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Launch Tennessee selects Lindsey Cox as its next CEO

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) has a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and she is a person who is very familiar with the statewide organization.

In a called meeting yesterday afternoon, the LaunchTN Board of Directors voted unanimously to hire Lindsey Cox as the new leader of the public-private organization. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I am a member of the LaunchTN Board.) Cox currently serves as the CEO of CO.LAB, the Chattanooga entrepreneur center that is a member of the LaunchTN network. Her selection for the latter position was announced last April 1.

Prior to relocating to Chattanooga, she spent 18 months working in Washington, DC with the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). That role followed a little more than six years in progressively more responsible positions at LaunchTN. When Cox left for EDA, she was Director of Director of Operations and Government Affairs.

Lindsey Cox

Cox will become the fifth CEO of LaunchTN in about 42 months. After Charlie Brock served in the position from January 2013 until late October 2018, he was succeeded by Margaret Dolan who served for less than two years before resigning, effective June 30, 2020. Dolan was succeeded by Van Tucker, first in an interim role and from December 2020 to early August 2021 as permanent CEO.

Following Tucker’s resignation, the Board turned to Abby Trotter, a founding Partner at Hall Strategies and also Executive Director of Life Science Tennessee and the BioTN Foundation, to fill the position on an interim basis. Trotter made it clear from the outset that she had no desire to be considered for the role on a permanent basis and maintained that stance throughout the search process.

Trotter has agreed to continue working as LaunchTN CEO with a gradually decreasing time commitment as Cox begins transitioning to full-time by July 1.

Bruce Doeg, Vice Chair of the LaunchTN Board and Chair of the Search Committee, said that Stanton Chase, the search firm engaged by the organization, sourced 370 individuals before working through a process that produced four finalists. One person withdrew before interviews began.

Here is the news release about the new CEO issued by LaunchTN.

Nashville, TN —  LaunchTN is pleased to announce Lindsey Cox as its next CEO. Currently serving as CEO of Chattanooga’s The Company Lab (CO.LAB), Cox has been a long-time employee and partner of LaunchTN. She began her career in the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of State Government Finance before transitioning to entrepreneur development at LaunchTN from 2013 to 2019, rising to its Director of Operations and Government Affairs. 

Cox’s experiences leading entrepreneur stakeholder organizations and initiatives at the national and local levels elevated her to the top of several hundred applicants. Her naming concludes a six-month, nationwide search garnering hundreds of applicants. The search engaged dozens of leading stakeholders for the organization, including entrepreneurs, investors and leadership at the state’s entrepreneur support organizations.  

“Having been a part of the LaunchTN team in the past, Lindsey is very familiar with the organization and brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. I am confident that Lindsey will excel as CEO as LaunchTN continues its mission to promote and support Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and chairman of LaunchTN’s board of directors. “As LaunchTN transitions in leadership, I would like to thank Abby Trotter for her hard work and commitment serving as interim CEO for the past seven months. Abby has set the organization up for tremendous success, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with her as a strong network partner and advocate.”  

Cox also served as director of LaunchTN’s flagship conference, 36|86, in 2018 and 2019 leading a push to bring dozens of compelling speakers and a wealth of content to the event, marking its transition to a highly anticipated, nationally recognized , multi-day meeting for startups and investors in Tennessee and beyond.  

“Lindsey is the perfect fit to lead LaunchTN into this next phase,” said Bruce Doeg, a shareholder at Baker Donelson and LaunchTN’s vice chairman and head of the CEO search committee. “We had quality applicants from across the country who we considered very seriously for the role, but ultimately, Lindsey’s extensive knowledge of and experience working with entrepreneurs and start-ups made her the obvious best choice.”  

After departing LaunchTN in 2019, Cox served an 18-month stint at the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship as program manager of the agency’s Build to Scale program supporting entrepreneur support organizations across the U.S. before she moved to Chattanooga to lead CO.LAB.   

“I am eager to bring what I have learned as both a LaunchTN granter and grantee back to the organization as its leader,” said Cox. “This is an exciting time for economic growth in Tennessee. Launch TN has a tremendous opportunity to increase our capacity for further job creation and to foster innovation for Tennesseans in every corner of our state.”  

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