published Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Charlie Brock to lead Tennessee effort for startups

Jacob Langley, left, and Andrew Abumoussa, both with tech company Scenedipity, work on computers as they prepare for a presentation at CoLab in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Jacob Langley, left, and Andrew Abumoussa, both with tech company Scenedipity, work on computers as they prepare for a presentation at CoLab in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Charlie Brock, the 48-year-old entrepreneur and investor who helped lead FourBridges Capital Advisors, the CoLab and the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, is heading to Nashville at the end of the month to lead Tennessee's biggest public-private partnership to boost startup businesses.

Brock was chosen Tuesday as CEO of LaunchTN, the nonprofit agency created last year by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Commmunity Development and the former Tennessee Technology Development Corp.

"Gov. [Bill] Haslam has done a great job trying to kickstart business in our state, and I really believe LaunchTN can play a vital role in helping recruit and nurture new business," Brock said. "Just like entrepreneurs, accelerators and venture capital funds need early-stage capital and the state has helped provide that to get LaunchTN started."

By fiscal 2014, directors of LaunchTN have signaled that they want to raise at least $1 million of private funds to sustain and boost the initial state funding.

LaunchTN helps fund accelerators like Chattanooga's CoLab that mentor and assist entrepreneurs. LaunchTN also operates the $30 million INCITE co-investment fund, which offers public money for Tennessee startups, in conjunction with private investments around the state.

Bill Hagerty, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and chairman of LaunchTN, praised Brock for his experience in promoting startup ventures and investing in local companies, especially as part of Chattanooga's Gig City initiative to promote more local web-based ventures.

"Charlie's experience as both an entrepreneur and investor will be critical in advancing our state's rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem," Hagerty said in a statement.

Also Tuesday, directors of LaunchTN elected Stuart McWhorter, president of Clayton Associates in Nashville, as the organization's new vice chairman.

Brock succeeds Brad Smith, Hagerty's former chief of staff, who had served as interim CEO of LaunchTN when the agency was revamped as part of Haslam's job initiative in his first year in office.

"LaunchTN is a critical component of our state's economic development strategy and a unique platform to facilitate an environment where Tennessee's great entrepreneurial DNA can be unleashed to help create the next FedEx, Pilot or HCA," Hagerty said.

Brock said when he begins his new job at LaunchTN on Jan. 28, he will take a leave from Four Bridges Capital and hand over operations of CoLab to founder Sheldon Grizzle and UTC Adjunct Professor Mike Bradshaw, who will serve as entrepreneur in residence.

In 1998, Brock helped establish Foxmark Media and grew it into one of the nation's largest mall advertising companies. As the CEO and largest shareholder, he structured two rounds of private financing before selling the company in 2006 to Australia-based EYE Corp.

After selling Foxmark, Brock helped launch FourBridges Capital Advisors, an investment bank based in Chattanooga where Brock served as managing director.

Brock most recently served as a general partner of the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, a Chattanooga-based angel investment group, and as the CEO of CoLab, a Chattanooga accelerator that provides advice to entrepreneurs and runs the summer Gig Tank program.

Brock said CoLab helped nurture dozens of local entrepreneurs. Its summer Gig Tank winner, Banyan, recently relocated its cloud-based control system business to Chattanooga from Florida with funding from both local and Silicon Valley venture funds.

Brock is an organizer and director of CapitalMark Bank and Trust in Chattanooga and also serves as a director of the Dixie Group and Park Media Software.

Brock said he initially will spend time meeting with the five full-time and two part-time employees of LaunchTN to help develop future plans for the agency.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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