LaunchTN Startup Policy Workshop: Knoxville

Join LaunchTN for a workshop to learn from industry experts on navigating government-business issues and meet with policymakers!

RSVP Here!

Join LaunchTN and our partners at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center for a workshop focused on startup policy. You’ll get an overview of what qualifies as a local, state, or federal issue; learn how to engage with policymakers to advocate for your business; and meet with regional policymakers to tell your story.

1 p.m.  Introductions: What do you hope to gain from today?

1:15 p.m. – Issues identification: What challenges can policy help solve? What level of government do these issues relate to?

2 p.m. – How to engage: What do you do when you’ve got a policymaker’s ear?

2:45 p.m. – Break

3 p.m. – Policymaker roundtables: Small group discussions with regional policymakers, rotating every 20 minutes.

4 p.m. – Closing remarks

Cancelled: Launch Tennessee Startup Policy Workshop in Knoxville

Join LaunchTN and KEC for a workshop to learn from industry experts on navigating government-business issues and meet with policymakers!

Join LaunchTN, D.C. startup policy group Engine, and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center for a workshop focused on startup policy. You’ll get an overview of what qualifies as a local, state, or federal issue; learn how to engage with policymakers to advocate for your business; and meet with regional policymakers to tell your story.

RSVP Here!

36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival

Against the vibrant backdrop of downtown Nashville, entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders nationwide will convene for 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival. This two-day festival with workshops, panels, fireside chats and networking across five venues puts each attendee in charge of their own schedule regardless of business stage, background or industry.

Make your next move at 36|86 Aug. 28-29! Read more here!

SBIR Lunch and Learn

Ready to move your research from the lab to the marketplace? Want to learn more about how federal research grants can help you get there?

The Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program is a highly competitive federal program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

As part of LaunchTN’s SBIR Road Tour, we’re hosting in-person lunch and learns with panels of experienced SBIR/STTR winners and grant writers in local markets across Tennessee. Learn from those who have done it successfully.

Questions? Contact

Register here!

What is the ‘great entrepreneurial lie?’ That it’s all about the money

(Originally published: The Tennessean)

By: Charlie Brock, CEO & President of Launch Tennessee

Over the last five years as the CEO of Launch Tennessee, too often I’ve seen founders raise angel or seed funding, develop a product line and a small customer-base, but not gain any real traction.

First, they’re discouraged, and soon they’re out of cash. The worst part? They’ve convinced themselves, and often their board, that if they just raise that next round of funding, life will be good, and the company will be on track for success.

Here’s the reality, entrepreneurs: It’s not all about the money. In fact, that is the great entrepreneurial lie. Building a lasting business and brand is all about the hustle, and if you don’t have what it takes to give it your all, you’re not going to make it.

I began my own entrepreneurial journey at Foxmark Media in 1998, and I’ll be the first to admit that thanks to some personal capital from the sale of a family business along with four generations of family connections with prospective angel investors in the community, I had a leg up. For several years, I was able to bootstrap and take minimal to no salary.

Recognizing the limitations on my personal funding capacity, I got out there and hustled every single day to build a viable business worthy of funding from other people’s pockets.

When I didn’t have enough capital to hire a sales team, I spent nearly all my time making calls and driving to small markets across the region to get my product through the door.

Read more here.

Haslams have engaging fireside chat during “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival”

(Originally published on

Those who attended last year’s “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” in Nashville were impressed with the way in which Governor Bill Haslam moderated a fireside chat with FedEx Founder Fred Smith.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee’s outgoing Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was up for an even greater challenge . . . moderating a fireside chat with another legend, in this case his father who founded Pilot Flying J Corporation 60 years ago. “Big Jim” Haslam, as he is affectionately known by many, and his youngest son had a humorous, insightful conversation that drew laughs and applause from an appreciative crowd at the Wild Horse Saloon.

The discussion over about a 45-minute period covered everything from the history of Pilot, founded as a single gas station, through the more recent acquisition of a minority stake by noted investor Warren Buffet and ended with  the senior Haslam’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

The first station was opened the year the Governor was born. As “Big Jim” explained that period, he needed a job and was offered one as a high school coach but the salary would not begin for several months. He needed income then. As he looked around, the elder Haslam was offered a job selling ads for a local television station.

“I was not sure TV was going to make it,” he said laughingly.

By 1964-65, Pilot had grown to 12 stations, and Haslam sold one-half of the company to Marathon Oil Corporation, a transaction that provided expansion capital. In 1988, Pilot repurchased the stake held by Marathon, only to bring the corporation back as a partial owner in 2001 and again repurchase that interest in 2008.

Read more here.

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


Launch Tennessee now accepting applications for new “SBIR/STTR Matching Fund Grants Program”

(NOTE: This article was originally published on

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Tennessee-based entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize technology with funding from two federal initiatives now have another tool in their toolkit, thanks to funding included in the 2017-18 State of Tennessee budget, and the application window is open.

As a result of a more than two-year effort, spearheaded by two statewide organizations – Launch Tennessee and Life Science Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam recommended and the General Assembly approved $1.5 million for the new “SBIR/STTR Matching Fund Grants Program.” The dollars are non-recurring, meaning they will have to be included in next year’s state budget for the program to be more than a 12-month initiative.

The funding represents an important milestone in efforts to support more technology start-up growth in the Volunteer State. The $1.5 million pot of funds will be used to match federal grants that companies receive to advance their efforts to commercialize technologies important to the federal government. The state’s program has a cap of $150,000 that can be awarded to any one company.

“It allows us to remain competitive and keep really good start-ups here,” Lindsey Cox, Launch Tennessee’s Director of Operations and Government Affairs, said. Several of the states around Tennessee have already implemented similar initiatives, and some start-ups from here have relocated to those states to be eligible for their matching dollars.

Read more here.