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January 11, 2018 | Tom Ballard

LaunchTN selected for new “Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network”

Launch TN Stars(EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m an Emeritus Member of Launch Tennessee’s Board of Directors.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Good news for Launch Tennessee and the entrepreneurs in the state who are advocates for strong public policies that encourage more successful business start-ups.

In an announcement yesterday, the statewide public-private partnership announced that it was one of six grant recipients from across the country selected to form the first-ever “Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network.” The group, which also includes the national Bunker Labs organization that has a chapter in Nashville, is focused on removing barriers to new business creation and entrepreneurial success by improving public policy at the state level.

A key impetus for the effort is the desire to get already time-challenged entrepreneurs more engaged in the policy debate. I know first-hand from my days doing government relations for the University of Tennessee that legislators were most influenced by the interest and concerns of their constituents – voters from their district.

The Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City but focused on the nation, is well-known for a menu of activities that it does to champion entrepreneurship. Our readers in Knoxville may recall that the City of Knoxville collaborated with several local organizations to host Kauffman’s fourth-ever “Mayor’s Summit on Entrepreneurship” during the community’s inaugural “Innov865 Week” in 2016.

In yesterday’s announcement (LunchTN_Kauffman Award), Lindsey Cox, LaunchTN’s Director of Operations and Government Affairs, said the organization was “thrilled to have additional resources from the Kauffman Foundation to bolster our work advocating on behalf of Tennessee entrepreneurs.”

Over the past few years, LaunchTN has worked with key executive and legislative leaders, as well as other associations like Life Science Tennessee, to secure authorization and later first-ever funding to match federal dollars coming to Tennessee start-ups through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. LaunchTN also worked very closely with state leaders to craft the “Angel Tax Credit” program.

“In our experience, entrepreneurs and policymakers are enthusiastic about reducing barriers to entry for new businesses and creating new jobs,” Cox said. “This grant funding will enable us to facilitate the right stakeholder conversations that advance those common goals.”

Among other actions, Kauffman expects grant recipients to: (1) identify state policies that inhibit entrepreneurship; (2) educate policymakers about the impact of those policies in erecting barriers to entrepreneurship; (3) build support for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship generally; and (4) facilitate informational interactions between policymakers and entrepreneurs.

In addition to LaunchTN and the national Bunker Labs organization that has 16 chapters in addition to the one in Nashville, the other recipients are:

  • Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (DBA 1871), home of nearly 500 early stage, high-growth digital start-ups and more than 1,500 members;
  • Enterprise Center of Johnson County, a non-profit venture development organization that promotes job creation and economic development by providing education, mentoring and connections to capital for entrepreneurs in the Kansas City area;
  • Metropolitan Economic Development Association, a Minneapolis-based organization providing capital, business consulting and procurement solutions to minority entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to scale and increase their impact on their community; and
  • Venture Hall, an educational non-profit in Portland, ME, designed to provide students, entrepreneurs and organizations the skills and support they need to build high-impact, innovative solutions to challenging problems.

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