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September 22, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Launch Tennessee’s inaugural Reverse Pitch set for October 7

Launch TN = NewBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Launch Tennessee’s Jill Van Beke describes the organization’s upcoming Reverse Pitch event as “hosting a conversation and facilitating a process.” For those participating, it could be a significant opportunity to build a lasting business relationship.

As the name implies, the three-hour, invitation-only event is the reverse of what entrepreneurs normally expect. Instead of pitching their ideas to potential customers or investors, the entrepreneurs will be sitting in the audience, listening to established companies present specific needs they hope the entrepreneurs can address.

The October 7 session is part of “Start-up Week Chattanooga,” a six-day celebration whose current details were posted last week on The eight presenting companies and the invited entrepreneurs are not limited to Chattanooga.

“AC Entertainment was the first to sign-on,” Van Beke said of the Knoxville-based concert and festival promoter best known for its Bonnaroo event. Launch Tennessee is identifying entrepreneurs from throughout Tennessee that best match the needs the established companies will be presenting.

“The enthusiasm has been incredible,” Van Beke said in relation to the positive responses from presenting companies and invited entrepreneurs.

In addition to AC Entertainment and partner Aloompa, other enterprises that will be presenting are Blackstone, the City of Chattanooga, EPB (Chattanooga), FedEx, Playcore, Smith & Nephew, and Unum.

Van Beke, Launch Tennessee’s Director of Corporate Engagement, said the event is structured so that the eight companies are not direct competitors.

Each presenter will have seven minutes to explain its need and three minutes for Q & A. After all eight have presented, Launch Tennessee will hold an hour-long networking event for additional interaction among the presenters and invited entrepreneurs.

Following the event, Launch Tennessee will host an online submission portal for qualified candidates to pursue each project.

The entrepreneurs who are being invited fall within one of three categories. Some will have an existing or customizable solution that might be applicable to only one of the presenters. Another category of invitees will be those who are experienced in building strong teams. The third group would be entrepreneurs who are adept at applying technology to a business problem.

Entrepreneurs, developers and programmers who are interested in attending can visit to receive more information.

“We think this format is really valuable for all parties,” Van Beke said, noting that it addresses Launch Tennessee’s mission in two ways.

“We want the corporate community to be innovative and source that innovation in part from start-up companies,” she said. “We want our entrepreneurs to focus on what the market needs and, more important, what they will buy.”

Van Beke expects the Chattanooga event to be a beta for a series of Reverse Pitches that Launch Tennessee will host in 2015.

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