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CEO Davidson updates Nashville Entrepreneur Center priorities, possibilities
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CEO Sam Davidson

EIGHT MONTHS after accepting the tiller of Nashville Entrepreneur Center from predecessor Jane Allen, EC CEO Sam Davidson is weighing 2024 priorities related to revenue growth, team culture and programmatic excellence.

With that in mind, he plans by June 30 to deliver, as previously requested by his board of directors, an updated, detailed description of the "continuum" of EC programs and services that are currently in-place.

The EC board is chaired by Robert A. "Bobby" Frist Jr., founder-chairman-CEO of HealthStream.

The freshly mapped continuum is meant to inform the nonprofit's assessment of its mission, market opportunities, operational planning, talent development, peer engagement, financial planning, etc. -- all of which could feed into a well-informed strategic planning effort in 2025.

Interviewed yesterday, Davidson emphasized that in the 14 years since its roots were planted, the EC has done well as Greater Nashville's population and economy have grown, with the city's most recognized traits anchored in Healthcare, Music and other Entertainment sectors of the "attention economy."

He noted that since the EC's birth in 2010, its board and staff have proven agile in coping with the continually evolving entrepreneurship market.

Now, he added, the EC board and management very much want to continue industrial diversification, as warranted.

As previously reported, the erstwhile Project Music has in recent years migrated toward operation as a peer-to-peer network, rather than an accelerator, and it now encompasses Sports and other segments. There could be further news on that front in the next 12 months.

Going forward, the EC must remain competitive in its level of service, thorough in its assessment and planning, and "nimble" in responding to both economic challenges and well-defined opportunities, said Davidson.

His message about agility was, of course, subliminally reinforced by the realities of the worst years of the COVID19 pandemic and ongoing fluctuations in geopolitical, fiscal, economic, monetary, workforce, supply, consumer and business confidence and other data.

He sequed from agility toward more detailed discussion of programmatic excellence, starting with the need to understand as quickly as possible whether each entrepreneur encountered is motivated to launch a business to address financial "necessity" or entrepreneurial "opportunity."

Yes, less sensitive observers have labeled the same alternatives "desperation" or "inspiration," but Davidson's language sounds more pragmatic.

He explained that programmatic excellence has several anchorpoints:

Community - The EC staff aims to connect or direct in timely, meaningful ways all entrepreneurs it meets to advisors, mentors, sources of financing, and to one another. Davidson stressed that the EC's existing networks -- with, e.g., Corner2Corner -- are essential, and expanding continually. In addition to participating in most EC events personally, he's also steadily building-out his network.

For instance, he participated in the inaugural reception of the Greater Nashville Venture Capital Association and is this week scheduled to visit the Lipscomb University Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Education - The EC offers a recurring set of at least a half-dozen events each month -- most currently with free registration, spanning social hours, free coworking days, lunch-and-learns, panel discussions, presenting specialists and more.

Haley Zapolski

Capital - While the EC currently has no plans to create a Seed fund or to return to the equity-accelerator model it modeled early in the EC's existence, staff are working hard to help entrepreneurs become generally investable through such programs as Capital Connector, led by contractor Haley Zapolski; and, it works with Launch Tennessee and others to set entrepreneurs on a true path toward sources of grants, capital and financing. All such matters are under continual review.

The current EC website provides full information on all these matters, mainly through its directory of Project Fintech, Project Healthcare, PreFlight, Inflight, Twende and other offerings. (See the Programs tag in the homepage pulldown menu for details. A new EC website is due to debut by mid-summer, but all links in the current site are to be protected.)

Dakota Simpson

Related: Davidson said EC VP-Programs Dakota Simpson's portfolio includes some emphasis on alignment of all EC programs and initiatives with service and performance objectives across the platform.

Prompted by Davidson's emphasis on revenue growth, VNC asked for some organizational metrics, and got timely responses from his staff, as follows.

EC Program Manager Wes Richardson reported, "We currently have 187 advisors available to general membership. There are an additional 100 or so mentors available to specific program cohorts such as Twende and Projects Healthcare and FinTech."

The EC currently has "423 different companies within our member ranks and 700 total members. Those numbers do include both paid and gratis," EC Facilities Coordinator Trea McCoy advised.

The CY/FY 2022 Form 990 tax return for the 501(c)(3) EC submitted by then-EC Board Chair Janet Miller, after preparation by accountants with LBMC.

VNC obtained a copy of the 2022 990 last November. As of Dec. 31, 2022, the EC 990 reported total revenue of about $3.28MM, including (among other sources) revenue from membership dues of $337.9K; from provision of education-training services of $297.4K; and, government grants of about $920.3K, a figure which includes an annual grant contract with Launch Tennessee (Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, a subsidiary nonprofit partner of Tennessee Economic and Community Development).

The EC's total expenses for the same period were about $3.5MM.

Total assets on its balance sheet stood at about $5.5MM that year. Net Assets reconciled, revenue less expenses for CYFY 2022: [$201,291]. The 2022 990 is here.

More on 43-year-old Davidson's entrepreneurial career in the announcement of his appointment of the EC here. His LinkedIn is here. The CEO and his family reside in Davidson County. His personal website is here.

Previous coverage of Nashville Entrepreneur Center here (link corrected). VNC

. last edited 21 March 2024 0955 CT

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Tags: Bobby Frist, Dakota Simpson, InFlight, Jane Allen, Janet Miller, Launch Tennessee, LaunchTN, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, PreFlight, Project Fintech, Project Healthcare, Project Music, Sam Davidson, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, Trea McCoy, Twende, Wes Richardson

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