Better Together: Entrepreneurs mind the gap

A bi-weekly column exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and community by Sam Davidson

I can’t recall who first shared this bit of advice with me (so don’t fault me for not citing my work), but here’s one important reminder for all entrepreneurs:

There may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?

Meaning, if no one is hand stitching tutus for gerbils, there may be a good reason.

(But of course someone is making tutus for gerbils.)

One approach I’ve had during these first nine weeks at the EC is to take stock of gaps. As the entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to grow in breadth and depth, we have to make sure that what we do is well defined, meets a need, and fills a gap (much like we encourage our entrepreneurs to do when building their businesses).

For twelve years, the mission of the EC has been to essentially stand in the gap for entrepreneurs. When very few organizations existed to serve entrepreneurs, the EC was formed to help dreamers become doers and turn ideas into reality. Over the last decade plus, more partners have come online to specialize in key focus areas and meet new entrepreneurial needs; the EC has stayed nimble so that it can stay relevant. 

And yet as I survey the landscape in Nashville, I’ve seen one key gap that remains to be filled

A lot of entrepreneurs talk about needing to raise capital. Landing funding often becomes a rite of passage or a notch in one’s belt during an entrepreneurial career. Having raised money myself I know how taxing, exhilarating, defeating, and euphoric it can feel. 

But many times, entrepreneurs may not actually need to raise capital, or at least not from equity. Perhaps another vehicle or non dilutive resources may be available. That’s a tough landscape to navigate, especially alone. Even with great resources at your fingertips, like InvestTN, it can still be a scary and confusing place to find yourself, especially if you’re a first-time or underrepresented entrepreneur.

While I don’t see a gap in capital provision, I do see a gap in capital connection. 

I’m proud that the EC is standing in that gap.

On my first day at the EC, Haley Zapolski told me she wanted my job. While I replied that the position was currently taken, I listened as she shared more of her story, her work, and her passions. It was clear then – and became increasingly clear – that her strongest skill was that of connection. 

And no one was doing it.

I’m proud and excited for Zap to become the EC’s first Capital Connector (read more about her gig in this announcement). In this role she’ll help the EC connect the dots between founders and funders, assessing an entrepreneur’s capital readiness and helping them understand what tools will be best as they grow their businesses. She’ll also keep track of the varied and growing amounts and types of capital in Nashville, a city that adds to such ranks daily. 

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but only if you let it. We’re ready to show entrepreneurs that they’re better together, when they couple their ideas with the right and relevant resources. Through intake meetings, educational sessions, networking events, and ecosystem mapping, we’ll make sure that no entrepreneur is missing the chance to increase their odds of success when it comes to chasing their dreams.

Better, together.

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