By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
From the venue and the presenting companies to the attendance and a “next level” announcement, last Thursday’s “Jumpstart Foundry Investor Day” showcased why Nashville is a national hotspot for entrepreneurship.
The event was held in the Concert Hall of the world-class Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a venue that seats 1,844 people, and it was more than half full at the start. Over a roughly four-hour period, attendees heard pitches from nine companies completing the 14-week process as well as an update from InvisionHeart, one of the 2013 participants and some critically important announcements.
“Nashville is the capital of the New South,” a jubilant Vic Gatto said. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Jumpstart Foundry, in essence the individual who decided five years ago to bring the accelerator concept to the South.
“We have the best platform in the best city in the best region in the best country,” Gatto declared.
When Jumpstart Foundry was launched, there were only a handful of such accelerators across the country. The Nashville program became a charter member of the TechStars Network.
Today, there are about 2,500 accelerators, but Jumpstart Foundry is considered one of the elite programs, having been named number 14 in a national analysis conducted earlier this year.
“We called in some favors and asked people to give back,” Gatto said of the early effort. As he thanked a number of people in the audience, he also offered a teaser: “While the last five years have been great, I’m more excited about the future.”
Later, Jumpstart Foundry’s Co-Founder Marcus Whitney put a big exclamation point on Gatto’s excitement about the future.
“As of next year, we are going to be investing $100,000 per company,” he announced. That’s nearly seven times the current investment of $15,000 in each participant and reflects Jumpstart’s intent to move further up the ranks to what might be called the super elite, a group that includes YCombinator and TechStars. Both recently announced increasing their investments in each of their accelerator start-ups to $120,000 and $118,000 per company respectively.
Gatto noted that Jumpstart Foundry has graduated 37 companies since its founding and recruited 132 mentors whom he described as “in the prime of their careers.” One-half of the graduates have raised follow-on capital that averages $800,000 each.
To celebrate the importance of its mentors, Jumpstart Foundry presented its first ever “Uber Mentor Award” to Julia Polk, well-known in the Nashville entrepreneurial ecosystem and the Founder of New Ventures Consulting.
Finally, in another statement on the program’s continuing evolution, Whitney announced that Jumpstart Foundry is going to a year-round format rather than going mostly silent for several months after the annual “Investor Day.”
This expanded programming includes the launch of a new initiative called CHARGE. As described on its webpage, CHARGE is a vehicle to tell stories that “instigate conversation, education and realization about the true path of the creative entrepreneur.”
The first CHARGE event is set for November 14 in Nashville.
For a list of the nine companies that pitched on Thursday, click here.