, here’s a snapshot of what’s going on around the state these days.
- In Memphis, StartCo and ZeroTo510 will team up for the “Memphis Demo Day” on August 13th. These two accelerators have created more than 400 new jobs, and secured more than $20 million, in capital for early stage companies in the last four years.
- Chattanooga’s GIGTANK accelerator program is in full swing, with 14 startup teams from around the United States and Europe designing business applications that can thrive on gigabit networks. The three-month program is hosted by LAB, the nation’s only startup accelerator connected to a metro-wide gigabit network. Companies will present their ideas at their end-of-program Demo Day on July 28th.
- On August 11th, the nine teams participating in MediaWorks will hold a communitywide demo day to showcase their efforts. The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center launched this accelerator last year to capitalize on the area’s strong digital media business community.
- In Nashville, Jumpstart Foundry is hosting its healthcare-focused accelerator program, with all nine participants set to unveil their innovations at the Health:Further Conference on August 19th.
- And kicking off on July 7th, is the latest autoXLR8R cohort in Oak Ridge, presented by Tech2020. Nine companies, hailing from 3 southeastern states as well as Mexico and Italy, will present their technologies at the program’s Demo Day on August 28th.
This is really just a tiny sliver of what’s going on in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship in Tennessee. The LaunchTN accelerator network was, and continues to be, a thriving network for entrepreneurs, and it’s how we make first contact with that person and his or her idea. Thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars in investments, often follow. We are committed to keeping Tennessee’s talent within our borders, and so if you have an idea and aren’t sure about next steps, check out more information at www.launchtn.org.
*This article was featured as part of Charlie Brock’s bi-weekly column in the Tennessean.