Entrepreneur Resources · Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship in Northeast Tennessee and Available Funding for Startups


Recently, we sat down with Tony Lettich, Managing Director of the Angel Roundtable and Co-Founder of Funding Sage, to chat about his thoughts on the current state of affairs for entrepreneurs in Northeast Tennessee and available funding opportunities for startups.

“Over the past five years, we’ve made some broad strides,” shared Lettich. “We now have a momentum of interest in entrepreneurialism from the community.”

He went on to say that although we’ve had a tremendous amount of growth over the years, we still have a long way to go. But that’s not a bad thing! It gives the community and the region something to strive toward.

“We now have two co-working spaces, Spark Plaza and Sync.Space, as well as two makerspaces, Skillville and The Inventor Center, which is coming soon. Not to mention the numerous organizations dedicated to the success of our local startups, including AccelNow, Startup Tri-Cities and of course, the Angel Roundtable,” Lettich continued.

But he’s not putting on rose-colored glasses. He realizes that we still have a long way to go and that there are communities across the state and the country which are much more vibrant than ours.

“Other areas are growing incredibly fast and are much more vibrant than we are. Not to be negative, just being realistic. So we have a lot of work to do.” He went on to indicate “we are in a global environment, which means we are not only competing with communities in this region, we are competing with communities around the world.”

One way that we’re trying to ensure future growth of the region is by sharing resources and information that currently exist with you – our readers. Our purpose is to bring to light the many wonderful opportunities we have for entrepreneurs in Northeast Tennessee.

The Angel Roundtable is one of those opportunities. Lettich shared more about what they do and who they help during our interview with him.

What is the Angel Roundtable?

“The Angel Roundtable (ART) was founded in 2012 by a group of successful “serial entrepreneurs,” seasoned executives and professionals who invest in early-stage companies,” as stated on their website.

They seek out and invest in companies who have a scalable business idea that’s investable at the next level.

What does that mean?

Scalable – These product and services concepts can be easily replicated and sold multiple times over. Software is a great example of a product that is scalable. You develop the software once, then sell it over and over to different users.

Investable – As Lettich explains it, “If we give you $150k where we invest at the late seed or early stage level, but the Venture Capitalists (a next level funding option) don’t think you have anything, then we’ve washed our money down the drain. When we do our due diligence (to determine if your company is investable at the next level) we’re looking at everything. Your discipline, business acumen, amount of passion and energy, etc. If the answer is yes (we believe that the company is investable at the next level), then we’ll invest.”

Who should seek out ART for funding?


The ART was not designed to provide funding for all businesses at all stages. They operate under very strict guidelines, which ensures they’re working with businesses they’re best able to help and getting the best return on their investments possible.


Here are just a few of the criteria they’re looking for in ideal businesses:

  • Seeking an investment size of $75K to $1.0M
  • Late Seed and Early stage business startups
  • Located throughout the US with a focus on the Southeast region
  • Led by strong “coachable” management teams with diverse and relevant experience
  • High growth potential businesses with a strong position in market niche
  • Strong “Go to Market Strategies”


You can read the full list of investment criteria here.


The members of the ART focus on investing in businesses in very specific industries. This list was determined based on their own particular experiences and expertise. When they established the ART, they wanted to focus on businesses that they truly understood and could help not just from a funding perspective, but in a mentorship capacity, as well.

The industries they focus on include:

  • Software
  • Software as a service (SaaS)
  • Medical Devices
  • Education Technology
  • Financial Technology
  • Specialty Chemicals (manufacturing capabilities not in need of significant investment)
  • Clean Energy


Who should not seek to fund through the ART?

The ART does not work with lifestyle businesses. These businesses don’t have the scalability that they’re looking for in order to get the type of return on their investment that they need. Additionally, lifestyle businesses don’t usually offer liquidation opportunities. Lifestyle businesses might include businesses like a local microbrewery, business coaches, graphic designers, restaurants, etc.

Lettich goes on to share that, “There’s nothing wrong with lifestyle businesses at all. There are many very successful ones out there, and we need them. But that’s not where ART invests. Our ideal business investments are focused on large opportunities, companies with the potential to develop sales of $100M or more. While lifestyle companies are an important asset for our communities and nation the owners’ desire is usually to develop and operate a company to run themselves with their families and provide themselves a strong sustainable income and future; something they can hold onto. This objective is in direct conflict with our objective to create a liquidation event three to five years out.”

What’s the process to apply?

If you think your business meets all the necessary criteria, click here to view and complete the full application process.

The Angel Roundtable funding isn’t for everyone. But it can be a great opportunity for those who meet the requirements. If you’re interested in learning more about the Angel Roundtable, you can visit them online at http://www.theangelroundtable.com.


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