When musician and entrepreneur Marcus Cobb came to Nashville in early 2015, he told a Chicago publication that the Windy City would remain home. While his music startup, a payment app called Jammber, still has a Chicago base, Cobb now lives with his family in Germantown and has no plans to leave Nashville.
“There is no city in the world where you could have done what we are doing right now,” Cobb said. “This is the only city where every aspect of the music business is within five to eight square miles. The community here, once they realize you are legit, that you are here to help, they throw the resources at you.”
Nashville still struggles to compete with major metro cities when it comes to building companies in certain sectors. But the city has succeeded in luring startups from other thriving metropolitan areas by playing to its strengths: health care and music.
“We are a national destination for health care and music startups,” Michael Brody-Waite, CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center said. “We have a unique level of resources we can bring to companies trying to startup in those spaces and to companies trying to grow in those spaces.”
The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is doubling down on its focus on health care and music businesses, and Jumpstart Foundry, a Nashville investment fund for startups, shifted exclusively to health care last year.
Many resources also exist for companies outside those two industries, Brody-Waite said. He emphasized that the strength of health care and music startup communities does not detract from other sectors, but rather supports the broader entrepreneurial community as companies that build new technologies can then apply them in other fields.
And there is nothing wrong with having core strengths, he said. If a city or a program tries to bill itself as the ideal destination for every sector, that message dilutes its expertise in its top areas.
“People are going to get frustrated when they see a company leave, but the truth is, anytime you try to present yourself as uniquely qualified to serve all stakeholders, you start to disqualify yourself from being able to serve stakeholders that you can uniquely help,” Brody-Waite said.
Cobb came to Nashville as part of a 14-week music business accelerator, Project Music, to grow his company Jammber, which helps musicians and writers set up sessions, track credits and get paid.
In his early days in Nashville, Cobb was able to meet with executives from Big Machine, Sony Music Nashville, the Nashville Musicians Association and Maverick Management, among others. His team has since interviewed 400 musicians to refine his product.
“Everyone we met introduced us to three or five other people,” he said.
Jammber is growing users by 60 percent each month, has more than 800 customers in seven countries and expects to employ as many as 50 people by February. Of the $420,000 Jammber’s raised in its first round of capital, only $50,000 didn’t come from Nashville investors, illustrating the warm reception it received from the local investment community.
Still, Chicago is where his tech talent lives as the software development bench is deeper and Cobb can hire faster there, he said. Operations are split evenly between the two cities and the Jammber sales team works from Nashville.
Chicago will always be Chicago, a global city rich with diversity, but Cobb has a new affinity for Nashville based on all the city has done for his company.
“I’m committed to staying here and keeping a strong Jammber presence here,” Cobb said. “We would not be growing as fast as we are if it were not for this community."
CEO: Marcus Cobb
Jammber allows musicians and writers to book sessions and performances and provides payment and keeps track of credits, while generating relevant paperwork electronically.
Problem it is solving: It can take musicians sometimes months to be paid for their work and contributions can be overlooked if they are not properly documented. The current process is inefficient for labels and the musicians.
Capital: Raised $420,000, raising $1.2 million.
Location: Nashville, Chicago