KTech Pulse: Technology Summit

Presented by the Knoxville Technology Council In partnership with the Innov865 Alliance and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. RSVP here

About this Event

This is the virtual event of 2020 that you don’t want to miss!

The first 250 registrants from KTech member companies will get a swag bag!

Join us to hear from technology thought leaders and celebrate the achievements of the tech industry in the Greater Knoxville region and throughout the State of Tennessee. This online summit will feature lively Q&A on the latest developments happening across the country and the impact they’re having in our region.

SPEAKERS

Majid Khan – As Managing Director of Strategy & Business Development for Network Engineering & Technology, Majid leads Verizon’s corporate strategy, deal development, negotiations, and partnerships with cities and municipalities at a national level. He works closely with city governments to drive opportunities for economic development and business transformation with wireless, 5G, and Smart Cities innovation.

Alberto Arechiga – As Enterprise Account Executive with the Google Cloud Platform, Alberto works with industry leaders in our region to implement cloud-based solutions that enable them to be proactive problem solvers and transform their IT organizations from a cost center to a profit center. A Presidential Award winner, Alberto provides a consultative approach that helps to reduce the complexity of IT for his clients.

Brandon Bruce- Co-founder | Knoxville Technology Council

Stephanie Flood – Chief Information Officer | Clayton Homes and WIT Committee Chair

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Learn about the latest developments made by companies in our region, and the technologies and partnerships that will continue to drive innovation in Knoxville and beyond.
  • Brandon Bruce, co-founder of KTech, will emcee.
  • Majid Khan will present on Verizon 5G and the Future of Everything with a Q&A on the state and local impact of 5G.
  • Alberto Arechiga will present on the Google Cloud Platform and why it’s the fastest-growing cloud provider.
  • Stephanie Flood will share about the launch of KTech Women in Tech.
  • Get the inside scoop on where we’re headed next, and how you can be a part of it.

Part 2: Q&A with Lia Winters of Winter Innovation

Startup Day 2019 winner reflects on the pitch competition experience, offers advice to 2020 competitors

Lia Winter has come a long way since she first developed the idea for a novel surgical stitching solution during her undergraduate days. Her East Tennessee-based startup is making waves at pitch competitions across the country, including right here in her backyard. Last year, Winter Innovations took home the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition.

In this last-part of a two-part Q&A series with the Startup Day 2019 winner, Lia revisits last year’s win and offers some advice to the entrepreneurs vying for this year’s awards.

It’s been one year since you won the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at Startup Day 2019. What was the pitch competition experience like?

Lia: I attended Startup Day for the first time in 2018 and remember being impressed with the pitch competition finalists. It was a pleasant surprise when, just a year later, I received notification that Winter Innovations had been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition. I started preparing my pitch deck immediately. WATE-TV news hosted the finalists for Elevator Pitch sessions, where the crew filmed us getting on an elevator with the news anchor and answering rapid fire questions about our companies. These segments were fun to shoot and they aired on the evening news a few weeks before Startup Day. 

After the Elevator Pitches, it was full speed ahead with pitch practice. I practiced a lot before my pitches and enlisted the help of my mentors at the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to get feedback on my pitch. On the big day, we arrived early and did a practice run before it was show time. I was the first presenter and I actually felt very comfortable on stage, partly because the charismatic Brandon Bruce was the host, and partly because when I looked out into the crowd, I saw many familiar faces.

After we delivered our pitches and the judges deliberated, the Crowd Favorite prize was announced. I was so happy when they revealed the giant check and announced that we had won! We had done a lot to promote the event within our network. When the judges announced that we had also won the Judge’s Choice prize, I felt a mixture of elation and surprise because the other companies had delivered impressive presentations. The award money was put toward our first manufactured production batch of EasyWhip™ needles.

What advice can you give to the entrepreneurs competing this year? 

Lia: Part of the reason we were successful was because we told a story with our pitch. We shared our personal connection and passion for our company and the Knoxville area and its entrepreneurship support system. My advice to entrepreneurs competing this year would be to tell a story with your pitch and reflect on how the Knoxville ecosystem has helped your company grow.

Part 1: Q&A with Lia Winters of Winter Innovation

Winter Innovations continues to make strides one year after winning the Startup Day 2019 pitch competition

Lia Winter’s passion to revolutionize orthopedic surgery comes from firsthand experience. She suffered her own orthopedic injury in high school and witnessed her mother’s long road to recovery following complications from ACL surgery. Winter knew there had to be a way to improve the surgery process and she made it her goal to find it. The result? EasyWhipTM, a two-step surgical needle that improves the stability, speed, and efficiency of graft stitching. This device is the focus of Winter Innovations, founded in 2018.

Lia has successfully pitched her company in competitions around the country, including in East Tennessee. Winter Innovations took home the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition

In this first-part of a two-part Q&A series with the Startup Day 2019 winner, Lia shares some exciting developments that have occurred over the last year.

A lot has happened for you and Winter Innovations this year. What are some notable highlights? 

Lia: The past year has been very exciting for Winter Innovations. Since competing in Startup Day, we’ve been featured in six other pitch competitions. In January, we closed our pre-seed funding round and are proud that our lead investor was an angel group from East Tennessee. We leveraged the capital to develop the EasyWhip™ packaging system and completed our first live production run of EasyWhip™ needles at our contract manufacturer last month. We also received a response from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office concerning our primary patent application. We have a set of allowed claims that will protect EasyWhip™ in the marketplace and expect our first patent to issue soon. 

The pandemic has impacted people and companies around the world. How is Winter Innovations pivoting and/or adapting to this new world we live in? 

Lia: We’ve stayed focused on launching EasyWhip™. Elective surgeries for ligament and tendon repair have slowed in many areas of the country, but a surge is expected after the virus is under control. We are working diligently to complete the necessary testing to submit our 510(k) to the FDA so EasyWhip™ is ready for launch and can be available to help surgeons and patients when we do see an uptick in elective surgeries again. 

Our way of doing business has definitely changed, too. Things slowed down when the pandemic first hit, as many of our suppliers and manufacturers were faced with implementing social distancing measures and transitioning to shift work schedules. As a startup, we are used to adapting. We are busier than ever preparing for our FDA submission and have leveraged remote team members to support us in these efforts.

Looking ahead to the next year or two, what do you and Winter Innovations have on the horizon?

Lia: Our next significant milestone is to submit our 510(k) to the FDA, which we are on track to complete by the end of this year. We expect to obtain clearance and launch EasyWhip™ by the end of 2021. We are currently raising our seed funding round.

Competitors for Innov865 Week’s 2020 Startup Day Pitch Competition Announced

Six local startups will vie for $10,000 in cash prizes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Some of the pitches shooting for $10,000 at Innov865’s Startup Day this year include predictive software for heart attacks, an untraceable password generator and glowing human cells to deliver medicine, among other ideas.

Those are among six rising stars from Knoxville’s startup scene that the Innov865 Alliance chose for its 2020 Startup Day pitch competition. The annual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition is the premier event of Innov865 Week, which will be held virtually Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. Startup Day is at 2 p.m. Sept. 29. The event is free and open to the public.

Other pitches judges will hear include converting food into renewable electricity, a way to improve workplace safety through song, and a community-based certification system to champion youth fitness and education.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to celebrate Knoxville’s vibrant entrepreneurial community,” said Jim Biggs, founding member of the Innov865 Alliance and Executive Director at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. “Innov865 Week shines a light on some of the incredible innovations that are happening in our own backyard. Any of these technologies could have an important impact on how we live.”

Hosted by the Innov865 Alliance, Innov865 Week spotlights Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses and connects the entrepreneurs planting roots here with support systems to succeed. The week’s events bring together local leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and the public to support local economic development and celebrate Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit. 

The event will be presented virtually using the Knoxville-based technology platform, Lunchpool. Startup Day’s pitch competition will feature six of Knoxville’s most investable startups pitching their businesses in front of a panel of expert judges for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes. Two prizes are up for grabs: the Innov865 Judges’ Choice prize and the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist.

A new addition to the 2020 Startup Day program is the Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon. The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19. The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award recipient, along with the winners of the Innov865 Judges’ Choice and Innov865 Crowd Favorite prizes, will be announced at an awards ceremony that will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 2. The awards ceremony will also be presented virtually via Lunchpool.

The six startups that will compete in Startup Day’s pitch competition were selected by the Innov865 Alliance for their extraordinary potential and investability. They include:

Electro-Active Technologies Inc. – Electro-Active Technologies Inc. is developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into low-cost hydrogen. Their system keeps food waste out of landfills and provides a zero-emission fuel to offset gasoline and diesel use.

Cofounder and CEO: Alex Lewis

490 BioTech – 490 BioTech makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The company’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines.

Cofounder and CSO: Dan Close

Quantum Lock – Quantum Lock is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable.

Cofounder: Erica Grant

Qardian Labs – Qardian Labs develops innovative artificial intelligence-based software solutions for evaluating heart disease risk. The company is dedicated to reducing the occurrence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest by improving screening for people in high stress environments.

Founder: Sofia Tomov

PowerUp Fitness – PowerUp Fitness certifies wellness champions as youth fitness instructors and provides them with the training and support needed to empower youth through fitness, education, and fun in their communities.

Founder and CEO: Stacy Baugues

Songboarding – Songboarding is a subscription-based platform that combines music with safety training, providing employers with a fun and memorable alternative to traditional training methods.

Cofounder: Mike Benn

Learn more about Innov865 Week by visiting https://innov865week.com/. The events calendar will be updated as events are added throughout the week.

ABOUT INNOV865 WEEK AND THE INNOV865 ALLIANCE

Innov865 Week is a weeklong celebration of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit that brings together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Innov865 Alliance’s mission is to make Knoxville a “nationally recognized” hub of innovation and entrepreneurship by leveraging the region’s world-class research, creative, and technological capabilities to build the most connected and diverse startup community in Tennessee. 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, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit www.innov865.com/.

DO YOU KNOW … how some of our Innov865 Alliance members support entrepreneurship in Knoxville?

For the past few weeks, we have been featuring our valued Innov865 Alliance members as part of our DID YOU KNOW social media series. One of the main questions we asked each of our members was: “How does your organization promote entrepreneurship in Knoxville?” Here are some of their responses: 

Maha Krishnamurthy, Vice President

University of Tennessee Research Foundation 

“UTRF promotes the growth and success of entrepreneurs via various business support resources and services including: educational workshops, networking events, pitch competitions, mentorship, grant funding opportunities, and physical space in the UTRF Business Incubator.”

Dan Miller, Program Lead

Oak Ridge National Lab

“ORNL has a number of programs that startups can use to access lab resources at little or no cost. Many startups in East Tennessee have taken advantage of these programs.  Also, ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program has recruited 16 high-tech entrepreneurs to-date to move to East Tennessee for two years to do collaborative work with ORNL R&D staff to commercialize energy and advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Jill Van Beke, Chief Program Officer

Launch Tennessee

“LaunchTN provides support and resources for other local entrepreneurial organizations, including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and the Innovation Crossroads program. We bring resources in five areas: capital, market access, commercialization, talent, and environment, complementing the work of Alliance members. Plus, we share the Tennessee entrepreneurial story nationwide, and we let innovators, investors, and ecosystem builders across the state — and beyond — know about the resources each of our partners offers.”

Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer

PYA

Teknovation.biz is the most visible way we support the entrepreneurial community by publishing articles about local entrepreneurs, initiatives, and programs. It was launched January 23, 2012 and publishes almost daily other than holidays and around the end of each calendar year. Less known is the accounting work we do at PYA to help participants in ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program and UT’s Vol Court program.”

Jim Biggs, Executive Director

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

“KEC serves as the front door for entrepreneurs in our region, and a resource for anyone looking to start or grow a business here. Through programming, networking events and mentorship, we work to ensure that entrepreneurs have access to the talent, capital, and customers they need to succeed.” 

Lynn Youngs, Executive Director

UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“Through our work on campus and beyond, we supply entrepreneurial talent to the ecosystem. We play a key role in supplying vetted startup companies to the region, and those student-created companies come with teams that help support the region at points beyond their initial startup.”

Thank you to all of our wonderful members! Come see us during Innov865 Week 2019 from September 23-27 — and don’t forget to register for Startup Day on September 24th at The Mill and Mine, starting at 2:00 p.m. ET!

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?

You can get more Innov865 updates by liking our Facebook Page!

(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.