Six finalists to compete for $10,000 at Startup Day 2018, Traction Award nominees announced

The Innov865 Alliance has selected six East Tennessee startups as pitch competition finalists and three Traction Award nominees for Startup Day 2018. The winners of the pitch competition and Traction Award will be announced on Sept. 25 during the signature event of Innov865 Week, an annual celebration of Knoxville’s thriving entrepreneurial community held this year Sept. 23-28, 2018.

The six startups were selected from a large pool of applicants for the chance to pitch their businesses before a panel of judges at Startup Day’s pitch competition. The finalists will compete in two prize categories, judges’ choice and crowd favorite, for the chance to win a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to invest in their startup. The crowd favorite prize is sponsored by SunTrust Bank.

The Traction Award, sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union, is presented annually to the  Startup Day alum who has made the most progress – or gained the most “traction” – since pitching their company at Startup Day in years past.

The 2017 Innov865 Traction Award winner was RDI Technologies, which offers video camera-based technology to find faults in machinery, infrastructure and human performance not visible to the human eye. Its clients include Fortune100 companies such as Honda, Nissan, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil.

Startup Day 2018 is Sept. 25 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at The Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and registration is now open online. In addition to the pitch competition and Traction Award announcement, Venture For America’s Amy Nelson will give the keynote address on her experience supporting startups and entrepreneurs.

The Innov865 Alliance has selected the following six finalists to compete in the pitch competition:

David Nelson, BrewFund, Inc.

BrewFund, Inc. creates a new revenue stream for craft beer taprooms through an innovative engagement platform that enables digital gifting, manages loyalty clubs, and provides sales and marketing data.

Alex Adams, GeoAir

GeoAir is a proactive agricultural analysis company that seeks to make farmers more efficient and profitable, utilizing a custom-developed drone to pinpoint and identify mold in fields. GeoAir allows farmers the opportunity to spot treat and manage the mold before damage occurs to the crop.

Shane McMahon, Lux Semiconductors

Lux Semiconductors is an advanced-tech startup developing high-quality and low-cost semiconductor substrates for the rapidly evolving electronics industry. Lux aims to deliver a new class of flexible semiconductor substrates to serve as the next generation platform and replace the thick, fragile, expensive class currently in use.

Megan O’Connor, Nth Cycle

Nth Cycle has developed an electrochemical recycling device to recover rare earth and specialty elements from end-of-life electronics waste streams for reuse in advanced manufacturing.

Bailey Foster, Real Good Kitchen

Real Good Kitchen is a community kitchen and culinary incubator planned to open in Knoxville in 2019. It provides high quality, shared commercial kitchen and storage space, as well as industry-specific technical assistance and business development resources, to established and emerging food entrepreneurs.

Tommy Nguyen, StoragePug

StoragePug is a modern marketing company for self storage. Powered by scalable cloud and serverless computing, StoragePug creates intelligent marketing websites that connect customers to self storage through online rentals, bill pay, and lease eSign.

The Innov865 Alliance has selected the following nominees for the 2018 Traction Award:

Courtney Jones, MomSource Network

Courtney  Jones  is  the  CEO  of  MomSource  Network,  an  organization  dedicated  to  creating  diverse  and  inclusive  workplaces  through  targeted  diversity  recruiting  efforts  enterprise  Returnship  and  Trailing  Spouse  programs.  A  passionate  advocate  for  gender  diversity  and  a  recognized  thought  leader  on  topics  related  to  women  in  business,  D&I  and  work-life  blend;  she’s  been  featured  in  Bloomberg,  CNN,  and  Working  Mother  and  has  worked  alongside  hundreds  of  companies  to  create  meaningful  opportunities  for  women.

Mac Bartine, Smart RIA

Mac  Bartine  is  the  CEO  of  Smart  RIA,  a  software  platform  that  simplifies  compliance  for  the  Registered  Investment  Advisor  (RIA)  industry,  which  is  regulated  by  the  Securities  and  Exchange  Commission.  Under  Mac’s  leadership,  Smart  RIA  has  grown  more  than  13 percent  month  over  month  since  January  of  2017,  which  was  its  second  full  year  of  revenue,  and  is  on  track  to  expand  internationally  and  exceed  $1 million  in  leading  annual  sales  in  2019.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific

Graham Taylor is president and CTO of T&T Scientific, a company that produces low-cost, single use liposome extrusion devices that simplify the process of preparing liposomes for research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and clinical settings. Compared to other commercially available extrusion platforms, T&T Scientific’s NanoSizerTM technology is ready to use out of the package and does not require any assembly or cleaning, enabling a more efficient process and lowering the risk of contamination.

Innov865 Happy Hour discusses customer development, customer acquisition

Brandon Bruce, Co-founder of Cirrus Insight led an engaging discussion with Jenna Johns, COO of RDI Technologies and Dr. Graham Taylor, President of T&T Scientific talking about customer development and customer acquisition during a recent Innov865 Happy Hour hosted by UTRF.

Both Johns and Taylor are established entrepreneurs in Knoxville. Each of them are Startup Day veterans having pitched before a panel of investor judges and the greater Knoxville entrepreneurial community in years past.

They were nominated for the 2017 Innov865 Traction Award, presented by UT Federal Credit Union. The award is given to a Startup Day alum who has gained the most momentum over the past few years, and Johns won the award back in September.

RDI Technologies has patented a noncontact video camera-based technology platform that allows users to measure motion, vibration, deflection, and displacement not visible to the human eye. Unlike traditional contact monitoring systems, RDI’s technology measures data in real time, turning virtually every pixel in the camera’s view into a sensor capable of measuring vibration or motion with sub pixel accuracy.

Meanwhile T&T Scientific is a company that produces low-cost, single use liposome extrusion devices that simplify the process of preparing liposomes for research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and clinical settings. Compared to other commercially available extrusion platforms, T&T Scientific’s NanoSizer (formerly LipX) technology is ready to use out of the package and does not require any assembly or cleaning.

During the Innov865 Happy Hour, Bruce asked Johns and Taylor when they received their first customers, how many customers they have to date, and if they experienced any pivots in the customer discovery process.

Johns elaborated that RDI Technologies first clients started coming in in August 2016, and they’ve since grown to 120 customers to date. But during the process, they did have to pivot.

“We started as a service company. We were taking out what we had invented and we were testing it and figuring out how the customer and end-user would want to use it. We got paid for that service, and we did it for about a year,” said Johns. “But every customer we had we heard ‘Well this looks so easy, why can’t I do it myself?’ So, we decided to take some time to work on our patenting strategy and made sure we had everything locked up in development, and we created the product and launched it for our customers and now we don’t do service at all,” said Johns.

Johns said that their product is sent to plants all across the U.S. and internationally, and 120 customers may not seem like a lot but since RDI Technologies’ systems run in the range of $30,000 each, it stands out. Dr. Taylor went next.

“T&T Scientific technically was founded September 1, 2015, so we just hit our two year mark,” said Dr. Taylor. “We consider April 2016 our first launch, and we started with manual, handheld extruders marketing to researchers in government labs, academic labs, and universities,” said Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor elaborated that a perk with his product was that they didn’t have to go through the FDA to begin selling it, and they were able to complete a few preliminary trials and get some feedback to make them better.

“Just this past summer we officially launched our extrusion equipment, they’re automated devices,” said Dr. Taylor. “It’s nice to start with a manual, handheld extruder and when customers are ready we can take it to the next level with an automated machine,” said Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor has already acquired 150 customers for T&T Scientific’s manual extruders and a few customers for the company’s automated devices as well.

Innov865 Alliance announces nominees for the 2017 Traction Award presented by UT Federal Credit Union 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Knoxville will once again celebrate its entrepreneurial spirit with the return of Innov865 Week and the fifth annual Startup Day, to be held on Thursday, September 21, featuring the Innov865 Traction Award presented by UT Federal Credit Union. The Innov865 Alliance has announced its 2017 nominees for the award, which is presented to a Startup Day alum who has made the most progress, or gained the most ‘traction,’ since pitching their business at Startup Day.

Startup Day is the signature event of Innov865 Week, a week-long series of events that celebrates entrepreneurship and showcases Knoxville as a great place to start and grow a business. Innov865 Week is set to take place September 18 – 22, 2017.

“East Tennessee has a rich tradition of innovation, and that tradition lives on in this year’s Traction Award nominees,” said Lynn Youngs, Executive Director of UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a founding member of the Innov865 Alliance. “Each one has contributed in some way to building Knoxville’s reputation as THE place for startups in our region. They are true role models and exemplars of what it means to be an entrepreneur.”

“UT Federal Credit Union is pleased to once again sponsor the Traction Award and recognize the achievements of an East Tennessee entrepreneur who is not only thriving, but driving innovation and growth in our community,” said Myra Hamilton, AVP of Business Lending at UT Federal Credit Union.

Bob Bradley with NewsBreak was the 2016 award recipient. Since then, the company has reached an agreement with Gilbarco Veeder-Root, the world’s largest fuel pump manufacturer to make NewsBreak available to Gilbarco’s product line of multi-product fuel dispensers with a select number of U.S. based convenience store operators. Currently, NewsBreak is available across five states with 1,000 screens reaching 5.6 million viewers each month.

The Innov865 Traction Award presented by UT Federal Credit Union will be presented at Startup Day, Thursday, September 21 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre. Startup Day is free and open to the public. Registration is required at http://innov865week.com/register/

The Innov865 Alliance selected the following three nominees:

Jenna Johns, RDI Technologies

Jenna Johns is the Chief Operating Officer for RDI Technologies, which has patented a noncontact, video camera-based technology platform that allows users to measure motion, vibration, deflection, and displacement not visible to the human eye. Unlike traditional contact monitoring systems, RDI’s technology measures data in real time, turning virtually every pixel in the camera’s view into a sensor capable of measuring vibration or motion with sub pixel accuracy. The results lend themselves to a visualization of motion, as captured in the company’s tag line “seeing is believing.” RDI’s method of video data collection has proven to be a cost effective, convenient, and safe way to conduct contact monitoring and has benefits for multiple markets, including infrastructure, healthcare, and machinery.

A 2015 Startup Day and 2016 CodeWorks alum, RDI has evolved from offering technology services to products that can be purchased and used by customers. The company has been awarded two patents (three additional patents are pending) and is now profitable, with revenues that have increased 300% year over year. RDI has also grown in size, with eight full time and eight contract-based employees. Within the last two years, the company 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.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific

Graham Taylor is co-founder of T&T Scientific, a company that produces low-cost, single use liposome extrusion devices that simplify the process of preparing liposomes for research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and clinical settings. Compared to other commercially available extrusion platforms, T&T Scientific’s NanoSizer (formerly LipX) technology is ready to use out of the package and does not require any assembly or cleaning. As a result, the liposome extrusion process time is reduced from the standard 45-60 minutes to 2-3 minutes, and its single-use nature eliminates the risk of batch to batch contamination.

Since winning the Startup Day Pitch Competition in 2016, Taylor, along with his business partner Nima Tamaddoni, have attained greater visibility for T&T Scientific, which helped them land their first investor. T&T Scientific’s NanoSizer product line has expanded to include the patent-pending NanoSizer AUTO, an automated system capable of scaling up liposome extrusion for large scale production, and the NanoSizer STERILE, the world’s first sterilized, single use, and fully assembled liposome extrusion system. In addition, T&T Scientific has started selling a selection of lipids to complement their equipment line. The company’s products are now available in 40 countries and its customer base has tripled in size. Total revenues for T&T Scientific reached $100,000 earlier in 2017 and the company has acquired seven patents since September 2016.

Chris Van Beke, Vendor Registry

Chris Van Beke is CEO and co-founder of Vendor Registry, an online platform that streamlines procurement and vendor management for local governments. Vendor Registry was founded with the simple purpose of making it easier to do business with local governments and institutions by replacing the paper-intensive purchasing process with a standardized, affordable, cloud-based solution. Through Vendor Registry, local governments can register their vendors, post bids and quotes, send notifications of those bids and quotes, and check to ensure their vendors remain in compliance. Vendor Registry also makes it easy for vendors to register with multiple governments and find bid opportunities in the areas they serve. It is a one-stop shop that saves time, generates new revenue for vendors and suppliers, and decreases costs for government and institutional purchasing departments.

Vendor Registry has experienced significant growth since participating in Startup Day 2014, having tripled its revenue in the last 18 months alone. The company has expanded its platform’s offerings, adding contract management tools and more robust reporting and data capture capabilities. The platform itself is being used by 250 governments and institutions in more than 20 states, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, and more than 36,000 vendors are registered, representing all 50 states and Canada.

About Innov865 Alliance

The Innov865 Alliance develops, supports, and promotes the Knoxville region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is a collaborative effort to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and increase access to capital. Innov865 Week is our signature event; however, the Alliance coordinates other activities throughout the year, including pitch competitions, educational opportunities, and social events. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

Learn more about us at http://innov865.com/

About UT Federal Credit Union

UT Federal Credit Union is a member-owned financial cooperative with more than 22,000 member-owners and assets of over $250 million. UT Federal Credit Union’s mission is to provide members with exceptional financial service, education and leadership. As winner of the Tennessee Small Business Administration Credit Union of the Year award each year since 2012, UT Federal Credit Union is dedicated to providing support to startups and small businesses in Tennessee. The heart of UT Federal Credit Union has always been and will always be its owners. Learn more about UTFCU at https://www.utfcu.org/

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/

###