If you're searching for the perfect location for your startup, try Music City.
Cool companies like the entrepreneurial climate in the Nashville area.
The region offers a wealth of resources that support startups. The region’s desirability as a place to live draws both entrepreneurs and talent to make their companies successful.
While the region’s entrepreneurial roots are in its legendary music scene, the Nashville area continues to diversify its economic portfolio. Nearly 30% of Nashville’s economy is focused on health care. And thanks to the prime location, the area is rapidly expanding its presence in both the logistics and distribution industry and tourism and entertainment market.
Nashville’s livability has resulted in significant growth in its population. In fact, between 50 and 60 new residents move to the area every day. This influx provides many opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs. That’s where serial entrepreneur Mark Cleveland saw an opening – and took it.
Cleveland’s new venture, Hytch, is dedicated to inspiring commuters to change the way they view mobility. Driven by the desire to fight climate change and the Nashville area’s growing traffic, the Hytch Rewards mobile app encourages individuals to share rides.
Hytch works with companies that pay their employees to use Hytch Rewards to share rides to work via carpool, vanpool, rideshare or mass transit. In addition, app users anywhere in the country earn carbon offsets that Hytch buys and retires on the participant’s behalf.
Hytch’s rapid entry into the market has been supported by thought-leading organizations, such as CleanTech Alliance, Transit Insight and Middle Tennessee State University‘s Data Science Institute.
“There’s a lot of talent in Nashville,â€ says Cleveland, who was named the 2014 Nashville Entrepreneur of the Year by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Ideas born here can change the world.”
From Lab to Market
The Nashville area’s 24 colleges and universities also serve as incubators for cutting-edge businesses, and many have active entrepreneur programs. In addition, these institutions offer a significant talent pipeline.
For example, Vanderbilt University‘s labs provided the fertile soil that led to the creation of IQuity. Chase Spurlock, IQuity CEO and adjunct assistant professor at Vanderbilt, focused his work on immunology and used RNA to identify autoimmune diseases.
Spurlock founded IQuity in 2015 to leverage this early learning. The company developed and commercialized three RNA blood tests to help doctors make more informed diagnoses and improve outcomes. The company has now evolved to analyzing large population datasets, creating predictive models to find undetected, uncontrolled and misdiagnosed autoimmune diseases.
Spurlock believes the Nashville area has been the ideal location to start a business.
“We’ve had a lot of partners and mentors who have lent their expertise and given their talents,â€ he says. “I would say that one of the most important characteristics of this ecosystem is the willingness to give back.”
Nashville area entrepreneurs can tap into a variety of services through groups such as the Nashville Business Incubation Center, SCORE, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and Launch Tennessee. The network of individual entrepreneurs is also critical to supporting success through mentorship, problem-solving and celebration.
The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is developing a formal entrepreneurial ecosystem. The center strives to connect budding entrepreneurs with the more than 250 entrepreneur support assets in town. The center’s work is focused on making sure information, capital and connections flow freely, which is critical for entrepreneurs from various walks of life to start and grow their business.
“If you build this ecosystem where all this knowledge is housed and people can get to it regardless of their backgrounds or where they live in the city, you will grow your economy because people will stand up and say, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur,’â€ says Brynn Plummer, the center’s vice president of inclusion and community relations. “We’re going to get more cross-pollination and get more cross segments of society to come together. Everyone who has an amazing idea can work on that idea, regardless of who they are.”
Face the Music
The Nashville area has a long heritage in music and entrepreneurship. A program of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and Country Music Association has tapped that heritage to encourage innovation in one of the region’s signature industries.
Project Music brings together music, technology and business leaders to help promising entrepreneurs who want to start companies or launch ideas that will help strengthen the region’s music industry, which has a $9.7 billion economic impact and supports 56,000 jobs.
For 2019, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center chose 16 top startups that are receiving monetary assistance and other support, including connections to numerous music industry leaders and experts. Project Music participants attend programming and industry- related networking events.
The program has drawn talent from outside the region. Five of the 2019 participants live in Nashville, while five live in California, three in Georgia and one from New York City, Washington, D.C., and Vancouver, Canada.