Places like Tennessee, Colorado and Washington D.C. understand the importance of entrepreneurship and are investing with the hopes of attracting entrepreneurs and business owners. The Tennessee state government created an organization to increase entrepreneurship in Tennessee. Launch Tennessee launched a Southeast-specific tech conference called Southland, a connected network of 9 regional business accelerators, and an accelerator program called the TENN.
Rescue a CEO and CEO Blog Nation spoke with Charlie Brock the CEO and President of Launch Tennessee about current initiatives, Tenn and advice for entrepreneurs and startups.
Tell us about The TENN
The TENN is a master accelerator program designed to provide level-two support to startups that have already gone through one of Tennessee’s nine regional business accelerators. Participants were chosen by out-of-state judges at our inaugural statewide demo day. During the three-month program, the startup companies will go on a statewide roadshow to meet with executives at some of the top corporations in Tennessee, as well as travel to the coasts to network with entrepreneurs, investors and media. They will also have access to a pool of master mentors, events that introduce the companies to high-level, industry-specific Tennessee connections, and office space in their regional accelerator or a subsidy for existing office space.
Tell us about the initiative to make Tennessee an entrepreneurial leader for startups?
Tennessee is the only state with a connected network of regional business accelerators—which are located throughout the state—to assist more companies with their growth and development. This connected network allows us to share best practices across the state. Of these accelerators, several have specialties based on their location. For example, Nashville is known for healthcare and is running a cohort this fall in conjunction with BlueCross BlueShield and Hospital Corporation of America. We also have GIGTANK, the world’s only accelerator on a living fiber network that provides one gigabit per second Internet access in Chattanooga. Zeroto510 in Memphis is the nation’s first, cohort-based medical device accelerator. In Tullahoma, autoXLR8R is the first accelerator focused on technologies applicable to the automotive industry. Finally, Martin is running the only agriculture-focused accelerator in the country.
Tennessee is also relying on corporate engagement to build the startup scene. The TENN Roadshow took the participants to meet with top corporations like FedEx, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, First Tennessee Bank, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Eastman Chemical Company and Scripps Networks Interactive. These companies are helping Tennessee startups succeed by providing feedback during the roadshow, serving as master mentors and assisting with potential client development. Leveraging the support of our most successful corporations can provide invaluable assistance to our startups.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs to be successful?
Entrepreneurs should seek out and utilize mentors. Our accelerators in Tennessee are all mentor-driven, and we believe that using mentors to help entrepreneurs build their business is key. Mentors have valuable experience that complements the entrepreneur’s area of expertise and help them accelerate their progress while minimizing costly mistakes.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Get your product out to market early, get customer feedback and then iterate, iterate, iterate. Don’t delay launching to build the perfect product. You need customer feedback and several iterations to successfully develop your product.
The sales process is obviously a critical part of building a business. Entrepreneurs need to figure out how to find and build a scalable, repeatable sales process. Investors care about your ability to scale and grow a profitable business – so the more comfortable you can get them with your model and go-to-market strategy, the better your chances of securing investment.
When it comes to investors, it’s more than just the money that matters. Find investors that will provide strategic advice and networking to go along with their capital. After receiving investment, keep them apprised of your successes – and failures – on a regular basis so they can continue to assist you.