OUTLOOK SERIES PART 9: Additional thoughts from our panel of experts

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks once again to Angel and Venture Capitalists located in East Tennessee for their insights shared over the past eight weekdays in terms of 2018 and 2019. We are very appreciative of their help and assistance with this annual series. This is the final article in this year’s series.)

The final question that we posed was as follows: “Do you have any additional insights or thoughts you would like to share?”

Tony Lettich, Managing Director, The Angel Roundtable: We are optimistic that 2019 will be a strong year for entrepreneurialism in Tennessee and the Southeast. A strong economy, the improving quality of start-ups, increasing cooperation among start-up ecosystem components, and new leadership at LaunchTN which desires to build on the strong success the organization has experienced in recent years should serve all stakeholders well in the upcoming year.

John Morris, Fund Manager, The Lighthouse Fund: The opportunities to grow both capital and entrepreneurship in the region are tremendous. Increased collaboration and support are critical to meeting these opportunities. When compared to 10 years ago, our region as grown. What can it be in 10 more years?

Grady Vanderhoofven, President and Chief Executive Officer, Three Roots Capital: Collaboration and cooperation are two of the keys to success in encouraging economic activity in the form of entrepreneurship and access to capital. As the people, institutions, and companies in this region and the state are increasingly effective and productive in working together, co-investing, and leveraging resources, the opportunities for success will compound and expand. Operating in silos, lack of transparency, insisting on autonomy, and unwillingness to share responsibility and opportunity will increase operational and transactional friction and decrease efficiency and productivity.

Ken Woody, President, Innova Memphis: I’m not sure how many years we have been writing these end of the year capital thoughts for PYA, but it’s fairly easy looking back to see many things that have remained constant and some clear trends. It is challenging to attract capital and follow-on capital to a smaller state in the interior of the country. More investors have come to Tennessee and more have grown up locally. The actions of LaunchTN have clearly had a positive impact on the state, our investors and our entrepreneurial ecosystem. A strong state economy has been great for all involved. Coordinated activity between key players does work to bring in and grow interested entrepreneurs. Finally, it is possible for savvy investors to make a solid return investing in early stage companies. All are great learnings, and I expect to learn more by reading what my peers have to share.

Eric Dobson, Chief Executive Officer, Angel Capital Group: The grassroots wave of entrepreneurship in East Tennessee is here. We are hearing regular conversations about a “cool” company just started and how they will change the world. I am getting regular requests from new investors to engage. I am getting regular requests for meetings with established business folks who want to start or buy a business. Our deal flow pipeline is full with strong opportunities. And, we are seeing a focus on entrepreneurship and angel investing all over the Appalachian Region with meaningful support from Washington. That all signals an understanding at the highest levels of our government regarding the importance of the start-up ecosystem. So long as our big picture economy does not take a major downturn in the next few years, they look bright for start-ups from my perspective.

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