Nashville 5 Years Later: FAQ

My husband and I are rounding the corner to the 5th anniversary of life in Nashville.

These past few years, especially in the wake of COVID, I am connected weekly to multiple people in similar positions to where I was 5 years ago, thinking through the big question, ‘Should we make the move from our home in Los Angeles?’. I try my best to give each person who reaches out a leg up on their research by providing links to resources I’ve created.

I find myself repeating much of the same information, though I understand the value of having a live voice to calm the big-move jitters. Yes, I am happy in Nashville. Yes, I have a fantastic quality of life while remaining deeply engaged in my work as a venture capitalist. Yes, the airport is very convenient. And yes, the tech ecosystem is growing. A lot.

Many of these people are 10x more diligent than I was prior to making the big move, as I connected with exactly 0% of the Nashville tech and VC community prior to making my decision. It wasn’t until after I landed in Nashville that I began networking with strangers who would quickly evolve into dear friends and collaborators.

I thought I would organize my thoughts on Nashville and the broader Southeast here for anyone interested in getting a window into what I tell the Nashville/Southeast curious. These questions aren’t listed in any particular order, though many conversations follow a similar arc.

Nashville & Southeast FAQ

Why Nashville?

I wrote about this back in 2018, and my answer remains the same.

What is your favorite thing about living in Nashville?

It is a big city with a small-town vibe, so you get the best of both worlds. There is a ton of Nashville pride rallying behind local small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists (best known for our thriving and historic music community, though there are also visual artists and more), restauranteurs, and so on. Through thick and thin, you have the general feeling of knowing your neighbors and regularly seeing familiar faces around town, though with the added benefit of a growing and still expansive city. I’m still discovering new restaurants, stores, and venues, with more opening every week.

A few stats to give you a sense of scale: There are 701,275 people living in the City of Nashville, with just under 2 million people in the broader Nashville Metro area. By contrast, Atlanta’s Metro population is just over 3x that of Nashville’s.

What is your least favorite thing about Nashville?

The historically minimal collaboration and coordination taking place between key stakeholders in the tech and broader business communities. I think it will ultimately require bringing Nashville together, old and new, along with cross-sector collaboration (corporate, academic, startup, government, NGOs), to mingle and get to know one another. We have work to do, and bread to break together, though I’m feeling as optimistic as ever that people have a desire to collaborate more regularly. The tides will turn as they have in other leading tech ecosystems.

Do you think you will stay in Nashville forever?

These questions always throw me. Do people decide these things in their 30s? My husband and I bought a house in Nashville and don’t have any plans on moving anytime soon. Next question.

What is the tech scene like in Nashville?

Check out this handy guide to Nashville’s tech ecosystem, written by Build In SE’s very own Topher Price!

(FAQ from VCs) How should I approach building Nashville deal flow?

I recommend connecting with the Launch Tennessee team as a starting point. Check out their ‘Investors’ page. Also, don’t miss their annual 36|86 conference — my favorite event in the Southeast, back this September 27–29. Don’t miss it.

But honestly, please do not parachute into Nashville and start treating entrepreneurs like trading cards. If you don’t live here, book a flight, do your online research first, and reach out to founders you believe you could meaningfully move the needle for. Spend time here and get to know the city. Expecting people in ‘secondary and tertiary markets’ to roll out the red carpet for you is a tired trope within the VC community.

I’ve heard people compare Nashville to Austin, what are your thoughts?

Yes, good question. You will often hear people making statements that Nashville’s tech scene is roughly 10 years behind Austin. There are very interesting, non-public research studies outlining some of the data behind the two cities and their trajectories.

Bloomberg published a very interesting piece on tech migration from 2020–2021 according to LinkedIn data. Miami came in #1. Just kidding, Miami was in 11th place, with Austin in 1st and Nashville in 2nd.

Source: Bloomberg — Austin Is Biggest Winner From Tech Migration, LinkedIn Data Show

At the end of the day, every city is going to be unique, though I do see quite a few similarities between Nashville and Austin. One anecdote comes from the music and entertainment community — quite a few musicians and artists moved from Austin to Nashville after feeling they were priced out of Austin. I am hopeful that Nashville won’t do the same to its artist community, given the city’s reliance on artists as part of our DNA (see: Music City).

Where do you like to go for a vacation from Nashville?

Thanks to Nashville being centrally located, fun vacations are just a few hours away by car without ever needing to board a plane. A few of my favorites are Birmingham (about 2 and a half hours South), Memphis (about 3 hours Southwest), and of course the Great Smoky Mountains (including Asheville just on the other side, roughly 4 hours East). Chattanooga (2 hours Southeast) is great for outdoorsy people, and Louisville (2 and a half hours North) is my husband’s favorite place to disappear for a few days and write songs. There is no shortage of destinations without even boarding a plane.

Though if you do need to board a plane, BNA is excellent and only getting better with the ongoing renovations. Door-to-door it takes me about 15 minutes to get to the airport and less than 5 minutes from curbside through security with TSA Pre.

Where should I open an office?

That entirely depends on what your company does, who your employees are and what they care about, and so forth, though a few popular destinations for tech companies include the Gulch, Downtown, Germantown, and more recently Wedgewood-Houston (where I opened Mucker’s office in 2018). Amazon is opening its office in the Gulch, while Oracle is building a large campus on the riverfront. It seems the riverfront is going to be built up significantly in the coming years. Anecdotally, Wedgewood-Houston just became home to the newest Soho House, alongside other major offices including LiveNation and Apple Music.

Which neighborhood(s) do you recommend for living?

This entirely depends on your personal style and must-haves. I often compare Nashville to Los Angeles since that is what I know best, with a similar range of neighborhoods (stylistically) to choose from. Here is a handy map to familiarize yourself with the many neighborhoods you have to choose from within Nashville proper.

I personally spend quite a bit of my free time in East Nashville, though I am a pseudo-hipster and moved to Nashville from Los Feliz (a notoriously hipster neighborhood in Los Angeles, close to Silverlake and Echo Park). You’ll likely hear people mention Franklin and Brentwood (both located in neighboring Williamson County; Nashville is in Davidson County FYI), especially those with young children seeking a specific school district and lifestyle.

My recommendation is always the same — come and spend time here and see which neighborhoods speak to you on a personal level.

Which companies are hiring?

Glad you asked! Our friends at Launch Tennessee manage this awesome jobs board powered by Getro, curated by the LaunchTN team to include local tech companies.

Axios Nashville manages a jobs board for the broader business community, also worth checking out.

Do you ever want to move back to Los Angeles?

No. Next question.

What is the Southeast like?

I’m so glad you asked! My friend Grace and I co-founded an organization called Build In SE (new website currently under construction), a registered Tennessee Benefit Corporation committed to supporting the growing startup community here in the Southeast.

Thanks to our growing team of local ecosystem experts, we’ve compiled resources, events, and opportunities to get involved, no matter where you are located. Get started here.

Which cities are the most interesting for tech in the Southeast?

See the above question!

Do you have a question you’d like me to add to this FAQ? Send me a note: Monique [at] buildinse [dot] com. While you’re at it, give me a follow on Twitter to keep up with my latest on all things Nashville and the Southeast.

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Monique Villa

Monique Villa

Startups | Experiments | Observations. Startup and community builder based in Nashville. Co-founder at Build In SE and EIR at Mucker.