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June 24, 2024 | Tom Ballard

To be a healthy city, you need to grow companies, not just recruit them

That's the philosophy that Sam Davidson brings to his now nearly one-year tenure as CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

“Healthy cities grow companies, not just recruit them,” says Sam Davidson, Chief Executive Officer of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC).

The Co-Founder of Batch Gifts LLC took the helm at NEC a year ago, following Jane Allen. “It’s my first job I didn’t create,” says Davidson, who has launched four start-ups: Onward Strategic Branding, Cool People Care, Proof Branding, and Batch.

Davidson moved to Nashville in the second grade when his father was relocated to the area with HCA. After selling Batch in 2022, he remained involved until the NEC opportunity arose.

“When it was offered, I accepted. It had to be in Nashville,” he says.

Sam Davidson

Familiar with NEC’s brand and mission, Davidson says, “The NEC’s mission aligns with my core beliefs. I’m excited to work with the board, team, and community to support Nashville’s entrepreneurs. I’m committed to cultivating the city’s entrepreneurial spirit and helping the next generation bring ideas to market.”

The NEC’s purpose statement reads as follows: “We exist to make Nashville the best place to start and grow a business by increasing the likelihood of success for entrepreneurs.”

In his first year leading the organization, Davidson zeroed in on three key pillars where he believes the NEC can have the greatest impact.

First and foremost is to “grow the community of entrepreneurs,” he says. Having been a part of four start-ups, Davidson says he can identify with the loneliness that entrepreneurs face, and the NEC wants to help address that reality.

With 704 members that are part of the Center, he’s planning to introduce a new membership structure soon that will provide more options.

“Programming is job #2,” he adds. NEC offers various programs for entrepreneurs at every stage of their growth:

  • PreFlight: An online course guiding first-time entrepreneurs from idea to business plan.
  • InFlight: A 12-week accelerator with interactive sessions and ongoing support.
  • Twendé: A six-month statewide accelerator for founders of color.
  • Project FinTech: A 12-week accelerator for financial tech start-ups.
  • Project Music & Entertainment: Peer-group program for companies with more than $500,000 in revenue or capital.
  • Project Healthcare: A six-month program leveraging Nashville’s healthcare industry for transformation.

The final focus is on capital access. “Are they capital ready? Do they need it? What type of capital is best?” Davidson asks. NEC will facilitate meetings if equity capital is the right fit.

“That’s where we are going for the next three years,” Davidson says.

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