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Investing in the future: Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Even with a change in leadership, it’s business as usual at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Stuart McWhorter assumed the role of president and CEO from founder Michael Burcham on April 9. He had previously served as Chairman of Clayton Associates, a venture capital firm based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

McWhorter’s experience and deep roots in the community will serve as a considerable asset as the Entrepreneur Center enters a new phase of its operations.

“We’re created by the community, for the community,” says Sam Lingo, Chief Operating Officer of Nashville Entrepreneur Center. “Nashville’s ability to grow as a community has been impressive. It still has a small-town feel while still being a big city. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. It used to be that all of the activity would be on one of the coasts. We want to shine a major spotlight on the city and help people find new opportunities.”

Building relationships is key
The Entrepreneur Center has a clear vision for the future and leverages partnerships with Launch Tennessee, the Startup Foundation and the Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network to achieve a higher level of success.

“We see a lot of opportunities to grow and scale our business while supporting the ecosystem at large,” Lingo says. “The question is, ‘How can we attract and retain top talent?’ We try to corral and communicate with businesses in our community.”

In order to establish a new business, entrepreneurs must evaluate an increasingly complex market while facing stiffer competition. The Entrepreneur Center has focused on five main tenets for success: concepts, coaches, customers, capital and community.

“The major principles are still pretty straightforward,” Lingo says. “There’s always an inherent risk in starting a company. Entrepreneurs need to show the ability to make it through downturns –both for-profit and non-profit organizations.”

To get companies to the next level, the Entrepreneur Center offers a full stock of resources that can help them reach their full potential.

“It’s important to connect entrepreneurs with large industry players,” he says. “For an early-stage company, it starts with how quickly they can get customers. We evaluate all stages of the capital continuum. We want to continue to be effective and accessible to capital. We identify potential resources and do an extended due diligence to determine those opportunities.”

A measure of economic diversity
The Entrepreneur Center supports entrepreneurs across a variety of disciplines. In partnership with the Country Music Association, the Entrepreneur Center created the first music tech accelerator, Project Music.

“We’re the epicenter of the music world,” he says. “The music industry has a unique challenge with all the new technology available. The people that have created this value are often the last to see the money.”

The Entrepreneur Center puts them in a position to succeed and helps them to see their ideas come to fruition. Lingo hopes that the entire community will rise together to increase participation and collective ownership in the city’s economic development.

“Business and community leaders are continuing to gather to make sure we are communicating about new opportunities,” he says. “We want to continue to see those connections form – whether planned or unintentional. It’s all about turning a great idea into a great business that can grow and thrive.”

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