Starting a company is often a solitary journey. Until they have enough traction to hire their first employees, founders tend to spend much of their time working alone. A little support for a young startup can go a long way, and that’s where community initiatives and organizations can make a tremendous impact.

Today’s episode of the Igniting Startups podcast takes an in-depth look at how Nashville startups are disrupting industries and scaling quickly. Our two guests are Brynn Plummer and Clark Buckner, staff members at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (Buckner is also co-founder and chief creative officer of Relationary Marketing). The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs with the critical resources needed to create, launch, and grow a business.

Following the release of the “Grit and Growth: The 2018 Tennessee Tech Census Report” and the NEXT Awards, hosted by Nashville Entrepreneur Center, honoring local entrepreneurs and companies, my guests and I sat down to hear from the founders of several successful Nashville Startups.


Learn from these Nashville Startups and Entrepreneurs:

  • Scott Borchetta — Founder, President and CEO of Big Machine Label Group, the No. 1 independent record label in the world and home to superstars such as Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire.
  • Michael Burcham — An executive coach, entrepreneur, and investor with 30 years’ experience leading healthcare organizations. Currently CEO of Narus Health
  • Ron Samuels — Founder of Avenue Bank. An experienced leader, executive and marketer and has been a banker in Nashville for 43 years.
  • Betsey McQue, founder of Hurdl — Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s Music and Media Startup of the Year  
  • Jerry Bostelman, CEO & Founder Vaco — Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s Intrapreneurial Company of the Year

In LIVE episode recorded at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, you’ll learn:

  • How entrepreneurial organizations like the Nashville Entrepreneur Center can help founders create winning business models.
  • Why interpersonal networks are crucial when it comes to fundraising, and not just for Nashville startups.
  • How Nashville startups invest in company culture to gain a strategic advantage.
  • The many ways investing in public transportation empowers entrepreneurs.
  • How to tap into your city’s unique business landscape for startup success.
  • Major forces and circumstances that attract people to tech hubs.
  • The kind of content you can expect from the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s upcoming podcast.

Please enjoy this conversation with Clark Buckner and Brynn Plummer from Nashville Entrepreneur Center!

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.

Quotes from Nashville Startups and from inside the Nashville Entrepreneur Center:

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Companies, organizations, and Nashville startups:

Nashville Entrepreneurial and startup career development organizations:

Nashville Entrepreneur Center Award Ceremonies:

Nashville Universities:

Podcasts with with other Nashville startups and entrepreneurs:

Nashville entrepreneurs and other people mentioned in this episode:


What stood out most to you in this episode of igniting startups?

For me, it’s why interpersonal networks are crucial when it comes to fundraising.

You? Leave a comment below.


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Episode Transcript

Instead of hiring necessarily for the skill set, or for an attitude

there were days where I’m laying in bed. It’s like why are you laying in bed? With to worry?

I think the entire backbone of entrepreneurship is really knowing how to have a sound business model that scales. And that’s the hardest part of all.

Hey, Powderkeg fans, you’re listening to Episode 64 of powderkeg igniting startups, the show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators building remarkable tech companies decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And today, I have a very special episode because I’m in Nashville, Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee, y’all. Howdy. Hey. And I have two very special guests, who I’m going to introduce you to in just a second. But first, let me tell you why I’m here. Our team drove down from Indianapolis at our headquarters in Paris powderkeg headquarters in Indianapolis down to Nashville to launch our first ever state wide tech census report. And that is in the state of Tennessee, covering four cities. And the biggest sample set by far was Nashville. And so we came down early. Last night, we came down last night because we wanted to make it to the annual next awards, which is Nashville’s annual celebration of entrepreneurship. And it’s really a signature event for the Nashville entrepreneurs center or the AEC, as you might hear us talk about in this episode. And so I’ve got two special guests today. And I’ll introduce them at you know, as I mentioned in just a minute, but what let me tell you a little bit about what we’re going to do, we’re gonna have a little bit of a discussion, because our guests actually had the chance to interview some of the winners of the next awards last night. And so we have those clips, sort of like the cream of the crop some of the very best clips from those backstage interviews. And we’re going to play them here for you in a very curated sort of way and have a little bit of conversation about them, pairing some of the tech census data from the report, as well as some of the stories that our two guests today have seen working through the Entrepreneur Center and in Nashville. So today you’re going to hear from not only our two guests, but you’re going to hear from Scott Borchetta, who you might have heard that name before because he’s the founder, president and CEO of big machine label group. And they are the number one independent record label and they are the home to superstars like Taylor Swift. I actually think that was their first artist, Florida, Georgia Line. Reba McIntyre, just an incredible list. So you’re gonna hear from Scott, you’re also going to hear from Michael Burcham, who is a dear friend of mine, and I would consider a mentor. I met him many many years ago. And Michael is an executive coach and entrepreneur, serial entrepreneur, and an investor with 30 plus years of experience leading healthcare organizations. You’re going to also hear from Ron Samuels, who is an experienced leader and executive marketer and has been a banker in Nashville for 43 years, he was the founder and CEO of Avenue bank. And then you’re gonna hear from two of the award winners for their companies. So Betsy McHugh, the founder of hurdle, who won music and media startup of the year, and then also Jerry bossman, CEO and founder of vaco, who won intrapreneurial Company of the Year. So we’re going to hear all of that and more on this episode. So let’s just dive right in. And let me introduce our two very special guests. First off is the co founder of relation airy marketing a turnkey podcast production agency. At the same time, as working with Nashville’s entrepreneurs center, he also works with cool clients like Jack Daniels, I’m gonna have to talk to him about that. And he also contributes to the team at the Nashville entrepreneurs center, helping with a ton of their digital including an upcoming podcast called navigate which we’re gonna get to talk to talk about a little bit in this episode. So first of all, Clark, welcome to the show, Mr. Clark Buckner.

Thank you so much. We’ve got you here in the studio, man. We’re so happy to host you here.

Dude, this is impressive. Is this your creation? Right? So

it’s we’re here in the Nashville entrepreneurs and everything inside the room relation area, which is kind of like a made up word. But we we’ve outfitted the whole place all custom built furniture, all the best mics, we got some great Auralex foam panels. And we just we want to create an atmosphere where we can hear stories connect. And that’s why we’re here today.

You’re coming through loud and clear. And I want to hear more about that. But first, let’s introduce who is sitting next to me and across from you here in the studio. And this is the vice president of inclusion and Community Relations at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. She’s helping to foster access to support for entrepreneurs as well as tapping into some of the estimated entrepreneur groups in Nashville. She’s been at the ISI for about two months, and was previously with Teach for America, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. But it’s the national nonprofit that prepares leaders to teach in order to interrupt educational inequity. Brynn has an amazing career and she’s got an awesome perspective. So please help me welcome to the show Brynn Plummer,

yay. reppin 336, Greensboro, North Carolina. So Tim Nashville

two months and at the AEC is, what is the What’s your biggest takeaway so far?

I spent so much time in Nashville. I’ve been here about seven years. And I spent a ton of time in Nashville being really steeped into one system in Nashville, which was education. And coming to the AEC has really blown my mind wide open to all the different things that make a national such a great place to live. And also a place that has a ton of potential that hasn’t been tapped yet. And I also learn new acronyms every single day. MVP, most valuable player also minimum viable product. Hey, guys, I’ve learned here at the AEC look at you. Yeah, we’re coming up on the

learning curve. Yeah, absolutely. So entrepreneurs are obviously very important. They are a primary listener here at powderkeg igniting startups. And we’ve got a really cool show. Today, I’m excited to share some of these interviews that Clark did backstage last night. Bryn, can you tell us a little bit first, though, what Nashville Entrepreneur Center does

sure we have a pretty singular mission that hasn’t really changed since we started. We help people create, launch and grow businesses here in Nashville, we see ourselves as the front door for entrepreneurs in Nashville. And we really take that seriously. We have a 20,000 square foot space here, and people come through it all the time to get access to resources and people. And then we also really have thought really strategically about the different supports that people need at different stages, and their entrepreneur community. So we have everything from navigation, which I’m over, which is someone calls us up or emails us and says I have a business plan, but I don’t have access to funding, how do I get there. So someone who’s pretty early stage, or maybe has like a pretty small technical issue that they’re coming up against, to pre flight, which is for someone who’s really looking to vet and see if their idea is viable. So someone who’s pretty early in their process, to in flight, which is for folks who are my product is up and running my project is my dream is becoming a reality before my eyes. I have 123 full time employees up to $150,000 in revenue, but I’m really looking to scale this thing. And then we also really hand folks off to other programs that are a little bit different that are industry specific project music, which is a huge industry in Nashville, for folks who are very specifically looking at that industry. And then project healthcare, which is our other big portfolio project were in Nashville I don’t know if you know, is home to like, probably one of the biggest health care industries in the world, home of HCA Hospital Corporation of America, which is one of the biggest hospital chains in the in the world and in the US specifically. So those are our two big portfolio projects.

Yeah. And something I’ve always surprised by his music everyone thinks, you know, we said howdy just a moment ago, everyone thinks the country music and the music scene. So like a $10 billion industry big. But healthcare is like $40 billion economic impact bigger, it’s a lot bigger. So brand saying we’ve got maybe anyone can be connected through the ECU, this ecosystem in Nashville. But if you also have some interests and healthcare music, we have the programs to plug into that. Yep.

That’s really cool in terms of the the industries and I know we’ll get a chance to dive into this in the show a little bit. What kind of successes have you seen here in Nashville in terms of like those startup technology company successes?

We heard the CEO, our CEO from last night Michael Brody. Wait, he took the stage and I think Bran I want you to share kind of what he said because I think just that alone kind of takes a full circle.

Yeah, absolutely. So Michael, bodyweight himself came to the ISI to get support. He had had some experiences going to his doctor where he had had to wait like two hours to get into see his doctor with whom he already had an appointment. So the appointment was for one, he was there at three still waiting to get seen. And so he had this idea to make that simpler, based on his experiences honestly flying he’s like if a plane can tell me that I am going to be delayed in my travel because the plane is delayed Nitzsche travel, then why can’t my doctor do the same? So he came to the EC got support, met and connected with Michael Burcham, who was the founder of the ISI. And Michael Burcham became one of his biggest advisors and ultimately sat on his board as he founded the company that would become in quicker with his co founder, and quicker is a B to B to C, a new acronym I learned that allows hospitals and doctors offices to connect to their clients and customers to make appointments, schedule appointments for an emergency room, or just a regular doctor’s visit and then ultimately improve the customer experience and improve the hospital or doctor’s office experience as well.

One you mentioned Michael Burcham. And I don’t know if you guys know this, but Bertram and I actually go way back. I was fortunate enough to meet Michael, actually in Miami, Florida of all places. Here we go. It was at a summit for Startup America, I was startup Indiana, and he was startup Tennessee. And we both got down there a little early for the conference. And we ended up grabbing sushi. And I was like, Wow, this, this guy is brilliant. I just like stumbled into meeting one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. And ever since then, he has taught me so much about building entrepreneurial ecosystems, building technology companies, which of course, he’s had several successes. And now with what he’s doing at Neris health, he is disrupting the industry. Once again. I know you had a chance last night Clark to interview him backstage. So I’d love to share some of his wisdom from that, that interview. But for those that don’t know, Michael, or haven’t heard of Michael, he’s scaled three businesses throughout his career with a combined market value of 650 million at the time of their sale. And Michael was the founding CEO of Nashville entrepreneurs center, and served in that capacity from 2010 until 2015. And it was just so cool to watch him scale that and get back into the startups saddle with Neris. Health. So Clark, do you mind playing a little bit? Yeah, given that that context,

certainly this is going to be Michael Robin came off the stage. And so he just shared, he’s like a information to spin for everybody he’s got he’s always got this great advice. This is just kind of something he was sharing for startups for younger entrepreneurs.

I think the entire backbone of entrepreneurship is really knowing how to have a sound business model that scales. And that’s the hardest part of all. And that’s what we have to invest more heavily on is how to build a great business model investors want to back. Otherwise, they’re all pretty pictures and pretty ideas that go nowhere.

I love that. I love hearing, like just the fact that you’re backstage you can hear that announcer last night who is hilarious. Yeah.

He’s the voice of like, any kind of show you’ve seen on TV? Yeah, every word show?

Absolutely. As pretty amazed. I

don’t think be I think set that up. Yep.

That’s pretty great. Well, yeah, I mean, Michael talks about business models here. And it’s clear, you know, healthcare, business models, business models around the music industry, it seems like there’s a lot of b2b. However, I do see some B to C, sort of in the music, consumer space. Curious what you see come through here at the Entrepreneur Center.

For just a year, I mean, another success story that means similar timeline. I mean, back when Michael Brody weight came through, we had another team called LeanKit. They actually, interestingly enough, they were over the HCA a couple guys that they, they were really interesting project management and this whole lean Kanban approach to software development that they ended up deciding to, hey, we’re going to create a company all about project management software. And it’s interesting, because it’s cool to see a big exit. That’s not music or healthcare. So link, it is basically the whole idea of the sticky notes where you’re going from to do doing done is that but software, so it’s really interesting. They were acquired, I think this is last year, by plan view. I believe that’s who that was. And it’s really neat, because although Chris Heffley early days, got support from the ISI, now he’s back is one of our top advisors. And he’s giving back what he what he’s learned. So that’s such the DNA, I think of Nashville.

That’s cool. That’s cool to hear that story. And I know there was another big win last year. With the acquisition of Emma by Campaign Monitor. We actually were fortunate to interview the founder of Emma while he was still in the trenches there. That was episode 29 of powderkeg. Igniting startups. Now Clint has his exit. And now he’s back at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, right? That’s right. Yes, yeah,

he’s back as an entrepreneur in residence for inflight our program for folks who are looking to scale existing businesses.

So kind of some success here in the email space, as well. And I know Emma in particular, didn’t really raise money until kind of later in the game. I think they were they got a loan. I know. You know, in year two of operation, they scaled for several years, until just in the last couple of years before they were acquired. They did like I think, maybe a 3.5 million round or something like that a little bit, something a little smaller. That really helped them scale to that probably a bigger acquisition price, although it’s undisclosed. Can you talk to me a little bit about the the the capital seen here, you know that the tech census report itself, you know, showed that 73% of tech founder respondents struggled to raise capital, while at the same time 65% of startup founders surveyed, said that They had raised capital. So they maybe it was a struggle, but they still got it. Most still got it done, it seems like Does that kind of match up with what you’re seeing here with some of the founders you’re serving? For sure.

I think every founder has a kind of different experience for sure. Which is not something that the listeners did. powderkeg won’t be surprised by Sure. It’s not something that listeners of powder keg will be surprised by, we fix that. But it’s pretty scrappy. It’s very disorganized. It’s really based on who you know, Nashville is a super relational city. Good and bad. It’s good and bad. Exactly. So you never know what conversation or handshake or just meeting someone in the lobby of the next awards will lead to something really big, but it is really scrappy out there.

I think a theme that I’ve been seeing, I can’t, I’m not qualified to speak to you, I’m just not at the stage where I’ve been able to experience it directly. But what I’m really excited about what Bran is doing with an old team with navigation, it’s that whole theme of connecting an ecosystem, because when you dial it back, when the entrepreneur was started, national entrepreneur started 2009, that there was not many resources. When you fast forward to today, we’ve got over 250 resources. And a lot of those like the the group who won navigation Partner of the Year pathway, when business center, they, for instance, have capital opportunities, but if someone doesn’t know about them, maybe their cap that don’t have access to the network to know about them, they’re never gonna see that money. So that’s what Brennan is focused a lot on with connecting the ecosystem. A lot of people are interested in this right now. And what’s happening in Nashville?

Yeah, one of the reasons that we invest in the ecosystem, and to some folks, it might look a little strange, like, why is the national Entrepreneur Center that is here to serve entrepreneurs? Why are they explicitly looking to organize entrepreneurs support organizations, that might seem a little bit like a mission creep? Why we’re mapping these 250 organizations, we believe that entrepreneurs and strong entrepreneur communities can only thrive when information gets to the entrepreneur as quickly as possible. So if an entrepreneur says, Hey, I have a business plan, I’m ready to go. But I really need that funding. And it takes them 10 hours to get to the right person, or 20 hours to get to the right person, the right organization. We know that’s hours ticking away from their lives, their lives with their families, the amount of time that their business could go from an idea to launch business. So we want to make that as quick as possible. So when you have a problem, we can get you the answer as quickly as possible and really make that a little more clear and less lonely.

Right. And on the flip side of that is if you’re just wandering around having coffee meetings, anyone Nashville, take coffee with you. It’s great. But they talked about this last night, you get to this thing we like to call death by 1000 coffees, and you’ve run out of time.

Yep, yep. Yep. That’s not what you want. Right. So the the interesting thing, I think this points to the conductivity of Nashville, the tech census found that Nashville tech companies as a whole grow at a rate of about 80% or more in terms of their revenue. So 24% of the startup response, which was the largest chunk of respondents said that they grew more than 80%, their revenue in 2017, which is a pretty fast growth rate when you think about companies, especially if only 65% of them have raised capital. That’s, that’s a pretty serious growth rate. And they’re growing their revenue, but they’re also growing their teams. And I think it’s cool to kind of hear a little bit from some of the other entrepreneurs that were on stage last night. One of them was Ron Samuels. And for those that don’t know, Ron Samuels is a very experienced leader. He’s been a banker in Nashville for 43 years. He’s the chairman and CEO of Avenue Bank, which merged with Pinnacle financial partners in July of 2016. Avenue grew to 1.2 billion in assets, billion with a B, and in February 2015, they began trading as a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ. And so really great success here in Nashville. And I thought it was pretty cool that, you know, one Ron won an award last night. But too, he had some really good insights on how important culture is when you’re building a team at a fast growth company.

Yeah, I can’t wait to play this clip to you because not only was the next words, you know, the next words we combined it this year with the entrepreneurs Hall of Fame that we have in Nashville. And so Ron Samuels, Robin came offstage, just inducted in this they were talking about so many things he did, but you’re right culture was at the heart of it. You were really praised for your focus on culture. And that’s always been at the DNA and the DNA of what you’ve done. What advice do you have for startups, Nashville’s next business leaders? What do they need to know about culture?

Well, culture really drives who you hire, and instead of hiring necessarily for the skill set, hire for an attitude, attitude. I honestly to me is the number one thing. So, you know, there’s very little difference in people. The little differences, attitude, the big differences, whether it’s positive or negative. Teams are powerful. And if you have a contagious personality, you know, companies start off with a personality, and then they develop a culture. So embrace that it takes time. You know, I think be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else.

Who’s someone who’s accomplished so much in Nashville,

what do you I love that I love that quote. And this was definitely backed up by the Tennessee Tech census data. What we found was that the number one reason people worked at tech companies was because they value the company culture. The number two spot was that they had a cool product that they were working on, then the number three was the quality of their leadership team. And this really lines up actually what we’re finding nationally as a trend in our other tech censuses in Denver, Boulder, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, company culture is always in the top three and a Nashville is in that number one spot. In terms of like what you’ve seen in the portfolio of companies here at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, what are some of the more unique company cultures that you’ve seen implemented? And can you tell the difference between a startup that has a great culture and and maybe another that doesn’t put culture first?

I’m kind of thinking on what I think is notable is not this is not an ECE company. And by the way, the EC is a nonprofit. We don’t you know, we’re not taking equity. We’re

portfolio just because yeah, exactly this word buzzer bill.

We’re, that’s a difference about the Nashville entrepreneurs room to run a tech hub network of other groups similar to us, and they usually are taking some kind of equity. So I do want to do one more nod to Clint Smith, because he was so passionate about the people. I’ve heard so many stories, people who’ve left you MP and people who’ve returned to work on his team. And that’s something I have left such a legacy on focusing on the people. So that kind of influence I think, is really impacted. I can countless

groups have been influenced by is such a natural staple. Yeah, they’re

no nicknamed the tech darling. of national. So other teams, other startups.

I think Jamba, who are you thinking about growth chamber? Yeah. Jamba was founded here out of project music, and by Marcus Cobb, and he had such an interesting story because he’d been in the music business for years and years and years. And for him when he started jabber and jabber is a way to project manage creative projects. So it’s a vertical. So he’s thinking about it for music, but it’s applicable to other projects. So we actually

had Marcus pitch at one of our events, maybe a year or so ago. So he’s amazing. He was amazing. He

came on a project, raise no money. So he’s also at Project healthcare this year with our project music, excuse me, when they presented this year, he was like, you haven’t raised a ton of money yet, don’t worry, there’s still hope for you because they are in the millions of dollars have raised money at this point. But they were recognized as like one of the best companies for women to work. And they’re growing their team. And you could just tell like we had them at the project music startup showcase we did a few months ago, their table that they had there was just vibrant, like everyone was wearing their Jabra T shirts. It was a young team, I mean, feel the energy, the energy was really there. And a lot of the people on the team have worked in the music industry, but a lot of them haven’t. And that was part of what he was looking for. He just wanted people who wanted to be part of something different and special. And you can tell that and get that feeling and vibrance and energy when you’re near a team

relocated here from Chicago, and he’s keeping it here.

Yep, still on our Midwest talent.

And he won next award. And the last time we hosted that event.

Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool. We’ll have to get Marcus on the show sometime. And just talk a little bit about what he’s building. You know, I I love what you’re saying about how he built Jamboree, sort of with a plan and a vision for his culture. And I think, you know, in that interview with Ron Ron talked a little bit about his plan and and some of the plans for Nashville. Do you mind keeping that up for us?

We’ve been very fortunate. This didn’t happen accidentally. This was very intentional with a plan. And I think what we have to do now is step back and look at another plan. What does the future look like? Without a good plan? It’s hard to say you’re going to be successful. But I think for me, the next step is let’s get transportation settled and see where we go.

One final question for you. When you reflect back it’s one thing

I’ll be hands on transportation because this is something we’re hearing in communities everywhere. You know, it’s it’s not just Nashville, Indianapolis is putting in electric buses take Create more connectivity within that city. I just saw a tweet yesterday from Marc Benioff to Elon Musk being like, Hey, can you Hyperloop us up? Because we need to be able to get to the ocean and out to the valley and back. Every tech hub is facing this issue of transportation. But can you give us a little context of what’s going on here in Nashville?

Sure, I can’t. So Nashville has had a couple really contentious pushes to get public transportation improved in our city. So we’ve had two ballot measures fail on making the city either have a light rail, which was one idea that we’ve had, or to add a bus lane, so both have failed. One of those fail pretty overwhelmingly it’s people just don’t want it. So first one was because

it’s just it’s a messy situation, right? People with people

who don’t want it are really loud, I think is what I should say it doesn’t take very many people in Nashville who don’t want something takes like maybe 100 or 200 people who really don’t want something or do want something to get loud enough for it to not happen. Why would they not want that to happen? One it would have the first one would have taken sidewalk space, and also people’s property space and allocated it to the city. So people didn’t want to lose their shirt. They’re their own homes, I guess, or their own homes with their own yards. And then there’s probably a lot of other reasons. Political. Yeah, there’s a lot of I mean, it’s an interesting city. It’s a blue dot and a Red Sea. But it’s also this issue cuts across it does not stick to party lines, like it is not a Democratic issue or republican issue like people from it’s pretty bipartisan support for it, and pretty bipartisan, the opposition to it. So it’s very, very complex. And in addition to that, one of the things that we see in part of what the ISI is looking to study via our businesses that are launched here, via the entrepreneurs that call this place, home or community members, we know that entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So for me thinking about underestimated entrepreneur communities, especially when we’re in the middle of the country, which I think is already an underestimated community in and of itself. When it comes to entrepreneurship. We want to understand how could someone who wants to be an entrepreneur who is maybe a single parent who doesn’t have access to childcare, or has limited access to childcare? And is the primary caregiver? How could they find the hours and time to be an entrepreneur? How can we make those hours really robust? So we’re getting them to the best resource possible, so they’re not wasting their time? Which they don’t have a ton of? How can someone who doesn’t have access to a car who’s maybe also maybe near the poverty line or at the poverty line? How can they have access to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial services, so that they can get themselves out of that situation? Because it is one of the most surefire ways to improve your economic conditions as an individual and as a family. We’re trying to think about how do we make this entire system really equitable for entrepreneurs so that we’re not missing out on this, like, amazing potential of entrepreneurs in every single zip code in every single neighborhood on every single block.

I love that I love that that’s a focus for Nashville, and clearly was top of mind for Ron, when he was speaking last night. And I’ve heard many, many other entrepreneurs and investors in Nashville talk about this. So I really hope it gets figured out in Nashville the way it’s getting figured out in other cities. And it’ll be cool to see how that sort of levels the playing field, the level playing field for everyone in Nashville and hopefully beyond in Tennessee as well. Yeah. Well, I I love talking about some of these success stories. And the last one I kind of want to, I would love to make sure our audience hears about is from Scott Borchetta. And I mentioned in the intro of this episode that he’s the founder, president and CEO of big machine label group. superstars like Taylor Swift are on the label, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McIntyre, Rascal Flatts Lady Antebellum, there’s so many great artists on this label. And big machines celebrated a huge success since the company’s inception 13 years ago. And they’ve really kind of been leading the charge, you know, more than 60 million albums sold by being machine artists, in addition to sending over 200 singles to the number one spot in country, pop and rock. And Scott was there last night and had some really cool advice to entrepreneurs. Clark, well, I’d love to hear that clip that you got.

If you’re willing to rewind it back to 13 years ago, when he started big machine, what’s something you would want to tell yourself? Don’t give up? It’s gonna be okay. She had a lot of examples of how they were these moments these crossroads, how did you get through these moments when it was so uncertain?

You know, literally there I had a saying is get to warrior, because there were days where I’m laying in bed. It’s like why are you laying in bed? Get up get to worry or and I would just repeat it’s like, why aren’t you moving at? I mean, there were times we’re just numb. Get up and get to warrior.

I love that. Get to Work is such a great phrase. I’m gonna start using that. When I’m when I’m snoozing at 6am. And I want to get my get myself on my schedule, say Hunckler Get to warrior. Because for some reason I talked to myself by my last name. Scott had just amazing energy. And it’s such a cool success out of the music scene here. And Vince Neil from Motley Crue actually presented the awards, which was awesome. I mean, very amazing, very different kind of, I mean, they’re entrepreneurship awards in cities all over the country. But this was a very Nashville award show. And it was cool to see just that music DNA throughout every point,

I think and Elizabeth shall be great, because people on the the EC team, he on the staff, I mean, there’s several more everyone had a part of this, but I think that kind of feedback would just make their day because they really wanted this to feel like Nashville. Yeah,

did it. It’s cool to you know, when we host our events here in Nashville. It’s not just the entrepreneurs and the investors, like we’ll have, you know, people who signed talent from big record label groups in the audience who want to write checks as angel investors. We’ve got people who are executives at major, major health care companies, like HCA. And I think it’s really neat when you see a city do a great job of taking, you know, some of its success and some of its DNA and plugging it into the startup and entrepreneurial community. Can you think of any cool examples of of seeing that? I mean, you mentioned Jamba is a great example. Oh, yeah. Of a startup that kind of came out of the music industry. I know, one of the companies that one actually, I was talking, talking to the founder before he took the stage because Austin has presented on the powderkeg stage a number of times, for his company, Greenlight, medical, they want health care startup of the Year award. Not surprising, because he’s just built an amazing team and amazing product. Can you speak a little bit? Sure, yeah,

he’s a busy guy. So busy. In fact, he actually was, as soon as he walked off the stage, he went to go catch a flight, oh, we’ll bring him back. But I like Austin drinks a lot. Because when he was actually he landed here in one of our bays, or co working bays, and it was just off as one desk. And then before you know you’re walking by and he’s got four or five different people. He’s got the whole bay, and now they, you know, bittersweet, they had a move on to kind of get an additional bigger space. And they’re really tapping into that pipeline of health care network that’s in Nashville, especially with the advisor program that’s at the entrepreneurs center. Because we’ve got, again, we’re a nonprofit, it’s really cool that we’ve have over 250 advisors, people who do this for free, and a lot of us are in the healthcare space, people who just want to help innovate and healthcare, something everyone can agree needs to be better. Yeah. And so people are showing up to make it better. And they’re supporting the next wave and Greenlight medical with their in their name. They’re trying to greenlight get innovation in faster into these health systems. So what better way to help a team like that? How do you how do you connect with a huge behemoth company? How do you help a startup kind of, you know, I think it was like a star wars like the ship kind of landing on the the gigantic, you know, destroyer. So that’s kind of what’s happening right here in real time.

Awesome. and I are grabbing some food by the buffet and I got the verbal on him coming on the show. So we’ll make sure we get a in depth interview with Austin here in the future.

Absolutely. We also talked to a student last night, Jordan, Washington, but I want to call out student population in Nashville is another interesting thing. And this is across the country. But we’re, we’ve been learning we work a lot with launch Tennessee, and they’ve really recognized the importance of how do you take student talent and nurture them. And so another team that you were asking about kind of injecting this creativity and in the music space, even more, is a team. They were just, you know, two, I think they’re both maybe sophomores at college and Belmont University. And they have they went the first cohort on Project music. And they actually want on Young Entrepreneur of the Year Young Entrepreneur of 2016. And next words, and they basically are helping connect musicians to live events. So they’re doing some really cool things there. And we love the the energy that they’re always bringing, we

actually had the co founders present here in Nashville, but they actually traveled all the way up to Indianapolis to one of our Indianapolis events as well. And it’s really cool to see how their model has evolved over time. They’ve been able to take that product feedback,

or do you Oh, Jenny McKenzie, man. Yeah, a force to be reckoned with.

Absolutely. Well, and you mentioned the the music industry and how there are some great startups like even more. Betsy McHugh from hurdle actually won startup of the year last night in the music and media space. And you got an interview with her right Clark.

Hello, my name is Betsy McHugh. I’m the founder of hurdle Inc. And we just won music and As the entertainment startup,

you are doing some really interesting things. If you want to describe it just on the most simple level, though, how would you describe what you’re doing?

Well, what we’re doing is allowing artists and marketers and brands to talk to fans while they’re in the venue for the first time ever.

This is a patent technology, right? Yeah, we

actually registered patent. And I’m really excited because we’re finally bringing some intelligence to not only who’s in the venue, but how to talk to them.

Last question, what would you say is so special, though?

I love that. I love what she’s working on and what she’s building there at hurdle and it’d be cool to see how she grows here in the years ahead. Have you been tracking that company for a while?

No. Funny enough? I have, they actually did an interview. And here it was with something totally not the AEC related is with American Association namah. Some people call it here in Nashville. And so they’ve definitely been active in that ecosystem. And they were kind of highlighted about some of the innovations are doing?

Well, it’s cool to see that they’ve got some interesting marketing, software and tools that they’ve built. And the fact that they’re, you know, starting in the music and media space makes sense. But I wonder too, if there might even be more potential for hurdle. You know, as they find success in the music and media and entertainment space, you know, could they actually grow into more industries, even realize more value, eventually get snapped up by? Etc? Yeah,

because they are really doing some interesting stuff and new stuff that they are patenting, actually, in the direct to consumer market, that is pretty novel. Oh,

that’s awesome. Well, and it’s cool to see how people just take advantage of what they’ve got going for them in terms of like their their geography, their location, and to tap into these networks that can really help them grow fast, because they know, people are passionate about music, I might have a great consumer base here, their music companies and labels and everything I could potentially sell to for on a b2b side of things. And it’s just neat to see that entrepreneurs sort of take that to heart and strike lightning, a lot of times like it sounds like a hurdle might be doing. In our last interview here, I just want to tee it up is with intrapreneurial, Company of the Year. So corporate innovation is sort of the theme of this award, I believe. And this is Jerry boss Ullman, who’s the CEO and founder of vaco. And vaco, provides boutique level service, sort of with a global reach in the area of executive search, consulting, permanent placement, and strategic staffing. So he’s got a really good pulse on talent and Nashville town, I’d love to talk a little bit about what’s unique about Nashville. But also, it’d be interesting to hear from Jerry himself. And Clark, I know you got an interview with him. Hello, my

name is Jerry bossman. And we just won the intrapreneur award.

I love that name. It’s kind of I don’t know if it’s a real or made up name. But basically what it means is you’re being entrepreneurial within a large corporation in large setting. So as I understand it, you have over 800 employees for under an 80 million in revenue.

That’s right, and all the best words are made up. That’s right.

And words are made up? Absolutely. All the best words are made up.

What advice would you have to these growing companies? How do they how do you keep that edge? How do you stay entrepreneurial, even though these large systems get in place? Norman, my

16th year with vaco started when it was zero. And now that we approach it, half a billion people ask how I get tired of my job, we’re always just getting started. It’s amazing what you can do in the era when you’re first getting started on winning scrappily. And then it takes a whole nother look when we’re going at the next level to get other players involved in trying to leverage talent through more people. And now we look at how we’re able to make bigger, better, but powered by 800 people instead of just one or two. So it’s only finding the next great challenge and being excited about what we’re going.

Thanks for all you do for me,

I love that. That’s really cool. You know, I think in terms of growing a team to 800 people, that’s got to be hard. But at the same time, I know people are coming to Nashville in droves, you know, thanks to, you know, maybe in part to the Titans coming coming to Tennessee, thanks in part, maybe even the show Nashville. And then just all the media and exposure of what’s going on here in the tech and entrepreneurship scene.

Yeah, it’s it’s an interesting spot because all of a sudden, there’s so many people in Nashville and they’re ready to contribute. They want to be part of the national economy. They want to shop at all of our amazing small businesses and boutiques that are selling things with. I heart Nashville on it. And I think one of the things that vaco really does and one of the things that they The reason they’re called vaco it’s a Latin word that means to free oneself from one man one’s master them and they see their role in the industry of staffing, consulting, that sort of thing is freeing people from jobs that don’t fulfill them freeing people from jobs that aren’t so soul fulfilling. So I think that’s part of like what drives people to Nashville and why I love that they won last night is because people come to Nashville. It’s like what they say about New Orleans, you don’t live in New Orleans, because it’s easy. You live there because you can’t live anywhere else. But New Orleans nationals like that. But it’s actually super easy and great to live here. No shade to New Orleans because New Orleans is fantastic.

Well, I mean, one of the things we found in the Tennessee Tech census is that 58% of tech employees surveyed have an annual household expenses under $50,000 a year. Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s super low. That’s a high quality of living. At the same time you have 80% of the tech employees surveyed went to college outside of Tennessee, so so people are coming to Nashville from outside of Tennessee, even if maybe they weren’t here before. But I know that a large portion of them are just coming to Nashville because it’s a freakin magnet right now. It really is.

It’s interesting. Also, you get a lot of music talent. For instance, the Nashville software school is a really interesting group that’s in Nashville. And when you’re thinking about the tech talent, we’ve heard about talent here, you get a lot of people who moved to Nashville, you know, pursuing the dream, they want play music, but they end up maybe doing something else. Right. So we’ve seen a lot of interesting, just trends on how many musicians are becoming software engineers. And there’s a lot of interesting connection between being a developer and being a musician. And it’s really cool because they’ve graduated over 500 Local grads, and mostly students, most of these junior developers stay in Nashville to get hired by groups like AMA, you know, these other tech companies around Nashville. So it’s been really cool to see how that’s also influenced talent.

What are some of the universities and coding academies, that are that are kind of feeders for the talent pool here in Nashville,

Nashville software schools, big one, okay. And then we also have we have over 21 colleges and universities here. Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Lipscomb, we have a ton of smaller private colleges, Lipscomb, Belmont is a huge contributor to our economy. And then we also have like a, we have something in Tennessee specifically called the drive to 55, which is something that was put in place at the state level a few years ago, which made it free for every single adult in Tennessee to go to community college. And our community colleges are actually like, really robust. And some of our biggest trainers are technical employees. I think we’re still a little early in those stages that that initiatives, only a few years old. So we’re still a little early on seeing those returns. But I think we’re only going to see that community grow.

I think what you’re calling I was excellent with the public private partnership, that’s something that no here the Entrepreneur Center, they mean it’s outside was built the builders place debt free, it was through these public private partnerships. And that mean, that really plays a big role here.

I know a lot of times the private backing for these are coming from the companies that want to hire all this talent, right. And I know you’ve got some bigger technology oriented companies or even just bigger companies that have technologists there, you know, Asurion being a big one. Nissan has a big headquarters here. I know. What are some of the other larger organizations that are snapping up a lot of the talent,

HCA hospital corporations of America, Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt hospital are some of our biggest employers. We have a ton of hospitals here. Rogers group, which is one that is not were very well known their construction group. They are the largest employer in North Nashville specifically. And it was founded right here by Jerry Garrity. Not right here in DC right here in Nashville live here. Yeah, I

think also, I mean, we have the really wonderful areas around Nashville Franklin. Brentwood was single, I think Nissan’s headquartered out of a breadwinner, Franklin. So it’s like in this middle Tennessee area, but we see I think, yeah, the cost, low cost of living, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s beautiful, good people. You know, I think that helps with attracting and we are attracting more, more HBCUs. And we are in a chamber of commerce,

wonderful Chamber of Commerce, we have a very robust minority Chambers of Commerce or LGBT chamber, our Tennessee Latin American Chamber, or Nashville area, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or Black Chamber of Commerce. And then we also are seeing we’re starting to see like some companies that are bigger, having their like second headquarters here. So Warby Parker is one, Warby Parker has their second headquarters here, right down at the life and casualty tower and Eventbrite is here, right? We’re starting to see that

that was largely influenced when they got here. They’re surprised like, wow, there is so much tech talent here. And they have made that one of their biggest engineering shops. That’s

awesome. Well, and I know, we actually had one of the people at the head of the tech side of things at Eventbrite. On the last episode of the powder keg podcast. He was there speaking at the launch of the Tennessee Tech census report, which I’ve written I’m doing some weird time travel right now because this is episode 64. That’s episode 63. But I haven’t actually recorded episode 60 tonight. So it’s gonna be there. It’s a little inside baseball behind the curtain stuff for you listeners out there. I’m loving the stories here. I feel like we could talk all day. But I’m really so happy Clark that you captured some of this raw backstage last night at the next doors. And we could hear from so many great Nashville entrepreneurs on the show. Brian, I’m so so thankful that you could share some of your perspective. Not only just being kind of new of the AEC, but with your background in education, your background working at, you know, in diversity and inclusion, which I know is one of the top three cultural top three social issues that Nashville wants to affect here locally in the in the tech and entrepreneurship industry. And so you can find out all all about that at the tech Or sorry, tech and download the Nashville, Tennessee report. But then also, you can find out more about these companies because the EC is actually launching a new podcast, which is going to be hosted by Clark

and both Brent Brent and my co pilot pilot, it would not be possible without brand because we’re going to be doing interviews in here, but also going out into the community going to these different navigation partners. And the goal with this is you can listen to navigate not only learn how do you navigate Nashville’s entrepreneurial resources, but also how do you navigate startup life? What are the lessons learned all of that? So this same format we did today with you, Matt, we’re gonna be using that as well. But playing clips didn’t add context. So Brad and I are just so excited about this. It’s been a long time project in the works. But anyone who wants to get first listen to that go to e

E I’m going to be signing up to make sure I get some of the first episodes there. I love talking with you both. So I can’t imagine what listening to you every what weekly is it gonna be weekly, you know,

or maybe every other week potentially. But we have a lot of content we can kind of we want to just paint the city as much as we can to help. It’s not about that easy. It’s all about Nashville.

Yeah. I love that. And thank you so much for sharing your perspective sharing your stories on the show today. I do encourage people to go check out the tech Census. It’s free to download. And it is a statewide report covering Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville Memphis. And each one is a little bit different. But there’s some really cool commonalities too. And the reason this is so helpful is if you’re in Tennessee, obviously understand your landscape understand the tech ecosystem you’re operating in. But also if you’re outside of Tennessee, it’s important to be able to learn from what Tennessee is doing well and there’s a lot going well as you heard from the show today, so make sure you check that out. You can also go to powder and get the show notes for this entire show with links to the people mentioned the organization’s mentioned some of the resources we talked about. And you can also subscribe please subscribe if you haven’t subscribed yet it’s the reason subscribing is helpful as it just make sure you see the next episode first and you’re gonna get to listen to it. First, you’re going to get to hear some of the connections that are made on that show first, and would love to have you in our regular listening audience and appreciate you if you already are a loyal listener. And we will be hearing from you next on episode 65. And again, this is episode 64 of powderkeg igniting startups. We will see you next time.