CO.LAB will launch the Chattanooga Regional Catalyst Fund (CRCF), a regional evergreen fund focused on directly addressing the early-stage funding gap in southeast Tennessee. Stakeholders point to gaps in the continuum of capital available to startups as a key constraint throughout the region. Many local funds that started around 2010 when Chattanooga launched its gigabit network have deployed their capital and closed. Recently, many regional companies have sought early-stage capital outside of the region, posing a risk to local jobs, growth, and stability. CO.LAB is a non-profit with a mission to increase the capability and viability of startups in the Chattanooga region by connecting entrepreneurs with expertise, resources, and community.
The vision for CRCF is to invest in high-growth companies operating in sectors that reflect the region's strengths, including healthcare, transportation/mobility, and energy). The fund will provide early-stage ventures with catalytic equity investments of $50,000-$150,000 to spur growth in product development and operations, expand investor networks for subsequent funding, and provide access to local support and technical assistance. CRCF expects to deploy at least $3.5 million during the three-year grant period and an additional $1.5 million within seven years after grant award, investing in 60 companies and supporting over 300 jobs. Education for accredited investors will expand the investor base and increase diversity among limited partners. This project represents the formation of a critical and sustainable investment platform to aid in the recruitment, development, and retention of early-stage, high-growth startups and talent in the Chattanooga region.