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Anne Driscoll: Entrepreneurial ecosystems on the rise

How Launch Pad supports entrepreneurial ecosystems on the rise

President and COO Anne Driscoll believes in the potential of small-but-mighty markets and the power of connecting communities.
Launch Pad President and COO Anne Driscoll

Though Anne Driscoll spent years working for Google in Silicon Valley, she now dedicates her energy and expertise to lifting up entrepreneurs all over the country.

As president and COO of Launch Pad, a network of coworking spaces with locations in East Nashville, Memphis, Newark, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Stockton, Calif., Driscoll invests in ecosystems on the rise.

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, we sat down with Driscoll backstage at last year’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival to discuss the potential of smaller markets, the power of connecting ecosystems, and the difference a collaborative community can make for entrepreneurs.

“You can build your company anywhere, there’s great talent everywhere, and it has really leveled the playing field for companies to start to come out,” Driscoll shared. “And I think investors are waking up to that.”

Spotlight on momentum markets

Launch Pad’s mission is to support and connect ecosystems she calls “momentum markets.”

“These are markets people want to move back to, they want to build culture in,” she said. “They’ve got great lifestyle elements … you can still buy a house.”

Launch Pad aims to move into markets that would benefit most from their coworking spaces and community-building efforts, identifying needs to be met and startups ready to grow.

Driscoll is more interested in entrepreneurs with grit and great ideas than those with the most access to capital. “Those companies that are on their way up, those companies that don’t have time to go to a pitch competition because they’re too busy building their business — those are the companies that we want to work at Launch Pad,” she said.

Leveling the playing field

Whether you’re in Memphis or Malaysia, entrepreneurs in smaller markets face similar challenges: Limited resources mean competition can short-circuit community, and investors tend to support only businesses that they consider the “safest” bets.

“The network actually can help solve for that, and can level everybody’s playing field,” Driscoll said. As an ecosystem grows, the space for new players in the market grows as well. That’s where Launch Pad comes in, as advocate and connective force both within and among markets.

Driscoll also highlighted the importance of conferences like 36|86 in creating ecosystems and connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need.

“What I love about these platforms is it’s the culmination of the investor, it’s the culmination of the entrepreneur and the ecosystem builders,” she said. “It’s these platforms that bring people together in the physical space that actually make it possible for those collisions and opportunities to happen.”

Building a collaborative community

When the players in an ecosystem move beyond competition to community, everyone benefits. “A strong ecosystem that is collaborative, non-competitive, and supportive to the entrepreneurship community can actually have such a huge impact,” Driscoll said.

“There’s a technique in improv that says if you want to demonstrate higher value, the first instinct is to go tight and demonstrate how great you are,” she said. “But the best way to demonstrate higher value is to actually go out and help others.”

In the small-but-mighty ecosystems Launch Pad supports, leadership means seeking the best for the community.

“I see Launch Pad as a platform … that lifts people up,” Driscoll told listeners. “We don’t look to be the forefront of it — we actually look to be the support factor. We give you tools and the elements for you to shine.”

Subscribe to Disrupt the Continuum wherever you get your podcasts, and join LaunchTN for 36|86, Aug. 28–29 in downtown Nashville.

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