ONES AND ZEROES: THE EAST SIDE GOES DIGITAL

IT’S AN EXCITING TIME IN THE REALM of technology and digital media with the buzz around apps, social media and startups in general. Nashville is becoming a regional tech hub, recently even landing a Google satellite office to be located right across the river in the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. With the number of creative types here in East Nashville, it’s worth taking a look at what’s happening in technology and digital media here in our neighborhood.
     Whether you call it “digital media,” “new media” or “electronic media,” defining exactly what “it” is can be difficult. It can run the gamut from traditional media that uses digital technology, to broadcast, to developers and content creators. Adding the words “interactive,” “meta” or “convergence” further muddies the water.
     Joe Smith, owner of Art Dude Creative, is a creative web designer and East Nashville leader with a knack for breaking down information. He explains how digital media is categorized and defined, at least in his thinking: “You have your hosting companies, designers, your developers, your designer/developers. There’s content creators — digital video, writers, photography. There’s SEO (search engine optimization). Next is social media, branding, strategy, analytics and user experience. Not to mention traditional PR and marketing that are being done digitally.”
     A longtime web agency in East Nashville is iDesign, co-owned by District 7 Councilman Anthony Davis. In business since 2005 and in their space on Gallatin Road since 2007, iDesign handles web design and hosting, illustration and print design, social media and SEO. He has seen the influx of digital media in the last several years. “I am very encouraged,” Davis says. “I never thought we would have this many, this fast. It truly shows East Nashville is a great place for professional service agencies.”
     Most of these businesses are popping up on the corridor between iDesign along the stretch where Gallatin Pike turns into Gallatin Avenue and then into Main Street. Anode, on the Main Street end, is another of the stalwarts. They have been in their present location since 2010, having moved from their space on lower Broadway just before the Nashville Flood. They work on interactive exhibits, business- to-business sales and marketing tools, and content production. “It’s always great to have peers in the neighborhood, especially ones that complement what we do that we can partner with,” says Jeff Peden, Anode’s director of sales and marketing.
     It was recently announced that The Bradford Group, a full-service PR firm, will be moving into an office suite at 5th and Main. They have been in business for several years as a traditional PR firm, but they also provide content creation and inbound digital marketing. Plans are for them be in their new space by the first part of 2014. Jeff Bradford says what excites him the most about East Nashville is its “energy and innovation.”
     Michael Epps Utley, founder of Epps Interactive, echoes that excitement. “East Nashville gives us an astounding range of talents to draw from: writers, designers, coders, marketing managers, photographers and video talent, and even registered nurses,” he says. Epps Interactive has been around since 2000, focusing on online marketing as well as website and content development. He moved the company to the Washington, D.C. area for few years before bringing it back to East Nashville. “We are a funky business with niche products. We needed a funky ZIP Code to make that work. It’s also really nice to have easy access to downtown, the medical area — and Edley’s!”
     Located inside developer Christian Paro’s new Center 615 business development at 615 Main Street, Epps Interactive joins a host of new or recently relocated new media businesses. Duane Stephenson with Stephenson Creative Group focuses on information design and branding; Earth Channel specializes in content streaming; Hi5 Creative focuses on social media and video marketing; Make it Pop Creations is a creative video production house. LiveSchool, a company developing a web app, was recently in the running for The Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year. It is becoming common not only to see these types of businesses moving into Center 615 but also for them to share collaborative working space or even share projects.
     Next door at the Christian Paro-owned Paro South are a number of creative companies, each with its own niche, including Content That Connects, No Sleep For Sheep, 2TheTop and Love & Science. Another, Way Solutions, works to bring greater value between companies and their customers. Owner Jennifer Way is a public speaker, HR professional and effective social media user. “East Nashville businesses are thriving because they are attracting talent,” Way says, “and East Nashville is all about community, which translates really well online.”
     Closer to 5 Points, above Nuvo Burrito, Firefly Logic develops and designs software, as well as web and mobile applications. Ethos3, at 11th and Russell, concentrates on presentation design. On Woodland Street, pixelFLYTE specializes in interactive design and digital branding. Above the Shoppes on Fatherland, Proof Branding is a branding and creative design agency. Firecracker focuses on web design, style groups and branding. Syndit Global syndicates content and online marketing. Highstick Media focuses on web design, social media and SEO. Xenergy.net builds custom web sites and manages servers and domains.
     Kia Jarmon with The MEPR Agency moved her firm here two years ago “because of the proximity to downtown and its growth centers, clients and prospects, and our creative, technology- driven colleagues.” MEPR concentrates on public relations, brand strategy and social digital platforms.
     We are in such a creative part of the city and undoubtedly unmentioned here are many digital media types working out of home offices, either for themselves or telecommuting. The talent is attracting the structure, so firms are relocating here. Talent is attracting talent, since it’s hip to live in East Nashville. Startups are starting up, right here. It’s not hard to envision East Nashville becoming the digital media hub of the city, and that’s very exciting. — EJ