On any given day, Downtown Nashville is buzzing with country music legends and up-and-coming artists who flock to Music City from around the world. But this week, it was Tennessee tech founders and investors who took to center stage.
3686 Festival, Nashville’s entrepreneurial conference hosted by LaunchTN, brought the startup community together at the iconic Wildhorse Saloon for networking and panel discussions on the biggest topics impacting Tennessee businesses today.
Wednesday’s event covered the current state of VC funding, the rise of ClimateTech, the role of financial technology, and how startups are finding talent in a tight labor economy.
This is the 10th year LaunchTN has put on the festival to celebrate Tennessee’s innovation economy. Following the conference wrapping up, these were our main takeaways:
TENNESSEE KNOWS HOW TO SHOW STATE-WIDE SUPPORT
Now, Nashville is certainly the biggest player in the Tennessee ecosystem when it comes to startup innovation. But the 3686 stage showcased innovators from across the state, from venture capitalists in Memphis to venture-backed startups in Chattanooga.
As LaunchTN’s CEO Lindsey Cox said at the very start of 3686, LaunchTN focuses on three main areas: Connection, Commercialization, and Capital. Through its partner network of regional entrepreneur centers, LaunchTN is helping founders get the state-wide support they need to build and grow. That includes recently rolling out a new digital resource hub, growing its investor network, and launching a new statewide technology transfer office.
And that support is now backed by some serious dollars. Earlier this year, LaunchTN announced its $70 million investment fund, InvestTN (you can catch previous Hypepotamus reporting on the fund can be found here).
MUSIC CITY IS A GROWING FINTECH TOWN
Outside of the music and entertainment world, Nashville is known as a hub for healthcare innovation. But it is quickly becoming a city filled with top Fintech talent.
Part of that is a natural expansion of the overall startup scene as new entrepreneurs, investors, and enterprise companies have moved into the area over the last three years. But it is also due to the fact that in 2023, fintech, banking innovation, and embedded payments impacts every industry.
The 3686 panel “what’s next for fintech?” explored the reason why Nashville is a natural spot for financial innovation right now. Rachel Renock and Jamie Ikerd, the two panelists currently working on scaling fintechs, have found success bringing new financial options, embedded payments, or financing options to historically underserved industries.
Now, the city is intentionally laying the groundwork to expand its financial technology footprint. Earlier this year, Project FinTech launched as a nine-month program for early-stage startups working on banking technology, payments, loans, and other areas of the financial services landscape. Its first cohort has brought together founders from across Tennessee, Virginia, New York, Wisconsin, and California.
The city is now also home to FinTech-specific investment firms, including Fintop Capital and several others that invest at the intersection of fintech and healthcare.
Some of the fintech startups to keep an eye on right now include Built Technologies (fintech options for the construction industry), Alto (alternative investment platform), Mozaic (payments for creative teams), Wethos (payments for freelancers), RoyFi (fintech for the music industry), and Rain (earned wage access platform).
NO SIGN OF SLOWING DOWN
Hypepotamus has continued to cover the story of the post-COVID “tech exodus,” as tech workers continue to move into the Southeast and the wider Sun Belt area.
Few cities have benefited more from that exodus than Nashville. Only Austin, Texas saw a higher net migration rate in the early part of the pandemic, according to LinkedIn.
Since then, enterprise giants like Amazon, Facebook and Oracle have moved into Nashville to recruit local tech talent and take advantage of the business-friendly climate.
Those in the startup and venture capital community are following suit. Edison Partners’ Managing Partner Chris Sugden announced this week that the growth equity firm, which has $1.6 billion under management, is expanding into Nashville to keep up with the “booming” local tech scene.
That growth has earned the Nashville region some impressive accolades recently. Not only did Nashville top the list of cities with the hottest job market in the US, it was also fifth on the list of most for most venture capital funding received in Q1 2023, according to available Crunchbase data.
“These are definitely headline worthy stats that we’re starting to see. And the distance between when these are released is shortening. We’re having some incredible coverage and growth here,” Monique Villa, LaunchTN’s Chief Investment Officer, said while on stage this week at 3686.