Local startup wins $10,000, mayoral candidates face off at 2019 Startup Day

The Knoxville community packed the house at The Mill & Mine on Tuesday for a lively celebration of local inventors and innovation at the seventh annual Startup Day, the signature event of Innov865 Week.

The festivities kicked off with the first head-to-head matchup of the general election between Knoxville’s mayoral finalists, Eddie Mannis and Indya Kincannon. Moderated by WATE 6 On Your Side anchor Kristin Farley, the forum focused on the candidates’ plans to foster Knoxville’s growing entrepreneurship community and advance economic growth in the region. The candidates engaged in a lively debate about attracting innovators and new businesses to Knoxville, ideas for building a dedicated innovation district, ways to support minority-owned businesses, and pathways to ensuring Knoxville’s children and residents have access to the tools and technology necessary for economic opportunity.

At the annual pitch competition, local startup Winter Innovations was crowned 2019 Judge’s Choice winner as well as Crowd Favorite winner, an award sponsored by SunTrust Bank, and took home a combined cash prize of $10,000. This year’s pitch competition was the most competitive yet, as the Innov865 Alliance handpicked six local startups for their extraordinary potential and investability to participate in the “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition.

“SunTrust Bank is proud to support local entrepreneurs and invest in the future of our city and region,” said Harry Gross, Knoxville President of SunTrust Bank. “We join the Knoxville community in celebrating these startups and empowering new businesses and economic opportunity.”

Winter Innovations was named the winner in a fiercely competitive field of some of the area’s most investable startups, which included two software companies, two medical device companies, and two energy companies: Active Energy Systems, EDP Biotech, Reviewbox, SmartRIA, and TCPoly.

The entrepreneurs pitched their companies on-stage before a three-judge expert panel: Richard Dapaah, venture partner with FundRX and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center executive-in-residence; Sue Malone, president of Strategies for Small Business; and Ted Serbinski, Startup Day 2019’s featured guest and managing director of Techstars Mobility, an American seed accelerator with more than 1,900 companies in its portfolio that’s invested more than $6.2 billion in startups since 2006.

The day also featured fireside chat with President and CEO Kelly Tiller of Genera, a local startup affiliated with the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) that recently secured a $118 million investment for sustainable packaging and fiber products made from grass.

“Startup Day showcases the world-class technology and innovation happening right here in Knoxville, and importantly, rallies community leaders, officials, and citizens behind these entrepreneurs helping drive growth in our region,” said Maha Krishnamurthy, vice president of UTRF, a member of the Innov865 Alliance.

Innov865 Week continues this week with both public and invitation-only festivities including a reception with local startups and venture capitalists, happy hours, and networking opportunities with local startups and venture capitalists. On Thursday, September 26, all are invited to join two events: Innovation Crossroads Showcase, a celebration of Oak Ridge National Lab’s Innovation Crossroads graduates and showcase of the incoming cohort of new energy startups, and an Investor Series powered by Three Roots Capital with Bill Malkes, GRIDSMART co-founder and former CEO, and Grady Vanderhoofven, CEO of Three Roots Capital and Managing Partner of Meritus Capital, the lead investor in GRIDSMART. The events will be held at the Square Room at Cafe 4 at 4:00PM and 6:00PM, respectively. RSVP here for the Innovation Crossroads showcase and here for the Innov865 Investor Series. For a complete calendar of Innov865 happenings, go to innov865.com/calendar/.

Startup Day 2019

Discover the world-changing ideas coming from Knoxville’s entrepreneurs at Startup Day 2019! Register here!

This year’s festivities are bigger than ever: a mayoral forum moderated by WATE 6 On Your Side is planned, where Eddie Mannis and Indya Kincannon (the two candidates competing in the November general election to become Knoxville’s next mayor) will present their vision for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Startup Day’s main event is the annual “Shark-Tank”-style pitch competition for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes. This year, six of Knoxville’s most investable startups will pitch their businesses on-stage before a panel of expert judges. In addition to the opportunity to spotlight their startup for investors, entrepreneurs will compete for a “crowd favorite” cash prize presented by SunTrust Bank.

Our featured guest is Ted Serbinski, the managing director of Techstars Mobility, the first U.S. startup accelerator program focused on next-generation mobility technologies.

Other activities include a fireside chat with Genera, a local startup affiliated with the University of Tennessee Research Foundation that recently secured a $118 million investment for sustainable packaging and fiber products made from grass.

Join us for another great event of celebrating Knoxville’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem!

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!

Guest Blog: Genera to Host Fireside Chat at Startup Day 2019

By Genera 

Genera is excited to be celebrating entrepreneurial success with fellow East Tennesseans during the upcoming Innov865 Week, hosted by the Innov865 Alliance. Kelly Tiller, founder, president and CEO of Genera, will join a Fireside Chat as part of the Startup Day 2019 lineup on September 24th at Knoxville’s Mill & Mine.

The same mission drive that characterized Genera when it was founded out of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation more than a decade ago is even more pronounced today in its passion for delivering sustainability improvements to the marketplace while making positive impacts in rural communities.

Genera made local and industry news recently, announcing new private investment totaling more than $118 million for a manufacturing facility in Vonore where it will produce its Earthable® line of sustainable agricultural fiber products. Partnering with local farmers, Genera’s new Vonore facility will convert grasses and other locally sourced fiber crops into compostable food service packaging products like plates, bowls, and takeout containers.

Asked about the Company’s East Tennessee roots, Tiller said, “East Tennessee is the ideal place for us to develop our first large-scale manufacturing project. We have purposely built our business around existing assets and competitive advantages we find in East Tennessee:

  • An abundance of lower-productivity and underutilized farmland;
  • Innovative farmers willing to pioneer new crops and sustainable production systems;
  • Existing legacy manufacturing assets;
  • A competitive labor market;
  • Expanding technical training programs boosting workforce skills and experience;
  • World-class research programs at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, particularly in agriculture and biosystems, lignin chemistry, bio-based products and materials, and additive manufacturing;
  • Supportive local officials and economic development professionals helping pave the way for continued investment and growth; and
  • A strategic and connected location allowing us to easily service our nation-wide customer base.”

During the Fireside Chat, Dr. Tiller will share some of the lessons Genera has learned firsthand over the last decade and discuss the growing momentum positioning Knoxville area startups for continued success. Speaking about the annual networking event and celebration of local entrepreneurship, Tiller says, “It’s a great opportunity to learn from each other. We’re excited to share our experiences developing a fully integrated, sustainable farm-to-finished product solution that has attracted well-aligned investments to the place we’re proud to call home.”

Knoxville’s annual entrepreneurship festival to feature mayoral forum, pitch competition, and the area’s top innovators

Discover the trailblazers and innovators behind Knoxville’s growing startup community during 2019 Innov865 Week, coming up September 23 – 27, 2019. The annual entrepreneurship festival, hosted by the Innov865 Alliance, spotlights Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses and connects the entrepreneurs planting roots here with support systems to succeed.

Innov865 Week boasts a range of events for everyone in the community to support local economic development, from investors and regional entrepreneurs to community leaders and students. “Entrepreneurship is essential to the success of our community,” said Tom Rogers, president and CEO of the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm and founding member of the Innov865 Alliance. “When we invest in building a supportive, high-growth ecosystem for aspiring and mature startups to grow their businesses here, everyone in Knoxville benefits.”

This year’s featured guest is Ted Serbinski, the managing director of Techstars Mobility, the first U.S. startup accelerator program focused on next-generation mobility technologies. Techstars is an American seed accelerator with more than 1,900 companies in its portfolio and has invested $6.2 billion in startups since 2006. Serbinski is a founding member and former partner of Detroit Venture Partners, a $55 million seed-stage fund that has invested in more than 25 companies. 

The week’s premier event is Startup Day, Tuesday, September 24, at the Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville. This year’s festivities are bigger than ever: a mayoral forum moderated by WATE 6 On Your Side is planned, where the two candidates competing in the November general election to become Knoxville’s next mayor will present their vision for entrepreneurship and innovation. Other activities include a fireside chat with Genera, a local startup affiliated with the University of Tennessee Research Foundation that recently secured a $118 million investment for sustainable packaging and fiber products made from grass. 

Startup Day’s main event is the annual “Shark-Tank”-style pitch competition for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes. This year, six of Knoxville’s most investable startups will pitch their businesses on-stage before a panel of expert judges. In addition to the opportunity to spotlight their startup for investors, entrepreneurs will compete for a “crowd favorite” cash prize presented by SunTrust Bank. The 2019 expert judges panel features Richard Dapaah, venture partner with FundRX and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center executive-in-residence; Sue Malone, president of Strategies for Small Business; and featured guest Ted Serbinski with Techstars.

The competing startups were hand-selected by the Innov865 Alliance for their extraordinary potential and investability. They are:

Active Energy – startup offering ultra-efficient, low-cost thermal energy storage utilizing the world’s first “icephobic coating,” a patent-pending invention that creates a surface impervious to freezing water, thus improving cooling performance by completely eliminating ice build-up.

Cofounder: Mitchell Ishmael

EDP Biotech – medical device diagnostics company with novel platform technology enabling earlier detection of diseases such as colorectal cancer, using machine learning and multiplexing to perform more advanced and efficient blood tests.

CEO: Eric Mayer

Reviewbox – e-commerce software platform that enables brands and manufacturers to track product reviews and sales data across online retail sites like Amazon, providing visibility into every aspect of an e-commerce business and connecting companies directly with their customers.

Founder and CEO: Jim Horey

SmartRIA – software platform with proprietary technology that simplifies compliance for investment advisors, saving firms and hybrid firms time and money in maintaining compliance with federal and state regulations.

CEO: Mac Bartine

TCPoly – 3D printing company developing advanced materials and technology, including the world’s highest thermal conductivity filament (50x higher than traditional plastics). When combined with the design freedom of 3D printing, can be used to make lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and high-performance heat transfer components.

Cofounder and CEO: Matt Smith 

Winter Innovations – medical device company inventing novel orthopedic surgical tools that improve patient outcomes in high-risk procedures, such as the EasyWhipTM specialty needle that improves the stability, speed, and efficiency of graft stitching, a critical component of surgery for torn ligaments and tendons. 

Founder: Lia Winter

Startup Day is free and open to the public; doors will open at 1:30pm. Tickets are available now online.

In addition to Startup Day, Innov865 Week is full of both public and invitation-only festivities including a reception with local startups and venture capitalists; an Investor Series with GRIDSMART founder and CEO Bill Malkes; investor speed pitching; a celebration of Oak Ridge National Lab’s Innovation Crossroads graduates and incoming cohort of new energy startups; and frequent happy hours and networking opportunities. 

To learn more about the week’s events and details, visit www.innov865.com/calendar/2019-09/. This calendar will be updated as events are added throughout the week.