By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“This place means a lot to me,” Michael Brody-Waite says about the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) that he leads as well as his adopted hometown that is drawing so much attention for its vibrant start-up ecosystem.
A little more than a year into his tenue as the EC’s third permanent Chief Executive Officer, the California native talks candidly about the personal challenges he faced earlier in his life and how overcoming them has affected his vision for Nashville’s entrepreneurial support organization.
“I got a last-ditch effort to safe my life,” Brody-Waite says. We could not help but take note of the symbolism with the life of an entrepreneur who is offered one last opportunity to save her or his start-up.
The Co-Founder of InQuicker, a Nashville healthcare start-up that was acquired by a publicly traded company in 2015, says that he was doing drugs and alcohol on a regular basis when he was kicked-out of a California college. The “last ditch” chance to turn around his life came in 2002 when he entered The Ranch, an addiction recovery facility in Nashville.
“I got the opportunity to live,” he says, adding that his first day of being clean was September 1, 2002. The treatment experience, however, not just impacted his personal life, but also instilled in Brody-Waite a philosophy that has guided his vision for the EC.
He says that recovery is focused on three areas – experience, strength, and hope. Those three words are drivers as he and his team fine tune the well-respected program and facility that serves 800 members.
We had the opportunity to chat recently with Brody-Waite about his plans for the EC. Joining us was Anne Elizabeth McIntosh, one of his new team members who serves as Vice President for Community Investment. Her title is an important reminder of the EC’s position and responsibilities.
“We are an economic development engine,” McIntosh says. “We are doubling down on what we are really good at doing.”
For Brody-Waite, the EC represents an opportunity to make a significant contribution to a community that was part of his second chance. After leaving The Ranch, he served in various positions with Dell Corporation before helping found InQuicker. The now publicly-held company was launched to offer an online, digital self-scheduling solution for emergency departments, urgent care centers, physician practices and ancillary service providers.
“I was in another type of recovery,” Brody-Waite says of the year after InQuicker was sold. When the CEO position at EC opened following the departure of Stuart McWhorter, Brody-Waite jumped at the chance to lead the organization.
“I saw this as an opportunity to do for the EC what the EC had done for me,” he says, a direct reference to the support InQuicker received in its formative years.
While he recognizes the significant foundation that he has inherited, Brody-Waite also acknowledges that a number of changes have occurred in the seven years since the EC was founded. It has moved from its inaugural location on Lower Broad to much more spacious quarters.
Over that period of time, the landscape has changed with new players like Vanderbilt’s The Wond’ry coming into the ecosystem. Those additions strengthen the start-up community, but also require the EC and others to be more focused and also more collaborative.
Brody-Waite says his vision is built around something called the EC Navigation Program.
NEXT: What is this new program and how does the EC’s CEO see it working.