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ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!

Here I am taking a nap

after hiking to the very top
of Chimney Top Mountain
in Cashiers, NC. Picture
taken by Rhiannon Cou-

Living the dream in East Tennessee

By Alex Lavidge

market research, sales, marketing been put on hold for the time be-
This year brought with it many strategy, storyboarding, and writ- ing as I collaborate with prospec-
adventures and insights includ- ing content for ad literature. Ever tive sponsors and media partners.
ing: a rejuvenated sense of pride since I was a young boy I’ve I still remain as passionate as ever
in my hometown of Knoxville, thrived with variety; I’m blessed about interviewing “altrupre-
TN, renewed bonds with my to say that continuing the tradi- neurs” internationally, sharing
mother’s side of the family, and a tion leaves me feeling young-at- their stories, and outlining the
rekindled passion for pro bono heart. I’m 29 years young. recurring patterns in their lives (in
community service through a The story of how I the same spirit of Napoleon Hill's
nonprofit we started this year ended up staying in Knoxville, work in his classic Think and
called Knoxville Overground TN started earlier in the year. Grow Rich) so that others who
(KO). (KO is a community- While sitting in my office in San are inspired to follow in their
building and advocacy group for Francisco my plan was to travel footsteps will feel as though they
entrepreneurs and self-employed the world in 2008-09. Surveying have access to the tools and frame
professionals.) Professionally, I’ve social enterprise projects from of mind it takes to reach their
enjoyed the flexibility of freelance cooperatives to economic devel- level of success. Over the years
contract work for various startups opment initiatives taking place in I’ve been calling on many of them
and projects across the US in the South America was planned as across the globe and recording
areas of user-interface design, site the first phase. Those plans those interviews on Skype which
analytics, social media consulting, haven’t changed – rather, they’ve I’ll start publishing in 2009.
ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!
are visionaries and
stewards of the public One adventure this year took me to The
interest who have Farm ( in Summertown,
TN. It reminded me that a challenge for all
reached financial free- of us in the 21st century is figuring out how
dom through triple- we can combine the comforts and aesthet-
bottom line entrepre- ics of contemporary middle-class living with
the timeless principles of a self-sufficient
neurship (or in some eco-village.
cases, inheritance).
To the left is a picture an electric car at The
(Essentially, by “triple-bottom line” this Farm that charged itself using the solar
entails measuring success of any for- technology available at the time. It was
debuted at the World’s Fair in Knoxville in
profit endeavor through its impact on 1982. I was reminded of the film Who Killed
the environment, its benefit to the qual- The Electric Car which if you haven’t seen,
ity of life for all people, and its financial I’d highly recommend. The Farm continues
to have gems lying around that are glimpses
returns.) These altrupreneurs define into the future. This is a great symbol in
wealth not by net-worth, but instead by particular that reminds us that a zero-waste
the good health, happiness, and free time society is only possible when we under-
stand the psychology of human adoption,
they have in their life. They live relatively politics, and economics - not just science
simple, sustainable, ecologically sensi- alone.
tive, stress-free lifestyles that are sus-
tained by their local economy. With that
everything I could about Knoxville, I
free time, they integrate the three Cs of At first Knoxville was
altrupreneurship – capital, connectivity, came across some impressive rankings.
only a transfer point on
The Economic Research Institute re-
and consciousness – to be an agent for my journey, but it
social change in a manner that is more ports, for instance, that Knoxville is #1
beckoned me to stay a
effective than any antiquated “activist” while. out of 206 locations surveyed for top
models. In a world where it’s more and places for recent college graduates. The
more common to hear the attitude, “yes For starters my Grandfather (with whom region here also has a world-class brain
that could help people, but who is going I have always been very close) is going trust with Oak Ridge National Labora-
to pay for it,” these people have the trans- through some major life transitions at the tory, et al., just north of us, a low cost of
formational power to be the new cata- age of 88. Being here to provide help living, no personal income tax (other
lysts for social change in the public inter- through the process has been a relief to than dividend and interest income), and
est of humanity on a level never before
the family until a decision is made to pro- the list goes on. I wondered to myself,
seen on both a grassroots as well as an
vide full-time professional assistance. “could Knoxville, in the spirit of Silicon
institutional and international stage.
Being with him has also given me an Valley, be a new hotspot where entrepre-
Freedom, for them, is the act of giving
opportunity to document and organize a neurs, and altrupreneurs, can thrive?”
without asking for anything in return.
lot of family history and in so doing learn Turns out, it already is - and conditions
about my roots. I’m very grateful for are improving all the time. So I told a lot
that. of my friends in “the startup scene” back
But additionally, Knoxville, in in San Jose, Mountain View, San Fran-
many ways, feels like the Wild Wild cisco, Austin, TX, and all over, to “con-
East. It’s an incredibly exciting time to sider a place like Knoxville; for starters,
be here. “Green” is now becoming en the money you’ve raised will last you two
vogue and there’s more emphasis on to three times longer - and other condi-
community development all over the tions are improving continuously.”
place. We're in the midst of renaissance. Shortly thereafter, Knoxville
People are friendly, open-minded to in- Overground was conceived in July 2008
novation, diverse, and driven. The by a small group of us working together
Thanksgiving at High Hampton with family
Standing to the right are my Grandfather and Mother. We downtown area is being revitalized and weekly for casual coworking sessions at
spent the Thanksgiving holidays in Cashiers, NC this
year. has a progressive, authentic, trendy vibe. Panera Bread in West Knoxville.
As I started to network and research
ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!
Contact Information:

Alex Johnson Lavidge

6545 Northshore Drive
Knoxville, TN 37919

Knoxville Overground
attn: Alex Lavidge, President
1204 Kenesaw Avenue
Suite AB
Knoxville, TN 37919

c: 917-477-7732
skypeid: alexlavidge
twitter: search/add: “Alex Johnson Lavidge”

[Upper left] First Annual Knoxville Overground Startup Awards

To my right are friends Marina Prutskova, Scott Brooks, and Christy Cagle.
Behind us is the banner we displayed for the awards ceremony at the World
Grotto in Market Square, downtown Knoxville, TN. Picture by Caleb Wilson.

[Lower right] CoworkingKnoxville

The group got started by a group of us getting together once a week after
deciding we were tired “working out of a coffee shop or a home office, alone.”
Page Patten, Scott Adcox, myself and other members were in an article pub-
lished in the Knoxvillle Business Journal about coworking. Picture by Clay
Owen/Business Journal (Knoxville News-Sentinel).

Knoxville Overground on the Web:

Knoxville Overground (KO) is creating

a grassroots system for empowering self-
employed professionals and entrepreneurs
KO is a now community-building and advocacy organization bottom-up, grassroots organizations in the community that is
for entrepreneurs, techies, and self-employed professionals that advocating for public policy changes and additional entrepre-
in less than half a year, starting with nothing but a conversation neurial resources that in turn can help both attract and retain
over coffee and laptops, has already reached hundreds of sup- the “creative class” (for a good definition of “creative class,” visit
porters and members through sites like and and a stronger entrepreneurial culture We’ve accomplished a lot this year – from open- in the region. Ultimately our goal is to automate as much as
ing up Knoxville’s first coworking space in Sequoyah Hills in possible so that what we‘re doing can be duplicated in other
West Knoxville to hosting the First Annual Knoxville Over- cities across Tennessee and possibly the US. We’ll see what
ground Startup Awards during Global Entrepreneurship happens. We already see a Nashville Overground emerging,
Week. Needless to say, in these times of economic uncertainty, and chapters in Memphis and Chattanooga are in develop-
people are looking for new opportunities and a stronger work/ ment. Our official stance on expansion is regardless what the
life balance – and Knoxville Overground is one of the few groups call themselves, we’re happy to help however we can.
Setting the stage
ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!

for creativity
By Carly Harrington, Knoxville News-Sentinel
Friday, November 21, 2008

When Alex Lavidge returned to Knoxville for held an informal awards ceremony honoring 13 local
a visit in March, his plan wasn't to stay long. companies "that are positioned to bring in revenue
The 29-year-old activist and entrepreneur had and top talent from outside of Tennessee."
spent years hopscotching around the country to Awards were given to such startups as
such places as Iowa, Oregon and San Francisco., which was recognized recently at Tech-
But Lavidge saw an opportunity in his home- Crunch50 for being one of the hottest tech startups
town to bring together like-minded workers and in the U.S. in 2008, and to the Aldis Corp., a clean-
build a community. tech company providing efficient traffic and energy
"Knoxville has a lot going for it, but it's miss- management solutions to municipal partners.
ing some components," Lavidge said. Lavidge said the group hopes to reach a
With vision and passion, a grassroots-led broad spectrum of members.
effort began in July to connect self-employed profes- "If you look at entrepreneurs, they're doing a
sionals and entrepreneurs interested in sharing lot of different things," he said. "We want to help
space, ideas and resources. them grow."
Coworking Knoxville was embraced by free-
Business writer and The Bottom Line columnist Carly Harrington
lancers, writers, programmers and others "frustrated may be reached at 865-342-6317 or
with the coffee-shop scene." Four months and some
100 followers later, it has since evolved into what is Read this article and other articles about Knoxville Over-
now called Knoxville Overground. ground, coworking, and entrepreneurship online:
The group, which has a membership fee of
$125 a month, incorporated this week as a nonprofit
organization. /01/works-well-with-others.html
Its flagship endeavor is to develop a micro-
enterprise development center in Market Square, -stage-for-creativity/
similar to the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
in San Francisco.
It would be a community center that not only 67
includes shared workspace but also a social lounge
and a place to gather for book clubs, potlucks, movement-gains-foothold-in-knoxville/
classes and lectures.
Such a facility would "serve as a symbol to
the world that Knoxville has some of the best condi- witter-for-latest-breaking-news/
tions in the country for startup growth as well as for
building a prosperous self-employed career," an in- knoxvilles_firs.shtml
formation sheet on the group says.
The group, which has been meeting at HOW

World Grotto, expects to move by mid-December KNOXVILLE
to an interim workspace in Sequoyah Hills offered
by Leonard Knight of Entrepreneurs of Knoxville. Please

EOK is a networking group founded earlier

this year and brings together more than 150 mem- any
Lavidge envisions the two groups working We

together and eventually forming partnerships with in

other organizations like the Chamber. self-employed

Lavidge has been busy sharing the Knoxville our

Overground story, speaking recently at Gov. Phil
Bredesen's annual economic development work- You

shop, at BarCamp Nashville and Thursday at the your

Tennessee Innovation Conference in Nashville. media.
And on Wednesday, Knoxville Overground
A recurring theme in my life is that
ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!

the world has been my classroom.

My travels have been extensive as usual and related to economic development in the region, en-
have included seeing friends, clients, and a lot of trepreneurship, or venture capital. From the TN
conferences all over the US. One highlight includes Governor’s Conference on Economic Development,
visiting the World PROUT Assembly conference in the TN Governor’s Clean Energy Summit, Innova-
Radford, VA that attracted progressive thought tion Valley TEC Connect, the TTDC TN Innova-
leaders and organizations in social justice, grass- tion Conference, and the National Business Incuba-
roots activism, and economic transformation. tion Association (NBIA) conference in Chatta-
PROUT is an acronym for Progressive nooga on best practices on business accelerators in
Utilization Theory. Developed by the Indian phi- both the South and across the world, I’ve been all
losopher and scholar Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar in the over the place. I continue to study best practices for
late 50s, the nature of his economic theories are very entrepreneurial support models and network with
much in synchronicity with the emerging “triple- everyone I can. Success is predictable when you
bottom line” ethos of our age. We need to look at have good support systems in place and a close-knit
the very nature of economic theory itself, and the community is established. Also bearing in mind the
metrics we use to measure success, if we’re to expect idiom “integration is the new innovation,” I think
humanity to live in harmony with the planet as well Knoxville has a real chance of being bigger on the
as with each other. Science, technology, and “going map by putting what works and helps small business
green” are only pieces to the larger puzzle in design- thrive all under one roof. One of our main initiatives
ing a sustainable future. Particularly, what I like for 2009 is pushing forth a blueprint for a 5,000
about PROUT is that it isn’t ideological per se – it’s sq.ft. micro-enterprise development center that can
simply reminding the international community of provide office space for both startups and cowork-
the inter-disciplinary questions we need to start ask- ing space for the self-employed, a social lounge, and
ing more often about the true effectiveness of the ongoing classes and lectures on socially responsible
status quo of globalization. and successful entrepreneurship. We’re currently
Also in the spirit of setting down roots in exploring additional strategic partnerships as we
Tennessee, I’ve attended over a dozen conferences push forward this vision and others.
I’ve also spent some time in Nashville, TN
– from speaking at Barcamp Nashville 2008 to
New York City, NY
While I was in New York Startup Weekend Nashville, in many ways it feels
City for work and seeing like a second home. The same goes for Chatta-
friends, I stopped at a
weekend lecture series nooga – the creative energy there is contagious.
hosted by the Social
Research Journal at New Extracurricularly, I’ve mellowed out this
School called “Free
Inquiry at Risk: Universi- year – but I’ve found contentment exploring the
ties in Dangerous Times.” Smoky mountains, hiking in Cashiers, NC, and
The complexities of
defending academic surveying all the hot springs and health spas in the
freedom continue to
remain near and dear to area with friends. No skydiving, parasailing, or
my heart - and vital to
fostering a culture of hang-gliding though – not this year, anyway. I also
innovation and progress in continue to stay involved with a local church, book
Higher Education and the
US. clubs, and public interest advocacy groups. The
Marble City Film Festival in Knoxville, TN
(which happens to be one of the top ranked pro-
duction hubs in the country) comes to mind; we
created a short comedy film in under a day. I love
it, so it’s a goal of mine to get back into an improvi-
sational comedy troupe here in Knoxville in ’09.
ALEXLAVIDGE | The Happy New Year Update!
2009 is expected to be a year of A few favorite books and
promotion, planning, and productivity. films I liked that debuted
in 2008:

Outliers by Malcom Glad-

As for what’s next, after my travels and after I complete some milestones with my research, KO and well
writing, and get a few business projects off the ground, graduate school is undoubtedly on the horizon
The Clean Tech Revolu-
no later than 2010. I’m currently looking at M.B.A. programs across the country highly ranked in so- tion: Discover the Trop
Trends, Technologies, and
cially responsible entrepreneurship and social enterprise. To complement a M.B.A., I remain equally as Companies to Watch by
Ron Pernick and Clint
interested in disciplines such as Writing, Actuarial Science, and the Applied Sciences. Wilder

Creative Capital: Georges

My family is staying as busy as ever Doriot and the Birth of
Venture Capital by
and they’re all over the place. Spencer E. Ante

The Illusions of Entrepre-

I have a half-sister working toward a doctorate in Music in Kansas City, MO, a half-brother turned neurship by Scott A.
overnight celebrity that published a book titled Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned from Living
The Ascent of Money by
in 140 Square Feet who is now living in India with his fiancé, a half-brother working for the METRO Niall Ferguson
in Washington, D.C., and another half-sister who lives in Des Moines, IA with her two daughters and In Defense of Food: An
their children which makes me not only a proud Uncle, but a Great Uncle as well. Dad continues to Eater’s Manifesto by
Michael Pollen
teach at the Law School at the University of Iowa and writes books on American politics at a faster pace
Sicko, produced by Mi-
than I can read them. Mom currently is preparing to travel to Northern India to help administer polio chael Moore
vaccinations through Rotary International and stays busy managing an ad agency my Grandfather I.O.U.S.A., produced by
started. Additionally I’m surrounded by several wonderful aunts, uncles, cousins all over the world who Patrick Creadon

inspire me the more I learn about them, and many friends whom are so close to my heart I think of them Fields of Fuel, directed by
Josh Tickell
as my family as well. I hope that 2009 brings you wealth, however you chose to define it, and know that
you’re in my thoughts and prayers. Your success is my success!

6545 Northshore Drive
Knoxville, TN 37919