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.

Startup Day Pitch Competition Ups the Ante with Two Cash Prizes for 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The 2017 Startup Day pitch competition promises to be bigger than ever with the addition of a second cash prize. This year’s six competitors will pitch their businesses before a panel of investor judges on Thursday, September 21 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre for the chance to win up to $15,000. This is the fifth Startup Day pitch competition and the signature event of the second annual Innov865 Week, a celebration of Knoxville’s vibrant entrepreneurial community, September 18-22, 2017.

“Innov865 Week is our opportunity to highlight the diverse entrepreneurs who are driving innovation and economic growth in the region,” said Jim Biggs, Executive Director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC). KEC is a founding member of the Innov865 Alliance. “This year’s Startup Day pitch competitors more than exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit found here in East Tennessee. I am excited to see just how far they will go.”

New this year, the Startup Day pitch competition will feature two prize categories: the Startup Day 2017 Judge’s Choice Prize presented by the Innov865 Alliance, worth $10,000, and the Startup Day 2017 Crowd Favorite Prize presented by SunTrust Bank, worth $5,000. Competitors will have an opportunity to win both prizes for a grand total of $15,000.

“SunTrust Bank is pleased and honored to join the Innov865 Alliance as a sponsor for the fifth annual Startup Day pitch competition. We are amazed at the entrepreneurial talent represented at this year’s competition and look forward to giving one deserving East Tennessee startup the financial kick-start they need to grow their business,” said Harry L. Gross, Jr., Knoxville City President and Executive Vice President of Commercial Banking at SunTrust Bank.

Graham Taylor, co-founder of T&T Scientific and the 2016 Startup Day cash prize winner, has made great strides with his business since pitching at last year’s competition. He has expanded his single-use liposome extrusion device product line, tripled his customer base, and has an international reach with products available for sale in 40 countries. To top it off, total revenues for T&T Scientific reached $100,000 earlier in 2017 and the company has acquired seven patents since September 2016.

Startup Day is free and open to the public. Registration is required at

The Innov865 Alliance selected the following six startups to compete in the 2017 pitch competition:

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.

Flora Ellis, Unveil Unveil is a free online tool that makes wedding planning much easier. The Unveil team has taken the experiences of a hundred couples who planned their own weddings and distilled their feedback into a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool. With Unveil, couples can compare vendors side-by-side to make important hiring decisions. In addition, Unveil offers a premium concierge service for couples who are looking for personal assistance in gathering pricing, availability, and other vendor details, tailored to their specific needs.

Brandon Hardin, Joyce Development, LLC Joyce Development, LLC has developed the Command Glove™, a lightweight, Bluetooth enabled glove embedded with sensors that control functions on electronic devices, such as cell phones, mp3 players, and tablets. With the Command Glove™, wearers can answer a call or change up their playlist with just the tap of a finger, all without having to remove the device from their pocket. The Command Glove™’s patent pending technology promises to change the way people interact with electronics, making it easier and more efficient to interface with wearables and mobile technology while on the go.

Jonaaron Jones, Volunteer Aerospace, Inc. Volunteer Aerospace, Inc. (VAI) uses metal powder bed additive manufacturing to produce hardware and fully functional prototypes for the aerospace and defense industries. VAI uses state-of-the-art additive equipment that has been production hardened to produce aerospace grade components with lower lead times. This competitive edge allows VAI to compete with traditional casting and forging processes.

Melissa Kreis-Stephens, Tomboy Organic Skincare Tomboy Organic Skincare is an organic skin care company for adventure enthusiasts that formulates plant salves, skin care products, and makeup using herbs and roots from the southeast’s native deciduous forests. Born from an experiment to create a poison ivy salve in a Tennessee high school science classroom, Tomboy Organic Skincare has expanded its focus to create earth-inspired, preservative-free products that provide relief from sunburn, sore muscles, scars, and insect bites and stings. The company was awarded the American Choice Best Brand Award in 2016 and its War Woman Scar Oil Salve was recognized as one of Trailblazer Girl’s Top Skin Care Products of 2016.

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

About SunTrust Bank

SunTrust is a purpose-driven company dedicated to Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being for the people, businesses, and communities it serves. Headquartered in Atlanta, SunTrust operates an extensive branch and ATM network throughout the high-growth Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, along with 24-hour digital access. As of June 30, 2017, SunTrust had total assets of $207 billion and total deposits of $158 billion. In February 2016, SunTrust launched its onUp Movement, a national movement inspiring Americans to build financial confidence and reduce financial stress. The goal is to have five million people take a pledge and make a commitment to take control of their finances. As of August 2017, more than two million people have joined the Movement. Learn more at