Google Fiber to bring startups, entrepreneurs to Nashville tech scene

By Tanner Dedmon, Studio M staff

Though better known for its healthcare and music industries, Nashville is swiftly catching up to its tech-savvy competition both inside and outside of Tennessee.

The latest milestone in the race is the approaching rollout of Google Fiber, a promising Internet service provider that will make Music City the first in Tennessee to experience Fiber.

Chris Sipe, 22-year-old Nashville-based entrepreneur, is one such tech aficionado who hopes to soon cash in on Fiber.

“Nashville wants to be the ‘it’ city, but the bottom line is, there’s never been a popular consumer-facing product in the software or tech realm that came from it,” said Sipe.

Sipe studied computer science at Tennessee Tech and has taken on quite a few entrepreneurial endeavors for someone his age, the latest being Gigamunch, an app that connects aspiring chefs and hungry consumers. With a modest team of four members behind the venture, Sipe says the most influential effect of Google Fiber on startups like his won’t be the blazing speeds, but will instead be the rise of fresh, eager talent.

“I don’t think tech startup individuals are going to be like, ‘Oh, this place has Google Fiber, let’s pack up and go there,’ but bigger businesses will,” he said. “It will bring smarter people in closer proximity of each other, which will sprout all sorts of ideas and results.”

Sipe referenced Silicon Valley as a talent-searching destination where larger businesses scope out gifted developers and coders and startups are churned out daily. While the Valley’s notoriety and success make it irreplaceable as a technological mecca, a few cities on the way with a notable reputation in the industry could provide welcome alternatives to a cross-country job search.

Google Fiber is poised to generate opportunities for rising techies; the company has already been cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit in Music City through the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Chosen by Google to participate in the Google for Entrepreneurs program, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center is one of only 10 locations in North America that makes up the program’s Tech Hub Network. Each of these venues is outfitted by Google with business tools and a constantly updated infrastructure that allows them to be competitive with other innovation incubators, and many Google Fiber announcements, including the initial unveiling, go through the Center first. The program is directed towards locations that reflect Google’s enthusiasm for technology and small business, something that Raley says makes the Entrepreneur Center a perfect fit.

“It’s Google for Entrepreneurs placing their thumbprint on Nashville and the Entrepreneur Center as a place they want to be represented by and help drive initiatives,” said Jeremy Raley, the 24-year-old Membership Lead of the Entrepreneur Center.

As the Membership Lead, Raley handles the membership accounts of the hopeful enterprisers the Center caters toward, allowing him to notice the trends in clientele that most often use the workspace. While the Center doesn’t directly target a specific group, he says it most often attracts entrepreneurs in their late 20s or early 30s who choose to work in some capacity in the tech industry.

Raley echoed Sipe’s views on the effect Google Fiber could have, saying that it would likely attract leading businesses to Nashville over competing cities and would result in a trickle-down effect that brings in more entry-level positions that could benefit college grads.

Though not directly tied with Google Fiber, the connection to Google within the Entrepreneur Center has Raley overhearing members’ discussions of the assured benefits that Google Fiber will bring to their projects and residential area. But the focus for high speeds at home isn’t on streaming Netflix; instead, these small businesses can use this to benefit their brands even more.

If other Google Fiber-enriched cities are any indication of what’s to come, small-scale versions of the Entrepreneur Center will likely pop up in residential areas. In Kansas City, Kan., the first city to receive Google Fiber, web developer Ben Barreth saw the opportunity to capitalize on Fiber and created Homes for Hackers, a rentable workspace for entrepreneurs to collaborate and create.

Kansas City Startup Village was formed around Homes for Hackers shortly after, creating an expanded incubating ecosystem for ideas and startups composed of several houses and neighborhoods.

With the legislation for Google Fiber slowly progressing, it’s likely more startup spaces and entrepreneurs will follow to benefit from the usefulness and attractiveness of the high-powered tool.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University, is made possible through generous grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Tanner Dedmon is a senior studying journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and serves as the managing editor of MTSU Sidelines.

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