Southern Packaging Technologies’ FunLPro, Startup Day winner lands $700,000 capital investment

Southeastern Packaging Technologies (SPT), a leading innovator in the consumer packaging industry and Startup Day 2015 winner, announced it has secured $700,000 in funding which will be used to accelerate the commercialization and continued development of patented FunLPro packaging technology.

“We are excited to secure financial backing to take SPT to the next level,” said Bryan Crosby, CEO of Southeastern Packaging Technologies.

The company holds a portfolio of patents around high-end dispensing closures that eliminate the need to use funnels or separate pouring devices when transferring CPG fluid products in bulk and at retail.

The funding round was led by Knoxville-based Mollenhour Gross, LLC. Willie Wallace, the CEO of Radio Systems Corp, was also part of the capital investment, as well as Ms. Mary Walker, a North Carolina resident and highly successful real estate investor.

“With this investment, we are poised to grow the presence of our closures into mass distribution, partnering with best in class brands in to 2017 and beyond. Our goal is to secure national and global adoption of our patented technologies in the consumer packaged goods space, becoming the standard for safe and efficient transfer of chemical products around the world,” said Crosby.

Jordan Mollenhour of Mollenhour Gross added: “We are thrilled for the opportunity to work alongside and invest in the SPT team. We are confident in the continued proliferation of FunLPro technology, and we believe it solves a problem experienced around the globe on a daily basis. Consumers will benefit from reduced spills and less waste when using everyday items such as motor oils, household cleaner products, medical fluids, and industrial compounds. This is a huge market. From our perspective, Southeastern Packaging Technologies will revolutionize the packaging industry and create the first major innovation in CPG packaging in over three decades.”

Established in 2004 by Jordan Mollenhour and Dustin Gross, Mollenhour Gross, LLC is a private holding company with offices in Knoxville, TN. Its portfolio companies are engaged in a variety of industries including e-commerce, warehousing fulfillment, real estate, private lending, venture capital, and software.

Bryan Crosby was awarded the $5,000 cash prize presented by BOBA (Business Owners Benefits Association) for Startup Day 2015. Crosby was one of seven startups in competition for the prize.

Crosby was also nominated for Innov865’s Traction Award.

Knoxville Showcases its Entrepreneurial Spirit at Startup Day 2016

East Tennessee’s leading investors, innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders convened at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville on Thursday, September 22, 2016 for the fourth annual Startup Day. The event is part of Innov865 Week, which celebrates and showcases Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific won the pitch competition and was awarded $5,000 from sponsors Three Roots Capital and SouthEast Bank. T&T Scientific was one of six startups participating in the pitch competition this year.

Graham Taylor, co-founder of T&T Scientific, created LipX, a time-saving, single use extrusion device that researchers can use to prepare liposomes for use in a wide range of research applications. Unlike the gold standard device which requires 45-60 minutes to assemble and clean with each use, LipX is ready to use out of the package and does not require the use of harsh chemicals for cleaning.

Bob Bradley, President and CEO of NewsBreak and Startup Day 2014 alum, received the second annual Traction Award, presented by UT Federal Credit Union. The Traction Award is given to a Startup alum who has gained the most momentum in the past three years. Launched in 2009, NewsBreak is a programmatic merchandising platform that converts fuel-only customers to multi-product purchasers.

Startup Day also featured Paul Singh, nationally recognized serial entrepreneur and seed stage investor, who came to Knoxville as part of his North American Tech Tour. Aside from being a featured guest at Startup Day, Paul held one-on-one consultations with a lucky few Knoxville-area startups to gain a better understanding of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial landscape and identify potential investment opportunities.

“I continue to be amazed and inspired by the entrepreneurial talent we have here in Knoxville,” said Stacey Patterson, Vice President of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and founding member of the Innov865 Alliance, which hosts Innov865 Week. “Our region has a rich tradition of innovation, and Startup Day gives our entrepreneurs a platform to share their hard work and grow their businesses. The award winners and startup pitchers truly exemplify Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

Startup Day was just one in a series of events held during Innov865 Week, which wraps up today. Throughout the week more than one thousand entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, students and the East Tennessee community participated in educational panels, investor roundtables and social events that promoted entrepreneurship in Knoxville and the surrounding area.

About Startup Day

Startup Day is an annual event that showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. The event is part of Innov865 Week which is organized by the members of the Innov865 Alliance: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. http://innov865.com/

T&T Scientific Wins Startup Day 2016 Pitch Competition

Graham Taylor with T&T Scientific claimed the winning pitch prize during Startup Day 2016 on Thursday, September 22, 2016 on the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific received $5,000 from sponsors Three Roots Capital and SouthEast Bank. The winning pitch was one of six heard during the fourth annual Startup Day, which began offering prize money for a pitch winner in 2015.

“Graham Taylor exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that defines Startup Day and makes Knoxville such a great place to grow a business. It is truly an honor to bestow this prize on T&T Scientific and I am excited to see where the future leads them,” said Monty Montgomery, President of SouthEast Bank.

Graham Taylor, co-founder of T&T Scientific, created LipX, a time-saving, single use extrusion device that researchers can use to prepare liposomes for use in a wide range of research applications. Unlike the gold standard device which requires 45-60 minutes to assemble and clean with each use, LipX is ready to use out of the package and does not require the use of harsh chemicals for cleaning.

Judges David Kereiakes, Senior Associate, River Cities Capital Funds; Sue Malone, President, Strategies for Small Businesses; and Tony Shipley, Chairman and Co-Founder, Queen City Angels, scored all presentations on a variety of criteria including value proposition, market and sales strategy, distinctive competence and growth potential.

“Startup Day’s Pitch Competition showcased some of the best entrepreneurial talent that East Tennessee has to offer,“ said Grady Vanderhoofven, President and CEO of Three Roots Capital and co-presenter of the $5,000 prize. “I commend all of the entrepreneurs for their hard work and vision, and look forward to seeing them grow their businesses.”

Startup Day 2016 featured Paul Singh, nationally recognized serial entrepreneur and seed stage investor, who came to Knoxville as part of his North American Tech Tour. The event also featured the awarding of the second annual Traction Award, sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union, which is presented to a Startup Day alum who has made the most progress over the past few years. Bob Bradley of NewsBreak was the 2016 recipient.

All six startups received a one-year subscription to FundingSages’ TurboFunder Platform, which provides entrepreneurs information, resources and tools to guide them through the creation and development of an investable company.

About Startup Day

Startup Day is an annual event that showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. The event is part of Innov865 Week which is organized by the members of the Innov865 Alliance: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. http://innov865week.com/event/startup-day-2016/

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NewsBreak Recipient of Startup Day’s 2nd Annual Traction Award, Presented by UT Federal Credit Union

NewsBreak, a programmatic merchandising platform launched in 2009 that converts fuel-only customers to multi-product purchasers, is the recipient of Startup Day 2016’s second annual Traction Award. Bob Bradley, President and CEO of NewsBreak, presented a Power Pitch during the second Startup Day in 2014. The announcement was made during the Startup Day program at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

Myra Hamilton, Assistant Vice President of Business Lending at UT Federal Credit Union, the sponsor of the award, presented it to Bradley during the Startup Day program in front of hundreds of business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs in attendance.

“It is an honor to sponsor this award for the second year in a row and to bestow it on such a deserving recipient,” said Hamilton. “Bob Bradley has taken a local digital startup company and transformed it into a nationally recognized software company that is changing how retailers market products to consumers.”

NewsBreak is currently available across five states, with expected growth to reach 300 convenience stores by the end of this year, up from 88 locations at the end of 2014.  Earlier this year, NewsBreak opened its first site in the state of Utah through a strategic partnership with Sinclair Oil and Bennett Pump Company. The deal makes NewsBreak available to not only 1,400 Sinclair branded stations in 19 states, but the 6,000 fueling retailer locations across the U.S. that are currently served by the third largest fuel pump manufacturer in the world, Bennett Pump Company.

NewsBreak continues to enhance their software capabilities through the implementation of predictive marketing and dynamic data analytics. The development efforts are being led by Co-Founder & COO Brian Nelson, who has a background in statistical analytics and experimental psychology. The platform now utilizes historical sales and key consumer buying variable data, like unit sales, market basket, temperature, and household income to build contextual content management rules for each retail location. The content management system then delivers a relevant playlist of merchandising messages to pump-to TV and in-store screen networks. Once deployed, the software creates a feedback loop by continually updating new sales and consumer buying variable data to inform and adapt the contextual rules, resulting in adjustments to the playlist.

“I am humbled to be the 2016 recipient of the Traction Award,” said Bradley. “Startup Day provided a platform for NewsBreak’s success and growth over the last two years. I cannot think of a better place to start up a business or call home than East Tennessee.”

About Startup Day

Startup Day is an annual event that showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. The event is part of Innov865 Week which is organized by members of the Innov865 Alliance: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. http://innov865week.com/event/startup-day-2016/

“Knoxville Maker City Summit” attracts hundreds of people

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

When we asked key organizer Joy O’Shell what she thought about yesterday’s “Knoxville Maker City Summit,” the always effervescent Roane County native paused for a few seconds before invoking the immortal words of Harry Cary.

The long-time baseball announcer was fond of yelling two words – “Holy cow” – when something amazing happened in a Chicago Cubs baseball game, and those were the first two words that came out of the mouth of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Director of Outreach.

“I’m blown away,” O’Shell said of the roughly 400 people who pre-registered for the event that was held in conjunction with “Innov865 Week,” Knoxville’s inaugural week-long celebration of entrepreneurs like those in the maker movement.

“We added 100 more seats in the last two weeks, and that was still not enough,” O’Shell said. “The community really came together . . . makers of all ages connecting, communicating and colliding.”

We concurred with her assessment of the crowd as we clearly saw individuals of all age groups, races, and gender including a few mothers with infants. Most were dressed casually, but there were a few in ties. Regardless of age or dress, everyone was actively engaged in the idea sharing, clearly underscoring how much of an interest exists around the maker space.

Yesterday’s event was a commitment made by O’Shell and two other participants after attending Etsy’s national summit earlier this year. The other attendees were Nanci Soloman of Rala and David Harman of Native Maps(EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read this teknovation.biz post for more background.)

“The Knoxville team really came together,” Ilyssa Meyer, Etsy Public Policy Analyst, said.

Shortly after Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero issued a proclamation announcing Knoxville as an inaugural “Etsy Maker City,” those attending the Knoxville summit listened to presentations and shared ideas, first around the topic of defining a vibrant maker city.

A number of ideas surfaced including:

  • Creating a centralized hub of information for makers;
  • Starting something similar to “First Friday,” but focused on showcasing the work of makers;
  • Establishing a “Made in Knoxville” brand;
  • Offering continuing programming for makers and possibly having a “Maker Week”;
  • Launching something like Atlanta’s AmericasMart to connect sellers and buyers;
  • Updating zoning regulations for makers; and
  • Developing an app that would make it easier for makers to understand the numerous government regulations affecting them.

As part of the Knoxville event, Scripps Networks Interactive had a crew onsite at the Mill & Mine building to videotape the personal stories of local makers. Some of the stories could find their way onto Scripps various digital platforms.

(Note: This article appeared previously on teknovation.biz, a web-based service that was launched to spotlight and celebrate “all things” related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.)

“Mayor’s Summit on Entrepreneurship” launches week-long start-up celebration

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“Pizza, beer and music are the holy trinity” of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, Evan Absher of the Kauffman Foundation told about 100 people attending yesterday’s “Mayor’s Summit on Entrepreneurship.”

The morning session, hosted by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, officially kicked-off “Innov865 Week,” the region’s first-ever week-long celebration of entrepreneurship. It was also the fourth Mayor’s Summit that Kauffman has co-hosted around the country, going to places where Mayors are heavily involved in the start-up space.

“Entrepreneurship has been part of my agenda since I came into office,” Mayor Rogero said. “Today’s theme is rethinking economic development. We are not talking about scrapping or taking away from anything we are doing.”

Yet, as the Mayor noted, 100 start-ups creating three jobs each equals one company recruited into the region that creates 300 jobs. During the Summit, attendees broke into small groups to develop ideas to further enhance and advance the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and the start-ups that are part of it.

In a soft spoken but fast-paced manner keynote address, Absher, Kauffman’s Program Officer in Research and Policy, hit on some key points for a very diverse audience that included a handful of elected officials. In the process of doing so, he challenged some norms in the start-up space.

“Culture almost always precedes vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems,” he explained. “People move to and live in a city.” In the case of Knoxville, Absher said he understood “Sundown in the City” was a big catalyst in the development of Downtown Knoxville’s thriving restaurant, music and cultural scene that is now expanding north into Happy Holler and east beyond the Old City.

Other key points in his presentation were the need for a more diverse set of entrepreneurs, a more laser focused effort on high potential start-ups, and the importance of connectivity strategies.

“Women entrepreneurs are key to accelerating growth,” Absher said, adding that foreign-born entrepreneurs and other underrepresented populations are also important and underutilized.

On the topic of job growth, he noted that three cities – Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville – account for about one-half of all job growth in the state. With young entrepreneurs of all types creating nearly all net new jobs through good times and bad times, Absher encouraged the attendees to focus on what he characterized as “Main Street” start-ups.

“We need to find in those firms the high-growth ones and take them to the next level,” he said. To do so, Absher urged the attendees to recognize several realities.

“Large firms do not create new jobs,” he reemphasized. “Incentives for large firms are the least effective for job creation.” Earlier, he showed a chart summarizing the State of Tennessee’s top awarded incentive packages, and all but two went to companies headquartered elsewhere.

“Most high-growth (start-up) firms need access to customers,” Absher said about the importance of networks that provide connectivity. To illustrate the point, he used a heat map or density diagram that showed the stark difference between communities like Knoxville and both Boston and Silicon Valley.

“People who know people who know people . . . that (connectivity) is a powerful trait in all successful entrepreneurial ecosystems,” Absher observed. What was left unsaid but clearly implied was the importance of local business executives helping entrepreneurs succeed by connecting them with potential customers and mentors.

After Absher’s presentation, Mayor Rogero moderated a panel that featured Dana Mauriello, Head of Wholesale and Manufacturing for Etsy; Doug Lawyer, Vice President of Economic Development for the Knoxville Chamber; and Jill Van Beke, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Launch Tennessee. Mauriello was in town for yesterday afternoon’s “Knoxville Maker City Summit.”

(Note: This article appeared previously on teknovation.biz, a web-based service that was launched to spotlight and celebrate “all things” related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.)

First-ever “Innov865 Week” has arrived

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Knoxville’s first-ever week-long celebration of entrepreneurship is finally here!

Over the next five days, there should be ample opportunity for you to participate in and experience the vibrancy of the growing ecosystem with events planned by the Innov865 Alliance as well as different individuals and organizations. Some of the events are invitation only, while others like Wednesday’s “The Works Demo Day” have a pre-registration deadline that has already passed.

You can see a complete list of the events by clicking here. Public events include these:

(Note: This article appeared previously on teknovation.biz, a web-based service that was launched to spotlight and celebrate “all things” related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.)

Three Roots Capital underscores evolution of region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Today marks the kick-off of Knoxville’s first-ever week-long celebration of entrepreneurship – “Innov865 Week,” and there are a number of events – some public, others by invitation – that focus on topics critical to the continued growth and success of the local start-up community.

One of the topics that is usually at the top of almost every list is the matter of access to capital. While we clearly don’t have anywhere near the level of capital needed – from seed to growth stage and everything in between, that’s a refrain you will hear from any region, even Silicon Valley.

What is important, I believe, is the progress we’ve made in the past five years, punctuated by the public unveiling today of Three Roots Capital, the region’s newest institutional investor. It is working to aggregate multiple pools of capital along a continuum, ranging from early-stage to later-stage, including both equity and debt. Grady Vanderhoofven, a long-time player in the local access to capital movement, leads the Three Roots team.

One only needs to look back about 13 years to remember that the cupboard was literally bare. A local fund named the Venture Alliance had just failed, so there was a sour feeling among investors in this risk averse region. Fortunately, Tech 2020 and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation partnered – that’s an important concept – to launch the $12.5 million Southern Appalachian Fund (SAF). Its focus was on making equity investments in low income areas in Southern Appalachia, hence the name, and Vanderhoofven was named Assistant Fund Manager.

Four years later, Meritus Ventures, a $36.5 million fund, was launched by the same team behind SAF. Both funds are not doing new deals, although they are making follow-on investments in their remaining portfolio companies, and they have realized multiple exits from both portfolios.

More recently, Angel Capital Group, which has chapters across the country, relocated its headquarters to Knoxville, and The Lighthouse Fund, a new angel initiative, has been launched. In addition, Meritus Capital partnered with the Kirchner Group to secure U.S. Department of Agriculture designation as a Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC), and Meritus Capital and Innova Memphis have joined together to stand-up the TennesSeed Fund. The latter is a proof-of-concept, evergreen pool of capital to get nascent technologies to a point where there is a prototype and investable business.

So, what does Three Roots add to the local ecosystem? Vanderhoofven believes it helps to fill a critical missing ingredient.

“The name that we chose for this new financial institution recognizes three critical needs of young and small businesses – capital, connections, and expertise,” he says. Vanderhoofven has been a member of the boards of directors of portfolio companies in both SAF and Meritus Ventures, and those roles, along with non-financial support provided to portfolio companies, are representative of the level of engagement that he visualizes with Three Roots.

“Capital alone is usually not the only help that a young company or small business needs,” he says. “Connections and expertise are just as important to ensure that the dollars invested produce the desired results.”

To help in that regard, Three Roots has engaged Shawn Carson, a long-time mentor and teacher in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Vanderhoofven sees Carson as helping make sure the entrepreneurs in which Three Roots invests are as well-prepared as possible to raise capital and to make wise use of the dollars. This strategy is consistent with the philosophy that SAF and Meritus followed when they collectively provided approximately $4 million of technical and operational assistance to companies in their portfolios.

Three Roots is co-sponsoring an invitation-only roundtable later today where investors, both individual and institutional, will discuss ways to further grow the availability of capital in the region and the critical role access to capital plays in the region. The discussion is symbolic of what is occurring more and more in the greater Knoxville ecosystem. Investors are working with other investors to bring deals together. Organizations are working with other organizations to support entrepreneurs, as evidenced by “Innov865 Week.”

Have we reached all of our goals? No, we haven’t, but we’ve made good progress in the past 13 years on the access to capital front and in the past four years on advancing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Three Roots Capital is an important addition to the community.

As David Bradshaw, a local banker and Chair of the Board of Directors of Three Roots says, “We need angel investors, venture funds, private equity funds, non-bank lenders, and banks all working in a continuum to support the creation and growth of companies.

(NOTE: You can read the official news release announcing Three Roots Capital here – three-roots-announcement.)

(Note: This article appeared previously on teknovation.biz, a web-based service that was launched to spotlight and celebrate “all things” related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.)

Innov865 Week Kicks-off Today with Mayors Summit

Week-long series of events celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Today marks the start of Innov865 Week, a week-long series of events taking place September 19-23 that brings together start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, students, and the East Tennessee community to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.

“The Knoxville area is a hub for innovation – not just in Tennessee, but nationally,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “This is our time – the best is yet to come for our young entrepreneurs and for our city. I invite you to experience all Knoxville has to offer during Innov865 Week.”

Innov865 Week kicks-off today with the Kauffman Foundation’s Mayors Summit on Entrepreneurship and culminates with its signature event, Startup Day, on Thursday, September 22 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre. Additional event programming includes educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. A full list of events can be found on the Innov865 Week event calendar.

“We are excited to build on the momentum generated by Startup Day 2015, and expand that one day celebration of entrepreneurship into a week-long showcase of the best East Tennessee has to offer startups and entrepreneurs,” said Jim Biggs, Executive Director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, a founding member of the Innov865 Alliance.

About

Innov865 Week is the signature event of the Innov865 Alliance, which develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Innov865 Alliance includes the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Launch Tennessee and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

For more information and to stay updated on events, visit: http://innov865week.com

Contact: Cortney Piper, cortney@piper-communications.com or 865-789-2669

“Growth Hackathon” one of micro events set for “Innov865 Week”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A group of Knoxville entrepreneurs is teaming-up to host a non-coding hackathon as part of “Innov865 Week.”

The effort, led by Brandon Bruce, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Cirruspath, adopts the concept of a hackathon, where developers write code for a software product like an app in a short period. Instead of developing an app, however, the focus will be on jumpstarting a concept or business.

“People think you can build an awesome product and customers will find it,” Bruce explained. “That’s not the way it usually works.”

The four-hour program, dubbed the “Growth Hackathon,” will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. September 20 at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

Joining Bruce in planning and delivering the experience are Austin Church, Founder of Wunderbar, and John Montouri, Digital Sales Manager and Sales Coach for Gannett.

“Attendees will develop a growth strategy for their idea and execute on growth tactics in real-time during the intensive hands-on workshop,” Bruce said. “It will be a series of quick turns.”

The four-hour block includes sessions on engagement with potential customers, proposal development, writing of blog posts, and cultivation of potential partners.

“We literally want them to get in front of customers to discuss their ideas,” Bruce explained. “It’s designed to help them jumpstart their business. There will be a bunch of work to do after the session.”

The “Growth Hackathon” is open to anyone who wants to attend. For more information including access to a registration site, click here.

(Note: This article appeared previously on teknovation.biz, a web-based service that was launched to spotlight and celebrate “all things” related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.)