Revolutionary Region: Nashville's Innovation Renaissance

This innovative area delivers new ideas and breakthroughs.

By
Lindsey Ross
On Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 12:36
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Around the world, Nashville is known as Music City – the home of country music and the place where aspiring artists move to get their big break.

But it is also gaining a reputation as a region of innovation, moving forward in new ways.

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Jeff Adkins

The Perfect Storm

Entrepreneurs thrive in the region, buoyed by a quality of life that offers affordability, numerous housing options and plenty of ways to stay entertained.

“It’s a really great city. The landscape is out of this world, and everything’s here. It’s the perfect storm,” says Bill Miller, who owns a number of downtown Nashville entertainment attractions and made the move from California about eight years ago. “My children were able to buy homes because they’re much more affordable here.”

Some of Miller’s more recent business ventures include House of Cards, an underground dining and entertainment experience that opened two years ago, and Sinatra Bar and Lounge, which is expected to open in 2021.

Along with a high quality of life, the region supports entrepreneurs. Funding is available, and through the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, individuals can find mentoring, networking and specialized programs. Coworking and makerspaces available include the Wond’ry, WELD, Fort Houston-Nashville and Make Nashville.

Many of the region’s higher education institutions offer programs focused on entrepreneurship, such as the Center for Entrepreneurship at both Belmont and Vanderbilt universities and the entrepreneur program available through Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

Sarah Beth Perry, founder of the app With the Band, which allows fans to create and participate in fan projects and meetups, graduated from Belmont in 2019 with a double major in entrepreneurship and music business. It was through her studies that she found out about the line of work that she’s in today.

“I had always been a big music fan, always knew I wanted to go into the music industry, and it wasn’t really until I got to Belmont … that’s kind of when I realized that fan engagement was a job.”

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Courtesy of Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt University

Looking for Cures

While many of the area’s higher education institutions offer programs related to entrepreneurship, the universities themselves are innovative in the lifechanging research that they do.

For example, when COVID-19 began to run rampant across the world, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) teamed up with academic, governmental and corporate partners to develop antibody-based treatments to protect people exposed to the virus.

Dr. Robert Carnahan, associate director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, along with his team, has been studying the blood of COVID-19 survivors to try to find antibodies that will neutralize the virus.

Carnahan says the antibodies they’ve found have been handed off to pharmaceutical companies and are moving toward clinical trials.

“We think they’re very effective, and we think they are the most effective anyone could have gotten to this point,” he says.

Pivoting to Meet Health Care Needs

In addition to VUMC, a number of companies had to rethink their way of business to survive.

SmileDirectClub shifted from aligners to producing face shields, test kit swabs and mask respirators, while local distilleries, like Corsair and Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, used their knowledge to make hand sanitizer.

These products will continue to benefit people because COVID-19 remains a health concern, even though Carnahan expects a vaccine to be available by 2021.

“It’s not that often where the thing you do actually becomes useful to the whole world,” he says. “So it’s been very gratifying.”

If you'd like to learn more about the Nashville area, check out the latest edition of Nashville Area Economic Development