ORNL Innovation Crossroads program opens second round of energy entrepreneurial fellowships

Entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the second round of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program.

Up to five innovators will receive a two-year post-doctoral entrepreneurial fellowship that includes vouchers worth up to $350,000 for collaborative research and development at ORNL, startup business guidance and mentoring, and health and travel benefits. Entrepreneurs selected during the merit-based process are expected to begin the program by May 2018.

Innovation Crossroads is one of three U.S. Department of Energy Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs designed to embed top technical post-doctoral talent within national labs as research fellows with goal of subsequently launching businesses. The program focuses on early-stage research and development along with entrepreneurial guidance to enable innovators to inject new ideas into the national labs and transform their novel ideas into U.S.-based companies.

“We are very excited to be recruiting our second cohort. We believe that as knowledge of the program spreads, we’re going to see an increasing number of relevant startup companies working in the energy and advanced manufacturing space,” said Beth Conerty, Project Manager for Entrepreneurship in ORNL’s Office of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development. “Even though we’ll only be selecting five, it’s great to get connected with these companies and see all the progress that is being made. Our first cohort has been so enjoyable to work with, and we’re looking forward to adding to that group and getting to meet more innovative scientists.”

Innovation Crossroads fellows have access to world-class research facilities and scientific expertise at ORNL, including the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the National Transportation Research Center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, and the Spallation Neutron Source.

Through regional partnerships with entrepreneurial and business accelerator organizations, fellows also receive assistance with developing business strategies, conducting market research, introductions to potential commercial partners, and finding additional sources of funding.

The first cohort of Innovation Crossroads fellows began their terms this summer. These first-time entrepreneurs include Anna Douglas (SkyNano), who is developing a process that uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock to produce low-cost carbon nanotubes; Matthew Ellis and Samuel Shaner (Yellowstone Energy), who are jointly developing an advanced nuclear reactor design; and Mitchell Ishmael (Active Energy Systems), who is developing a system for low level heat recovery and energy storage.

Click here for the original ORNL announcement. 

Fifth Annual Startup Day Celebrates Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – 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 21, 2017 for the fifth annual Startup Day. The event is part of Innov865 Week 2017, which celebrates and showcases Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses.

New this year, the Startup Day pitch competition featured two prize categories. Mac Bartine, Smart RIA received the $10,000 Startup Day 2017 Judge’s Choice Prize presented by the Innov865 Alliance. Anna Douglas, SkyNano Technologies received the $5,000 Startup Day 2017 Crowd Favorite Prize presented by SunTrust Bank. The winning pitches were among six startups participating in the fifth annual pitch competition.

“East Tennessee is rapidly gaining traction as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs in the Southeast,” said Stacey Patterson, President of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and founding member of the Innov865 Alliance, which hosts Innov865 Week. “Startup Day provides an opportunity for us to demonstrate what makes Knoxville such an inviting place to start and grow a business, as well as celebrate the entrepreneurs who are putting our city on the map as a hub of innovation.”

Mac Bartine, Smart RIA Smart RIA is a cloud-based, secure software platform that simplifies and automates regulatory compliance for the registered investment advisor (RIA) industry, serving firms that are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Compliance management can be a costly and time-consuming task for businesses, especially those that do not have in-house expertise. Smart RIA’s software streamlines the process through customized tools that use customer data to track and address compliance issues. This solution not only saves customers time and money, but allows them to focus on growing their business while remaining compliant and independent. 

Anna Douglas, SkyNano Technologies SkyNano Technologies has developed an open system manufacturing technique to produce low cost, high value carbon nanotubes, a material with potential applications in a variety of areas from energy storage to consumer electronics. Compared to traditional manufacturing processes that require high vacuum and high pressure gas flow systems, SkyNano’s patent-pending technology relies on the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide, resulting in a process that is lower in cost and scalable for commercial applications. Aside from lowering the cost of carbon nanotubes, SkyNano’s technique offers a promising method for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into useful functional nanomaterials.

Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer of RDI Technologies, a Startup Day 2015 alum, received the third annual Innov865 Traction Award, presented by UT Federal Credit Union. The Innov865 Traction Award is given to a Startup alum who has gained the most momentum since pitching at Startup Day. RDI’s video camera-based technology quickly determines faults in machinery, infrastructure, and human performance not visible to the human eye. RDI counts Fortune 100 companies as its customers including Honda, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil.

Another highlight of this year’s Startup Day was a fireside chat hosted by Charlie Brock, CEO of Launch Tennessee and Mark Montgomery, Entrepreneur/Investor/Change Agent. The two featured speakers held a lively discussion on the state of Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Startup Day is the signature event of Innov865 Week 2017, which wraps up today. Throughout the week more than one thousand startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee participated in educational panels, investor roundtables, demo days, and networking opportunities that promoted Knoxville as a premier hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Southeast.

About Startup Day

Startup Day is the signature event of Innov865 Week, a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a brand that represents a commitment to yearlong collaboration to develop, support, and promote the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. To learn more, visit http://innov865.com/.

###

Smart RIA and SkyNano Technologies Wins Startup Day 2017 Pitch Competition

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Mac Bartine with Smart RIA and Anna Douglas with SkyNano Technologies claimed the winning pitch prizes during Startup Day 2017 on Thursday, September 21, 2017 on the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville. This marks the first year that the Startup Day pitch competition featured two prize categories.

Mac Bartine, Smart RIA received the $10,000 Startup Day 2017 Judge’s Choice Prize presented by the Innov865 Alliance. Anna Douglas, SkyNano Technologies received the $5,000 Startup Day 2017 Crowd Favorite Prize presented by SunTrust Bank. The winning pitches were among six heard during the fifth annual Startup Day, the signature event of Innov865 Week 2017, which runs from September 18-22.

“I was amazed by the talent on display at this year’s Startup Day pitch competition. Mac Bartine truly demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit we are celebrating throughout Innov865 Week and it is an honor to bestow the judge’s choice prize on Smart RIA. I am excited to see where the momentum of Startup Day will take them,” said Charlie Brock, CEO of Launch Tennessee. Launch Tennessee is a founding member of the Innov865 Alliance.

Mac Bartine, Smart RIA Smart RIA is a cloud-based, secure software platform that simplifies and automates regulatory compliance for the registered investment advisor (RIA) industry, serving firms that are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Compliance management can be a costly and time-consuming task for businesses, especially those that do not have in-house expertise. Smart RIA’s software streamlines the process through customized tools that use customer data to track and address compliance issues. This solution not only saves customers time and money, but allows them to focus on growing their business while remaining compliant and independent.

Anna Douglas, SkyNano Technologies SkyNano Technologies has developed an open system manufacturing technique to produce low cost, high value carbon nanotubes, a material with potential applications in a variety of areas from energy storage to consumer electronics. Compared to traditional manufacturing processes that require high vacuum and high pressure gas flow systems, SkyNano’s patent-pending technology relies on the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide, resulting in a process that is lower in cost and scalable for commercial applications. Aside from lowering the cost of carbon nanotubes, SkyNano’s technique offers a promising method for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into useful functional nanomaterials.

Judges Christopher G. Ayala, Managing Partner, Towanda Capital; Sue Malone, Director of Marketing, Superior Financial Group; and Gerry O’Meara, head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate and Investment Banking at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, 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 has rightfully earned a reputation for showcasing some of the region’s best entrepreneurial talent,” said Harry L. Gross, Jr., Executive Vice President of Commercial Banking at SunTrust Bank and presenter of the $5,000 crowd favorite prize. “I commend each one of the pitch competitors for their hard work, passion, and vision, and look forward to seeing them grow their businesses here in East Tennessee.”

Startup Day 2017 featured a fireside chat with Charlie Brock, CEO of Launch Tennessee and Mark Montgomery, Entrepreneur/Investor/Change Agent. The event also featured the awarding of the third 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. Jenna Johns of RDI Technologies was the 2017 recipient.

About Startup Day

Startup Day is the signature event of Innov865 Week, a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a brand that represents a commitment to yearlong collaboration to develop, support, and promote the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. To learn more, visit http://innov865.com/.

###

RDI Technologies Recipient of 3rd Annual Innov865 Traction Award, Presented by UT Federal Credit Union

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – RDI Technologies, which offers video camera-based technology to quickly determine faults in machinery, infrastructure, and human performance not visible to the human eye, is the recipient of the third annual Innov865 Traction Award. Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer of RDI, accepted the award for the company, whose President, Bob Wilson, presented a Power Pitch during the third Startup Day in 2015. The announcement was made during the fifth annual Startup Day program at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

RDI counts Fortune 100 companies as its customers including, Honda, Nissan, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil. Since August 2016, the company has been completely profitable and revenue has increased by 400 percent.

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

“It is an honor to sponsor this award for the third year in a row and to bestow it on such a deserving recipient,” said Hamilton. “Jenna Johns and her colleagues at RDI have developed a video data collection system that is revolutionizing motion measurement capabilities and helping industries from healthcare to infrastructure solve big problems.”

RDI’s patented technology measures deflection, displacement, movement and vibration not visible to the human eye—it’s the first non-invasive, simple, and cost effective way to visualize and quickly determine faults in machinery, infrastructure, and human performance. The technology is more effective then looking at numbers and analysis from tools like accelerometers, strain gauges, modeling software, or even optical sensing technology.

A 2016 CodeWorks alum, RDI has been the recipient of two awards: the Vision Systems Design 2017 Innovator Award and an American Society of Civil Engineers 2016 Innovation Award in the “Innovative Business Models and Technologies” category. Currently, RDI is working to develop relationships with international resellers and expand its Fortune 100 footprint. The company has also grown in size, with eight full time and eight contract-based employees.

“On behalf of my team at RDI, we are humbled to be the 2017 recipient of the Innov865 Traction Award and look forward to growing our company right here in Knoxville, Tennessee,” said Johns.

About Startup Day

Startup Day is the signature event of Innov865 Week, a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a brand that represents a commitment to yearlong collaboration to develop, support, and promote the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. To learn more, visit http://innov865.com/.

###

Second Annual Innov865 Week Kicks-off Today with Future865

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Today marks the start of Innov865 Week 2017, a week-long series of events taking place September 18-22 that brings together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.

“Knoxville’s entrepreneurial scene has exploded over the last several years, drawing talent from East Tennessee, and across the country, to start and grow their businesses in our community,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Innov865 Week is our opportunity to highlight these diverse entrepreneurs who are putting Knoxville on the map as a hub for innovation.”

Innov865 Week 2017 kicks-off today with Future865, an event that will explore opportunities to help Knoxville leverage its assets to become THE destination for entrepreneurs in the Southeast. Other scheduled activities, including educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events, will be held throughout the week leading up the signature event, Startup Day on Thursday, September 21 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre. A full list of events can be found on the Innov865 Week event calendar.

“Last year’s Innov865 Week was a great success, drawing more than 1,400 attendees to Knoxville to participate in the week’s events. We have an incredible line-up of activities planned for 2017 that promise to showcase why East Tennessee is the best place in the Southeast for startups and entrepreneurs of all kinds,” said Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a founding member of the Innov865 Alliance.

About Innov865 Week

Innov865 Week is presented by the Innov865 Alliance. The Innov865 Alliance develops, supports and promotes the Knoxville region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s a collaborative effort to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and increase access to capital. Founding members include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Tennessee Valley Authority, Three Roots Capital, Launch Tennessee and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. For more information and to stay updated on events, visit: http://innov865week.com

###

“Innov865 Week” runs through Friday with numerous events

(Note: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz)

By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s show time for the Knoxville region’s second annual “Innov865 Week” celebration.

Following two early events on Friday – a preview of the week at the weekly meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council and the all-day “Endeavor Summit” for young professionals hosted by the Knoxville Chamber, the full-week of activities begins today with “Future865,” a look at strategies and opportunities to further grow entrepreneurship in the region.

A final event on Friday afternoon was added late last week to commemorate the opening of UpStart Ventures, a new co-working space in West Knoxville. We’ll spotlight the facility in a teknovation.biz article next week, but you can see it on Friday afternoon. The event runs from 2 to 6 p.m. with free beer and wine. UpStart Ventures is located at 110 Center Park Drive.

Here’s a day-by-day snapshot at the week’s other activities. All locations are in Knoxville.

Read the full article here.

The JumpFund hosting invitation only event on angel investing during “Innov865 Week”

(Note: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz)

One of the topics you always hear whenever start-up entrepreneurs gather is the matter of available investment capital, and that’s certainly the case in Knoxville. While it’s not the only area where more “players” are needed, it is certainly an important one, and early stage funding is particularly critical for new ventures.

With an eye toward getting more people off the sidelines and in the game, The JumpFund, a Chattanooga-based angel fund that invests in female-led ventures throughout the Southeast, will be hosting an “invitation only” discussion on September 21 as part of “Innov865 Week.”

It’s the second year in a row that The JumpFund has held an event ahead of Knoxville’s “Start-up Day” which occurs that afternoon.

“It’s not just about our funds,” Melissa Aldridge, Managing Director, told us. “It is a little bit of Angel 101. We will provide some basic overview education on angel investing and venture funds and information about the success of the JumpFund.”

Read the full article here.

Rise & Grind highlights the importance, financial advantages of leadership diversity in the workforce

Coffee, donuts, and an engaging conversation held at UTRF’s Business Incubator showcased the need for increased flexibility and diversity in the workforce.

On Wednesday’s Rise & Grind event the audience became acquainted with Kim Seals, General Partner of MomSource Network investor The JumpFund and Courtney Jones Startup Day alum & Founder of the MomSource Network.

MomSource Network is a startup focused on seeing women achieve their ideal work/life blend. The company has two separate parts to its business. Part one is a tech platform focused on development and training for women as they navigate their journey in and out of the workforce. MomSource Network also provides a gateway of progressive employers who are willing to use their skill set in a flexible full-time, permanent, or part-time remote capacity.

The other half of the company is providing consulting services to those progressive employers who are mindful about attracting and retaining great female talent.

The JumpFund’s mission is to invest women’s capital in female-led southeastern companies with growth potential in order to generate a strong financial return and elevate the role of women in business.

The JumpFund invested in MomSource Network about two years ago, and Kim Seals along with her sister Pam made a sidecar investment as well.

“There’s a lot of data that supports that there is a need for women to invest in women, and it can produce a good ROI,” said Seals.

During the Rise & Grind event Seals recited striking statistics that highlight the positive financial outcomes from employing a woman within a company’s leadership.

According to a recent MacKenzie survey, companies with at least one female founder are performing 63% better than investments with all male-led companies.

“We want to see diversity in that leadership, and one of the key reasons is that most purchasing decisions made in the household are made by females,” said Seals.

Seals brought up that 80% of all purchasing decisions in the household are made by women. If a company doesn’t have a female in its leadership team helping make product and strategy decisions, that business is missing a key voice of their customer.

“We’re seeing companies with women in the top leadership positions producing 47% higher returns on equity and 55% higher returns on EBIT,” said Seals.

On top of that, Courtney Jones echoed the importance of flexible employment.

“85% of people say they would be more loyal to their current employer if they were offered increased flexibility,” said Jones.

Jones mentioned that in society, women are often pushed into choosing whether to become a full-time working mother or a full-time stay at home mom.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about organizations being progressive enough to say, ‘We’re willing to offer some agile workplace arrangements if we can still get the results that we need for our business,'” said Jones.

Seals reinforced that need for flexibility after describing her background in human resources with Mercer and it’s importance at the time.

“There was a real financial ROI for our companies that we were working with at Mercer about how to keep women in the workforce,” said Seals.

Seals said Mercer quickly discovered that they needed to keep women engaged, figure out how to create that work/life blend for them because it was something their clients were asking for. Ultimately, that’s what led to her interest in MomSource Network.

Rise & Grind was hosted by UTRF, Three Roots Capital, and Best Behavior Creative Club

UTRF, ORNL planning “Technov865” event on September 19

(Note: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are joining forces to host a technology-focused showcase during this month’s “Innov865 Week” celebration.

The event, dubbed “Technov865,” will focus on the latest technologies coming out of the region’s two major research enterprises as well as those from TVA. It is set for the Square Room on Market Square, starting at 2:30 p.m. September 19, and ending with a one-hour networking event that begins at 5 p.m.

“This is a unique opportunity to meet and hear from the inventors behind the technologies,” said Stacey Patterson, Interim UT Vice President of Research and Vice President of UTRF.

Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and the former leader of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Technology Transfer, will keynote the event. Other presenters include Joe Hoagland, TVA Vice President of Stakeholder Relations; Mike Paulus, ORNL’s Director of Technology Transfer; and three of the entrepreneurs in ORNL’s inaugural “Innovation Crossroads” program.

“This is really a great opportunity to get a quick glimpse of some of the best new technologies at both ORNL and UT, and to learn more about how you can get engaged in tech-based startup activity” said Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships.

Read the full article here.

Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse to be featured keynote speaker at Future865

Future865 promises diverse discussion on the types of entrepreneurship happening in Knoxville.

The event will kick off Innov865 Week 2017 on Monday, September 18 and explore opportunities to build the most effective and vibrant future for Knoxville with community, business and thought leaders.

A variety of presenters will describe their visions for harnessing innovation and entrepreneurship in building a stronger ecosystem and propose solutions in an engaging environment with the audience.

Future865 will include presentations on issues such as the importance of angel investing, innovations in healthcare, intelligent transportation, and entrepreneurship in Knoxville’s food industry.

Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse will be serving as the featured keynote speaker for Future865. Cintrifuse is a startup catalyst, a public private partnership designed to build a tech-based economy in the Greater Cincinnati Region.

Having delivered business solutions in 30 countries, Wendy Lea brings a worldly point of view to digital innovation and her entrepreneurial pursuits. She also is a member of C200 and Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum. In 2012 and 2013, Wendy was recognized as a Women of Influence in both Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

She currently serves on the boards of The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The Health Collaborative, INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, TechStars, and venture-backed Xyleme in Boulder, Colorado.