This column may not be the most abundant source for news on Knoxville's business community, but singer/songwriter Jonathan Sexton, veteran of the Big Love Choir and a host of other local acts, inspires us to get busy. Sexton turned entrepreneur a couple of years or so back, when he and fellow local songwriter Matt Urmy developed Artist Growth, an app that helps aspiring recording/touring musicians manage and maintain nearly every aspect of their career.
Sexton still owns stock in Artist Growth, which is based in Nashville now, but moved out of daily operations to concentrate on new business endeavors. In the meantime, he started volunteering this year at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, an outreach that opened in April at 17 Market Square. Part of a network of nationwide "business accelerator" programs, it's funded through the state and something called LaunchTN, by private donations, and by the city and the chamber of commerce.
"When I got into startups three years ago, this kind of resource didn't exist here, but it did in Nashville," Sexton says. "And I learned a lot from my mentors there. So I was excited the city had committed these resources. I immediately started volunteering."
The program works by holding a series of business "boot camps," inviting the most promising potential entrepreneurs to intensive programs on getting business and marketing plans together, finding investors, etc. At the end of camp, participants should be ready to either start a business or find investors.
On Nov. 21, KEC, LaunchTN, and Tech 20/20 will host Startup Day, a graduation day of sorts for the first 16 graduates of two KEC boot camps. The event at The Standard on West Jackson Avenue will see each of the 16 "startups" make a five-minute presentation of their business model, a la the Shark Tank television program. "They'll introduce their ideas to the community, showcase what's happening in new business and technology," Sexton says.
Sexton will also perform at Startup Day, along with local singer/songwriter Leah Gardner and cover band the Coveralls. The event, which begins at 3 p.m., is free, but guests are asked to register beforehand at startupday2013.com.
As to Sexton's own business ventures, he's continued his work in the entertainment sphere with a project named Band Posters. "We allow people to design, print and ship promotional materials directly to venues in under 90 seconds," he says. "You used to have to spend a lot of time, going to the printer, this and that. We've automated the whole process."