36|86 is in full swing in Nashville, Tennessee, and TechCrunch senior editor Jon Shieber kicked off the conference with a fireside chat featuring Steve Case (AOL, Revolution and Rise of the Rest) and John B. Rogers (Local Motors). The chat—entitled “The Third Wave”—covered changes in the tech industry and rise of Tennessee as the Southeast’s own innovation hub.
Here’s what they covered:
What is “The Third Wave?”
According to Case, it’s the next phase of the internet. The first wave started in the mid-80s and stretched into 2000, when the internet was becoming a household resource. The second wave came shortly after the turn of the century. Many of us remember it as the Age of Apps—instead of building the internet, we began building on top of the internet to connect with one another. The third wave involves integrating the internet in more seamless ways, marrying tech with specific industries like education, health care, agriculture and transportation.
What does “The Third Wave” mean for Tennessee?
The third wave positions Tennessee to “build the innovative companies of tomorrow.” Major cities can revolutionize their respective industries—health care in Nashville, distribution in Memphis and manufacturing in Knoxville. And let’s not forget the ever-expanding tech community in Chattanooga; this transition will move the gig city away from “as a service” concepts and into more integrated technologies.
How do you reach investors in different regions?
The beauty of creating a startup in the South is that your dollar goes a lot farther than it would in a place like NYC or Silicon Valley. Considering this, the best way to get the attention of investors in those areas is to create a network in your own community and branch out. How do you do that? A few different ways:
- Create network density.
- Seek outside capital and visibility.
- Champion your city.
Or, better yet, skip the venture capitalists altogether and go straight for your customer base. As Rogers puts it, “Get your customers to tell you what they want.” Utilize crowdfunding platforms. This not only serves as a way to build capital, but it also connects you to your audience from the very beginning.
What role should government play in entrepreneurship?
Both speakers agree that the best way to create jobs isn’t by inviting huge companies to build new branches within our communities. Rather, governments should invest in the success of businesses that already exist. “Every Fortune 500 company begins as a startup,” Case says. And Rogers agrees. “Entrepreneurs are they protagonists in this story, for sure,” he says. “Entrepreneurs will make jobs.”