Mentors, start-ups encouraged to sign-up for new Life Science TN initiative

LifeSciTN Mentor NetworkBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Life Science Tennessee’s Statewide Mentor Network is open for business – accepting applications from start-ups interested in participating and qualified mentors wanting to help them.

That’s the message that Abby Trotter, Executive Director of Life Science TN, and Jim Monsor, Program Director for the Network, are spreading. Applications can be found here.

“We’re very thrilled to be rolling out this Mentor Network,” Trotter says. “It is very much a pilot program.”

Most of the funding for the initial two years comes from Launch Tennessee, with Life Science TN supplementing those dollars. As a result of the alliance between the two statewide non-profits focused on technology start-ups, Trotter says that Life Science TN plans to work closely with the nine regional accelerators that Launch Tennessee funds.

“The Life Science TN program is not an accelerator,” Monsor emphasizes. “That’s why the relationship with the regional accelerators is so important.”

The Mentor Network is patterned along the lines of San Diego’s highly successful Springboard program that is part of CONNECT.  The results since that program’s founding 29 years ago are impressive – about 3,000 companies and 150,000 jobs have been created.

“One new company is being created every day,” Monsor said of the systemic impact that Springboard has produced.

While Life Science TN’s focus is focused on start-ups in his technology sectors, the Springboard program has features that could be used for a variety of companies. That’s another value to Launch Tennessee’s nine accelerators.

“They can use this program for any sector they choose,” Monsor says. “The templates apply.”

Life Science TN has committed to engage with five early stage life science companies in 2015 through the Mentor Network. Those could be companies that come through one of the nine accelerators or apply directly to Life Science TN.

Monsor believes the ideal candidates will be focused on telemedicine, AgBio, medical devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, biologics combination products, or nutritionals.

“We want to get them ready to pitch for capital,” he says.

Monsor describes the Life Science TN process as four stages and gates. They are intake and evaluation, marketing and business plan development, financial and legal scrubbing, and a finale. At the end of each stage, a panel of industry experts will evaluate the team and determine if it is ready to proceed to the next stage. That’s the “gate.”

The goal is to work each start-up through the stage-gate process and have the team graduate in six months.

“If you know a company, no matter where it is, ask it to go online and apply,” Trotter said. The same holds true for mentors.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Editor of chairs the Life Science TN Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee.)

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