Start-Up Founders Beware

Startups Beware, Robert Hartline, Call Proof, Startup Tips, Nashville startup

The average underperformer lasts 10 months in the average organization. Imagine the amount in salary, benefits, and training that costs you. The numbers are staggering. That is money you could be putting into other pieces of your organization to actually make you money as opposed to helping pay for someone’s Candy Crush habit. If someone is underperforming and can’t seem to fix it, it benefits you and the company to simply part ways.

When that underperformer is in sales, you could be damaging your company’s reputation even more than you realize.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while hiring and running a team of Sales Reps:

  • If you interview someone who seems too good to be true, they probably are. Although there is the occasional exception, a good sales guy generally isn’t looking for a job. When their talk and ego are as big as the city they’re selling in, chances are they will never sell anything.
  • beware1Before you start the process of training a new sales rep, have them dive right into the action. You’ve never really seen this person in action, and the only way to ensure it’s really worth putting all of your time into them, is to see if they’re really cut out for the position. Give them some of your worst leads, the ones you know for a fact will not purchase your product or service. The goal here is not to watch them fail; it’s to see how they react. If they dive right in and can brush off being rejected and make the next call with the same drive and energy as the first, you know this person may be just what you need. Once they’ve proven themselves, you can then train them to the fullest extent. If you get someone who refuses to try or that gets overwhelmed, they probably won’t make it in your company anyway.
  • Your salesperson is saying something right now in an online demo or appointment that can turn off a prospect, and if your team keeps saying it, you’ll waste good opportunities. You should record demos, marketing, and follow up calls with customers; this will prevent wasteful practices that will turn off possible customers. Most people will continue to make mistakes, not because they want to, but because no one is coaching them the right way. Record them and review often at first, and every now and then later.
  • As the founder of a start-up it is very easy to get sucked into hiring sales reps that may not necessarily be the right fit for what you’re looking for. It’s important to take your time and hire the right people. Resources when starting up are generally limited, and wasting them on people who aren’t right for you could prove costly in the long run. Consider asking a mentor or fellow business person to assist in the second interview, as a second opinion, to something you may have missed in the initial interview.


  • beware2A Salesperson working in a start-up is very different than someone coming from an organization with a lot of resources. Be careful with someone with a lot of experience from a fortune 500 company where they got spoon-fed.  You are looking for someone who is a self starter, who doesn’t need hand holding.  If you are in the lean start-up phase, you don’t have a sales manager to oversee that person.  You’re the founder, building your product and looking at the big picture, not making sure that your sales person is out marketing your product.  Think about outsourcing your sales management to a person that works outside your company to only manage daily activity so that they stay on track.  A sales manager working for you on a part time basis should spend about an hour a week on the phone with you and your salesperson just covering activity.  You can find experienced professional sales managers for one sales person for about $400-600 a month.  Many of these people are retired but love mentoring sales people and can provide your staff a coach to reach out to and get feedback.
  • Don’t be afraid of the recent graduates coming right out of school.  They can be molded into great salespeople and can be very coachable, as long as they’re not planted in your start-up and forgotten about.  You will need to nurture them and keep them challenged and motivated.


Remember, accountability and performance are everything when looking for and managing a sales reps. Don’t be the next victim of a bad salesperson.

Robert Hartline, the founder of CallProof, created CallProof to help solve a problem he saw in his company each and every day. He observed that there was no accountability for day-to-day sales activity and decided to build an app to create just that, accountability.



Co-Founders Lab Heads To Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center Next Week

CoFounders Lab, Nashville Entrepeneur Center, startup event

When Shahab Kaviani sat down and had some time to reflect about his previous startup, HyperOffice, he realized that the cofounding team behind that startup drove its success. He admits that they bootstrapped almost the entire project. He also says in hindsight their timing was lousy, but the cofounding team kept the startup together.

Finding the right cofounders should actually be at the top of the priority list in any startup. CoFounders lab is one of many startups that look to match people with cofounders. FounderSync is one of those startups that uses an online approach. FounderDating uses a hybrid online offline approach merging an online community with in-person events.

Unlike other events that can turn out to be unorganized get togethers where  people only talk to the people they know, Kaviani has gone to great lengths to make sure that CoFounders Lab events are laser focused on one thing, introducing cofounders to each other.

Also unlike other events and startups claiming to connect cofounders, there’s no prerequisite, vetting process, or cliques you need to join to be part of the network. CoFounders lab goes beyond founder dating by cutting out all the superfluous clutter aimed at boosting egos and not connecting founders to help people build real companies.

CoFounders Lab is now headed to Music City USA–Nashville, Tennessee–next week on October 15th. They’re hosting their event at the brand new state of the art entrepreneur center and hope to connect founders with each other and get some real companies off the ground.

The event is Tuesday, October 15th starting at 6:30pm and it’s free. You just need to register here.

Make sure you mark your calendars for Everywhere Else Tennessee, the national startup conference focused on startups “everywhere else” pulls into Memphis Feb 17-19th 2014. More here.


Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam Announces The TENN Top Startups In Statewide Program

TENN, Launch Tennessee, Startups, startup accelerator, Tennessee startupTuesday saw the final pitch off for Launch Tennessee’s TENN program. Launch Tennessee is a public/private partnership that helps organize, administer and provide resources to nine accelerator regions across the state of Tennessee.

With so many accelerators in one single state, Launch Tennessee teamed up with the Blackstone Foundation to hold a “super accelerator” of sorts simply called The TENN.  Startups that went through one of the accelerator programs in Tennessee within the last 12 months were eligible to compete in a statewide competition to name the best of the best.

Earlier this month Launch Tennessee announced 20 finalists from across east, middle and western Tennessee.  The 20 startups chosen as finalists represented a variety of technological and entrepreneurial fields including general tech, social, medical, medical device, life sciences and even publishing.

On Tuesday the startups in the top 20 pitched off in front of a panel of outside investors that included: Sabeer Bhatia, chairman and CEO of Sabse/Jaxtr and founder and former CEO of Hotmail; John McIlwraith, managing partner at Cincinnati, Ohio-based Allos Ventures; John Greathouse, general partner at Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Rincon Venture Partners; Sig Mosley, managing partner at Atlanta, Ga.-based Mosley Ventures; Bob Crutchfield, partner at Birmingham, Ala.-based Harbert Ventures; and Mike Tatum, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Workbus.

At the end of the day Governor Bill Haslam called up the top 10 startups who were named to the TENN;

  • eClinic (Nashville)
  • Got You In (Nashville)
  • (Nashville)
  • Hatponics (Knoxville)
  • Health & Bliss (Memphis)
  • Mobilizer (Memphis)
  • Screwpulp (Memphis)
  • Survature (Knoxville)
  • Vendor Registry (East Tennessee”
  • View Medical  (Memphis)

These 10 startups will participate in the TENN program which includes a statewide bus trip to meet some of the biggest companies, entrepreneurs and business leaders across the state, trips to New York and Silicon Valley and office space at their local accelerator or incubator. They will also have access to mentors and other resources to continue taking their post accelerator companies to the next level.

Congratulations to all the startups that made the list.



6 Reasons to Keep Accelerators Everywhere Else


There’s an accelerator bubble.

Accelerators, except for Ycombinator/TechStars, are irrelevant.

We should get rid of the Demo Day.

If you’ve been in the startup space for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard someone say something like this. Founders and startup advocates have naturally critical minds; it’s why we can solve complex problems in innovative ways. But, that also means we spend a lot of time second guessing and rethinking every single thing we do.

I’ve had my own doubts about the accelerator model, and they mimic most of the concerns people bring up. There are so many (2000 around the world). What company can really be built in 3 months? It seems that the only real success comes from the big names, so why bother with smaller, local accelerators?

But, this week I was convinced that accelerators everywhere else can be just as beneficial to companies as the more publicized YCombinator and TechStars. Yesterday I attended the Investor Day for Jumpstart Foundry, in Nashville, TN and was duly impressed with what I saw. Of course, they had the bells and whistles–cool venue, great food, open bar. But more impressive were the companies that presented.

Every company had made significant strides in the 3 month program. Most could give detailed explanations of revenue. Quite a few already had traction and are well on the way to making real money already.

Vic Gatto, founder of Jumpstart Foundry and partner at Solidus Company, is well aware of the negative perception accelerators carry.

“We’re definitely a young industry going through definitional challenges,” he told me. He talked about meetings with other accelerators around the world. The leaders of these accelerators are talking about what defines success. Is it funding? Exits? Revenue? Level of mentor networks?

By most metrics, Jumpstart Foundry is finding success. 65% of its graduates are still in business, either bootstrapping or with funding. They have over 100 mentors, and that network grows each year. Gatto insists, though, that another real metric of success will be future exits, and most of the industry is still too young to really see that achieved yet.

One mentor told me that this year’s cohort may be the best she’s seen. “And they didn’t start off particularly special,” she said. “I think that really speaks to how the program itself is growing.”

And, as far as getting rid of Investor Day, Gatto won’t be doing that any time soon.

“That pressure is important,” he said. It’s the deciding factor sometimes when a new founder is tired and wants to call it a night. With Investor Day looming, it’s easier to focus and do the hard work of a young company.

Make sure to check out Jumpstart Foundry’s latest cohort because there are definitely some companies to watch. We’ll cover some of them here on Nibletz in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here are a few reasons we shouldn’t give up on the accelerators everywhere else just yet:

  1. In the life of a young company, it can be easy to let an idea go when it gets hard. Surrounding yourself with mentors and good advice in an accelerator can help you push through those first stage challenges.
  2. The pressure of Investor Day can give you more traction than you thought possible in 3 months.
  3. Accelerators everywhere else understand companies everywhere else. We’ve talked before about how companies outside of Silicon Valley are innovating in industries besides the Internet and apps. Local accelerators inherently “get” that more easily than accelerators that are used to churning out consumer-facing apps.
  4. A good accelerator can be a rallying point for a whole ecosystem. Yesterday in Nashville, it was a packed house. Not just investors, but anyone interested in the startup scene showed up to support the cohort.
  5. Even if your first company doesn’t succeed, the 3 month MBA you get by doing the hands on work of an accelerator will be invaluable to the next companies you build.
  6. Accelerators may not be perfect, but what is?Anything that spurs innovation is good for the local community as well as for global issues that need creative problem solvers.

Put Congress In Your Pocket With This Nashville Startup

PocketCongress, Nashville startup, startup interview

With smartphones in the pockets of tens of millions of people, information is extremely easy to obtain. You don’t even need to wait to get home to check something on the internet. You just reach into your pocket and hit Google or whatever your favorite information source is.

The information age, the internet age ,and now the mobile age has made government more accessible, and with that accessibility becomes accountability. Long gone are the days that any Congressman or other elected official can just sneak something passed the people.  When a bill is before Congress, voted on, or signed, you can find all the information about it online. You can look it up on your phone as well.

Now a Nashville Startup called PocketCongress is looking to streamline all that information into an easy-to-use app.  SouthernAlpha reports that David Swift was watching the news one night and wanted to look up further information on some legislation that was just reported on. He found the process of finding that information more cumbersome than he thought it should be. To make it easier he created PocketCongress.

We talk with Swift in the interview below.

What is your startup called?

Pocket Congress

What does your company do?

We are an easily accessible research tool for Congressional information. Search various ways in both legislation and legislator fields.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

I, David Swift, am a local business owner in Nashville and am constantly looking to become more involved in the tech world. I concocted this idea in early 2011 and refined it over the next few years. In August of last year, I connected with an old high school classmate, Joey Vadala. Joey is a long-time techie and computer genius, even since the high school days. He’s built a few apps and I was impressed. Looking for someone who would build the app for profit equity AND pull off a simplistic, usable UI/UX, Joey was a great fit. Joey absolutely crushed the fine design details and construction of the app. I handle the business aspect of things, marketing, etc. and Joey is working on 2.0 for Pocket Congress.

Where are you based?

Nashville, TN

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

Fantastic. There’s a lot of old money here, nearly all of it concentrated on the health care industry. That tide is slowly turning with all kinds of tech start ups popping up here and there. The new building of the Entrepreneur Center is magnifying a lot of start ups that wouldn’t get the attention otherwise.

What problem do you solve?

We solve the lack of true government transparency and the inability for the casual news-watcher to gather any real content on what’s being reported on their TV, what’s being voted on in their capital, and ultimately what’s affecting their lives on a daily basis. The entire concept of Pocket Congress is to further true government transparency and to aid in involving the casual political observer. The app is easy enough to navigate for a casual news watcher, but has enough information for a political junkie. The information is out there and is researchable, but not easily and quickly. Pocket Congress allows not only quick research & reference, but also tracking of legislation and social sharing of all information. Real government accountability and transparency must be done by the people, not the government.

Our app searches both Members and Legislation. In Members, one can search via: current location, name, ZIP code, committee, state, or browse. In Legislation, one can search via: HOT bills, number, locally sponsored, keyword, recent actions, and type. You can read actual legislation via .pdf. Anyone can interact with local senators and representatives by easily accessing their Twitter feed, biography, district map, committees, and all their social media outlets. One of my favorite features is the ability to tweet directly to a senator, send them an email, or call their office directly from the app.

Why now?

We need it now more than ever. (How many times have you heard that?) There are now more iPhone users in existence now than ever before. As a country, that’s more ready access than has ever been provided in the past. Never has Congressional members and the legislation they pass been so easy to access and share. Our phones are always with us, so an app is truly the timeliest way to access this type of information and a real vehicle for government transparency.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We have been featured in SouthernAlpha’s blog. We are followed on Twitter by a few Washington Post journalists, and have been retweeted by Congressional members, most notably Darrell Issa. After being in the App Store for 5 days, Apple chose us as a New and Noteworthy app in the Reference section. We currently headline the Reference section in the App Store.

What are your next milestones?

A segment on Mike Huckabee on FOX. We have a connection to him particularly, as I worked with him personally on his last book signing tour over a course of three weeks. He’s a large government transparency advocate. We would then like to leverage that appearance to other media outlets, including other politically-charged TV shows.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?


iTunes short URL:

Joey’s personal page:




The 20 Best Accelerated Startups In Tennessee Make The TENN Finals

TENN, Launch Tennessee, Startup, AcceleratorLaunch Tennessee, the private/public partnership that oversees 9 accelerators across the state, is running a “super accelerator” of sorts, appropriately called the TENN. The TENN starts off with a statewide demo day on August 27th in Nashville. At that event, 20 startups, announced on Thursday, will pitch their business.

A group of  national investors and entrepreneurs will narrow that field from 20 to 10 at the statewide event.  The demo day investor panel includes Sabeer Bhatia, chairman and CEO of Sabse/Jaxtr and founder and former CEO of Hotmail; John McIlwraith, managing partner at Cincinnati, Ohio-based Allos Ventures; John Greathouse, general partner at Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Rincon Venture Partners; Sig Mosley, managing partner at Atlanta, Ga.-based Mosley Ventures; Bob Crutchfield, partner at Birmingham, Ala.-based Harbert Ventures; and Mike Tatum, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Workbus. Governor Bill Haslam will announce the 10 companies that will comprise The TENN.

After the TENN is announced they will embark on a statewide bus tour, parading the startups in front of the state’s biggest companies and innovators. The TENN group will also have access to a master mentor network pulling from all nine accelerators. The TENN startups will also receive free office space, either at one of the regional accelerator headquarters or receive a subsidy for office space.

Launch Tennessee partnered with the Blackstone Foundation to hold the TENN program.

Here are the 20 finalists for the TENN program:

East Tennessee (6):

Vendor Registry
Renewable Algal Energy

Middle Tennessee (9) :

InCrowd Capital
Got You In
Green Dot Charging
March Fuels

West Tennessee (5):

ADVANCE Inventions
Health & Bliss
View Medical

“These 20 startups are an exceptional representation of the innovative and promising ideas emerging from Tennessee’s accelerator programs,” said Launch Tennessee CEO Charlie Brock. “From the quality and diversity of applications submitted across the state, it is apparent that Tennessee’s network of accelerators, which is unique in the nation and Launch Tennessee helps fund, is working well.”

You can find out more about Launch Tennessee at



Startups In The Fastlane: Jumpstart Foundry Startup ZingFin


One startup is tackling personal investment by polling the best social media information to help anyone have a better grasp on investing. ZingFin is currently accelerating in Nashville, Tennessee at JumpStart Foundry, and we’ve got them in the Fastlane.

Accelerators are a big part of the startup ecosystem globally. Good accelerators aren’t always rosy. They pick the best of the best in their application phase, and then through mentorship and in-depth insight, they turn the idea upside down to get it to market.

ZingFin is one of the teams that will graduate from Jumpstart Foundry on August 22nd. The JSF demo day is often standing room only with over 400 in attendance, so pressure is on for all of the startups. For ZingFin though, the pressure may be greater.

They’ve put together a product that integrates social media into a dashboard that helps investors make more educated decisions for their personal investment portfolios. Hopefully the room full of investors will be chomping at the bit to try out this new product. Some of the accelerator’s investment backers, like Vic Gatto of the Solidus Company, have already been spreading Zingfin out to their social networks.

Zingfin, Jumpstart Foundry, Nashville Startup, Startups In The FastlaneSo what does ZingFin do exactly?

They stay on top of trending stocks. “Zingfin’s text analytics filter the more relevant conversations that impact stocks on social media channels such as Twitter® and Stockwits®. You’ll make sense of the aggregate market trends before anyone else sees them coming,” the company says on their website. They also tout the fact that Cornell researchers have found that Twitter mood predicts the stock market at an accuracy of 87.6% in predicting the up and down changes in closing values of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

They also use social media to help identify industry and opinion leaders and they also connect the dots with “indepth visualizations”.

To find out more we talked with Balaji Viswanathan, co-founder of ZingFin in our Startups In The Fastlane interview. Check out the interview below.

Where is your startup originally from? 

Boston, MA

Tell us about your current team?  

We are a team of 3 – Balaji, Manju, Anup. Balaji has a MS in Computer Science and worked for Microsoft Redmond as a developer for 4 years. Balaji is the CEO and manages the technology execution. Manju is an electronics engineer and she has a background in operations and database management. She is the COO and manages the operations & administration. Anup has an MBA and has expertise in user experience & product development.

What does your startup do?  

We help investors be in the know of market trends and pick the right stocks based on social sentiments.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?  

To fine-tune product and get the product-market fit.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator? 

To perfect on that one thing that will gain us the initial advantage. We can always scale from that point.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far? 

Really making the product focus.

What is your goal for the day after demo day? 

To hunt for angels who can help us move to the next stage.

Why did you choose this accelerator?      

The mentoring is hands-on and Nashville is a city that is on rise.

If you relocated for the accelerator are you staying in your new city?     

We moved from Boston. We might temporarily move back to Boston and then will keep traveling back and forth. Depending on our funding we will decide on the final location.

 What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied? 

The fact that Jumpstart has so many mentors who are so interested in getting us successful.

Where can people find out more?      

Here is our landing page:, Our blog is at

What’s your twitter handle?  


Find out more about JumpStart Foundry here. 


Startups In The Fastlane: Jumpstart Foundry Startup, Fastlane startup, startup interview, accelerator, Jumpstart Foundry, like “gun yo, think hired guns,” Teja Yenamandra told us about the name of his startup. is currently going through the Jumpstart Foundry accelerator in Nashville’s brand spankin new Entrepreneur Center.  They’re the latest startup we’re featuring in our new Startups In The Fastlane series.

Jumpstart Foundry is in the midst of its fourth class, which will graduate on August 22nd. is connecting clients with hackers. If a company is looking for a rockstar ninja developer, they will find him or her on The team at realizes there are plenty of startups already in the space. Even venture backed startups that have expanded nationally have succumbed to failure, like the popular path.t0.

That doesn’t have the team worried one bit. In our interview below Yenamandra tells us “Other sites let you hire adequate software developers; we try to cater to the best. Software development is a subtle art, and the difference between a shitty developer and a great one is pretty significant. There are a few sites that are working on the same problem, and many of them are quite good. Others are not. It would be rude to mention any by name, but we think we’ve got the problem identified better than they do, and we think we’re able to keep building a solution both sides (hirers, hackers) want more.”

Check out the rest of our interview with Yenamandra below:

What is the name of your startup? (gun-yo). Think hired guns.

What accelerator are you in?

We’re a part of Jumpstart Foundry in Nashville, TN, one of the oldest accelerators in the country. It’s backed by Solidus Company, one of the best, most progressive VCs in the game right now. And we say that as entrepreneurs. In fact, we were pretty reluctant to accept money, even a nominal amount, since we were already making it. But Solidus is awesome. They get it. The South’s technology ecosystem owes them a tremendous amount. Shout out to Vic Gatto, Townes Duncan, and all of the LPs who made it possible.

Where is your startup originally from?

We’re a distributed team out of CA, TN, and PA. It’s cheap, there’s less distractions with management process, and much more freedom to produce. Plus, our community of made up of freelancers and clients who work often in a remote fashion, so it’s fitting that it’s exactly how we built our own company.We get it how we live. And we encourage others to do so as well. That said, it’s nice to mostly be in the same place for now. We’re not entirely what the future holds for us, however. You can build a massive technology company anywhere these days — and that’s the exciting part.

Tell us about your current team?

Hackers and hustlers, baby. Rich Jones is a technology beast, and was named by Intel as one of the “30 under 30 to watch.” JohnPaul’s worked in business development for an Asian master franchising firm and as a portfolio analyst for Merrill Lynch. Teja Yenamandra’s worked for a consulting firm as well as an early employee for a startup in Shanghai that sold for $65M in under two years. They all know each other from university, and from working together in Shanghai, China.

What does your startup do? helps clients hire hackers. Other sites let you hire adequate software developers, we try to cater to the best. Software development is a subtle art, and the difference between a shitty developer and a great one can produce is pretty significant. There are a few sites that are working on the same problem, and many of them are quite good. Others are not. It would be rude to mention any by name, but we think we’ve got the problem identified better than they do, and we think we’re able to keep building a solution both sides (hirers, hackers) want more.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?

Build more awesome stuff, sell said awesome stuff. The only two goals any startup should have.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator?

We knew agile software development. We now practice agile business development.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far?


What is your goal for the day after demo day?

Build more awesome stuff, sell said awesome stuff.

Why did you choose this accelerator?

Vic Gatto, David Ledgerwood, Julia Polk and Shawn Glinter. They’re awesome, all are major players within the startup ecosystem here in Nashville, and were the four people who convinced us us to join Jumpstart Foundry.

What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied?

Speed is the only advantage a startup has.

Where can people find out more?


Nashville Is Great. Ohio Is Too. This Guy Is Oblivious.

Cleveland Startup, Nashville Startup, startup, startups, Ohio, Tennessee

On Saturday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a guest post by Dr. Jeffery Canter. Canter is a retired professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a consultant for many healthcare startups in Nashville.

Apparently Canter lived  in Ohio before Nashville. In his piece Canter criticizes Ohio as a whole and offers a laundry list of tips to keep it’s talent, which he says Ohio is giving to Tennessee for free. All of this is based on people Canter has met who relocated to Nashville to launch their businesses. Canter makes a point that Ohio has paid for these people twice:  “First, you paid for educations that were far better than ones these new Tennesseans would have received in Nashville. Second, these productive young people removed themselves from your tax base and left you behind to pay even higher taxes.”

At Nibletz our mission is clear: to give a voice to startups everywhere else.  With offices in both Memphis and Cincinnati, we know a lot about the ecosystems of each state.

Tennessee has an impressive startup ecosystem. They were the second state region in the Startup America Partnership. There are 9 accelerator regions across the state that are administered by a public private partnership called Launch Tennessee. There are several incubator and accelerator programs, with the biggest being GigTank (Chattanooga), Jumpstart Foundry (Nashville), Seed Hatchery (Memphis), and Zeroto510 (also Memphis).

If you think there’s a lot of entrepreneurial and startup activity in Tennessee, you’re absolutely right, but some believe that Ohio has even more going on.

For starters the Brandery in Cincinnati is one of the top 10 startup accelerators in the country. Cincinnati also has the new Cintrifuse initiative, CincyTech for capital, and regularly holds events like Startup Weekend.

Traveling north, Columbus also has it’s share of exciting startup activities and initiatives. Columbus is home to not one but three accelerators; 1492, 10x, and the Founder’s Factory. TechColumbus is one of the driving forces behind the startup scene, and there are also plenty of resources for capital.

Move a little further north to Cleveland and there’s still NO shortage of startup activity. In fact the nationwide non-profit startup acceleration organization, Jumpstart Inc, is headquartered in Cleveland. Then again there’s not just one but two startup accelerators: LaunchHouse and the new FlashStarts founded by Cleveland serial entrepreneur Charles Stack.



So, what makes a good ecosystem?

Gary Hardin at Knoxville startup BounceIt tweeted us the other day, after we ran Entrepreneur Magazine’s 7 best places to startup. Hardin thought that Tennessee should be on that list because there’s no income tax. Makes logical sense, right? Maybe.

As all of our readers know, during the nationwide sneaker strapped road trip, we’ve seen nearly 100 different startup ecosystems in person and are often asked where would we move if we could go anywhere. We chose Memphis, and at that time we had no idea there was no income tax in Tennessee.

When a startup chooses an accelerator or to relocate for one reason or the other, it’s typically resource or industry related. Nashville is hot for medical devices (you’re probably thinking music, but medical devices definitely prevail). If I needed help with branding, I’d move to Cincinnati; automotive, yes we’d still move to Detroit, Government relations or government sales, DC and so on.

Native Memphian Sarah Lacy penned a column just days after her trip to Nashville’s Southland conference entitled “Memo to non-Valley, non-NYC ecosystems: No one you want cares about cost of living.” And guess what, they don’t. Facebook Co-Founder Dustin Moskovitz also says he wouldn’t move somewhere just for optimized taxes. In fact he said this 13 months before Lacy’s article.

Are the Plain Dealer and Dr. Canter just oblivious to what’s going on around them in the startup space?

There are two certain things certain in life: death and taxes. In general, startups are oblivious to both.

Where ever you are, you need to make plans to attend this startup conference for startups everywhere else.






Image credits: Nashville  Cleveland

The Anew School Gives American Boys Hope In Africa

Nashville startup, NewMe Accelerator, Memphis startup, Education, AfricaHere at Nibletz, we cover mostly high-growth technology startups. Even with a lot of noise in the space, we ultimately believe these are the ventures that are shaping our world.

But, every so often we come across a different kind of venture that we just can’t help but write about. Last month I attended the Demo Day of the Memphis edition of the NewME PopUp Accelerator. I was blown away by the great ideas and the caliber of entrepreneurs in the room. One in particular is not starting a tech company. In fact, she’s going into education, a rocky field at best. But, I was so impressed by her and her venture, I couldn’t help but share it with Nibletz readers.

Marston-1Alexandria Lee knows firsthand what it’s like to grow up struggling. The daughter of a single mom and a drug addict dad, her story could have been one of the thousands of tragedies happening in American schools every day. Except for that one teacher who challenged her to do more. Thanks to him–a transplant from Senegal–she switched to honors classes and surprised everyone by graduating not just from high school, but also from Spelman College and Harvard Law School.

Now, Nashville-based Lee has a new vision for education for African-American boys.

“9% of black males in the 8th grade can read at a proficient level,” she said in her NewME pitch. Well, obviously, that’s not acceptable.

Lee’s solution is to open a school in Ghana and transplant at-risk boys for a few years of out-of-their-element education. Besides honors-level classes, the boys will be paired with a local student to learn leadership and entrepreneurship. They will work together to devise community action plans that solve real problems in the local community. The school wants to teach African-American boys where their roots really are, not in the tragedy of slavery, but in the deserts of Africa.

“Our goal is to transform discarded youth into community leaders. Our students will come into the program underperforming. We will first catch them up, and then excel them past their classmates back home. But, more than just academic gap closure, our students will be trained in emotional competence, given the desire to serve others, and learn manhood lessons. At an early age they will become global citizens and return to their communities with broadened horizons, prepared to begin finding solutions to ills within their own communities,” Lee told me in an email.

The Anew School will receive charter school funding from the state of Tennessee, but they will also supplement with donations from private foundations. They already have some land in Ghana and will begin building soon.

Check out The Anew School on Facebook and Twitter.

Other great things happen in Memphis, like the biggest startup conference in the world for startups everywhere else.


Nashville Opens New 22,000 Square Foot Entrepreneur Center

Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Entrepreneur Center, Michael Burcham
Michael Burcham is a Nashville serial entrepreneur, angel investor, Startup Tennessee director, and Director of the Entrepreneur Center. On Thursday Burcham opened their new 22,000 square foot facility in the converted trolley barn at Rolling Mill Hill. The mayor, the governor, and Startup America founding CEO and Priceline founding CTO, Scott Case, were on hand for the opening of the new facility.

The new entrepreneur center has more space for education, collaboration, and acceleration within the walls of the 22,000 square foot building. It’s been outfitted with the technology needed to help achieve all of those goals.

The former Entrepreneur Center was always a temporary location after opening in May 2010. The center, led by  Burcham, immediately began a search for a permanent home and found it in Nashville’s creatively rich SoBro neighborhood in Trolley Barn #1 at Rolling Mill.

In addition to the new facility, the epicenter of Nashville’s startup ecosystem got a new name, sort of. They are now “The Nashville Entrepreneur Center”, thanks to a pending lawsuit from Entrepreneur Magazine which has a reputation for bullying entrepreneurial organizations that use their trademarked word in their name.

The new location is in the same park as one of Nashville’s most successful startups, Emma.

“It scales us in every direction,Burcham told the Nashville Business Journal. “It brings legitimacy to Nashville as the best place to start a business.”

The old trolley barns also serve as home to several other young companies. There are plans to build out a restaurant and possibly a bowling alley on the property that overlooks both the football stadium and the river.  Since it’s inception, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center has served as a hub for the thriving community which allows entrepreneurs to collaborate and learn from each other.

“Being with other people who are ahead of you in that process and in some ways behind you in that process, it’s sort of the crucible through which much, much better businesses go through,” Case said. “If you are not in place with a strong community … and Nashville is one of the fastest-emerging strong startup communities in the country, you tend to not have the quality of companies come out of it.”

You can find out more about the Nashville Entrepreneur Center here.











We Found The Future Of Loyalty & Rewards At Southland

Facedeals, Nashville startup,startup,Southland

Loyalty and rewards, loyalty and rewards, loyalty and rewards. It’s like a broken record. Everyone thinks they’ve stumbled onto the next big thing with loyalty and rewards. But maybe Nashville-based startup Facedeals actually has.

Facedeals uses a 100% opt-in facial recognition platform that is non-obtrusive to facilitate in person loyalty and rewards in a very passive way.

Users simply sign up for a Facedeals account using Facebook, and the magic starts. When that person walks into an establishment using Facedeals, their face will be captured using an eye-level, inconspicuous camera. In fact, the facial recognition software in the camera can capture the person’s image at their normal pace. They don’t have to do anything but simply walk past it.

The backend software in Facedeals already knows what that user likes and doesn’t like and their habits when patronizing a Facedeals establishment. Facedeals also specializes in relevance as co-founder David McMullen told 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl in this interview that aired last month.

In that 60 Minutes piece, McMullen and Stahl walked into a participating merchant, and as they were getting ready to decide what to order, Stahl was delivered a deal to purchase a Ceasar Salad and get a free Diet Coke. Both items, were things that Stahl actually likes. McMullen was offered a different deal on a local beer that he likes.

The secret to this relevance is that when users opt-in to Facedeals and let the service see their Facebook page, it builds a profile based on things they’ve liked..

McMullen told us (and 60 minutes) that the beauty behind Facedeals is that the deals are coming when you’re ready to make a purchase and not in an email first thing in the morning.

The company is working with a variety of different merchants including retail, restaurants, and bars. The robust back-end makes it the easiest way to do loyalty and rewards for any business. In fact they don’t have to do much of anything except let the customer redeem the deal.

Check out our own interview with McMullen from the Southland conference in Nashville.

You can find out more about Facedeals here at

Here’s more of our Southland coverage.


Distil Networks Is Following Us Around The Country Because They Block Bots

Distill Networks, Southland, DC Startup, startup pitch

We were in Washington, DC and Baltimore last week as part of the Sneaker-Strapped Startup Road Trip. That’s where we ran into Distil Networks CEO and co-founder Rami Essaid. A few days and 665 miles later, we’ve run into Essaid again, this time at Southland in Nashville, Tennessee.

Distil Networks was one of 50 regional startups chosen to exhibit at Southland’s Startup Village. They were also one of 20 startups selected to pitch onstage at the conference as well.

We first reported on Distill Networks back in August when they were going by the name Since then, they’ve added more features, more employees, more users and changed their name to Distil Networks.

The company offers a very useful service. Through a simple line added in a websites DNS entry, Distil is able to quickly check a website and identify and disable “bots” that can often pirate content, hype statistics, and do other aggravating things. Their technology allows content sites big and small to function faster and stop worrying about their content being auto-posted to thousands of blogs world wide.

One of their customers is the site Ripoffreport came to Distill because they suspected that bots were stealing their articles. One quick analysis and Distil found out that they were correct, but that was just the beginning. After turning Distil’s service on they found that they were stopping 50,000 malicious bots a day that were reducing their server load by a whopping 70%. Distil increased the site’s load time by 50% and by stopping the theft of their content, for the first time in years, ripoffreport saw an increase in visitors to their site.

But malicious bots aren’t just about stealing content and hogging band width. As Essaid says in his Southland pitch below, malicious bots steal e-commerce site data, post fake posts to forums, auto-click on ads and other things that are harmful to businesses who rely on their server infrastructure.

Distil is constantly updating their base of malicious bots. When they find a new malicious bot on one of their client sites, they test all of their client sites for the same bot. They also have other safety features in place, like randomizing their code every few minutes so bad bots can’t penetrate it.

Check out Essaid’s full pitch at Southland below and for more information visit them at


Here’s more coverage from Southland 2013 at The Voice Of Startups Everywhere Else.



Tennessee Is Great For Startups, Bill Hagerty Tells Us Why

Tennessee, Nashville, Southland, Startups, Haslam, Bill HagertyTennessee Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty took the stage at the Southland Conference in Nashville on Wednesday morning to introduce the conference and highlight why Tennessee is great for startups.

Since the current administration took over two and a half years ago, Tennessee has become number one in the southeast and number four in the nation for manufacturing job growth. Tennessee is also number one in the southeast for personal income growth.

But one thing that we found interesting is that Tennessee has the best balance sheet in the country.

serious“I think everybody knows that the nation has experienced a serious fiscal crisis and if you start looking across the states you’ll see a very wide divergence in terms of the fiscal situation that each state faces. What that does is present a different risk profile for the companies that choose to locate in those states.  Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita in America.”

This is important because Tennessee hasn’t put itself in a position where they haven’t raised the debt ceiling to a point where it can’t be manageable.

All of this means that Tennessee is a great place to grow jobs, personal wealth and families. Hagerty went on to discuss the regions history of entrepreneurship including companies like FedEx that call Tennessee home.

Finally, Hagerty pointed out one of the biggest claims to fame for Tennessee in regards to startups.  Since the Haslam administration took over Tennessee has become home to nine startup accelerator regions all administered by Launch Tennessee. Each startup accelerator region has an incubator or accelerator program.

While many don’t think of Tennessee in terms of entrepreneurship these highlights along with the infrastructure in place already for business owners, job creators, startups and entrepreneurs, it’ s no wonder that Tennessee is first for startups in the South East.

Check out this video of Hagerty’s speech at Southland.

Check out more of our Southland coverage here.