Thursday, September 04, 2008

People: Lawyer who kicked-off Nashville tech

Warren Ratliff (left) was 27 and an attorney leading the technology practice at Farris Warfield Kanaday (soon to become part of Stites & Harbison) when he put together Nashville's first supra-technology event in December 1999. Soon thereafter, Warren, now 36, became the first chairman and executive director of Nashville Technology Council, which was chartered in August 1999. The Yale Law, Duke poli-sci/history undergrad told me in an interview yesterday that the 1999 event attracted about 450 executives from virtually every part of the technology spectrum. From personal experience, I can tell you the energy in that hotel ballroom that evening was incredible, and the program was truly ecumenical, with healthcare, biotech, IT and other fields well represented. The gloom of the bust was still faraway over the horizon, of course. Moreover, not long after the NTC's launch, Warren relocated to Atlanta, to launch a tech business with family. Yesterday, he repeatedly stressed how other local execs had played determining roles in NTC's launch, and declined taking much credit. (Today, Warren is chief counsel for McKesson Health Solutions, has a wife and three children, isn't currently involved in the Atlanta tech scene and doesn't get up to Nashville often.) Warren had, in fact, grown up working in his father's software-development business. David Condra, today once again CEO of Dalcon Communications, succeeded Ratliff at the NTC helm. After about five years at NTC, Condra was succeeded by ConduIT Founder Ray Capp and then incumbent Jeff Costantine. Costantine had not been retired long after two decades with HCA when he joined NTC, and he recently announced he's going to try at least semi-retirement again. The search for Costantine's successor is aggressively underway, with a selection likely to happen within 30 days. It's hard not to think wistfully of the heady atmosphere of those earlier days in Nashville technology. Maybe the NTC search committee can find that ingredient, too. -- Milt Capps

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