The fourth annual 36/86 Launch Tennessee pitch and entrepreneurship event was a smash hit. After welcomes by Governor Bill Haslam, Economic Commissioner Randy Boyd, and Launch Tennessee CEO Charlie Brock, all former entrepreneurs, the panel discussions and pitch competitions kicked-off. Some of well-chosen topics were female entrepreneurship, crowd funding, investing in the South, and fashion/wearable tech.
Each day featured optional salon sessions with experts speaking on new models of entrepreneur support, building businesses on the coasts, the secret to optimal performance, the recruitment and retention of talent, alternative funding models, and innovating with drones. As an example, optimal performance featured Charlie Scott, a former Intel executive who left corporate America to write as an adventurer for National Geographic. Among other experiences, Charlie cycled over 7,000 miles with his children across Japan, Iceland, Europe, and the U. S. as well as guided the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon. Among his secrets for better performance were pre-scheduling recovery time or “periodization”, starting the day working on one’s self, and using the AM for high-priority, time sensitive work.
A special keynote was given by Jim McKelvey, the founder of Square, Inc., a mobile payments company. Jim wrote a best selling computer book at age 19, worked as a glassblowing instructor, and with Jack Dorsey of Twitter started Square in 2008. Recently, he conceived Launch Code, a non-profit that creates opportunity through software paths, which partners with hundreds of companies to set up paid tech apprenticeships.
One timely piece of information was the SEC ruling under the JOBS Act Title IV last year. Everyday citizens (and non-accredited investors) can now participate in equity crowdfunding and invest in private startups and small businesses. Prior to these new rulings, only qualified, accredited investors could invest with entrepreneurs. The audience heard from Doug Ellenoff, down from the NYC law firm Ellenoff, Grossman & Schole, about the intricacies of the change.
Best conference levity came from TV stars, Butch Gilliam and Rooster McConaughey, two self-made millionaire investors who star on CNBC’s reality show, West Texas Investors Club. They attended all functions, judged competition, and made everyone feel at home. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center served as a beautiful venue for which we thanks sponsors Blackstone, Comcast, Delta, IBM, the Nashville Chamber, and others.
As a sampling of pitch ideas, we interviewed Justin French of ANGLEeye, a pediatric camera system for neonatal, hospital nurseries. In 21 hospitals already and based in Little Rock, they expect to have their streaming video in place for parents and staff in 50 hospitals by the end of 2016. Another called Fathom uses an app to develop K12 students passions and allow young people to share ideas, create projects and discover meaningful opportunities for entrepreneurial problem solving. The winner of $50,000 for the best pitch idea was Shelly Prevost whose company Torch builds WiFi routers for parents concerned about the content their children watch on the internet. It enables owners to harness the power of technology with a pause button, customized bedtimes, and filtering inappropriate content.
Here are slides of photos from the 36/86 Launch Tennessee 2016 Event:
Launch Tennessee is a public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in Tennessee. Their goal is to make Tennessee the No. 1 place in the Southeast to start and grow a business. Nashville has been rated No. 4 in the U. S. for tech startups by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in their study, Innovation That Matters (on “Current” at http://clintoneday.com). The city enjoys one of the newest and best entrepreneurship accelerators on the river downtown, the Nashville Entrepreneurship Center.