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Nashville, TN’s Startup Scene Gains National Prominence

Find out how Nashville's tech startup scene has become an overnight success after years of development.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on May 17, 2016

Nashville, TN
Nashville / Brian McCord

A convergence of talent, industry growth and resources is transforming Nashville into a top city for technology jobs, as expansions in its entrepreneurial ecosystem and fiber network create more opportunities for growth. Businesses of all sizes are fueling growth in Nashville’s tech sector, which has increased 68 percent in employment over the past decade. IT firms such as ServiceSource, Asurion and LPS Integration continue to grow, while new software and digital media startups are putting down roots in the city. One firm experiencing rapid growth is Change Healthcare, a health-care technology company formerly known as Emdeon, that provides software and analytics, connectivity, communications, payments, consumer engagement and workflow optimization solutions for health-care systems nationwide.

The company operates the Intelligent Healthcare Network – the single largest financial and administrative health-care network in the U.S. The network reaches approximately 750,000 physicians, 105,000 dentists, 60,000 pharmacies, 5,000 hospitals, 600 vendors, 450 laboratories and 1,200 government and commercial payers, and brings actionable data, analytics and insights to providers throughout the health-care ecosystem.

“Our new brand better reflects the way we serve our customers, as they seek partners who can deliver insights and solutions that lead to better business decisions,” says Tom McEnery, chief strategic marketing officer.

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center plays a major role in launching startups specializing in digital media and entertainment, social enterprise and health-care IT, along with helping these entrepreneurs gain access to venture capital. The city also keeps the talent pipeline strong. Tech recruitment initiatives include WorkIT Nashville (workitnashville.com), sponsored by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and local partners, and Nashville Technology Council’s We Build Tech (webuildtech.com). The nonprofit Nashville Software School offers a boot camp for entry-level Web developers, and a new Iron Yard campus provides accelerated training for entry -level front-end and back-end developers.

Expanding the Tech Landscape

Nashville native Sam Lingo, president and CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC), has watched the city create a welcoming environment over the years that embraces startups as well as existing companies.

“Our vision at the Entrepreneur Center is to be the best place in America for entrepreneurship,” Lingo says. “There’s a lot of really powerful young talent who are creative, driven and wanting desperately to make a difference.” Belmont University senior Channing Moreland and her friends started EVAmore, an online marketplace that connects students booking entertainment for college events with bands looking for venues to play. Moreland was one of the youngest participants of the EC’s recent 14-week Project Music Nashville accelerator for music technology startups.

The experience helped her gain the confidence to pursue her dream. “One of the biggest things we learned was not to wait, just get started as soon as possible,” Moreland says. “You never know who you might meet or what you might learn if you just jump right into it.”

College graduates represent a key demographic driving Nashville’s entrepreneurial scene. The area retains about 60 percent of the 17,000 students graduating from local colleges and universities each year. Nashville’s creative, vibrant culture also draws entrepreneurs from surrounding cities.

“The talent is coming first, followed by the capital,” says Alex Hughes, the Nashville Area Chamber’s vice president of talent attraction and retention. “They come because they like the city and the quality of life it offers.” New projects bringing high-speed Internet connectivity to Nashville are further boosting the potential of tech- related entrepreneurship in the area. AT&T and Comcast are adding ultra- fast fiber optic services, and Google Fiber has started construction on its 3,200-mile gigabit network that will make data downloads 100 times faster.

“I’m really excited for what it will do for Nashville, particularly for the growing entrepreneur community and the music and entertainment industry,” says Martha Ivester, Nashville’s Google Fiber manager.

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