Alex Lavidge

Alex Lavidge has worked with dozens of business startups from Silicon Valley to Europe over the past decade.

But the Knoxville native, who studied entrepreneurship at colleges in Oregon and Iowa and worked on startup businesses in San Francisco and Knoxville before migrating to Chattanooga three years ago, now calls Chattanooga home. Lavidge said the self-described "Gig City" is ahead of most in helping those starting businesses and building what he calls an entrepreneurship ecosystem.

"I've been around startups my whole life, and I've really made a study of what makes a healthy entrepreneurial community. I think Chattanooga is several generations ahead of other communities in the way people here work together and support one another," he says. "The only thing faster than the Gigabit is the rate at which people here seem to be willing to come together and share ideas and ask, 'How can I help?' That is very unique."

Combined with Chattanooga's high-speed gigabit Internet links, central location, low cost of living and scenic beauty, Lavidge believes Chattanooga is uniquely positioned to grow more startups even without the major research universities or labs that have propelled other tech startup towns.

Lavidge traces his entrepreneurial roots to his grandfather, Art, who started the Knoxville marketing agency Lavidge and Associates in Knoxville in 1950. Lavidge began working with entrepreneurs in Chattanooga through his friendship with former CoLab Director Sheldon Grizzle and came to Chattanooga in 2012 to work at helping start Variable Inc., where he worked until last December.

Lavidge headed the GigTank program this summer in Chattanooga and as entrepreneur in residence at The Company Lab is now directing the fall accelerator program to help other startup ventures. At 36 years old, Lavidge says he has found his calling.

"My heart is really to help young entrepreneurs, whether they are just getting started or they are looking for their next opportunity — that's where all the fun is happening," he said. "The challenge is how can we take the magic of Silicon Valley and blend it with Southern hospitality."

— Dave Flessner

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