The TENN: An Accelerator for Tennessee’s Best Startups

July 31, 2013

5:00 pm

Tennessee startups have until Friday to apply for The TENN, a new accelerator in Tennessee.

The TENN is kind of like a master’s degree for startups: only companies who have already gone through a Tennessee accelerator can apply. Twenty finalists will be selected, and they’ll present in a special demo day competition on August 27.

All the startups are already familiar with demo day: get on stage, pitch your idea, hope for a positive reaction. But this time, they’ll be competing not for attention and funding but for a seat in The TENN, chosen by a panel of investors.

The TENN is a three-month accelerator program for, aptly, the ten winning startups. As in traditional accelerators, they’ll get mentorship and funding ($10,000 from the Blackstone Foundation). They’ll be welcome in The TENN office space or get money toward their current office rent. But startups will also do the business equivalent of studying abroad: traveling around Tennessee, California, and the East Coast to make connections.

The TENN’s goal is to make sure startups don’t flounder after they finish a seed accelerator program.

“We were trying to address the big hanging question mark: What happens after demo day and graduation?” explains Jason Denenberg, director of entrepreneurship at Launch Tennessee.

The TENN asked that very question to startups, and also asked what they would like to happen. The program was designed around their answers: finding talent, getting introductions to customers, and having advisors.

The TENN was created by Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership for job creation and economic growth in the state. They believe that if the road to startup success is clear – idea, accelerator, The TENN – more wannabe entrepreneurs in Tennessee will take the plunge.

The idea of a post-accelerator accelerator isn’t unprecedented. The Brandery accelerator, for example, focuses on branding and readily admits startups who have  gone through another accelerator. Post-accelerator startups can find mentorship on sites like Clarity or MeetAdvisors, or continue their learning on StartupPlays.

Applications are due Friday, August 2, and startups will be judged on their management team and experience, current traction and funding, and projected growth over 6-12 months.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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