What is 36|86?
A Launch Tennessee production, 36'86 gathers startups, business leaders, media and strategic investors for a celebration of southern entrepreneurship and southern culture. The event is June 8-10.
Tickets are still available and open to the public at three price points: $249 for individual, $1,000 total for five-ticket block package and $1,500 for 10-ticket block package.
36 finalists will pitch their companies, four of them from Chattanooga:
Feetz: Shoe manufacturer that uses 3D printing technology to personally fit shoes to customers.
PriceWaiter: Digital technology that allows customers to negotiate prices through bidding, on retail items sold through websites.
RootsRated: Media platform that connects users with outdoor experiences, hand-picked by local outdoor retailers and their networks of local experts.
ZipFlip: Phone-application car sales tool that facilitates safe and warrantied transactions.
Chattanooga has more finalist companies than any other city in the state in one of Launch Tennessee's biggest annual events aimed at connecting Southern startups with investors.
Feetz, PriceWaiter, RootsRated and ZipFlip are among 11 Tennessee companies and 36 Southeast companies to be selected for 36'86.
The pitching and networking event intentionally focuses on Southern startups, giving them exposure and bringing investors from other parts of the country to them.
"Access to capital can be a challenge in this little corner of heaven," said Tim Kelly, ZipFlip's chairman and CEO. "It's a great environment for startups, but it's not exactly Silicon Valley in terms of capital."
Sixty investment firms have committed to be at the Nashville event scheduled June 8-10. The investment groups include Correlation Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners from California; Brand Foundry Ventures and Battery Ventures from the Northeast; and GE Ventures and Comcast Ventures.
RootsRated, which is looking to raise $2 million in Series A funding for its media platform about outdoor attractions, is focused on connecting with venture capitalists who have experience investing in and helping scale media-oriented companies, said Fynn Glover, the company's co-founder and CEO. "Exposure to high-quality investment partners to continue growing is our primary purpose" for being at the event. RootsRated was a 36'86 Southern Series winner ahead of the final event.
Each of the 36 companies will have a chance to pitch, with the winner taking home $36,000.
PriceWaiter, which has created a digital tool that allows buyers to bid to pay less for products online is looking forward to having a platform to speak. "We want as many people as possible to hear about it," said Andrew Scarbrough, the company's chief operating officer. "36'86 gives us ... a megaphone to speak to a broad audience, in our home state no less."
The event's power doesn't come from the dollar prize, said Charlie Brock, CEO of Launch Tennessee, a public-private economic development group producing the event. It's much more about "education, awareness and networking for entrepreneurs -- whether they're in our group of 36 or not," he said.
LaunchTN has organized sessions on branding and building technology talent, for example. More than 40 speakers are featured including Tugce Ergul, co-founder of Angel Labs, and Chris Murdock, co-founder of iQTalent Partners. National media, including Entrepreneur magazine and TechCrunch, will be participating.
This is the third year LaunchTN has hosted the event, formerly known as Southland, but not without controversy. Last year it partnered with PandoDaily, a Silicon Valley technology blog, to produce the event. LaunchTN ended its relationship with Pando, opting to produce this year's event without it. Pando filed a lawsuit early this year against the organization claiming it had partnered with TechCrunch in breach of contract. Pando dropped its legal complaint in February, after the two settled.
Pando is hosting Pandoland in Nashville, the week after 36'86. It features 10 startup finalists from around the country and has a wider focus than 36'86's scope of the Southeast. Three are from Tennessee, with none based in the Chattanooga area.
Pandoland is expected to run much the same way Southland did, said Memphis native Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in-chief of PandoDaily.
Brock said the split allows for LaunchTN's event to pay more attention to Southeastern companies in an intimate setting. "Her mission is different."
Chattanooga names and faces beyond the startups are part of 36'86: Lamp Post Group and Chattanooga Renaissance Fund are sponsors, and there are several Chattanooga speakers, including Kristina Montague from Jump Fund and Cordell Carter from Tech Town. Chattanooga Whiskey will host tastings.
The competition includes companies from seven states and the District of Columbia. Tennessee also has more startups than any of those geographic regions. Ten Chattanooga startups applied to be finalists.
Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.