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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
September 10, 2023 | Tom Ballard

The ‘3686 Festival’ returns to Nashville next week

The bulk of the programming will occur on September 20 in and around the Wildhorse Saloon in the downtown area.

The focus this week is on Knoxville and “Innov865 Week,” but it shifts 180 miles to the west the following week when Launch Tennessee‘s “3686 Festival” returns to downtown Nashville.

The bulk of the programming is set for September 20. The middle day of the three-day event (September 19, 20, and 21) will start with an impressive panel of Tennessee-based investors sharing their insights on what it takes to make a company successful. Formal programming wraps up with a $150,000 pitch competition that afternoon.

The kick-off session, titled “Betting on Tennessee: Investors Who Think TN Companies Have What It Takes,” will feature:

  • Monique Villa, Chief Investment Officer, Launch Tennessee and also Co-Founder of Build In SE, a network of ecosystem builders committed to supporting entrepreneurs in the Southeast.
  • Chris Sugden, Managing Partner and Chair of the Investment Committee at Edison Partners.
  • Tania Grant, Partner at Claritas Capital where she focuses on healthcare.
  • Rob McCabe, Chairman of the Board, of Pinnacle Financial Partners, and a longtime banker in Knoxville and Nashville.
  • Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), BrainTrust.

Immediately after the session, two young and well-known entrepreneurs will join former Governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam for a live recording of their popular “You Might Be Right” podcast. The guests of the former Governors are Sarah Bellos, CEO and Founder of Stony Creek Colors, the global leader in the production of plant-derived natural indigo dye, and Brad Smith, is Founder and CEO of Russell Street Ventures, an innovative healthcare firm focused on launching and scaling companies that serve some of the nation’s most vulnerable patient populations.

Between the podcast recording and the pitch competition, there will be a series of eight concurrent panel sessions on a variety of topics, and East Tennesseans are populating several of the panels:

  • Carol Seamons, Director of Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Spark Innovation Center, is one of four panelists featured on the topic of “Ready for Liftoff: Getting Your Product to Market in Regulated Industries”;
  • Bo Wilkes, Managing Director and President of the Ballad Health Innovation Center and Ballad Ventures, is a panelist for a session titled “Meet Your Local Healthtech Venture Studio”; and
  • Anca Timofte, Co-Founder and CEO of Holocene, is featured on a panel with the provocative title of “Climate Tech: Beyond the Buzz.”

Judges for the “InvestTN Pitch Competition” are: (1) Hunter Hillenmeyer, Partner at Company Ventures; (2) Ansley Carlisle, Investor with Mark Cuban Companies; (3) Christina Sass, Founding Partner at Dive In; and (4) Michael Li, Investor at NEA.

The day concludes with two networking events. One is a “BBQ & Beer (and Hardware)” event hosted by Ovyl, while the other is a networking event that was scheduled the night of the Covenant School shooting and rescheduled by sponsors Life Science Tennessee and the Tennessee Medical Association.

Programming on September 19 includes (1) a general founder happy hour; and (2) one geared specifically to Black founders. On September 21, there’s an all-morning session for individuals who purchased investor tickets and three specialized events.

Tickets can be purchased here.


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