Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA Live, brought to you by Insperity; inspiring business performance, coming to you today from Downtown Nashville, Tennessee where we have a big audience of innovators and business leaders. And our topic today is 4 days of entrepreneurship and southern hospitality scheduled to take place here in Nashville June 4th through the 7th. I’m talking about 36|86 and I’m very pleased to have as my guest the President and CEO of Launch Tennessee, the organization putting on 36|86, Charlie Brock.
Charlie: Thank you.
Russ: So let’s start right from the top, tell us about 36|86.
Charlie: Okay, thank you first of all Russ for being here; thank you and your team, we appreciate y’all choosing Nashville for this event and helping us promote what has become the marque conference in the Southeast now for entrepreneurs and investors and the most fun; southern hospitality right? So we started this 4 years ago. First off, Launch Tennessee is a statewide organization that fosters entrepreneurship across the state and our vision is really to make Tennessee the most startup friendly sate in the nation, not just in the southeast. But part of doing that is helping connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need; investors, business opportunities, human capital.
And we started this 4 years ago to really put a focus on not just Tennessee entrepreneurs, but southeastern entrepreneurs. So we’ll feature 36 of the top startups form around the southeast region, last year we had 8 states represented in the pitch competition and we invite a national audience and national thought leaders and innovators and entrepreneurs to talk about their journey and share that with southeastern entrepreneurs. But really the focus is about how can we add more value, more networking, more awareness education for Tennessee and southeastern entrepreneurs.
Russ: Wow, so I detect a little passion in there, is this like a mission that the leaders, the governors said Charlie we want you to do this or did you say put me in coach, I want to do this.
Charlie: Well they were great. They set us up 4½ years ago and said go figure it out. They were really our early venture funder if you will. We often say – and we’ve got a great team and a number of folks represented here and we say we’re a startup helping startups and we got some of our funding from the state of Tennessee. We also – we’re public/private so we get additional funds as well but they said we’re willing to roll with you to go be innovative and try different things. So we started this in 2013 and now it is the largest such conference in the southeast and we’ll bring in – we had 168 investors last year including 100 different firms, 36 of those firms came from outside the southeast region.
So it really has become – you know our pitch – and we’ll be out in California in 2 weeks with some of Tennessee’s startups and we’ll meet with a lot of investors and we’re having a 36|86 party out there as well, we’ll have a couple hundred people there from California, from San Francisco there – and our pitch has been come to Nashville for 4 days of fun, you’re going to see great companies not only from Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville, but also from Tampa or from Atlanta or from Grenville and then you can figure out where you need to be coming back and spending more time. But obviously we hope they’re going to do that in Tennessee and the relationships that we’ve been able to build through this conference has been incredible.
People often compare us to the South by Southwest which is conferenced in your home state (04:14-Russ: right) in Austin. And it is because it’s so much fun, we really try to promote southern culture and have a great time. So we’ll have music at night, we’ll have hot chicken and barbeque and even some Tennessee whiskey samples and that kind of thing.
So the night time is a great event and then we also very intentionally set this up right next to CMA and Bonnaroo. So actually we use that CMA – we’re finalizing a partnership with them right now – and we try to get people to stay in Nashville for the week and go attend CMA or if you want to go 60 miles east and go to Bonnaroo and hang out at Manchester Farm, we’ve had folks do that as well. So it’s been a great draw to take advantage and say come here for a great tech conference and then stick around in Tennessee and have some fun.
Russ: My goodness. Okay so you talk about South by Southwest; you visited Austin and talked to those people down there, are they nice to you or do they think you’re a competitor?
Charlie: No, they’re fine; they’re not worried about us just yet. A couple more years and we’re on the way. No, they’ve been great, they’ve been very supportive. We’ve had them at our conference, they’ve been on a panel before; they’re very supportive of what we’re trying to do here. Now we have not invited Texas Startups to this because we do draw the line there in terms of southeast – we don’t follow the Southeastern Conference rules in terms of Texas being part of that.
Russ: Well that’s new; you might have accepted that too. Well that’s good, I mean there is such a cool relationship between Texas and Tennessee; there’s this thing, you sent us Davey Crockett about 180 years ago. We both have a UT football team that’s orange.
Charlie: That’s right, one’s a little better than the other right now wearing beautiful orange out of Knoxville but that’s okay.
Russ: Okay, but even George Strait, once he accumulated all those exes in Texas, he came to Tennessee too, right?
Charlie: That’s right; he had to get out of Texas.
Russ: That’s right. Okay, well this is really exciting. So this one it’s going to be the biggest ever, I mean so far?
Charlie: Right, yeah; that’s the plan. We’ve got some great speakers, we’ll be announcing some more next week. You know it’s interesting you talking about Texas and how we support each other, one of our speakers this year is Steve Case and he was the Founder of AOL back when the internet was – everybody remember you’ve got mail and you remember the discs that you got? Some of you weren’t old enough to get mail at that point, but some of us were and we got the disc in the mail and plug in (Russ: lots of discs actually) – yes, yes, and it was really slow and you had to not be on the phone while you’re putting in your disc so you could get the internet; remember those days?
Russ: Yeah, and then you heard that sound.
Charlie: That was Steve Case and so now he runs a venture firm based in D.C. called Revolution Ventures which is the largest venture fund outside – that’s not based on the coast and he’s all about the rise of the rest. So basically being the rest everywhere but California and New York. Now we love our friends from California and New York, we want them to come here, we want them to invest their dollars in our startups, but it also – the point is that great startups can come from anywhere today and we want that to be Tennessee. And obviously Austin, Texas has done very well in that regard so really there is some sense of brotherhood if you will across the middle part of the country, and to say how do we ban together and support each other and we show that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley or in New York City to build a great company.
Russ: Really cool, so what’s the venue? Where is this going to happen?
Charlie: The venue is the Symphony Center which hopefully all the Nashville folks here know is a great center. And it’s an incredible venue, it can hold 1200 people in there and they’ve got some great breakout rooms – there I go again. They also – we were talking about the fun, the music, the barbeque, the whiskey tastings and all that – the plaza right outside the Schermerhorn. The main program is Monday and Tuesday June 5th and 6th, so at the end of the day on Monday we all get out of the main stage and go out onto the plaza and that is fantastic.
And that’s where we’ve got pop up shops and the music and the barbeque and all that. We also, one of our speakers is a guy named Jay Rogers who’s an incredible entrepreneur who’s building the world’s first 3D printed car plant and so it will produce 3D printed cars and it’s actually in Knoxville, Tennessee where he’s building it near Oakridge National Lab so he can have access to some of the resources and research that’s taking place there, and then he’s also building one in Phoenix. Anyway, he’s going to be one of our speakers talking about part of the theme is how the southeast is innovating in traditionally strong industries for this region and obviously manufacturing is a huge heritage industry for the southeast and now a lot of that going to additive manufacturing.
So Jay will be talking about that and his plant is incredible. We’re also – fingers crossed still at this point – that we’re working with the city that we can have a little track set up and we can have the 3D printed car where people are taking test drives. But you have to buy a ticket to get a test drive. So come to the conference, have some barbeque, drive a 3D printed car, what more could you ask for Russ?
Russ: All right, no it sounds complete now. So you’re attracting more investors maybe than any of these conferences have. You’re attracting entrepreneurs but they compete and get whittled down to how many?
Charlie: We’ll have hundreds of applications from around the southeast, we’ll select 36 that to be part of what we call Village 36 and they get to exhibit and they get to do speed pitches over the course of the 2 days of main programming. And they are speed pitches because nobody wants to sit for 10 minute pitches from the 36 different companies right? And so we intersperse pitches with the content – with Steve Case or Bill Frist or Jay Rogers or whomever is telling their story – and then there will be 6 finalists that are selected and they’ll pitch on Tuesday afternoon to judges who will then award a $50,000.00 prize that comes from Launch Tennessee. And last year, just to give you a sense for that, the judges included partners from GE Ventures, from Google Ventures, from Andreesen Horowitz which is based in Silicon Valley, a large early-stage funder; so incredible lineup of judges who are choosing the winner.
Russ: Okay, really impressive. Have you chosen the 36 already?
Charlie: No, not yet. Applications are open, we’ve got some great teams’ applications from all 12 southeastern states where we take them in from plus D.C. We’ll finalize – the applications close March 15th and then we’ll announce the village in early April.
Russ: Okay, you’re telling me if somebody’s watching or somebody in the audience here has an idea
Charlie: Yes, you have a month left, just under a month.
Russ: Okay, and so how do they do that?
Charlie: Go to 3686south.com and click on apply for Village 36.
Russ: And do you have some guidelines on how it helps to get chosen?
Charlie: Well it’s early stage companies you cannot – you can have raised up to $5 million in capital, obviously you have to be based in the southeast; high growth, you have some traction whether that’s you’ve got some investment, you’ve gotten some early customers, you’ve got users and so that’s what we’ll be evaluating. And then we have judges from around the southeast and a couple from outside the region as well who are selecting the 36 companies.
Russ: Okay, really cool. So I got that picture; investors will be there, entrepreneurs, but it’s open to the general public to come too?
Charlie: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, we’ve got general admission tickets, we also have investor tickets and we have a VIP ticket; we’re doing something really cool where we’re having special Q & A sessions with some of the keynotes. And then we also have an incredible VIP party in Downtown Nashville with some great music that will be a part of that on Tuesday night; kind of a closing party. So we do have different levels of tickets available so we encourage you to buy early and buy often.
Russ: Charlie we really appreciate you spending time with us and telling me, it sounds real exciting.
Charlie: Thank you. Well we’ll have to see you back here in June.
Russ: All right, I think we will be.
Charlie: Thanks to Insperity for their support of this.
Russ: Absolutely, you bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Charlie Brock, the President and CEO of Launch Tennessee and the guy that’s running 36|86. And this is BusinessMakers USA Live.
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