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Coronavirus, tornados lead LaunchTN 36|86,
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Update: On March 17, Nashville Entrepreneur Week postponed indefinitely, rescheduling contingent on COVID situation improvement. On March 12, 2020, DIG SOUTH announced postponing its event til July 22-24, 2020.-Ed.

LAUNCH Tennessee, which still very much hopes to convene its annual 36|86 conference this summer, acknowledged today it is considering plans to be executed should its monitoring of the threat of the novel-coronavirus lead to determination that is necessary.

On Friday, March 6, the scheduled 36|86 event was described as "a rip-roaring 'go' for Aug. 25-27," when LaunchTN's Wendy Malloy, manager of communications and public relations, responded to a Venture Nashville query on the matter.

Since then, things have been changing rapidly: VNC research shows that over the past weekend, U.S. and international infectious-disease reports heightened fears the spread of COVID-19 outbreak might eventually be declared a pandemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. In the past week, several infected individuals have been detected in Williamson, Shelby and Davidson Counties.

Since March 5, both South by Southwest in Austin and HiMSS in Orlando followed an unknown number of similar announcements by others nationally and globally, cancelling their legendary events. Myriad Nashville events, including Tin Pan South, have been cancelled or postponed, with decisions on such franchise events as CMA Fest and Bonnaroo yet to surface.

No surprise then that at mid-morning today, Malloy told VNC that while there were no changes in 36|86 status to be announced at that moment, further announcements today are likely.

Mallow subsequently advised that LaunchTN would provide full refunds to paid registrants, should the event ultimately be cancelled. VNC has received no word of any special-called meetings of LTN's directors. This story will be updated, as warranted.

Meanwhile, Sam Butler, the lead for Nashville Entrepreneur Week, set for May 11-13, says he's dealing with finding new venues in the wake of last week's Nashville tornado strikes, which left three key Nashville venues damaged or leveled (the offices of redpepper, Nashville Business Incubation Center, and The Lab).

Butler said he's had encouraging word from owners of alternative venues that other facilities may be available for the event as-scheduled, but he acknowledged that he, with the rest of the world, is watching the coronavirus news as a major threat. He'll make further announcements as soon as they can be meaningful.

Similar challenges are, of course, being faced in many parts of the world.

Relatively close-by, for instance, in Charleston, S.C., organizers of DIG SOUTH 2020 -- set for April 22-24 -- have already signed "99% percent" of their program lineup, but are advising registrants and others visiting their website that the "health and well-being" of all involved is of paramount priority, and further developments, if any, will be announced.

The event draws about 2,000 each year to its core DIG SOUTH event at the city's Gaillard Center, and ancillary events tied-into the main conference, which has about 1,500 registrants each year.

DIG SOUTH CEO Stanfield Gray told VNC this morning that the fact that DIG SOUTH maintains a paid-member platform and conducts smaller events year-round, its model features some resiliency, in that the DIG SOUTH brand "doesn't just go dead the day after" the flagship event. The event draws some attendance from Tennessee and elsewhere in the southeast and beyond, he said.

The annual 36|86 event typically draws more than 1,200 attendees of all sorts. In 2014, its "Southland" predecessor event drew 725 participants.

In October 2019, LTN staff reported to their board of directors that 2019 attendance at 36|86 was level with 2018 numbers. Conference revenues were down largely because of the absence of a presenting sponsor. Staff also reported at that time that, in its 2019 configuration, the event's attendance ceiling is probably 2,000.

As in 2019, the 2020 36|86 event is to be held in a half-dozen venues in central downtown Nashville, which escaped tornado damage.

In its recently refreshed strategic plan, LaunchTN made clear that 36|86 remains an important asset in its portfolio.

The organization has emphasized that its goals include "blazing paths" to capital, investors and corporates. VNC

. last edited 1438 9 March 2020

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Tags: DIG SOUTH, Launch Tennessee, LaunchTN, Nashville Entrepreneur Week, Sam Butler, Stanfield Gray, Wendy Malloy

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