Why Chattanooga Is The Next Silicon Valley

Why Chattanooga Is

The Next Silicon Valley

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For Shelly Prevost, it was her life experiences as a psychologist and mother that promoted her to start a business. After realizing that there were few effective ways to monitor her children’s internet presence, which is a necessity for any parent, Shelly decided to fill the white space she saw by building The Torch, a smart wifi router for families. The Torch allows parents to reclaim their power to “pause the Internet with the simple push of a button for bedtime, dinnertime, or when they need to spend some time outside,” according to the company.

There are more reasons than just cybersafety that make parents weary of the web. Remember that teenager who was arrested for Tweeting what she thought was a harmless joke? When I first found out about this, I thought, “If Twitter existed when I was younger, I would have been arrested by now.” You can get sued for defamation just for liking a comment that may prove factually false. While I think regulations should be more lenient for young people, Prevost knows that expecting other people to change their rules isn’t the best option.

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Most parents want to limit their children’s use of the Internet, whether it’s to protect their little ones from mean kids in school, or to stop them from spending the entire day binge-watching marathon reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unsurprisingly, the router is a raging success, having exceeded its goal funding amount on Kickstarter in record time. In fact, Prevost is one of many women who have proven that crowdsourcing is an effective way to fund a startup, especially if a woman founded it. She left her stable career as a psychotherapist to join the startup world, and now she balances being a partner at two different venture capital firms, as well as a contributing writer for prestigious websites like inc.com.

“Women are an untapped market of potential entrepreneurs that make up over 50% of the consumer base.”

One of the VC firms where she serves as partner, The Jump Fund, focuses on investing in women. As someone who has a lot to say about the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the startup world, Prevost understands that “women are an untapped market of potential entrepreneurs that make up over 50% of the consumer base.” “Despite the fact that studies show women-led companies are good investments, they still face many hurdles, mainly because of gender biases.”

She’s an advocate for changing the language of the business landscape – straying away from using gendered terms. Not only that, but Prevost and The Jump Fund are also looking to change the physical landscape; “our vision is to establish Chattanooga and the Southeast as the nation’s best place for a woman to invest in or start a business.”

Silicon Valley is rife with not only gender-based inconsistency, but is also crowded. “The JumpFund has raised more capital for women in Chattanooga than is available for entrepreneurs in the rest of the state, excluding Nashville,” says Prevost. That alone is reason why people and their startups are already flocking from Silicon Valley to Tennessee. However, there are more reasons than less competition. The cost of living is significantly cheaper than other startup hubs, and that metric doesn’t even include the fact that there’s no income tax. Yes, you read that right. There’s no income tax, meaning you can have your cake and eat it, too.

For those who aren’t ready for investors, The JumpFund partners with a female-oriented startup accelerator, Start.co, that enables them to pitch at the annual Memphis Memo Day.  “The JumpFund partners with Start.co to provide coaching, pitch preparation, and seed funding to companies participating the Upstart accelerator program,” says Prevost.

“..Our vision is to establish Chattanooga and the Southeast as the nation’s best place for a woman to invest in or start a business..”

Shelly Prevost and her colleagues have paved the way for more diversity in the startup world, providing more access to greatness to everyone.

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Shannon Matloob

Shannon is a contributor at SWAAY. She has a degree in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University with a passion identifying and researching other women on the path to greatness.

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