Silicon Valley in California is the center of the tech startup world in the United States, and it appears to have the monopoly on cutting edge innovation. Home to revolutionary companies like Google and Facebook, entrepreneurs flock to the region in hopes of creating their own tech giant to add to the history books. But if Tiffanie Robinson has her way, Silicon Valley will soon be competing with Chattanooga, Tennessee, for top tech talent.
Robinson currently works at the Chattanooga-based venture incubator Lamp Post Group, where she serves as the director of operations. The Lamp Post Group helps aspiring entrepreneurs make their businesses a reality. Within the Lamp Post Group, Robinson founded WayPaver, an innovation lab dedicated to finding and supporting breakthroughs in science and technology.
Both of these jobs help stimulate economic growth in Chattanooga by supporting new, innovative businesses in the region. Robinson also works as a general partner at the JumpFund, an organization that invests in female-led companies.
"Chattanooga is a mid-sized city that is innovating and growing through collaboration. We don't have the same history and density as a place like Silicon Valley, but we're building our own history and doing things other cities aren't," Robinson told Mic.
Chattanooga's increased focus on tech entrepreneurship in the past few years is a direct result of much of Robinson's work. She advocated for Chattanooga to become a part of the Sandbox initiative. Started in 2009, the Sandbox is a global network of young entrepreneurs, and Chattanooga is now one of 25 Sandbox hub cities.
"They recognized that Chattanooga has a lot of very interesting initiatives going on and a growing talent of millennials," Robinson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Sandbox includes some of the most groundbreaking scientists and social entrepreneurs in the world."
While Chattanooga's startup community has grown in the past few years, Robinson believes the community can be much more diverse than it is now.
"I want my work to greatly impact the diversity issues in Chattanooga's business," Robinson told Mic. "There is still so much work to do to make this place feel like anyone can do business here. Our city is growing so much and doing so much amazing work, but diversity is one of our downfalls."
Robinson has been an entrepreneur at heart for many years. She worked for the River City Company where she came up with new initiatives to encourage economic growth in the city's downtown area. Two of her previous businesses have been bought out by other ventures.
Now, she's focused on the Lamp Post Group and cultivating diversity in the startup community. Last year, she helped bring a Startup Week to Chattanooga after attending a similar one in Denver.
Despite her many work commitments and devotion to her community, Robinson stays grounded.
"I try to remember to not take myself too seriously and that my most important priorities in my life are my faith and my family," she said.