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LaunchTN leverages State, EDA funding to spark Nashville EC and Proof Programs industry networks for Fintech, Consumer Products
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Updated Feb. 6, 2023: Nashville EC CEO Jane Allen announced that fintech veteran Joe Maxwell of FINTOP Capital and Lee Farabaugh, cofounder and president of CORE10, a FINTOP portfolio company will serve as dual entrepreneurs-in-residence for the program. Nashville EC SVP Anthony Ragland is supervising the initiative. Today's EC release here. New ProjectFintech site will be here.

TWO TENNESSEE NONPROFITS launching Fintech and Consumer Products industry networks have won contract funding for their initiatives via Launch Tennessee, which is drawing on earlier funding and awards from the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The nonprofit Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC), which has for nearly a decade been affiliated with Launch Tennessee as a regional entrepreneur center, and is now led by CEO Jane Allen, is launching the financial technology (fintech) industry network. Anthony Ragland, recently named SVP for Connections of the EC, will lead the rampup of the network.

Chattanooga-based Proof Programs, a non-profit affiliated with Proof LLC, will launch the consumer products (CP) network.

Closely allied Proof Incubator (Proof LLC) is led by Michael Robinson, who has previously focused largely on the food and beverage sector. Proof Incubator recently began extending its presence to Green Bay, Wisc., Robinson confirmed.

Lindsey Cox

LaunchTN CEO Lindsey Cox said in a press release today. "NEC has strong connections, a collaborative approach and a wealth of experience needed to lead a fintech boom in Middle Tennessee and across the state. The Proof team brings years of [consumer packaged goods] CPG experience and a deep roster of mentors and experts, who will be instrumental in supporting startups in this industry."

Proof's Robinson said in the same press release, "Tennessee has a rich history in consumer products from Jack Daniel's to MasterCraft Boats, and our hope is to develop a robust network of mentors and big brands to support and help cultivate startups and emerging brands across the state."

LaunchTN describes the CPG sector as packaged goods that are items used daily and require routine replacement, such as food, beverage, clothes, makeup and household products. VNC coverage of Proof here.

Jane Allen

Nashville EC CEO Jane Allen also said in the same release, "We are so excited about being a LaunchTN industry Network Partner and appreciate how they recognize the opportunity that lies ahead for our state and the financial industry. We are grateful for the business leaders that encouraged and supported our proposal and look forward to working collaboratively to support founders who will drive transformational solutions for the financial services industry."

LaunchTN's expectations of contract-bound industry networks were laid out in an RFP last fall, filed here.

LaunchTN's winning 2022 EDA proposal is filed here with further reporting here. LaunchTN's four incumbent mentor or industry networks are listed here. Its broader network is described here. All VNC fintech coverage is here.

LaunchTN's Ashlin Smith, partnerships and development manager, said in the release that the addition of the two new industry networks "allows us to expand the amount of resources and support for startup companies in these industries." Smith added that LaunchTN is continually "building on what we've learned from our current industry partners, so this really elevates services across Tennessee."

During the past decade or so, successive Nashville EC leaders previously weighed a fintech offering of some kind. In that span, a number of Tennessee startups entered fintech accelerators in New York, St. Louis, Little Rock, Charlotte, and elsewhere.

In 2015, VNC reported on local fintech executives' views favoring creation of a fintech accelerator or similar resource in Nashville, reported here.

Joe Maxwell

The Nashville EC was the site of a pro-fintech panel discussion in February 2015, which featured local and regional executives. With guidance from fintech veteran Joe Maxwell of FINTOP Capital and others, VNC produced that program, background here. Bay Area-based FT Partners also supported the event.

According to the LaunchTN RFP issued for these network contracts last fall, the contract selection process -- always contingent on an estimated $3.7MM total State and EDA Build to Scale funding for the pair of contracts -- would involve review by multiple members of the Launch Tennessee team and possible by outside reviewers. Although the contract was aimed from the start toward nonprofit contractors, some for-profit organizations explored the matter.

LaunchTN staff recently told VNC that two nonprofits applied for the fintech industry network contract. The second fintech applicant has not been disclosed.

Proof was apparently the only bidder for the CP/CPG contract. VNC

. last edited 30 January 2023 1710

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Tags: Ashlin Smith, Jane Allen, Launch Tennessee, LaunchTN, mentors, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Proof, Proof Incubator, Proof Programs, TTDC

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