Paving the Path for Nashville’s Entrepreneurial Growth with Linda Rebrovick
November 11, 2020 / Share:
For 10 years, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center has been the “front door” to entrepreneurship in our city, making Nashville the best place in the country to start and grow a business.
In the “Power of 10” blog post series, we’re telling the story of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center through the eyes of the entrepreneurs who built it. These 10 interviews will explore the history of the EC, and the impact it’s had on the community, building a strong foundation of entrepreneurship that made Nashville the city it is today. This is the fourth of 10 posts in this series; check back soon for more!
Linda Rebrovick never envisioned she would start her own company, let alone spend time serving as a director on multiple boards. Looking back, however, it’s clear that the seeds were sown early, as she began taking on intrapreneurship roles earlier in her career, such as leading business units within companies like IBM and Dell. Linda would go on to be the CEO of start-up, Consensus Point, a Nashville-based prediction market and market intelligence technology firm. After that, she was presented with numerous opportunities to serve on boards and recognized that many lacked diversity.
Since then, she has focused her career on creating more diverse boards and opportunities for women. “What I try to tell women is, you’ve got to get out there and get involved in the community. There is no other way,” she says. “You are sitting around the table with the kind of people who are on these boards, and if you get involved, whether you’re on a committee or on a board, it is going to create development for you and your career far more than you can ever imagine.” Driven by this spirit of community involvement, Linda made connections over the years to people she would eventually work with to help start the Nashville Entrepreneur Center in 2010 as a founding member of the board.
At the time, Linda was chairing the Nashville Technology Council and saw the need to serve and provide resources to entrepreneurs that weren’t necessarily tech companies. “Having been an entrepreneur, I think about how hard it was to find the resources I needed, how hard it was to get the funding and capital that I needed, how hard it was to just find people,” she says. The NEC was created to help fill that void, and Linda was offered a position to serve on the board alongside other founding members.
In the early days of the NEC, Linda recalls that downtown Nashville wasn’t as vibrant as it is now. The former NEC building, now Nashville Underground, wasn’t surrounded by the neon lights and live music that we associate with Broadway today. Yet there was a buzz in the air nonetheless, according to Linda. “The NEC was a startup looking to open the door for other startups. Anytime you were involved with the NEC, you could feel that buzz—the excitement from entrepreneurs with their new ideas and the mentors helping them be successful.”
The buzz wasn’t just from the entrepreneurs and mentors, but also from all the individuals who helped found the NEC, such as its first board of directors. ”Being a part of the NEC really allows you to feel part of something bigger than you would in your own company, because we are affecting the entire Metro Nashville area, and even entrepreneurs from around the world who come here to participate in our programs,” Linda says. “It is so rewarding to realize the value and the impact that you’re bringing to them. There’s nothing that can make you feel more excited, and you feel it when you walk in the door or when you get involved in any program.”
A lot of hard work has gone into making the NEC what it is today, and Linda has played a key role in helping build a spirit of collaboration in the community through her continued involvement as the NEC’s longest-serving board member. “You know, as the saying goes, high tides lift all boats, and we feel strongly about that,” she says. “That is the success that we can bring to the table, and the proof is that we’ve been building it together.” This success can be seen in the numbers: in 10 years, the NEC has produced over 800 alumni, helped companies raise over $230M in capital, and helped companies generate more than $190M in revenue.
Linda credits the success of the NEC to a spirit of collaboration, whether among corporate sponsors, public/private partnerships, or the entrepreneurs themselves. “Everything we do allows us to give back,” she explains. “It’s helping the city thrive, it’s helping us create economic development, it’s helping us help our corporate sponsors. I think our success is that we came together and that we knew that this could be more powerful if we brought others together to help us, and then we were certainly helping them in return. Nashville has always been a small business town, and so the key to our success is the entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurs being successful and scaling their businesses.”
Read more stories like this one and learn more about the #Powerof10 here.