One of the best opportunities for startup companies in the country, not to mention the Southeast, is fast approaching. It's a chance to win a $100,000 investment in your business by making the winning pitch to an all-star panel of investors and entrepreneurs at this year's Southland conference - the Southeast's premier conference dedicated to technology, entrepreneurship and Southern culture.
Slated for June 9-11 in Nashville at Marathon Music Works on Clinton Street, the second annual Southland conference promises to beat - by at least a factor of 10 - last year's highly successful inaugural event. This year's all-star speaker lineup includes former vice president turned entrepreneur Al Gore, as well as leaders of some of the biggest and brightest in the tech sphere, such as the president of PayPal and the CEO of Evernote. These are just a few of the exciting names that will be present and will be in good company alongside many great musicians, artisans, distillers and BBQ connoisseurs - all the right ingredients for a proper Southern gathering.
But the real stars of the show are the 10 startups that will make their pitch to Southland's panel of investors. This year, we have elevated the pitch competition by increasing the prize package and expanding the contest beyond the Southeast.
So, if you are the founder of a startup or early-stage company (and haven't raised more than $1.5 million) and you haven't yet applied to Southland - get up right now and do so. Southland is on its way to becoming the top tech conference in the Southeast and what better forum to have your startup be discovered. Don't be one of those folks who will wonder, "what might have happened." There is a pretty enticing offer lying on the table; don't miss out on the opportunity to make a name for yourself at Southland. Take the first step by applying today. Tune your browser to southlandse.com to sign up before the deadline of Tuesday, April 22.
We are accepting startup applications from companies all over the globe to ensure we have the 10 absolute best startups presenting at Southland. And one of these 10 - the best of the best - will win a $100,000 investment, as well as expert business coaching and extraordinary media exposure through our partnership with PandoDaily. This kind of investment and recognition can jump-start a promising company into a successful one.
We're also making the investment transparent. Terms will be negotiated on stage at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in front of a live audience on June 11. So many entrepreneurs are focused on funding, but they do not fully understand the process. We hope this will be a learning experience that helps more than just the winner of the pitch competition.
In addition to an excellent prize package, we are bringing in a panel of top investors and entrepreneurs as judges to attract top startups. Even though only one company can win, the nine others will receive valuable feedback during the pitch competition from industry leaders. The judges include Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Ventures, Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures, Kevin Colleran of General Catalyst, Vic Gatto from Nashville's Jumpstart Foundry and Michael Goldstein of SwitchPitch. The additional four judges will be announced in the coming weeks.
We're also ensuring our judges are engaged by requiring each of the 10 judges to put up $10,000 of their own money toward the grand prize. This personalizes the competition for the judges and will lead to a more meaningful investment in the winning startup.
We would love for Tennessee to be represented in the pitch competition - and we are hopeful that some of our top startups could be chosen - but we put the competitive prize package and high-caliber judges in place to ensure that the most promising startups in the world are pitching at Southland. This benefits all Tennessee startups by giving our local entrepreneurs a chance to learn and perfect their pitches and business models.
In addition to the 10 companies that pitch, up to 50 startups will receive space to exhibit in the Southland Village, the trade show portion of Southland.
The first Southland conference attracted a capacity crowd of over 600 people. With the talent that is attending the conference this year - both as speakers and attendees - early-stage companies will have prime opportunities to make important connections and advance their startup.
Don't miss a chance to be a part of this unique technology and startup conference - and to win $100,000. See you at Southland!
Charlie Brock, who lives in Chattanooga, is CEO of Launch Tennessee (www.launchtn.org), a public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in Tennessee with the ultimate goal of fostering job creation and economic growth.