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!

Eight growth stage companies sign-up for KEC’s modified 2017 “The Works” cohort

(NOTE: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) unveiled the eight companies that comprise the cohort for this year’s “The Works” accelerator at a kickoff party last night in The Old City.

It’s a slightly different mix of companies than the early stage nature of the ones that, for the most part, have been part of the past cohorts.

“I would say the main difference this year is that the program is growth-focused,” Jonathan Sexton, KEC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, explained. “Each year we have a different spin on the program.”

The energetic musician and entrepreneur in his own right noted that the program in the past was characterized by start-ups that had a media or content idea or fell into the coding category.

“This year the ticket in the door is having a product, users, and revenue,” Sexton explained. “I think it says a lot about the state of our ecosystem that we can do this. Three or four years ago, I’m not sure we would have enough companies that could check those boxes, and now we have to take this approach as a response to the needs of our market. It’s truly exciting and gratifying.”

The eight participants are:

  • Lirio which has two products – Fiveworx and Finworx;
  • SafeSurv, a Cookeville-based start-up that helps retail establishments with products that can only be sold to individuals who are 21 years of age or older manage their risks;
  • Buzzer Intel that is improving ROI on sponsorship investments at events;
  • CQInsights, a healthcare data analytics provider;
  • Unveil Events, a web app that outsources the calling and emailing of events;
  • Smart RIA that provides compliance management software for investment advisors;
  • BIT Dealership Software, a business management software provider to boat and power sports dealers, repair shops, and marinas; and
  • Prometheus Group, a company focused on helping businesses working across the globe utilize intelligence to better manage their risks.

With the shift in the stage of evolution of the companies, there will be a natural modification of the programming.

“The approach to working with a more advanced company is significantly different than idea stage,” Sexton said. “In years past, we’ve spent all summer on idea validation and often times can get much further than that. These companies are already there, so we can focus on other aspects of the business.”

He said the programming for the teams will be more individualized and focused, helping them identify two or three key strategic priorities based on a myriad of factors and use KEC’s full slate of resources to achieve those milestones.

“It’s also worth noting that our program still has a major media bent to it,” Sexton added. “We are experimenting to see if we can leverage media skillsets and talent to support each start-up. We believe that every company is a media company now, everyone is making their own content on social media or otherwise. After a few years of doing this kind of work, we are uniquely positioned to plan, create, and execute on content creation for our teams with the help of our specialist’s program.

The program began June 1 and runs through “The Works Demo Day” which will occur on September 20 during Knoxville’s second annual “Innov865 Week.”

For more details on the eight companies, read the KEC-provided summary (2017 The Works Cohort).

 

ORNL unveils five entrepreneurs, four companies in inaugural “Innovation Crossroads” cohort

(NOTE: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) set a goal of finding up to five of the nation’s top young energy innovators and, by all accounts, it appears the recruiting team has achieved its goal with the inaugural cohort for the “Innovation Crossroads.”

ORNL leaders publicly unveiled the four start-ups at an event yesterday in Oak Ridge attended by the innovators, researchers with whom they will be working, and two top administrators from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“If you look five, 10, 15 or 20 years ahead, where is the innovation going to come from to continue our nation’s economic growth,” Mark Johnson, Director of DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, asked. His answer was “programs like this.” Joining Johnson from DOE headquarters was Johanna Wolfson, Director of the Technology-to-Market Program.

In a conversation ahead of the event, Johnson described “Innovation Crossroads” and two similar programs at other DOE labs as a post-doc program. After all, the five innovators have either earned their Ph.Ds. or are in the process of completing them.

For ORNL, yesterday’s announcement was the culmination of a process that began more than six months ago with a solicitation of applications. Day-to-day responsibility for “Innovation Crossroads” is being handled by Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, and Beth Conerty, Program Lead for Entrepreneurial Support and Development.

As described in this September 20 article from teknovation.biz, the program is part of a DOE effort to help accelerate clean energy technologies in an era of substantially limited venture capital. The ORNL initiative is the third in DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP). The pilot, named “Cyclotron Road,” was tested at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a second program, named “Chain Reaction Innovations,” started last year at Argonne National Laboratory.

A quick review of the resumes of the five entrepreneurs shows impressive pedigrees. Two either have or will soon earn their doctorates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where one was Co-Director of the prestigious “MIT Clean Energy Prize,” the largest such student-led competition in the country. Another student is working on her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University while also serving as a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow. Yet another, ironically from Knoxville, just finished his doctorate at Cornell University. The final selectee is a local entrepreneur – Ming Qi – who has his own start-up named Peroxygen Systems and has already achieved significant recognition, winning a seed grant under DOE’s ARPA-E program and being selected to work with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the Departments’ “Small Business Vouchers” program.

Those credentials remind me of a frequent ad on the Golf Channel with a tagline of “These guys are really good.”

ORNL began accepting applications in mid-November and culled the initial round of more than 50 applicants to 16 semi-finalists who were brought to Oak Ridge for interviews. Nine finalists were selected for more interviews before yesterday’s announcement of the four start-ups that were eventually chosen.

The five Entrepreneurs – one team has two Co-Founders – arrived a few weeks ago to start the two-year experience. It includes a stipend that will help cover living expenses and healthcare, collaboration space at ORNL, up to $350,000 in R&D support from ORNL through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), business model development assistance, help with marketing strategies, mentorship, and introductions to other successful energy entrepreneurs as well as potential industry partners.

Local organizations are supporting the effort including PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz. In PYA’s case, the firm will be helping these bright engineers with business structure and accounting advice. Also, through the relatively new Launch Tennessee Networks initiative, “Innovation Crossroads” participants will be able to access the Energy Mentor Network operated by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

Click here to read the official ORNL news release.

Local Motors’ Olli to make its debut in September during Innov865 Week

April’s Innov865 Happy Hour sponsored by Three Roots Capital welcomed a special announcement from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, telling a hefty crowd at Scruffy City Hall that Local Motors’ self-driving electric vehicle Olli will soon be making its debut this September during Innov865 Week.

Olli was created at Local Motors’s micro factory in Hardin Valley using 3D printing technology.

Add that to the many reasons you should attend the Innov865 Alliance’s Signature Week celebrating entrepreneurship and the Knoxville startup community.

This comes after a series of technology announcements in East Tennessee. In Market Square earlier Thursday, Olli was unveiled for the public to get an up-close look at the innovation happening in Knoxville.

Knoxville Mayor Rogero announcing self-driving vehicle Olli will soon be taking over City streets.

It’s important to mention, Visit Knoxville is going to roll an Olli out on a test basis this fall at some events in places like World’s Fair Park and Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center.

The longer-term goal is to have Olli running on city streets, by the end of next year, for Visit Knoxville events and giving tours of the city following pre-programmed maps.

There was also a separate announcement on Tuesday from Knoxville entrepreneur Bill Malkes, founder of GRIDSMART.

The company has donated some of its new STREETSMART Wi-Fi data cameras for the City of Knoxville to pilot at some of the busiest intersections along Kingston Pike, specifically the intersection of Kingston Pike and Northshore Drive.

These cameras collect real-time traffic information on traffic flow and congestion, which City engineers can use to get better information about how and when traffic backs up on that corridor.

This will help the City make better adjustments to signal timing and eventually to respond immediately to changing conditions so that they can reduce congestion, reduce vehicle emissions, and get everybody where they’re going faster.

These two technologies combined could eventually become a fully connected smart transportation system, where you have vehicles like Local Motors’ Olli sending and receiving information to infrastructure like GRIDSMART’s cameras, allowing everything to move much more efficiently.

With both of these announcements and the work going on at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and across the Innovation Valley, Knoxville is well positioned to be on the forefront of smart transportation technology.

(L to R) Grady Vanderhoofven of Three Roots Capital, Bill Malkes of GRIDSMART, and Tom Ballard of PYA & Teknovation.biz

During the April Innov865 Happy Hour sponsored by Three Roots Capital, there was also a featured fireside chat with GRIDSMART Founder Bill Malkes and Three Roots Capital CEO & Meritus Capital Management Managing Partner Grady Vanderhoofven. The two, along with moderator Tom Ballard of PYA and Teknovation.biz, discussed the founding and growth of GRIDSMART and the role the company is playing in the intelligent transportation industry.

Bill and Grady talked about how the company was founded, raised capital, staffed the business, developed its product, established and expanded production in East Tennessee, and what the future holds for GRIDSMART.

April Innov865 Happy Hour hosted by Three Roots Capital

Special announcement from Knoxville mayor, featured fireside chat

The Innov865 Alliance invites you to join the entrepreneur and startup community in another engaging Innov865 Happy Hour, hosted by Three Roots Capital.

An evening of networking awaits you, Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

During this time, there will be a special announcement from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero followed by a featured fireside chat with Bill Malkes, founder and CEO of GRIDSMART and Grady Vanderhoofven, Managing Partner of Meritus Capital Management and CEO of Three Roots Capital.

The fireside chat will be moderated by Tom Ballard of PYA and Teknovation.biz, where discussions will range from the founding and growth of GRIDSMART and the role the company is playing in the intelligent transportation industry.

GRIDSMART has evolved from a concept to the fastest growing company in its industry.

GRIDSMART, a company founded in Oak Ridge and based in Knoxville, provides technology that monitors and controls traffic at intersections and on roadways in 22 countries on five continents around the world.

Their products reduce congestion, increase efficiency, and reduce environmental impact. As the dawn of a new world of autonomous vehicles brightens, cars and traffic management systems will share information. Companies like GRIDSMART are leading the way.

Meritus was one of GRIDSMART’s early investors and has held a position on the company’s Board of Directors for years.  Bill and Grady will talk about how the company raised capital, staffed the business, developed its product (software and hardware), established and expanded production in East Tennessee, and what the future holds for GRIDSMART and intelligent transportation.