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May 04, 2017 | Tom Ballard

Brock says upcoming “36|86 Conference” is strongest and most diverse program ever

36-86 v2By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

In a little more than a month, the latest iteration of Launch Tennessee’s “36|86 Conference” takes the stage at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville.

“It’s really the strongest and most diverse program we’ve had,” Charlie Brock, the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer, says. The 2017 conference is the third under the “36|86” brand following two iterations under the “Southland” title.

The line-up of speakers ranges from some homegrown entrepreneurs like Bill Frist (former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and founder of several start-ups such as Aspire Health) and Fred Smith (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer {CEO} of global giant FedEx Corporation) to transplants to the Volunteer State like Jay Rogers (Founder and CEO of Local Motors) and nationally known individuals like Steve Case (AOL Co-Founder and current Chairman and CEO of Revolution).

Those who know Brock will attest to the fact that he is always upbeat and positive, but his typical mindset seemed even more intense as he discussed this year’s program. In many respects, it is best captured with the opening session on June 5 that features a fireside chat with Case and Rogers.

As most of our readers know, Case has championed the notion that high-growth start-ups don’t have to launch in the traditional entrepreneurial coastal hotspots. He clearly believes they can start and scale anywhere. Thus far, Case has already brought his initiative to five cities in the region that fall into that category – Nashville as well as Atlanta, Charleston (SC), New Orleans, and Raleigh-Durham.

“We’re capturing the theme of Steve Case’s ‘Rise of the Rest’ initiative,” Brock says of the entire event that spotlights the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Southeast. “Innovation is occurring everywhere, and we want to drive that home. We want to shine a light on those opportunities (in this region) at the micro level.”

An important component of that spotlighting is “Village 36” which features three East Tennessee teams –MomSource Network and Smart RIA of Knoxville and Collider from Chattanooga. As noted in this recent post, 11 of the other 33 teams in the Village come from Tennessee, with the balance coming from seven other states and the District of Columbia.

The 36 start-ups will vie in five preliminary pitch rounds on June 5 and 6 for the right to compete in the finals where a $50,000 prize awaits the winner. The finale is the afternoon of June 6.

Brock notes there’s another important goal of the “36|86 Conference,” and it is sending a message beyond the Southeast that the region is a great place for entrepreneurs to locate their companies.

“We’re bringing in national media, thought leaders, and investors,” he says of Launch Tennessee’s recruitment efforts. “That helps us brand the region so others can be attracted.”

Part of the dual awareness focus involves recruiting angel and venture investors to the event. As this article was written, more than 50 firms or funds were listed as attending. Brock believes the annual conference is a significant contributor to more investment capital being available for Tennessee-based start-ups.

“We’ve seen a 73 percent increase in investment capital in the state between 2013 and 2016,” he notes.

The first two days are filled with a series of rapid fire sessions, none lasting more than 40 minutes. After the fireside chat with Case and Rogers on June 5, there will be panels on everything from corporate involvement in start-ups to surprising trends in sports technology.

John Shieber, Senior Editor at TechCrunch, will moderate a panel on the first day that is focused on how to use geography as a growth asset. He is well-known to those who have attended the last two “Start-up Day Knoxville” events.

Ahead of the “36|86 Street Fair” later that day, there are several concluding panels including one featuring Jeremy King, Chief Technology Officer at Walmart, discussing “Scaling Tech Globally Without Crushing the Customer Experience,” and an “Ask Me Anything” forum featuring Techstars Entrepreneur-in-Residence Chris Heivly and Leslie Miley, Slack’s head of product who also moonlights as Venture for America’s first Executive in Residence.

And, just for good measure, there’s another event focused on female entrepreneurs during the “36|86 Street Fair.” It features Heather Cabot, author of “Geek Girl Rising.”

The agenda for the second day (June 6) is similar with fireside chats that feature Frist, Smith and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and several panel discussions on topics such as raising dollars on main street as well as Sand Hill Road and the impact of 3D printing on the future of manufacturing.

Wednesday features four workshops under a common theme – growth. The topics for the concurrent three-hour sessions are “How to CEO,” “Win Your Client’s Inbox,” “No-Cost Marketing,” and “Get Revenue Right.”

To see the current agenda, click here.

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