Bunker Labs Knoxville joins Innov865 Alliance

Get to know the latest member of the Innov865 Alliance, Bunker Labs Knoxville, at an upcoming Bunker Brews event on Thursday, May 16.

We invite you to this monthly meet-up with veterans and military spouses to come together to network in an environment focused on growth and development!

You can RSVP here!

This event is for you if:

  • You’re interested in meeting more like-minded, action-oriented entrepreneurs in a fun, casual setting.
  • You’re interested in getting involved in the local entrepreneur community.
  • You’d like to learn more about companies being created by veterans in our community.

Bunker Labs – a 501(c)(3) non-profit – is a national network of veteran entrepreneurs dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own business. They are committed to seeing that every entrepreneur in the veteran community has the network, tools, and resources they need to start their own business.

25% of transitioning service members want to start a business and they need places inside their community where they can connect with the people, resources, and support they need to start and grow their businesses. Bunker Labs is here for them!

What’s it like to move to Knoxville?

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(Originally published on Knoxville Business Journal)

Dave Miller, his wife Sarah and their nine-month-old son Roman spent their first month and a half in Knoxville living in the basement of their new house.

The family moved here in 2017 after Miller accepted his position as East Tennessee region president of First Tennessee.

“(Roman) learned to walk while we were living in our basement,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”

While relocating doesn’t always involve living beneath ground level, it “turns the family’s life upside down” in one way or another, clinical social worker Barbara Stephens said.

Thousands of people are moving to Knoxville each year. The number of people who moved to Knox County from another Tennessee county increased from nearly 12,000 in 2013 to approximately 17,000 in 2016. Nearly 11,000 people moved to Knoxville from out of state in 2013, which increased to 12,633 in 2016. Those that moved from abroad increased from 877 in 2013 to more than 2,200 in 2016.

For a couple’s or a family’s life to flip right side up as quickly as possible, human interaction is key, Stephens said.

Meeting the neighbors

Dave Miller had visited Knoxville a few times before the family moved from Memphis. But a visit doesn’t give any indication of what rebuilding a support network will be like.

Establishing initial connections can be the toughest part of a move, Stephens said.

“It was concerning for me,” Sarah Miller said. “How am I going to find a Mother’s Day Out and this and that and events for the kids? And it has been a lot easier than I ever imagined.”

The Millers had a network of folks at First Tennessee, with the added bonus of welcoming neighbors.

“There’s great data available online, but by far, most of what we found was via other references,” Dave Miller said. “If you meet one or two key people who are good at connecting you with others, it’s off to the races.”

The couple estimated that they met more neighbors within the first 30 days in their West Knoxville neighborhood than the two years they spent in their previous neighborhood.

But what if the neighbors aren’t eager to meet? For Stephens, who moved to Knoxville from Cincinnati eight years ago, that was the case.

“We lived there for two weeks and hadn’t said hello to one neighbor,” she said.

So she made the first move. It’s not enough to wait around for others to knock on the door, she said. She baked all her neighbors muffins and made connections, some of which turned into lasting friendships.

Utilizing existing hobbies

After connecting with the neighbors, Stephens dipped into her own hobbies. She took piano lessons, joined a gym and found a church to build her network.

Tricia and Brandon Bruce moved to Maryville in 2007 from Washington D.C. when Tricia accepted a position as a professor of sociology at Maryville College. The couple made the move from Maryville to Knoxville in 2015.

Tricia connected with her colleagues, while Brandon became part of Maryville and Knoxville cycling communities.

“If you want to get involved, you can get involved pretty fast,” Brandon Bruce said. “You can meet a lot of people by expressing interest in certain things.”

Brandon worked as a consultant for a year and worked at Maryville College in fundraising for three years before he decided he was in the right place to start a company.

Finding business support

Brandon started Cirrus Insight software technology company in 2011 with co-founder Ryan Huff. The company was ranked No. 41 on the Inc. 500 list in 2016 and has grown from zero to $12 million in annual revenue.

“Knoxville has benefited enormously from our partnership in the sense that they recruited me to come here, and now he has built all of this,” Tricia said.

Cirrus started around the same time the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center began. Brandon worked with KEC’s team, Tech 2020 in Oak Ridge (now shut down), Innov865 Alliance, E-tech in Oak Ridge to gain support for his venture.

Read the full story here.

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/.

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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/.

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Knoxville welcomes Innovation Crossroads’ innovators to East Tennessee

The Knoxville Chamber was a packed house Tuesday when the Innovation Crossroad’s innovators pitched their startup before Knoxville’s entrepreneurial community during an Innov865 Happy Hour.

Dozens came out to see the cleantech companies present their next-generation ideas solving global energy challenges.

Innovation Crossroads is a program based at ORNL that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with the experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from R&D to the marketplace.

Several entrepreneurs were selected to transform their ideas into clean energy companies with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Innovators receive a fellowship that covers living costs, benefits and a travel stipend for up to two years, plus up to $350,000 to use on collaborative research and development at ORNL.

The crowd heard from Mitchell Ishmael of Active Energy Systems first. Ishmael is utilizing a saltwater material to store electricity as thermal energy. The method provides a much cheaper alternative to providing onsite backup power for customers than standby generators or batteries. It is expected to encourage the installation of more distributed, renewable power generation.

Ishmael explained how energy storage is still high cost and low efficiency and the resources available to him in East Tennessee could help change that.

“Innovation Crossroads is providing us all a leg up already,” said Ishmael.

Anna Douglas of SkyNano Technologies presented her pitch next. Douglas’ technology utilizes carbon dioxide as feedstock to significantly lower the production cost of carbon nanotubes. The process provides a use for captured greenhouse gases while benefiting clean energy technologies and advanced manufacturing.

“SkyNano Technologies has made immense progress with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and my company has benefited from the lab’s community connections,” said Douglas.

Finally, the crowd heard from Matthew Ellis and Samuel Shaner of Yellowstone Energy. The two are developing an advanced nuclear reactor with the potential for faster installation while optimizing safety in order to provide a clean source of baseload electricity. The design uses an already licensed uranium fuel with an ambient pressure, high temperature coolant.

“Yellowstone Energy’s solution delivers lower cost, advanced nuclear sooner,” said Ellis.

Tom Rogers, Innov865 Alliance member and Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development at ORNL, stressed to the audience afterwards that applications are still open for Startup Day 2017 pitch competition.

Interested East Tennessee startups have until July 10, 2017 to apply to pitch their business on the U.S. Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville. New this year, the Startup Day pitch competition will feature two prize categories: judges’ choice and crowd favorite. Competitors will have an opportunity to win up to $15,000.

April Innov865 Happy Hour hosted by Three Roots Capital

Special announcement from Knoxville mayor, featured fireside chat

The Innov865 Alliance invites you to join the entrepreneur and startup community in another engaging Innov865 Happy Hour, hosted by Three Roots Capital.

An evening of networking awaits you, Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

During this time, there will be a special announcement from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero followed by a featured fireside chat with Bill Malkes, founder and CEO of GRIDSMART and Grady Vanderhoofven, Managing Partner of Meritus Capital Management and CEO of Three Roots Capital.

The fireside chat will be moderated by Tom Ballard of PYA and Teknovation.biz, where discussions will range from the founding and growth of GRIDSMART and the role the company is playing in the intelligent transportation industry.

GRIDSMART has evolved from a concept to the fastest growing company in its industry.

GRIDSMART, a company founded in Oak Ridge and based in Knoxville, provides technology that monitors and controls traffic at intersections and on roadways in 22 countries on five continents around the world.

Their products reduce congestion, increase efficiency, and reduce environmental impact. As the dawn of a new world of autonomous vehicles brightens, cars and traffic management systems will share information. Companies like GRIDSMART are leading the way.

Meritus was one of GRIDSMART’s early investors and has held a position on the company’s Board of Directors for years.  Bill and Grady will talk about how the company raised capital, staffed the business, developed its product (software and hardware), established and expanded production in East Tennessee, and what the future holds for GRIDSMART and intelligent transportation.

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/