By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Sheldon Grizzle is back to doing what he really likes to do – being an entrepreneur and being able to pursue his start-up passion in his adopted hometown of Chattanooga.
We first profiled him a little over a year ago, just ahead of the launch of the 2013 “GIGTANK.” The latter program is managed by the CO.LAB which evolved from “SpringBoard,” a mid-2000s initiative that Grizzle agreed to lead for a short period while the family sold its house.
At the time, he did not expect to remain in Chattanooga, but he did and played an integral role in the community’s widely recognized entrepreneurial initiatives. Now, some six years later, Grizzle has passed the torch at CO.LAB to serve as Managing Partner of Spartan Ventures (SV).
“SV is the investment and commercialization arm of Spartan Systems,” he says. The latter is a software and product development company that not only consults with clients, but also develops its own products.
For the Florida native and Covenant College graduate, the new undertaking allows him to take his skills as an entrepreneur, investor, connector, and mentor to help start-ups, as well as Spartan Systems, grow. The formula capitalizes on Spartan Systems’ niche in “building scalable technology” and Spartan Ventures’ philosophy to be what Grizzle characterizes as “a long-term strategic partner.”
“We are looking to partner with entrepreneurs who have deep experience . . . domain knowledge in a given space,” he explains. These individuals and their start-ups would benefit from Spartan Systems disciplined approach to developing and implementing efficient processes and products.
“The way we can partner is by discounting Spartan Systems’ consulting rates in exchange for equity,” Grizzle says.
Spartan Ventures is targeting B2B (business-to-business) rather than B2C (business-to-consumer) start-ups.
“I’m really fascinated with verticals that are not sexy, but are going through massive levels of innovation and automation” Grizzle says. One such example is healthcare.
“The stage of the company is not as important,” he explains, but adds, “I think we will have more success with early stage, maybe seed stage companies, to help them build a scalable model, but we are also working with several companies who are post-Series A funding.”
For an early stage company, Spartan Systems can help manage the always critically important cash flow as it develops a product. For a more seasoned company, Spartan’s SWAT approach might be what is needed to ensure resources are appropriately allocated to scale the business and product.
Spartan Ventures is place agnostic. It has two investments each in New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, DC and Chattanooga – ReadyCart and WeCounsel.
“We will grow slowly and intentionally,” Grizzle explains. There is also a strong community focus and continued ties to CO.LAB,
“I plan to pick one or two of this year’s ‘GIGTANK’ companies and be a mentor,” he says.
As Spartan Ventures grows, Grizzle says he will be guided by positive answers to two questions: “Can we bring real value to them? Can we bring expertise to them?”