Amber Hayes, CEO of SecondKeys and winner of the 3686 Festival 2020 Pitch Competition, describes the process of building a tech startup and continuing to find new clients during COVID-19.

When Amber Hayes was working for a property manager, she realized that the processes used to manage maintenance requests were overly complex and unnecessarily costly. To solve this problem, she created SecondKeys, a holistic property management platform that allows residential rental managers to be proactive instead of reactive.

“We use predictive analytics or machine learning to help determine when appliances fail,” so that landlords can be prepared to fix them…

Cheryl Campos, director of growth and partnerships at Republic, explains how equity crowdfunding can create opportunities for both founders and new investors.

Investing in startups has traditionally been an option for only the wealthiest Americans, but Cheryl Campos is excited about new opportunities that are expanding the pool of investors. As director of growth and partnerships at Republic, Campos helps to curate great investment opportunities through equity crowdfunding, an alternative funding method that allows non-accredited investors to get involved.

“If you have maybe 5,000 investors in your campaign, they all roll up into one line item. They have no voting…

Amit Bhatti, principal at 500 Startups, explains how COVID-19 is reshaping the world of startups and fundraising, especially in markets like the Southeast.

Amit Bhatti believes that founders from smaller markets have a unique work ethic and creativity that people from traditional startup hubs often lack. As principal at 500 Startups, Bhatti invests in founders all over the world, but he sees great potential in the Southeast region.

“When you’re already feeling a little bit overlooked or you feel like you’re going to have to work harder to get something, that definitely shows,” he explained. …

Monique Villa, investor at Mucker Capital and co-founder of Build in SE, shares her perspective on the unique advantages founders can access when they build their companies in the Southeast.

Monique Villa wants to help people understand that the Southeast is full of great talent and resources to help founders succeed. As an investor at Mucker Capital — where she leads the Nashville office — and co-founder of Build in SE, Villa works to support founders across all stages of starting and growing a company in the region.

“There’s this really limited view that talent is hard to come by…

Savannah Yarborough, owner and creative director of SAVAS, discusses the unique experience of growing an in-demand fashion business in Nashville.

Savannah Yarborough knows that fashion is deeply personal, and she’s passionate about working with clients to create their dream pieces. Yarborough is the owner and creative director of SAVAS, a leather goods company specializing in jackets and footwear.

“I know every single person that I’ve made something for personally,” Yarborough shared, describing the process of creating custom jackets, which can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year. “It really is an emotional process for me and for them. …

Laurie Spradley, vice president of operations and brand development at Goo Goo Cluster, explains how she’s helped her team navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, one candy bar at a time.

When COVID-19 forced Goo Goo Cluster to shut down their retail store off lower-Broadway, Laurie Spradley knew she would need to lean on her team to help find ways to pivot. As vice president of operations and brand development for the Nashville-based candy company, Spradley wanted to make sure her employees felt informed and united.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, but at the same time…

Addressing Systemic Racism in Healthcare with Marcus Whitney

Entrepreneur Marcus Whitney explains why he decided to speak out about the role systemic racism has played in Nashville’s healthcare system and shares his vision for a more equitable future.

Marcus Whitney spent years avoiding conversations about racism in Nashville’s healthcare industry, but when he noticed that healthcare leaders were largely silent about the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020, he decided to speak out.

“I’m about being effective and being successful, not about saying things for the sake of saying things. And I just never felt that the…

Launch Tennessee sporadically publishes essays written by entrepreneurs, investors, and supporters of the startup ecosystem here in Tennessee and across the southeast region, sharing thoughtful and unique observations and perspectives on the business landscape and the challenges they’re encountering. Interested in submitting a blog article as a guest author? Contact Rory Levine, Marketing and Communications Director, at

Covid-19 changed the game for businesses, and the big question now is: How much of that change is permanent, and how much is temporary? Several Tennessee startups are betting that the changes we’ve seen to consumer preferences and business operations during the…

In the season 4 premiere episode, the TRILUNA co-founders share their story of starting a company to bring a more holistic version of wellness into corporate America.

When Elizabeth Moore and Ashley Brooke James first met, they’d just quit their jobs to pursue careers in wellness. Amazed by the transformation that yoga had caused in their own lives, they decided to team up and build a business that would help people “get back to the basics” and take a holistic approach to overall health.

“We saw that fitness was taking the place of wellness and the full meaning of well-being,”…

Since it was established in 2000, Cumberland Emerging Technologies has become an invaluable resource for advancing the development of innovative biomedical technologies in Tennessee. As a joint initiative between Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, Vanderbilt University, and LaunchTN, CET serves as a crucial bridge between research and commercialization, identifying breakthrough research and then providing the resource infrastructure to successfully bring it to market.

That mission is needed now more than ever. Tennessee and the mid-south have long been a hub of world-class research institutions and the healthcare industry.


Empowering Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and working to make TN the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Host of 36|86 Festival |

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