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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RDI Technologies Recipient of 3rd Annual Innov865 Traction Award, Presented by UT Federal Credit Union

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – RDI Technologies, which offers video camera-based technology to quickly determine faults in machinery, infrastructure, and human performance not visible to the human eye, is the recipient of the third annual Innov865 Traction Award. Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer of RDI, accepted the award for the company, whose President, Bob Wilson, presented a Power Pitch during the third Startup Day in 2015. The announcement was made during the fifth annual Startup Day program at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

RDI counts Fortune 100 companies as its customers including, Honda, Nissan, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil. Since August 2016, the company has been completely profitable and revenue has increased by 400 percent.

Myra Hamilton, Assistant Vice President of Business Lending at UT Federal Credit Union, the sponsor of the award, presented it to Johns in front of hundreds of business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs in attendance at Startup Day.

“It is an honor to sponsor this award for the third year in a row and to bestow it on such a deserving recipient,” said Hamilton. “Jenna Johns and her colleagues at RDI have developed a video data collection system that is revolutionizing motion measurement capabilities and helping industries from healthcare to infrastructure solve big problems.”

RDI’s patented technology measures deflection, displacement, movement and vibration not visible to the human eye—it’s the first non-invasive, simple, and cost effective way to visualize and quickly determine faults in machinery, infrastructure, and human performance. The technology is more effective then looking at numbers and analysis from tools like accelerometers, strain gauges, modeling software, or even optical sensing technology.

A 2016 CodeWorks alum, RDI has been the recipient of two awards: the Vision Systems Design 2017 Innovator Award and an American Society of Civil Engineers 2016 Innovation Award in the “Innovative Business Models and Technologies” category. Currently, RDI is working to develop relationships with international resellers and expand its Fortune 100 footprint. The company has also grown in size, with eight full time and eight contract-based employees.

“On behalf of my team at RDI, we are humbled to be the 2017 recipient of the Innov865 Traction Award and look forward to growing our company right here in Knoxville, Tennessee,” said Johns.

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 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/

T&T Scientific Wins Startup Day 2016 Pitch Competition

Graham Taylor with T&T Scientific claimed the winning pitch prize during Startup Day 2016 on Thursday, September 22, 2016 on the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific received $5,000 from sponsors Three Roots Capital and SouthEast Bank. The winning pitch was one of six heard during the fourth annual Startup Day, which began offering prize money for a pitch winner in 2015.

“Graham Taylor exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that defines Startup Day and makes Knoxville such a great place to grow a business. It is truly an honor to bestow this prize on T&T Scientific and I am excited to see where the future leads them,” said Monty Montgomery, President of SouthEast Bank.

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.

Judges David Kereiakes, Senior Associate, River Cities Capital Funds; Sue Malone, President, Strategies for Small Businesses; and Tony Shipley, Chairman and Co-Founder, Queen City Angels, 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 showcased some of the best entrepreneurial talent that East Tennessee has to offer,“ said Grady Vanderhoofven, President and CEO of Three Roots Capital and co-presenter of the $5,000 prize. “I commend all of the entrepreneurs for their hard work and vision, and look forward to seeing them grow their businesses.”

Startup Day 2016 featured Paul Singh, nationally recognized serial entrepreneur and seed stage investor, who came to Knoxville as part of his North American Tech Tour. The event also featured the awarding of the second 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. Bob Bradley of NewsBreak was the 2016 recipient.

All six startups received a one-year subscription to FundingSages’ TurboFunder Platform, which provides entrepreneurs information, resources and tools to guide them through the creation and development of an investable company.

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://innov865week.com/event/startup-day-2016/

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NewsBreak Recipient of Startup Day’s 2nd Annual Traction Award, Presented by UT Federal Credit Union

NewsBreak, a programmatic merchandising platform launched in 2009 that converts fuel-only customers to multi-product purchasers, is the recipient of Startup Day 2016’s second annual Traction Award. Bob Bradley, President and CEO of NewsBreak, presented a Power Pitch during the second Startup Day in 2014. The announcement was made during the Startup Day program at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville.

Myra Hamilton, Assistant Vice President of Business Lending at UT Federal Credit Union, the sponsor of the award, presented it to Bradley during the Startup Day program in front of hundreds of business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs in attendance.

“It is an honor to sponsor this award for the second year in a row and to bestow it on such a deserving recipient,” said Hamilton. “Bob Bradley has taken a local digital startup company and transformed it into a nationally recognized software company that is changing how retailers market products to consumers.”

NewsBreak is currently available across five states, with expected growth to reach 300 convenience stores by the end of this year, up from 88 locations at the end of 2014.  Earlier this year, NewsBreak opened its first site in the state of Utah through a strategic partnership with Sinclair Oil and Bennett Pump Company. The deal makes NewsBreak available to not only 1,400 Sinclair branded stations in 19 states, but the 6,000 fueling retailer locations across the U.S. that are currently served by the third largest fuel pump manufacturer in the world, Bennett Pump Company.

NewsBreak continues to enhance their software capabilities through the implementation of predictive marketing and dynamic data analytics. The development efforts are being led by Co-Founder & COO Brian Nelson, who has a background in statistical analytics and experimental psychology. The platform now utilizes historical sales and key consumer buying variable data, like unit sales, market basket, temperature, and household income to build contextual content management rules for each retail location. The content management system then delivers a relevant playlist of merchandising messages to pump-to TV and in-store screen networks. Once deployed, the software creates a feedback loop by continually updating new sales and consumer buying variable data to inform and adapt the contextual rules, resulting in adjustments to the playlist.

“I am humbled to be the 2016 recipient of the Traction Award,” said Bradley. “Startup Day provided a platform for NewsBreak’s success and growth over the last two years. I cannot think of a better place to start up a business or call home than East Tennessee.”

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 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://innov865week.com/event/startup-day-2016/