TTDC grants $100K to Nashville Entrepreneur Center, names two board leaders
By Milt Capps Updated 3:44 a.m. Jan. 22, 2010
The board of directors of Tennessee Technology Development Corporation today decided to provide a $100,000 grant to the new Nashville Entrepreneur Center and reaffirmed plans to launch a new statewide entrepreneurs network.
Today also, TTDC elected Tom Ballard, who is director of the partnernerships directorate of UT-Battelle, to serve as the TTDC board's vice chairman; and, Dr. Leslie Wisner-Lynch, founder and executive director of the BioTN Foundation, to serve as TTDC's second vice chairman.
TTDC President and CEO Eric Cromwell (at left) said in asking board approval for the NEC grant that NEC has on its own raised $300,000 and plans to have hired its first executive director within 30 days.
Cromwell said supporting NEC is now prudent, in that the organization has gelled as a potential game-changer in Middle Tennessee, affording TTDC the kind of partnership leverage the organization seeks with similar groups, statewide.
Asked for comment this afternoon, Stephanie Pepper, spokesperson for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the NEC, said the Chamber would report its fundraising results soon, but declined to comment on that today. She said a recently formed NEC board committee is addressing the hiring task.
Tod Fetherling, an NEC founding board member and president of Nashville Technology Council, had earlier told VNC that the NEC executive search was proceeding well, and that soon after the NEC board's inaugural meeting, which was held yesterday, a board committee would interview finalists for the leadership position.
As reported by VNC, NEC recently announced that its first chairman is entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Clayton McWhorter, and revealed the 26-person roster of the NEC board.
TTDC today also reaffirmed plans to hold a combined innovation conference and entrepreneurs network kickoff event, May 10-11, here in Nashville.
TTDC has suggested that the planned TEN network will help prepare entrepreneurs for successful business pursuits, and will help build deal-flow to potential angel and institutional investors, including the state's recently chartered and capitalized TNInvestco funds.
Cromwell and other TTDC executives said months ago that TTDC planned in 2010 to "hang its hat" on entrepreneurship, rather than technology transfer and capital formation, partly because the Bredesen Administration has launched bold initiatives in both research and education reform, and the TNInvestco program has become, at least for the moment, the center of gravity in the state's startup universe.
Even so, Cromwell said today he believes TTDC can add value in the state's effort to stimulate research, by working at the "margins" of the new Bredesen program.
Most of TTDC's expanded pro-entrepreneur services are to be provided mostly by units of Tech2020, an Oak Ridge-based nonprofit pro-technology organization that has previously performed entrepreneurship contracted services for TTDC, through the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) of Tech 2020.
During today's meeting, Shawn Carson, director of the CEG, told VNC the CEG tentatively plans to launch a for-profit subsidiary to extend the CEG's pro-entrepreneurial course development, training and consulting to entrepreneurs statewide.
Carson confirmed that if approved by his board of directors within the next two months, the new company – tentatively dubbed Out of the Garage LLC, which is currently the name of a CEG website for entrepreneurs – would launch later this year.
The board also discussed several TTDC contingency plans for coping with various scenarios for continued operation or virtual mothballing of the organization, if the General Assembly and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber find they cannot or will not allocate continued funding for TTDC for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Cromwell told VNC this afternoon that today's board actions reflect "full commitment" to continued execution of TTDC's strategic plan," and that "stewardship" of whatever resources TTDC might have now or in future is always a priority for him and his management group, which he described as purposefully "lean," from the start of the renewal of TTDC two years ago, when the organization obtained $5 million in state funding.
TTDC expects to virtually exhaust its current funding by June 30, except perhaps for perhaps $500,000 that might be set aside to continue operations in some manner, perhaps as a small think-tank focused on tech-driven economic development.