Good News, Bad News for Startups in Nashville

I often struggle with being in Nashville. Don’t get me wrong, as I am very grateful for many of the benefits that it offers in terms of family and community. But I miss the free flow of ideas and expertise that exists in the Bay Area. I remain as involved as possible in the startup community here, mentoring at Jumpstart Foundry and frequenting the Entrepreneur Center. I often act as a connector here, helping people find resources in Nashville that will help them succeed.

But mediocrity is pervasive here. I fight it as much as I can by staying positive and focusing on the passionate and driven people that are here. I have a group of friends that I call my expatriate traunch, folks that arrived in Nashville around the same time and face the same love/hate relationship with Nashville that I do. Many of them are on their next opportunity search, combing through Nashville companies in hopes of finding something that will match their horizons and skills.

I had coffee this morning with one of my Jumpstart mentorees from last summer. She announced that she has decided to move to San Francisco to launch her company, and that is the good news and the bad news. It is good that she has continued to put her time and energy into her company, trying to solve a problem that no one else has seen. It is also good that she, as an ISTP (arguably the same as Steve Jobs), will be surrounded by more folks that want to change the world instead of talk about football. Finally, she will be much closer to an ecosystem of small, fast-moving supplier and manufacturing companies that are much better fits for her business than the more traditional companies here in the southeast.

However, it is bad for Nashville and for me. I want to see Nashville as the place for companies like hers to hatch, grow, and prosper, connected to resources that are receptive to pre-revenue startups. Her decision leaves a hole in my heart, one that can only be filled by focusing on the ones that are still here and growing. One way to do that is my involvement in Jumpstart Foundry.

Jumpstart will be up and running soon with its 2015 class, albeit with several changes. It is good that it will be offering $100K for accepted teams, but it is with sadness that it will be focusing on healthcare. I understand the focus and would make the same decision if I was in charge. Nashville has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to money, experience, and connections in healthcare and for maximum impact, we need to concentrate on our strengths.

However, it means that companies outside of healthcare will find Nashville less desirable. My broad experiences in technology and other industries is perceived as less valuable, particularly in the services side of healthcare that is so common here. If healthcare is in my future and if Nashville can become a healthcare innovation center, my strong preference will be on the consumerization of healthcare. That is the only slice that I see as interesting and potentially world changing, which is why I want to go to work every morning — to do something that has never been done before. Stay tuned.

Categories: Technology

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