By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Brandon Bruce is one of those individuals who is full of ideas and, when he sees a need or gap, he’s generally ready with a solution.
Two of his latest initiatives are a new website named StartupTN and a related event – “StartupTN Demo Day.” In many respects, the website is an outgrowth of the Startup Knox website that Bruce and John Bruck launched about nine months ago.
“The organizing principle is regional,” Bruce explains. “That’s the way people look at our state.”
As such, StartupTN spotlights seven ecosystems from the Appalachian Highlands area (Northeast Tennessee) to Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cookeville, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis. There’s also a page for the entire Volunteer State.
For each region, the site begins with what Bruce calls a “first stop” – the local entrepreneur center. The landing page for each region also includes the area’s “Big Event,” a listing of media sites that cover entrepreneurship, accelerator programs, pitch competitions, “hot start-ups,” angel and venture funds, large companies, and links to other informational resources.
Bruce asked and answered his own question about the gap he believes StartupTN fills. “As an entrepreneur in Tennessee or as an investor or entrepreneur looking at Tennessee, it is a resource. You can take a tour of each region and see what’s there.”
Noting that “the information took some time to pull together,” Bruce credits the individual entrepreneur centers for helping provide the initial data. Now, just like with the Startup Knox site, he’s hoping that founders of start-ups across the state will submit information about their companies for the StartupTN Directory. They can do so at this link.
“It’s a quick reference guide for entrepreneurs and investors and supporters,” he says of the website.
The “StartupTN Demo Day” will not be a pitch competition, but rather an “opportunity for start-ups to show what they do,” Bruce explained. He compared it to the August 2019 inaugural event for the Knoxville Technology Council (KTech) of which he is a Co-Founder.
In a 2019 teknovation.biz article about the KTech event, he said, “I want attendees of the launch event to see live demonstrations of technology that they can’t see anywhere else.” That’s the same format – no panels or breakout sessions, just nonstop demos by the best start-ups in the State of Tennessee – that he envisions for the August 17 “StartupTN Demo Day.”
The presentations will be pre-recorded, but Bruce expects the presenters to be online for Q&A. There will also be entertainment and networking opportunities.
Bruce says he learned the value of this more in-depth way of showcasing a company as Co-Founder of Cirrus Insight, the seven-year old company he exited in 2019 after a significant growth equity investment from Clovis Point Capital LLC (see teknovation.biz article here). Explaining the details of technology can go a long way toward closing sales.
Bruce also cited two other significant benefits for the format.
“When you’re starting a company, you really need opportunities to show what you’re building and get feedback early and often,” he said. Bruce hopes the format will help Tennessee start-ups to get broad exposure statewide and beyond.
In addition, he cited the benefit of learning from people in other parts of the state. As an example, Bruce mentioned the Memphis 800 Initiative that he became aware of during an event. That knowledge led to the launch of a modified version of the program designed to support minority entrepreneurs. It is called 100Knoxville (see recent teknovation.biz article here).
Bruce says he has no idea how many people might participate, noting the “best case scenario is it’s overwhelming.” That comment reminded me of the famous Mae West quote – “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”