It’s a cliché to talk about how COVID-19 has affected our lives this year, from remote working and learning to virtual get-togethers. In the startup ecosystem, these realities have hit incredibly hard, given the relationship building that needs to come from both sides of the table. Entrepreneurs need to gauge whether an investor can help them reach their next milestone. On the flipside, venture capitalists need to evaluate a founding team’s ability to execute their vision before writing a check. This dynamic hasn’t gone away even with our forced push into a socially distanced world. This year, LaunchTN chose to tackle this problem with a virtual approach to its annual 36|86 Festival, and the outcome has been encouraging.
Each year, 36|86 brings together the Southeast’s top investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs in Nashville for several days of networking, pitches, and industry updates. For 2020, the event was digital and spread out over ten days, covering healthcare, consumer trends, and investing in the Southeast region, amongst other subjects. Pre-recorded sessions allowed users to access the content at their convenience. They included high profile speakers such as Van Jones of REFORM Alliance and Eddie George, a former NFL player. The event also had pitch competitions from several local startups, with ARMS Cyber and SecondKeys winning top prizes.
Previous attendees of 36|86 know the value of attending the conference in person, and LaunchTN makes it one of their biggest priorities. “One of the benefits of the event is networking with individuals within the startup ecosystem,” says Makenzie Stokel, Co-CEO of EVA, “Being in the room with these people introduces many opportunities to make connections.” Now that being in the same room is a challenge, LaunchTN partnered with Brella to make up for the potential relationships that come with proximity. This program allows users to input information and preferences to create virtual matchmaking, taking out the manual work of flipping through a list of attendees.
Almost 1,000 individuals attended this year’s conference, with over half of attendees made up of entrepreneurs, and nearly 20% being investors. Through the program, investors and founders were able to connect and create virtual meetings with one another. Attendees accepted 440 of these meetings through the platform, an estimated +46% increase based on feedback from last year’s conference, and praised the focus on keeping networking a highlight. “36|86 brings together talent from across the country in a meaningful way,” says Melissa Withers, Founding Partner of RevUp Capital. “I appreciate how seamlessly the organizers brought this year’s event to life virtually online. I had dozens of matchups that went off without a hitch, and met several founders and companies that are a good fit, both as an investor and as a mentor. 36|86 set a high bar for virtual events in 2020 and beyond.”
Success stories such as this are what we need during these trying times. Running a startup and raising capital is already a massive challenge, and the current inability for founders and investors to meet in person provides yet another hurdle into the mix. LaunchTN has set a standard for conducting events like 36|86 and making it beneficial for all parties involved. Through this effort, the startup community can still thrive. As the world continues the process of opening up and getting back to normal, most people expect next year for in-person events to pick back up. LaunchTN is already planning to host 36|86 in Nashville in 2021 again. As we remain optimistic for what’s to come, the good news is that LaunchTN has proven that they will support founders and investors no matter the circumstances.
For more information on LaunchTN, please visit their website here.
For details on the 36|86 Festival, check out this link.