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August 09, 2020 | Tom Ballard

First-ever virtual “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” goes live a week from today

A week from today, the expanded and virtual “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” kicks-off 10 days of programming to share exciting developments underway across the Volunteer State and beyond.

Launched in 2013 under the “Southland” name, the annual gathering in Music City was rebranded a couple of years later as “36|86” to reflect the latitude (36.17) and longitude (86.77) of Nashville. In recent years, the event grew to the point that it outgrew a single venue, and it relocated to the Lower Broad area, hosting concurrent sessions were in four or five music clubs.

This year, however, concerns over COVID-19 caused Launch Tennessee to decide in June to go to a longer, but virtual format. In many respects, it will be the same types of topical sessions, but offered as consecutive panels or fireside-type conversations over 10 days rather than three. There is a theme assigned to each day.

Registration is still open at this link. The daily program will begin at 10 a.m. EDT/9 a.m. CDT, include a break for nourishment on the participants’ schedules, and conclude anywhere between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m. EDT each day.

Late last week, a well-known Nashville singer and songwriter was added to the program. Garth Brooks will participate in a fireside chat on August 20. Ahead of next week, we wanted to be prepared for those “must attend” meetings to cover for, so we scanned the current agenda and noted these program highlights with the applicable theme for the day noted.

  • Monday, August 17 – Health: Four morning sessions on COVID-19 from federal, state and local perspectives as well as the economic impact, then four afternoon sessions on telehealth. The last panel is scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
  • Tuesday, August 18 – Health: Six sessions covering a variety of topics from “Femtech and the Future of Fertility” to “Funding Health and Life Sciences in a Post-Pandemic World” and “How COVID Changed the World of Biotech Innovation.” In the case of the life sciences panel, it will be moderated by Eller Mallchok, Managing Director of Jumpstart Foundry, and feature investors from the three grand divisions of Tennessee: David Adair, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Solas BioVentures in Chattanooga; Navid Farzad, Partner at Frist Cressey Ventures in Nashville; and Jan Bouten, Partner at Innova Memphis. The last panel on Day 2 is scheduled to end at 3:15 p.m. EDT.
  • Wednesday, August 19 – Entertainment: Five sessions including a reverse pitch where executives from music, film, gaming and digital media highlight opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. The programming is scheduled to end at 3:15 p.m. EDT.
  • Thursday, August 20 – Entertainment: Only four sessions currently listed including a “36 Questions With Garth Brooks.” The schedule calls for the last session to end at 3:15 p.m.
  • Friday, August 21 – Culture: Four sessions that include a conversation with Marcus Whitney, Chief Executive Officer of Health:Further and Founding Partner of Jumpstart Health Investors, to start the day and a panel that includes Chris Wilson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chattanooga’s Smart Furniture on the topic of “Safeguarding a Healthy Work Culture in a Remote Environment” to wrap-up the day at 3:45 p.m.
  • Monday, August 24 – Build: Six sessions on topics like “Creating the Policy Environment for Entrepreneurship” and “Democratizing Access to Alternate Capital” plus an annual highlight of the event – the “36|86: Student Edition Pitch Competition.” Because of the last event, it is a longer day with the pitch competition scheduled to conclude at 4 p.m. EDT. Those vying for $35,000 in prizes are: ARMS Cyber from Vanderbilt University; BrantleyMarie Medical Devices Inc. from Tennessee Tech University (TTU; Metris from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK); Shades, another Vanderbilt student start-up; The Beachy Clean, another UTK competitor; from the University of Memphis; WhatNxt, the third Vanderbilt start-up; and Working Women Design Co., the second TTU entrant. (Click on their logos at this link to learn more about each competitor.)
  • Tuesday, August 25 – Build: Seven sessions, with two of the panels featuring Chattanoogans – one on investor relations with Frank Williamson, Founder and CEO of Oaklyn Consulting, and another on building entrepreneurial ecosystems that includes Marcus Shaw, CEO of LAB. There’s also the annual spotlight on the “Innovation Crossroads” program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with Megan O’Connor on Nth Cycle having a discussion with members of Cohort 3. The day concludes with a 15-minute session starting at 3:15 p.m. EDT where the winner of the “36|86: Student Edition Pitch Competition” will be announced.
  • Wednesday, August 26 – Scale: Six sessions that include a conversation involving Eddie George, former Tennessee Titan and current investor and Van Jones, CNN Commentator, entrepreneur, and community advocate plus the “Launch Tennessee Pitch Competition.” Four Knoxvillians are panelists on Wednesday. Bill Malkes, CEO of NellOne Therapeutics Inc., participates in a morning session titled “Grounds for Discussion: Scaling in the Southeast,” while Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer of RDI Technologies Inc., is on a panel, also in the morning, titled “Hot or Not: Sales, Marketing and Fundraising Strategies.” In the afternoon, John Bruck who wears many hats including a member of Queen City Angels and Grady Vanderhoofven, Founder and CEO of Three Roots Capital, are featured on an afternoon panel titled “Funders React to the Post-Pandemic Investment Landscape.” This is the longest day of the two-week series with the pitch competition scheduled to end at 4:15 p.m. EDT. As far as the pitch event, six companies are vying for an $50,000 to $100,000 investment from Launch Tennessee’s Impact Fund, and two of those competitors have been spotlighted several times on They are CPRWrap of Chattanooga which recently captured first place in the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s “Pitch for Good: Black Founders Edition” and Winter Innovations of Knoxville which just completed its first production build of EasyWhip™ needles at its contract manufacturer. The other competitors come from Nashville (eva and Filterjoy) and Memphis (Glanris and SecondKeys).
  • Thursday, August 27 – Scale: Six sessions including one titled “Startup Inc.: Advancing Strategy with Innovation Partnerships” that includes Knoxville’s Cortney Piper, Vice President of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, a member of Launch Tennessee’s Network. Earlier in the day, the winner of the “Launch Tennessee Pitch Competition” will be announced. Programming is scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
  • Friday, August 28 – Culture: Seven sessions including a conversation with Ian Rogers, Chief Digital Officer with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy before the Festival concludes at 3:15 p.m. with a spotlight on Tennessee arts. Knoxville’s Jonathan Sexton, a recently named Partner at Boldsquare, will quiz Rogers.


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