Startup Tennessee comes to Chattanooga

Startup Tennessee comes to Chattanooga

November 17th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Local - Breaking News

Michael Burcham, serial entrepreneur and former Hospital Corporation of America executive

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Charlie Brock

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The head of Startup Tennessee spoke to Chattanooga rotarians today about his plans to organize the various startup accelerators throughout the state into a coherent force.

Michael Burcham, serial entrepreneur and former Hospital Corporation of America executive, said the goal is to unite the disparate efforts currently under way, bringing structure to the typically structure-free world of entrepreneurship.

By forming a stronger voice, people with ideas can more easily find people with money to back them, including out-of-state investors, he said.

"Together, we speak with a much louder voice," Burcham said. "We need to have system that's strong enough so that outsiders see that Tennessee represents a great opportunity."

The Company Lab, which has served as Chattanooga's startup accelerator, recently received a half-million dollar state grant to expand its efforts from Hamilton Counties to the entire 10-county region.

Charlie Brock, who will split his time between Company Lab and Four Bridges Capital, along with current Company Lab head Sheldon Grizzle will lead the effort to establish a "front door" for entrepreneurs in the area, Brock said.

Brock, who is also a founding partner at the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, brings relationships from the world of capital investment, while Grizzle is coming fresh off the 48-hour launch startup event.

The two-phase plan to organize startup accelerators in Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville should be complete by mid-2012, while plans are already in motion to coordinate industry events, Burcham said.

"In today's market, it's very important that we organize together," he said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.