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Startup Tennessee to cultivate more Angel investors, among other goals
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Updates: Warren's start-date on StartupTN work has been corrected, links to final INCITE co-investment materials added and better links to Memphis Research Consortium materials have been provided.- Ed.

STARTUP TENNESSEE, a chapter of Startup America, describes an ambitious action agenda in exchange for payments under its initial contract with the state's Economic & Community Development (ECD).

The contract calls for payments up to $250,000 and its term ends June 30.

By the end of the contract, the state is likely to have more numerous and active Angel investors, business mentors and business-plan evaluation metrics in-place, suggests the contract, which began Nov. 1, 2011.

Michael Burcham

The push is being led by President/CEO Michael Burcham who simultaneously leads the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. He is assisted by Operations Director David Warren. ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty has designated ECD Innovation Director Ryan Gooch as inhouse point-person on the initiative.

In describing his role under contract, Burcham said his aim is to convert an entrepreneur's idea into an "investable story," within 90-180 days, which is the same outcome Burcham seeks within Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

One task highlighted in the contract is that of identifying, cultivating and connecting entrepreneurs with Angel investors statewide; and, introducing Angels to both startup and early-stage investment opportunities.

Other specific responsibilities outlined in the contract include:

►  Develop strategic plans for each of the nine regions, presumably complementing what has already been sketched-out in regional plans recently posted on the ECD website.

►  Document and promote statewide technology commercialization opportunities. (StartupTN links, if any, to impending work by the state-sponsored Memphis Research Consortium have not been determined by VNC - MRC early vision statement is here and an overview provided to VNC on Nov. 6 by Executive Director Russell Ingram is here.)

►  Outline a process and specify criteria for rating business concepts and plans;

►  Develop approaches for developing, monitoring and strengthening entrepreneurial mentor networks statwide (mentors will be functional, financial or startup-oriented, according to documents submitted by Startup Tennessee while pursuing the contract);

►  Provide related training via the state's regional accelerators and online;

In materials submitted to the state prior to securing the contract, Startup Tennessee said it would engage in "fact-based" assessment of startups' management teams, as well as of their business models, financing needs and the rest.

ECD recently awarded funding to nine regional accelerator organizations. Terms of the ECD contract with Startup Tennessee seem neither to anticipate nor rule-out individual regional accelerators or others paying Startup Tennessee for services, in addition to State payments under the contract. Neither does the ECD contract seem to require Startup Tennessee to work with or through the regional accelerators.

[Updated] Separately, ECD this afternoon published final guidelines and an application form for would-be investors and entrepreneurs seeking funding under Gov. Bill Haslam's INCITE co-investment program. See earlier related report by VNC. The co-investment program was designed by ECD and is administered by Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC).

Work performed under the ECD-Startup Tennessee contract is subject to monitoring and evaluation by State agencies, including ECD and the office of Comptroller Justin Wilson. ECD may request reports ad hoc, at any time, according to the contract.

Startup Tennessee's Warren told VNC in October that he began working for Burcham on Startup Tennessee business in Summer 2011. VNC has not yet ascertained the sources of funding for Startup Tennessee operations prior to Nov. 1. A copy of the current ECD-Startup Tennessee contract is archived here.

[Updated: 2:03 p.m. - Burcham told VNC this afternoon that Startup Tennessee is an operating subsidiary of the Entrepreneur Center. He subsequently explained, "We created the entity 'Startup Tennessee' as a program of the EC to share our method of supporting entrepreneurs throughout the state. We then contracted with ECD for some seed funding. Our hope is to attract corporate support throughout the state as well to grow more startups." Our original story resumes here.] Startup Tennessee is referred to in the contract as serving as a chapter of Startup America and as a nonprofit LLC. No such company appears today in the Tennessee Secretary of State's online registry, nor is there a reference in the contract to Startup Tennessee operating as a subsidiary of Startup America. Startup America is not registered in Tennessee, according to the database. VNC


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Tags: accelerators, Angel investors, Angels, Bill Hagerty, co-investment, David Warren, early-stage, economic development, Gov. Bill Haslam, INCITE, Jobs4TN, Justin Wilson, Memphis Research Consortium, Michael Burcham, Russell Ingram, seed-stage, Startup America, Startup Tennessee, startups, StartupTN, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, TTDC

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