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October 24, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

Techstars: Bringing Tech to Tennessee

The application for the Industries of the Future Accelerator is open until November 29. The program will run March 11 to June 6.

What is one way to get tech start-ups to come to Tennessee and hopefully stay?

A big sum of money, thanks to funding provided by three local organizations,  and a support system through Techstars could do the trick. One of the biggest start-up accelerators in the nation is committed to advancing ideas focused on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, quantum information science, and other sectors of tech.

And, thanks to funding provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the University of Tennessee System, there’s a renewed push this year to attract start-ups based in Tennessee and the Southeast.

Brandon Bruce

With the application for the 2024 accelerator program in Knoxville now open,  Brandon Bruce, the new Managing Director of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator,” recently hosted an Ask Me Anything session. About 40 people joined the call to learn more about the program.

Many seasoned, sophisticated entrepreneurs joined the call. Some of the entrepreneurs that called in were from Silicon Valley and other states on the West Coast, Atlanta, and in the Northern U.S.

Bruce started off the call by sharing everything Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer. He stressed the tight-knit, supportive entrepreneurial environment in Knoxville and Oak Ridge, as well as the opportunities to get in front of local investors and raise capital.

“There’s a big opportunity to get out in front of a lot of supporters and investors to show all the progress that you’ve made over the course of the accelerator and kind of put your best foot forward into the market,” Bruce said.

Techstars was founded nearly 20 years ago, and it coined the term accelerator when it comes to start-up funding. The Knoxville program accepts 10 people, and it runs for 13 weeks from March 11 to June 6.

Bruce said it is difficult to be accepted, but even more difficult once the entrepreneurs get to work.

“It’s about two years of building your business and working in your business all crammed into 13 weeks,” Bruce said.

However, Bruce exclaimed that the pressure is worth it. At the end of the 13-week period, entrepreneurs present their business plans to an audience of people, including bankers and investors who could help their company secure even more funding.

“We have connections in a lot of different industries, and we can get you in touch with people that you need to work with no matter what you’re working on,” Bruce said.

Techstars is a proven model, its had almost 9,000 business founders go through one of its 53 accelerators. Those founders make up about 4,000 companies.

Techstars also has about 20 unicorn companies (a privately owned start-up with a value over $1 billion). All the former Techstars companies combined have about $100 billion dollars in market capital.

The application for Techstars is open until November 29. Apply here.

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