One of our Memphis entrepreneurs who’s been getting lots of attention for his startup – James Bell of Mobilizer – offers his perspective on his recent trip with other The TENN startup founders and Launch TN CEO Charlie Brock to Silicon Valley.
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By James Bell, Co-Founder and CEO of Mobilizer
As a participant in Launch Tennessee’s master accelerator program – The TENN – I have spent the last week in Silicon Valley. The trip was a chance for all of The TENN founders to network and soak up the startup culture in California.
Throughout the week, we’ve learned a lot from the investors, entrepreneurs and media we met in California. It was a unique chance to test our story in a different environment, and the feedback helped us refine our concept.
Mobilizer is a medical device company, and we had the chance to meet with venture capitalists in California that focus on the healthcare sector. This was a rare opportunity to learn more about how they choose companies to invest in and to make connections that could help us in the future.
One thing we asked the Silicon Valley investors was how we could persuade them to invest in Tennessee companies. Consistent access to capital is really the only thing lacking in Tennessee’s startup scene, and bringing capital in from the coasts has been a big goal of Launch Tennessee through The TENN, the Southland startup conference and other initiatives. The investors we met with said that they would be more likely to invest in Tennessee companies if they could find Tennessee–based investors with whom they could co-invest. This was definitely an encouraging conversation to take back home.
In addition to meetings and learning events scheduled by Launch Tennessee, we also took time to check out the startup scene in San Francisco. Working out of Bloodhound was a great chance to interact with local startups, but we also traveled throughout San Francisco to meet with more people. We made a lot of new connections that could be a big help to Mobilizer down the road, and we hope to help them, as well.
At one event, I met a local accelerator leader and had the chance to explain Mobilizer and some of the other companies in The TENN. She said our startups were refreshing because in Silicon Valley they see a lot of the same. Her feedback was that everyone in The TENN is solving a real-world problem, and San Francisco’s startup culture is so strong and has been going so long that it all starts to look the same. Talking to her – and to everyone else we met – was a great chance to get the word out about our company and to learn more about what people are looking for.
We’re heading back to Tennessee with new knowledge and boosted confidence. I know that all of The TENN participants feel more energized and are ready to finish the program strong and make our companies a success.