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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
June 12, 2013 | Tom Ballard

“Southland” attracts large crowd, receives rave reviews

SouthlandThey were dressed in everything from tee shirts and shorts to, in a few rare cases, suits with ties, but they all came for one reason – to talk about and celebrate entrepreneurship in the South.

The venue was the first day of “Southland,” a two-day convening held at the Cannery in Nashville. More than 650 people registered for the conference organized by LaunchTN.

Attendees came from many states with a strong contingent from Tennessee and groups of investors and speakers from the East and West Coasts.

East Tennessee was well-represented among the attendees and had eight companies included among the 45 featured in the “Southland Start-up Village.”

The eight companies were Do 5 Things, Vendor Registry and Voices Heard Media, all from Knoxville; and AudiencePoint, Banyan, Quickcue, Skuid and Variable, all from Chattanooga.

“I’m very impressed,” said Suzanne Shelton, Chief Executive Officer of the Shelton Group that spawned Do 5 Things. “They did a really good job of packaging what is uniquely, authentically Tennessee and the South.”

Shelton noted that she attended and spoke at 25 conferences annually. “The quality of the speakers and the pitches is as good or better here,” she added.

Brian Strong and Chris Van Beke of Vendor Registry agreed that the caliber of the start-ups was high.

“Nashville has such a cool factor about it,” Van Beke said of the venue and event.

Their company is in a unique niche. While Vendor Registry was not seeking funding, it did use the event to network with venture capitalists for the future.

We also talked with Alex Lavidge of Knoxville, Business Development Manager with Variable, who was equally enthusiastic.

“It’s encouraging and inspiring to have an event planned by and for entrepreneurs,” he said.

One of the more profound statements of the day came in the opening keynote speech.

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get the other things you want,” said Gary Swart of oDesk.

The event continues through early afternoon today.

For more coverage, checkout Southern/alpha (, Nibletz (, and Venture Nashville (

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