Impressions on PreFlight, a Program of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Over the last year, much of the buzz about the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (the EC) surrounded their accelerator program offerings. And rightfully so. Their accelerators increasingly attract applications from international companies and financial support from industry leaders. With the recent launch announcement of a new healthcare accelerator, it’s easy for the casual observer to think that the EC is a place for companies in an accelerator, while overlooking all the other functions that the EC provides.

Such may be the case for PreFlight, now in its fifth cohort. Until joining the EC in December, I, a semi-casual observer, had never heard about this 12-week educational program for the “‘idea-stage entrepreneur.” But I was certainly aware of some of the companies that came through the program, such as Dart Music and Aloncii.   

Now I am four weeks into my own PreFlight experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to start my entrepreneurial journey without it.

We are getting ready to launch….by first attending #PreFlightEC in @entrecenterpic.twitter.com/9CJdMYrFwV

— Startup Southerner (@StartupSouthern) January 25, 2016

The PreFlight cohort is larger than one might imagine. With about two dozen entrepreneurial ideas represented—and at two seats allotted per class fee—there are about 40 people in our class. (Our staff writer Rachel Cypher is in attendance with me.) And when the EC says “idea-stage,” they really mean it. While some groups may have already been working on their ideas for some time, others really have an idea that they are taking through to PreFlight to determine if it’s even viable. At PreFlight, all varieties of entrepreneurial ideas are welcomed.

The PreFlight program is led by John Murdock, EC’s VP of entrepreneurial development. The hour-and-a-half-long class, which meets on Monday nights, involves a mix of lecture, group exercises and discussion. In just four weeks, I’ve had to become better at quickly formulating words to describe certain aspects of my company so that those ideas made sense to another classmate. The time spent on Monday night go quickly, and those sessions have led to more hours of thinking and plotting well past the class time.

In addition to the classroom activities, PreFlight also has a robust online portal, with video lectures and reading material that could keep the participant busy for many hours beyond that. The weekly assignments that stem from material released every week are graded by Murdock, with valuable feedback for every assignment turned in.

So, what’s my major takeaway from PreFlight so far? It’s allowing our group to get to the point faster.

In just these four weeks, the PreFlight curriculum has allowed me to work smarter (and harder) when time is of the essence. Without PreFlight, I would not have been able to access such condensed and pinpointed information on starting a business in such a short amount of time. Sure, one could argue that some of the information could be found in books and other online resources. But at this point, I’m working off the principle of time value of money. Our startup cannot afford the time it takes to search for and read through random information, especially when my time is also being allocated to other aspects of life. If you want curated, foundational content without having to wade through the self-congratulatory passages, PreFlight may be your best bet.

I finally appreciate why the EC has a sign that says “Turning Ideas Into Reality” right at the entryway.

Author’s Note: As a recipient of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s Female Founder scholarship, the award included tuition to PreFlight.