To say Nashville is booming is an understatement. This past week I had the pleasure, along with 600 other startup enthusiasts, to attend the Grand Opening of the new Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC). ‘WOW” is about the only way to describe it.
Relocating from its much smaller location on Broadway, the new 20,000-square-foot facility on Rolling Mill Hill is impressive in every way and the perfect setting for a startup business. Large event rooms, classrooms, numerous conference rooms, and workspaces for startup teams are all framed by sleek transparent hallways and “clouds” in the ceiling that tastefully represent the many sponsors who helped this vision come together.
From the moment I approached the majestic old building and walked through the glass doors, I felt like I was about to become part of something special. The excitement in the air was palpable – a sense of pride and accomplishment – emanating from all the people in attendance. Everywhere I looked people were giving off the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. Being new to the Nashville scene, I thoroughly enjoyed being pulled along in this maelstrom of happy people touring through the building and was greeted by strangers like I was an old friend who returned home. (There’s an upbeat country song in that statement somewhere…)
The Grand Opening also had some impressive guests and speakers in the form of Scott Case from Startup America, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, and Ingrid Vanderveldt with Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence program. Each spoke about the importance of nurturing America’s entrepreneurial spirit through facilities like the NEC and others around the country.
But the NEC is more than just cute puppies, rainbows and ice cream. It is also a testament to the dedication and incredibly hard work of CEO Michael Burcham and his team. Over the past 3 years, they have helped launch over 70 new companies and raise more than $20 million in seed and angel investments. Their tireless work on behalf of the Nashville startup scene is one of the main reasons why this ecosystem is on the rise and putting Music City on the map as more than just….well, music. And how is this for a stat? Twenty-three percent of Nashville’s workforce is self-employed.
Clearly Burcham and his many supporters from local to the state level realized the importance of a sound infrastructure to support and grow this entrepreneurial spirit. They have enlisted companies such as Dell and Google in their efforts and also secured the local business community’s buy-in for support. The Nashville Chamber of Commerce has also dedicated significant resources toward supporting the local startup movement and other local organizations are doing the same. If the new NEC is any indication, this community is ready to take Nashville to the next level, and there is no reason to doubt their ability to do just that.
What do you think? Will Nashville be the next big startup scene? See more photos from the event on NEC’s Facebook page by clicking here.