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August 06, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Launch Tennessee announces resignation of Van Tucker, appointment of Abby Trotter as Interim CEO

(EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s been a switch in the top leadership at Launch Tennessee, the public-private partnership with a vision to make Tennessee the most start-up friendly state in the nation. In an executive session Friday afternoon, the organization’s Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Van Tucker as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) following not quite 14 months, first as Interim and then in the role permanently. Then, the organization named Abby Trotter as Interim CEO. She is the long-time Executive Director of Life Science Tennessee. Because Tom Ballard, Editor and Publisher, is a member of both the Launch Tennessee and Life Science Tennessee Boards, we are running the official announcements as submitted rather than writing a separate article as we would normally.)

News Release Issued by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today that Van Tucker will step down from her role as president and CEO of Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN).

LaunchTN is a public-private partnership that focuses on supporting the development of Tennessee’s entrepreneur ecosystem, with the ultimate goal of fostering job creation and economic growth. Tucker became LaunchTN president and CEO in Dec. 2020 after being appointed interim CEO in July 2020 and serving as chief operating officer prior to that time.

Effective immediately, the LaunchTN Board of Directors will begin a national search to fill this leadership role in the organization. Bruce Doeg, LaunchTN board member and shareholder, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, will lead the Search Committee.

In the interim, the Board has appointed Abby Trotter as interim CEO. Trotter is a founding partner at Hall Strategies, a Nashville-based, independent public and government relations firm.

“Van has been a valuable asset to the LaunchTN team, and her leadership has made a great impact on Tennessee’s entrepreneurial landscape,” Rolfe said. “I have enjoyed working and collaborating with Van during her time at LaunchTN and wish her the very best. I have confidence that Abby will make this a seamless transition as LaunchTN continues its mission to encourage entrepreneurial growth in our state.”

“Working daily with such a dedicated and talented Board, staff – and along TNECD and our many network partners – has been a highlight in my career,” Tucker said. “Since joining LaunchTN our team has brought Tennessee’s innovation ecosystem to an important phase where we need to capitalize our growth and opportunities. I look forward to assisting in the transition and being a continued supporter of advancing Tennessee’s innovation economy and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Following the growth seen with Tucker’s leadership, LaunchTN will continue to build on its vision as Trotter assumes responsibilities.

Trotter brings considerable experience and familiarity with LaunchTN programs to the interim CEO position. In addition to her role at Hall Strategies, Trotter serves as the executive director of Life Science Tennessee and BioTN, both LaunchTN programmatic partners. Through Life Science Tennessee, she has been a key champion of the state’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund, administered by LaunchTN.

“I am humbled to take on the role of interim CEO of LaunchTN, an organization whose mission I am deeply committed to,” Trotter said. “I look forward to working with LaunchTN’s talented staff to continue to serve our Network Partners, industry partners and entrepreneurs to build companies that create high-wage, high-tech jobs in Tennessee.”

Statement from Life Science Tennessee Chairman Paul Fitzpatrick.

Following the above announcement, Life Science Tennessee Chairman Paul Fitzpatrick sent the following email to the organization:

“As you might have seen, today the Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) Board of Directors announced the resignation of Van Tucker as President and CEO. They have selected Abby Trotter, LST’s executive director, to serve as interim CEO while they begin a search process for a permanent leader. They are engaging Hall Strategies to help manage this transition. Abby is a champion not only for the life science industry in Tennessee but also for other technology-based economic development and programs. I know she will be a great steward of LaunchTN during this transition period.

“In terms of our organization, Abby will remain executive director of LST and advise LST’s executive committee and staff on our initiatives and upcoming events, including LSTCON this November. Though you may be hearing more from me or Sara or Danielle, LST will maintain its role as the voice for the industry and activities to support life science companies of all sizes and all stages of development across the state without disruption.

“We thank Van for her leadership and partnership during a challenging time for our industry and entrepreneurs. You can read more about the LaunchTN leadership changes in the attached release.”

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