The Smart Business Dealmakers Dealmaker of the Year Awards recognize exceptional individuals who are shaping the landscape of business and innovation in Nashville.

In addition, The Nashville Dealmakers Hall of Fame is recognizing a class of dealmakers that has made an often-groundbreaking impact on their organizations, industries and the region over the course of decades in business.

We're celebrating the accomplishments of the 2024 class of winners February 22 at the Nashville Smart Business Dealmakers Conference. Together, they provide a strong picture of the Nashville business community.

Here are the Dealmaker of the Year Award honorees we're recognizing this year:

Lindsey Cox is the CEO of Launch Tennessee. Founded in 2012, Launch Tennessee is a venture capital firm that prefers to invest in seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage companies. Since 2012, LaunchTN has been making direct investments into Tennessee-located companies across all 95 counties. Over the past two years as this region has recovered from the pandemic, LaunchTN has been in the nexus of venture investing — including serving as a catalyst for several regional companies’ investments last year to fuel growth.

Chris Ferrell is the CEO and Co-Founder of Endeavor Business Media. Endeavor is a business-to-business media company. Since being formed in 2017, EBM has grown mostly via acquisition — 11 so far. As the effects from the pandemic began to wane and live events returned in 2022, Endeavor once again embarked on acquisitions, which continued last year as the firm’s PE partner, Resolute Capital Partners, injected additional capital.

Tara Fung and Josh Rosenblatt co-founded Co:Create, which is revolutionizing the tattoo industry by marrying the art form with cutting-edge web3 technology. Over the past 24 months the duo has raised more than $25 million, including in an oversubscribed round led by A16z. Additional investors include Rarebreed Ventures, Rogue Women’s Fund, and Muse Capital.

Danielle McGee Gibson is the CEO and Founder of Black Business Boom, a social enterprise that offers a range of programs, tailored coaching and other resources designed to support the growth, expansion and access to capital for small Black-owned businesses. Over the past two years, Gibson and her team have been deeply involved in fostering the growth of numerous companies in this region, helping to champion economic growth for Black entrepreneurs.

Ray Guzman is the CEO of SwitchPoint Ventures, an early-stage venture studio that invests in the data science and artificial intelligence sectors. Most recently, Ardent Health teamed up with SwitchPoint Ventures to invest in and create a new health care delivery and administration innovation studio.

Hunter Hillenmeyer is the Nashville Investing Partners for Company Ventures, a VC investment firm which is currently an investor in three Nashville-based businesses, Alto, MoneyKit, and Unity AI. Last year, Hillenmeyer helped raise a $50 million Fund and Company Ventures is looking to make new investments in companies in the technology, digital health, financial technology, and enterprise software-as-a-service sectors.

Chaitanya Hiremath is a serial entrepreneur and investor. His most recent venture is Scanta Inc., which develops a cybersecurity platform that helps businesses to protect their virtual chatbots from machine learning attacks. In September 2022, Scanta’s PE firm Accent Capital Group sold its stake in the company, helping set Hiremath up for the company’s next phase of growth.

Shalin Tejani is the CEO of Legacy Dental Group, a locally owned and managed family of dental practices. Over the past few years, the group has made four acquisitions, the most recent of which was in November 2023 — Chattanooga Family Dentistry.

Ian Villa is the Co-Founder and COO of Whisper Aero Inc. The company develops fans and flight technology to help reduce noise levels for aircraft. Last July, Villa and his partners raised $41.4 million of Series A venture funding from FootPrint Coalition Ventures, Cosmo Ventures, and Linse Capital, putting the company’s valuation at more than $60 million.

Dealmakers Hall of Fame Honorees

James AylwardJames Aylward has had a long and distinguished career as an entrepreneur, investor and mentor, leaving a lasting impact on several companies and their leaders in the health care space. As an executive, Aylward engineered three successful exits in less than 10 years. As the CEO of Sy.Med, he led its sale to HealthStream. As the CEO of MedCenterDisplay, he sold the company to PatientPoint. And as CEO of Preferral, Aylward sold that business to AristaMD. Today, Aylward serves on the Board of Cell Phone Seat, a growing car accessory company where he also is vice president, as well those of as VideoBomb, PatientFocus and ForceField.

Andrew ByrdAndrew Byrd is the Founder and CEO of TVV Capital. A 35-year private equity veteran, he has raised five successful private equity funds that have invested in 27 lower-middle-market manufacturing businesses. He has served as chairman of the board of directors of all of TVV’s portfolio companies. Compassion and community service are the guiding principles of his business career and he’s served as Chairman of Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and helped found the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Milt CappsMilt Capps is the Editor and Publisher of Venture Nashville Connections. He covers business, capital formation, innovation, tech transfer, economic development and associated DEI/Equity issues via Venture Nashville, which he founded in 2008. Earlier, he held journalistic, public affairs and other roles with Mergermarket, Vanderbilt University, United Press International, Charleston Evening Post, Manning Selvage & Lee, U.S. Air Force (Vietnam), and others.

Beth ChaseBeth Chase is a serial entrepreneur who has built a long and distinguished career in management consulting, helping impact numerous entrepreneurs, business leaders and their companies. She served as Senior Managing Director at Ankura and is the Founder of c3/consulting, where she served as its CEO and led the firm’s growth to more than 120 professionals. She’s been recognized for her influence and expertise, and she has successfully partnered with the leadership teams of Fortune 500 and private-equity-owned companies to identify, create, and implement strategies for value-building innovations and transformational growth.

Joe MaxwellJoe Maxwell is the managing partner of FINTOP Capital, a VC firm that invests in fintech companies. Maxwell has co-founded and served as CEO of several companies that he’s exited, including Shareholder InSite and CapControls. He’s also been a senior exec or board member of other companies such as Amaryllis, Thread Bank, Foresight, InsurePay, Cloudbeds, Health Here, and Jamplify. Over the past few decades, many of the successful companies in this region have in one way or another been impacted by Maxwell’s guidance, input, or investments.

Marc MontgomeryA creative catalyst, Mark Montgomery has spent a lifetime bringing transformation and innovation to entrepreneurship, tech, music and consumer brands. Working with everyone from A-list artists to banks, venture firms, health care companies, spirits companies, large consumer brands, political campaigns and startups, Montgomery has generated hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder value and economic impact. His current work as founder of hellomarko is focused on empowering creative transformation — from guiding young entrepreneurs to advising C-Suites at banks, consumer data firms, and disruptive tech companies.