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LaunchTN aims to make Tennessee the best state in the nation for startups by empowering a network of resources that support Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The LaunchTN Mentor Networks prepare Tennessee startups that are commercializing technologies for attracting capital and customers. LaunchTN intends to leverage existing best practices from the Life Science and Advanced Energy Mentor Networks to expand the Mentor Networks programs into the agriculture and automotive sectors.

The Mentor Networks help early-stage companies address potential gaps in seven areas: business model, marketing plan, financial model and projections, intellectual property, valuation, market analysis, and financing. The mentor teams include members with subject matter and/or industry expertise relevant to those gaps.

LaunchTN seeks proposals for high-impact, industry-specific company mentorship initiatives in the agriculture or automotive sector that further such development of Tennessee-based early-stage companies. Applicants should be a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)6) nonprofit organization and may include industry associations, universities/research institutions, and service organizations. Applicants should be based in Tennessee and have unique experience in the agriculture or automotive sector in addition to a deep understanding of the greater Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Proposals should address multiple objectives detailed in the LaunchTN’s 2020 Strategic Plan, including the following: 

    • Relentlessly target a curated list of Big Cos and startups to develop a framework to leverage mentor network, Network Partners, and ecosystem builders that optimizes the participation of Big Cos
    • Facilitate the growth of successful TN-based SBIR/STTR applications
    • Utilize the mentor network to engage with potential investors
    • Develop and manage shared resources for market building

LaunchTN has a unique capacity and/or expertise to execute certain work on a statewide, pilot, and/or gap-filling basis, and our Mentor Networks have a unique capacity and/or expertise to execute and support that work in specific industries. The result will be a more powerful statewide entrepreneurial economic engine and a more equitable distribution of Tennessee’s abundant educational and industrial resources.

Each proposal will compete for a finite pool of funding available for the Mentor Network initiative. Organizations may apply for up to $50,000/year (up to $100,000 over two years).

Proposals must be submitted to Steve Lopez at steve@launchtn.org no later than Friday, July 31, 2020.
Decisions will be announced no later than August 15, 2020, for a contract beginning September 1, 2020.


Key elements under consideration include:

    • Mentor Networks support LaunchTN strategic priorities with goals and tactics reflective of their own markets’ supply and demand conditions
    • Mentor Networks and LaunchTN together set realistically aggressive goals specific to the supply and demand of their respective industries and reflecting the caliber of activity to be expected after 6+ years as a statewide network
    • Mentor Networks develop partnerships with one another and other entities (public and private sector) to create a strong, seamless network of resources for early-stage companies commercializing technology
    • Results of the work generated by this funding will be quantifiable and provided to LaunchTN to be used in aggregate to generate more funding to support these strategies


Potential new Mentor Network partners may apply for up to $50,000 per year. Permissible costs include staff salaries and program expenses related to the scope of work defined in your proposal.

Mentor Networks costs may relate to the following:

    • Lead Mentors/EIRs: Composed of industry and subject-matter experts, these mentors/mentor teams create a custom roadmap for mentor companies.
    • Mentor Events: Catered to active and prospective mentors, to encourage networking and cross-pollination.
    • Mentee Events: Catered to participating companies; may include peer roundtables, informal networking events, and/or opportunities to connect with potential investors or strategic partners; may be specific to respective industry verticals or feature cross-industry collaboration.
    • Post-Program Support: Catered to companies who have completed their Network engagement; may include LEAP (market access) initiatives, LabShare (connection to/use of facilities and equipment), and/or investor connections.

Please submit a proposal for work to be conducted from September 2020-August 2022, with the note that funding is conditional on continued funding from EDA and other LaunchTN funders.

The metrics outlined below are crucial to tracking the progress of our ecosystem and required by the funders of our Mentor Networks. Keep in mind that you will be required to track and report on these metrics quarterly. The first year will be more of a planning/set-up period and will include working with other Mentor Networks partners to establish appropriate baselines for the second year.

Metrics from startups participating in the Mentor Networks, including:

    • Jobs created/retained
    • Capital raised/grants won
    • Mentoring/coaching sessions
    • Technical assistance meetings
    • Patents/patent applications
    • SBIR/STTR applications supported
    • Meetings with potential investors
    • Business sales/product launches

Cohort/program metrics, including:

    • Number of applicants
    • Participant numbers & demographics
    • Completion/graduation rate
    • Capital raised/grants won 

Event data, including:

    • Participant numbers & demographics
    • Event outcomes (e.g., connections between startups and potential investors or strategic partners)

Submissions must include the Proposal and Budget submission templates.

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