Chattanooga's CO.LAB CEO leaves after a year on the job

Lindsey Cox will lead LaunchTN

THUMBNAIL ONLY Contributed photography / Lindsey Cox is the new CEO of CO.LAB.
photo Lindsey Cox, CEO of CO.Lab / Contributed by CO.LAB

The nonprofit business booster CO.LAB is on the hunt for a new CEO for the second time since 2020.

Lindsey Cox, who joined CO.LAB in April 2021, will leave the organization to lead LaunchTN, where she previously worked in Nashville, but she'll have a long transition to ensure there's plenty of time to set CO.LAB up for the future, she said.

"I'm going to be around for several months," said Cox, who will split her time between the organizations beginning in April. Cox spoke with the Times Free Press in a phone interview. "The mission of CO.LAB is very well aligned with the mission of LaunchTN, and that will give me the the ability to do a split transition.

Cox beat out several hundred applicants from the national and local levels, according to an announcement from LaunchTN, which nurtures entrepreneurship statewide.

"Lindsey is the perfect fit to lead LaunchTN into this next phase," said Bruce Doeg, a shareholder at Baker Donelson and LaunchTN's vice chair and head of its recent search committee, via emailed statement. "We had quality applicants from across the country who we considered very seriously for the role, but ultimately, Lindsey's extensive knowledge of and experience working with entrepreneurs and startups made her the obvious best choice."

The chair of CO.LAB's board of directors, Charlie Brock, said in a emailed statement the group will conduct a search through the spring for a new CEO.

"While we are certainly sorry to see Lindsey leave CO.LAB, we are excited for this opportunity for her and look forward to working closely with her as a key partner and a part of Tennessee's unique statewide network of entrepreneur centers," said Brock, who led LaunchTN from 2013 to 2018 after serving as CEO of CO.LAB.

photo Staff photo / Members of the CO.Lab team — Zac Beker, Lya Kimbrough, Kirk Burton and Lindsey Cox — are seen during a meeting about Startup Week in their office inside of the Edley Building on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

When Cox joined CO.LAB as CEO in 2021, she was the fifth person to lead the group in its 11-year history.

CO.LAB was born in 2010 from predecessor organization CreateHere, and it has evolved significantly over the years, sharpening its focus on supporting women and minority founders as well as developing a thriving consumer goods segment.

The organization's most recent past CEO, Marcus Shaw, left in the first quarter of 2021 after not quite four years at the helm of the group that has been a catalyst for Chattanooga's growing startup culture. After stepping into the role in April 2021, Cox oversaw a restructuring of CO.LAB that emphasized programming and communication, and grew the team from four to six.

In her time as CEO, Cox reorganized the structure of the nonprofit entity dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurship and supporting startups as they scale. Cox hired a new director of communications and a new program director. In addition, roles shifted internally on the six-person team to dedicate more resources to operations and community engagement. Cox also launched plans to give CO.LAB funding power to invest in small businesses.

"During her time as CEO, Lindsey has finalized a new strategic plan, strengthened the team with some key hires and brought a revised sense of energy and momentum to the organization," Brock said. "We recently welcomed several new board members, and we all look forward to building on the current momentum and executing on the strategic plan."

The team at CO.LAB and the clear plans the group has in place give Cox confidence the organization will thrive, she said.

"We have a strategic plan in place, a new board for the organization is in place, the 2022 road map of what we want to get done is in place," she said. "Everything is pretty well positioned to execute."

Cox began her career in Nashville, where she worked in the comptroller's office in budget and finance, sparking her interest in economic development work. After her stint in the comptroller's office, she moved to Launch Tennessee from 2013 to 2019, rising to the rank of director of operations and government affairs.

After Launch Tennessee, she moved to Washington, D.C., spending 18 months with the U.S. Economic Development Administration's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, before moving to Chattanooga to lead CO.LAB.

Contact Mary Fortune at Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.