While working in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C, New York and Washington D.C. as a financial analyst and later as a development director for a diversity training program, Marcus Shaw usually would make annual visits to his brother-in-law in Chattanooga and saw the transformation of Chattanooga into the "Gig City" over time.
"Coming here once a year, usually on the fourth of July, we saw phenomenal changes over time in Chattanooga and saw what an attractive and dynamic city Chattanooga was becoming," the 40-year-old Maryland native said. "As an analyst following telecom stocks, I also was very intrigued by EPB's success in Chattanooga in delivering fiber optic service to the entire community — a major disruption for this industry."
After typically spending an hour and a half each day commuting to work in Washington, D.C., from suburban Maryland, Shaw said he and his wife were anxious for a change. Chattanooga seemed an ideal choice to relocate to last year when his wife — a board-certified dermatologist — landed a job with Chattanooga Skin & Cancer Clinic.
Shaw spent most of the past year traveling for his previous job in Washington, D.C., as senior director of business development and partnerships for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that coaches and trains minority business students to land jobs in corporate America.
But last week, Shaw took on a new job in his new hometown as head of The Company Lab, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into growing businesses. Shaw succeeds Jack Studer, who has served as interim executive director for Co.Lab since last October.
Rick Hitchcock, the chairman of Co.Lab's board, which spent nearly a year searching for a new head for the business accelerator, said Shaw "has an extraordinary range of experience dealing with the issues that face entrepreneurs.
"The board is confident that, under Marcus' leadership, Co.Lab will dramatically increase its capacity to help entrepreneurs imagine, build and grow successful startup businesses," Hitchcock said.
The Company Lab in Chattanooga, one of the state's most successful business incubators, is unique in that it works with new community-based small businesses as they get started as well as nurturing high-growth businesses often seeking a piece of the global market.
Few accelerators work with both types of startups, but Shaw said Co.Lab. has been successful because the city is trying to support both types of ventures with a variety of incubators, accelerators and venture-capital funds.
"Chattanooga is an extraordinary entrepreneurial environment where Main Street businesses and high-growth, venture-backed businesses can develop in tandem," Shaw said. "Co.Lab will help entrepreneurs build businesses that promote inclusive economic growth in Chattanooga and expand the city's impact in the global innovation discussion."
For the past three and a half years, Shaw helped grow a national coaching and mentorship program for hundreds of underrepresented minority business students to prepare them for success in business.
As a financial analyst earlier in his career, Shaw learned the value of a diverse portfolio for success.
"I spent a lot of time in the investment world, and diversification is the cornerstone of value," Shaw said.
Businesses with more diverse leadership also tend to perform better. Co.Lab has worked to nurture a diverse array of businesses and entrepreneurs, and Shaw said he is eager to build on the 9-year-old history of the nonprofit.
"This is an accommodating city that offers a great lifestyle and a surprising diversity of cultures and people for a city this size," he said.
Over the next few months, Shaw will lead a strategic planning process to identify key priorities and opportunities for Co.Lab in the future.
Shaw's career provides a rich experience to lead Co.Lab. He worked for a decade in equity research and investment management, as well as serving as the head of tech, media and telecom research for an investment adviser focused on policy and regulated industries, among other positions of leadership.
His extensive experience working in the investment world will enable him to provide key insights to high-growth startups working to raise capital and commercialize their products regionally, nationally and globally.
Studer, who is working with Shaw during a leadership transition, said he is staying in Chattanooga and will continue in various community and business roles, including as a partner for the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund and chairman of the Erlanger board of trustees.
"Chattanooga's startup scene will benefit immensely from the leadership and experience Marcus will bring to his new role," said Studer. "His background in the investment realm and his track record for helping startups through the various stages of maturity position this organization to meet critical, growing needs in the local startup environment."
Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6340.
› Started: Formed in 2008 as a project of CreateHere
› Mission: Nonprofit startup accelerator supports entrepreneurs in Southeast Tennessee through counseling, training, mentorship, seminars and pitch competitions
› Programs: Co.Lab accelerator, CoStarters, GigTank, Talk Shop Tuesday, 48-hour launch, Will It Float? 24Hour Generator
› Location: Co.Lab moved from Main Street into the first floor of the Edney Building at 11th and Market streets in 2015. The Edney is the anchor of Chattanooga’s Innovation District
› Budget: About $1 million a year from government and foundation grants, donations and fees for services
› Staff: 12.5 full-time equivalent employees
› CEO: Marcus Shaw
Members of the public are invited to a meet and greet event with Marcus Shaw, above, on the fifth floor of the Edney Innovation Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Light hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.