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March 17, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Launch Tennessee seeking a few great Specialists

LaunchTN 2-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Launch Tennessee is looking for a few great Specialists, up to 30 to be exact.

Thanks to a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Tennessee’s statewide organization focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies is recruiting current college students and recent graduates to help support five accelerator programs this summer and fall.

“We want to get more talented people with our accelerators and start-ups in the state,” said Charlie Brock, President and Chief Executive Officer of Launch Tennessee. “Tennessee’s accelerator programs are already recruiting the brightest entrepreneurs to solve tomorrow’s problems, so we created the Specialist Program to expand those efforts.”

Brock, then head of Chattanooga’s CO.LAB, saw the value of the program firsthand when it was launched as part of the 2012 “GIGTANK.” A year later during a visit to “GIGTANK,” we interacted with several of the Specialists and posted an article on spotlighting the participants and the reasons they applied for the experience.

Now, with Blackstone’s help, Brock and the Launch Tennessee team are expanding the concept across the state. Participating accelerators are “GIGTANK” in Chattanooga, “Zeroto510” in Memphis, autoXLR8R in Tullahoma, Start Co. and its subsets in Memphis, and Jumpstart Foundry in Nashville.

Brock says the Specialists will work in one of two ways. The participants could support the Executive Director of the accelerator in areas such as business planning, early-stage financing, marketing and event planning. Or, a Specialist could be paired with one or more start-ups to work on areas like UX (user experience), UI (user interface) and development research.

“We are in a sprint to run the recruiting process,” Brock says. Applications are being accepted through May 9, and the official start of the Specialist Program is June 9 in Nashville. At that time, the selected participants will work for three days as volunteers at the second annual “Southland” conference.

Then, the Specialists will deploy across the state to join their assigned accelerator program, where they will work until the accelerator’s Demo Day.

Specialists will receive a $2,000 stipend from Launch Tennessee along with what Brock describes as “location specific offers from each (accelerator) program.”

In spite of the compressed recruitment schedule, Brock is enthusiastic about the quality of the applications Launch Tennessee is receiving.

“Three of the first 10 applicants were from MIT,” he said in referencing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We also have already received many from Tennessee.”

In addition, Launch Tennessee recently conducted a “virtual recruiting fair” with students at the Georgia Institute of Technology and will use the same approach to connect with prospective Specialists at other universities.

Brock cites several benefits of the Specialist Program, starting with helping address the goal of recruiting top talent to Tennessee.

“These students or recent graduates will be an enormous asset to our accelerators,” he notes. By giving the participants a great experience, Brock hopes many of the Specialists will decide to stay in Tennessee or return after graduation.

Even if they do not, he says the students become evangelists for Tennessee, a state whose profile is rapidly rising in national entrepreneurial circles.

More information about the Specialist Program, including a link to the application, is available here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is an Emeritus Board Member of Launch Tennessee.)

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