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November 03, 2013 | Tom Ballard

“The TENN” in California for an exciting week

The TENN(EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated to reflect a change in the location of “The TENN” this week.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“The TENN,” including Knoxville start-ups Vendor Registry (VR) and Survature, are in the Bay Area of California for what promises to be an exciting and hopefully very productive week for the entrepreneurs.

That was the assessment of Brian Strong, VR’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), when we caught-up with him late last week ahead of his Saturday flight to San Francisco.

“I really feel that we’ve been accelerated,” Strong said about the whirlwind of activities that he and Chris Van Beke, Vendor Registry’s other Co-Founder, have experienced over the past two months since their company was selected for the “master accelerator” initiative.

For those who have not read previous posts about “The TENN” on, a panel of out-of-state venture capitalists selected the state’s 10 most promising start-ups during a late August pitch competition. Each company was a graduate of one of the nine regional accelerators funded in part by Launch Tennessee.

Since their selection, the company leaders have participated in an initiative described as an “accelerator on steroids.” Organized by Launch Tennessee, they started with a week-long, statewide tour with stops at major corporations and have continued with a variety of training programs as well as regular sessions with one or more “master mentors.”

“They are on top of us all the time,” Strong said in complimenting the Launch Tennessee team and the mentors whom he described as “top notch.”

In Vendor Registry’s case, Strong and Van Beke have benefitted from four mentors. They include Oak Ridge serial entrepreneur Vig Sherrill; Launch Tennessee board member Marci Harris, CEO of POPVOX, who has arranged several meetings for the duo while they are in the Bay Area; Julia Polk, a well-known individual in the Nashville entrepreneurial community who is Senior Vice President – Early Stage Venture at W Squared; and Daniel Ryan, another Nashvillian whose expertise in developing user interfaces has been extremely helpful.

“‘The TENN’ has been really great,” Strong said. “It has exceeded our expectations.”

As far as the initial few months, Vendor Registry’s CEO praised all of the training he has received – from making pitches to understanding financials – but he was particularly impacted by “The Rockefeller Habits” training.

“You never feel like you’re making progress, because there’s so much ahead,” Strong said in explaining how “The Rockefeller habits” helped him better understand the natural progression of a fast-growth start-up.

In the week ahead, “The TENN” participants will be based at the headquarters of Bloodhound, a 500 Start-ups company, according to Charlie Brock, President and CEO of Launch Tennessee. In addition to individual visits for the entrepreneurs, the activities include a half day at Google and a reception in San Francisco.

Strong and Van Beke return to Knoxville on Saturday.

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