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Supporting startups of all sizes

Marcus Shaw, CEO of CO.LAB, explains why Chattanooga is known as a great place to grow a business.

Even as COVID-19 creates new challenges for entrepreneurs, Shaw remains confident that innovation will grow out of the struggle.

“When the buildings fall, the artists arise,” he said, sharing a saying he learned while traveling in Nepal. “I’m optimistic about our ability to get through this COVID crisis because I do believe the artists, the creators, and the entrepreneurs will rise and create a new paradigm for us to succeed in.”

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Shaw offers insight into Chattanooga’s unique entrepreneurial ecosystem, where startups of all sizes can collaborate and grow together. He also shares about Chattanooga’s rise to become a nationally recognized city for entrepreneurship.



Fostering a Holistic Ecosystem

For Shaw, one of the most exciting things about working at CO.LAB is the diversity of startups he gets to help. Whereas larger cities tend to silo companies based on size or industry, Chattanooga’s ecosystem is much more interconnected.

“We can go from having a conversation in the morning with a company that needs $1,000 to build a marketing campaign, to in the afternoon having a conversation with a company that’s in the middle of a $20 million capital race. That is special, and it doesn’t happen in a lot of cities across the country,” Shaw explained.

Because of this, Chattanooga startups also have unique opportunities to work simultaneously with corporate, academic and non-profit partners. And as part of the Launch Tennessee network, CO.LAB can help connect entrepreneurs to resources all over the state.

“Tennessee is an unbelievable state to build your business in because we’re at a phase where we all want to see all of these companies be successful. And when you have that type of collective support behind your ambition, it really places you in a position to succeed.”

Putting Chattanooga on the Map

Just as Launch Tennessee is striving to make Tennessee the most startup-friendly state in the U.S., Shaw also wants to put Chattanooga on the map as a globally recognized hotspot for entrepreneurship.

To do this, CO.LAB tries to tap into the strengths that are already present in the city, with specialized programs like the HealthTech Accelerator and the Consumer Goods Accelerator.

“We’ve got incredible healthcare density, we’ve got an asset in the gig network that makes us one of the most attractive cities for testing and building technology applications, and we’ve got an incredibly rich history in consumer goods,” Shaw said. “Whether it’s Little Debbie or MoonPie or Coca Cola or Gold Bond, all of those brands were born in Chattanooga, and we’ve got some real roots around consumer goods, restaurants, food and beverage that we wanted to leverage.”

The combination of CO.LAB’s efforts and the already favorable environment in Tennessee is already starting to garner national attention, and Shaw hopes his city can capitalize on this to start attracting new business.

“People across the country and across the world are seeing us for what we are,” he explained. Our next step is going to be to use that opportunity and leverage that opportunity to bring companies into Chattanooga that we can help, and to sell our goods and services out into the world.”

Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season we’re sharing Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem story. It’s about how, as a statewide community, we collaborate and provide resources founders need to build, scale, and execute their businesses. It’s the power of our statewide network and the boots-on-the-ground startups that #BuildTN.

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