490 BioTech wins Innov865 Alliance’s Startup Day; Dr. Peter Tsai is Recognized for Global Pandemic Support

Innov865 Week Ends with a Virtual Celebration of Trailblazing Entrepreneurs and Life-changing Impact

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The startup 490 BioTech, which developed bioluminescent human cells to show changes in cellular health, won the Innov865 Judges’ Choice Award at Startup Day 2020 with a pitch that explained how its technology can improve development of pharmaceuticals.

“Healthy happy cells are bright, sick cells go dim, and dead cells go dark,” 490 BioTech co-founder and CEO Dan Close said. “Our product provides continuous information about a drug’s effect on human health so pharmaceutical companies can operate more efficiently.”

As winner, his company will receive a $7,000 cash prize that they will use to develop its business further. 490 BioTech was named among several winners during Innov865 Week, which celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation in Knoxville and the region. He and others pitched their businesses on Startup Day, Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Winners were named in an awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2 that included the judges’ choice, 490 BioTech; the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist, was given to Quantum Lock; and the first recipient of the Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was named – N95 mask developer Dr. Peter Tsai.

The look and feel of Innov865 Week may have been a little different, but the excitement of the eighth annual Startup Day was woven throughout the a week of virtual events designed to introduce investors to burgeoning startups in the process of gaining traction in the market.

The festivities started with a discussion from University of Tennessee President and entrepreneur Randy Boyd during a Facebook Live segment on Monday morning, followed by the Spark Innovation Center Showcase on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday nearly 200 attendees heard from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and then were introduced to six investable pitchers in what was deemed by judges as the closest Startup Day to date. The virtual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition included previously taped pitches and virtual question and answer sessions hosted on the local startup virtual platform Lunchpool.

Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the competition on Startup Day.

Quantum Lock creates random, untraceable combinations for locks that prevent hackers from doing things such as creating a master key for hotel rooms, among other safeguards. Later plans for Quantum Lock’s technology include securing the energy grid, hospitals, homes, smartphones and personal security.

“Encouraging entrepreneurs to creatively solve problems and build businesses is one way Truist delivers on its purpose of inspiring and building better lives and communities, said Christian Corts, regional president for BB&T | SunTrust now Truist, East Tennessee. “We appreciate the hard work and ingenuity of all of Startup Day’s participants, and congratulate Quantum Lock and Erica Grant as the crowd favorite award winner for Startup Day 2020.”

The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was given to Peter Tsai, University of Tennessee researcher who developed the N95 mask material.

“Verizon is proud to present the inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, and pleased to announce the winner, Peter Tsai,” said Thomas Green, Managing Partner for Government and Public Safety at Verizon. “As the architect behind the essential technology in N95 masks, his work is essential to the global response for fighting the pandemic. This is the kind of life-changing technology that the Innov865 Impact Award presented by Verizon is meant to highlight.

The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19. Tsai, a research faculty member at the University of Tennessee Department of Material Science and Engineering, used a method called electrostatic charging to develop the N95 mask material, which filters out 95 percent of particles from air that wearers breathe through the mask. Front-line healthcare workers and others use the N95 mask as part of the essential personal protective equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tsai then participated in a fireside chat with Lonnie Love of ORNL, moderated by Jon Sheiber with TechCrunch, in which he explained his work.

“I did not expect this. It’s just happened by chance,” Tsai said. “My invention is an ordinary invention.” However, Tsai’s invention has had an extraordinary impact. Dr. Tsai retired two years ago, but the global pandemic caused a shortage of N95 masks. Earlier this year, he worked with labs and manufacturers to teach others how to make the materials and safely reuse N95 masks.

About the Startup Day winners

Innov865 Judges Choice: 490 BioTech – The Knoxville-based 490 BioTech makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The company’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines. 490 BioTech serves the academic, commercial, industrial, and government research community by providing high quality bioluminescent cell lines that don’t require external luciferin treatments to function.

Their patented genetic architecture allows their cell lines to produce their own luciferin internally, allowing for continuous light production throughout the life of a culture.

Cofounder and CSO: Dan Close

Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist: Quantum Lock Quantum Lock is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable. Quantum Lock’s premier product, Gamma Lock, is a smart phone or key fob based smart lock which is built to secure guests at Bed and Breakfasts and hotels.

Cofounder: Erica Grant

About the Innov865 Alliance and Innov865 Week’s Startup Day

Innov865 Week is a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit by bringing together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes 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, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit https://innov865.com/.

Kickoff for Innov865 Week: Facebook Live with Randy Boyd

On Monday, September 28 at 11:00 a.m. ET, Randy Boyd, University of Tennessee President, will kick off Innov865 Week 2020 with opening remarks over Facebook Live! Follow us on Facebook to tune in!

Application Period Closes for Boyd Venture Challenge

The Boyd Venture Challenge is a seed-fund grant competition conducted in the fall and spring semesters each year.

Companies are awarded up to $20,000 in startup capital. Funds may be awarded to one company or split among several companies.

Applications open March 9 and close on April 6, 2020.

Eligibility

In general, any legally established, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student-owned business is eligible to apply. Specifically:

  • Student-owned businesses must have a federal tax ID (FEIN or TIN).
  • Student-owned businesses can be a corporation, LLC, partnership or sole proprietorship.
  • The student owner must hold majority interest in the business.
  • Student-owned businesses awarded funds in previous Boyd Venture Challenge competitions can apply again but must show how past funds were used to advance the business.

Application

The application period opens during the spring semester each year. To apply, student owner(s) should submit an executive summary of their business, a pro forma budget and financial statements for five quarters out. If the business is currently generating revenue, please submit the financial statements for the previous five quarters. Additionally, applicants should submit a statement detailing how the grant funds would be used to propel their business.

Send applications to ACEI@utk.edu with “Boyd Venture Challenge” in the subject line. The grant-award committee will consider each company’s need for capital, business concept viability and growth potential.

Learn more here.

Application Period Opens for Boyd Venture Challenge

The Boyd Venture Challenge is a seed-fund grant competition conducted in the fall and spring semesters each year.

Companies are awarded up to $20,000 in startup capital. Funds may be awarded to one company or split among several companies.

Applications open March 9 and close on April 6, 2020.

Eligibility

In general, any legally established, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student-owned business is eligible to apply. Specifically:

  • Student-owned businesses must have a federal tax ID (FEIN or TIN).
  • Student-owned businesses can be a corporation, LLC, partnership or sole proprietorship.
  • The student owner must hold majority interest in the business.
  • Student-owned businesses awarded funds in previous Boyd Venture Challenge competitions can apply again but must show how past funds were used to advance the business.

Application

The application period opens during the spring semester each year. To apply, student owner(s) should submit an executive summary of their business, a pro forma budget and financial statements for five quarters out. If the business is currently generating revenue, please submit the financial statements for the previous five quarters. Additionally, applicants should submit a statement detailing how the grant funds would be used to propel their business.

Send applications to ACEI@utk.edu with “Boyd Venture Challenge” in the subject line. The grant-award committee will consider each company’s need for capital, business concept viability and growth potential.

Learn more here.

Vol Court Pitch Competition

Schedule

Vol Court includes five speaker sessions conducted by successful entrepreneurs and UT faculty and experts. Sessions are held Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community members are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to attend all speaker sessions but attend at least four of the five speaker sessions to be eligible to pitch in week six. There is no application or cost to attend this series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend.

Check out the other sessions here.

Partners

Vol Court would not be possible without the support of its partners. Many thanks to first prize partner Red Stag Fulfillment, and to our in-kind partners  UT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and AssociatesMorehous Legal Group3 Roots CapitalInnovative Design, Inc., and Make Me Modern.

If you are interested in partnering with Vol Court with either cash prizes or services, contact Shawn Carson or call 865-974-5126.

The Pitch Competition will be held February 26 at the Student Union, Room 169 from 5:15PM to 6:15PM.

Vol Court Spring 2020 – Session 5

Schedule

Vol Court includes five speaker sessions conducted by successful entrepreneurs and UT faculty and experts. Sessions are held Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community members are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to attend all speaker sessions but attend at least four of the five speaker sessions to be eligible to pitch in week six. There is no application or cost to attend this series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend.

Check out the other sessions here.

Partners

Vol Court would not be possible without the support of its partners. Many thanks to first prize partner Red Stag Fulfillment, and to our in-kind partners  UT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and AssociatesMorehous Legal Group3 Roots CapitalInnovative Design, Inc., and Make Me Modern.

If you are interested in partnering with Vol Court with either cash prizes or services, contact Shawn Carson or call 865-974-5126.

Session 5 will be held February 19 at the Haslam Business Building from 5:15PM to 6:15PM.

Vol Court Spring 2020 – Session 4

Schedule

Vol Court includes five speaker sessions conducted by successful entrepreneurs and UT faculty and experts. Sessions are held Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community members are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to attend all speaker sessions but attend at least four of the five speaker sessions to be eligible to pitch in week six. There is no application or cost to attend this series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend.

Check out the other sessions here.

Partners

Vol Court would not be possible without the support of its partners. Many thanks to first prize partner Red Stag Fulfillment, and to our in-kind partners  UT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and AssociatesMorehous Legal Group3 Roots CapitalInnovative Design, Inc., and Make Me Modern.

If you are interested in partnering with Vol Court with either cash prizes or services, contact Shawn Carson or call 865-974-5126.

Session 4 will be held February 12 at the Haslam Business Building from 5:15PM to 6:15PM.

Vol Court Spring 2020 – Session 3

Schedule

Vol Court includes five speaker sessions conducted by successful entrepreneurs and UT faculty and experts. Sessions are held Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community members are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to attend all speaker sessions but attend at least four of the five speaker sessions to be eligible to pitch in week six. There is no application or cost to attend this series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend.

Check out the other sessions here.

Partners

Vol Court would not be possible without the support of its partners. Many thanks to first prize partner Red Stag Fulfillment, and to our in-kind partners  UT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and AssociatesMorehous Legal Group3 Roots CapitalInnovative Design, Inc., and Make Me Modern.

If you are interested in partnering with Vol Court with either cash prizes or services, contact Shawn Carson or call 865-974-5126.

Session 3 will be held February 5 at the Haslam Business Building from 5:15PM to 6:15PM.

Vol Court – Spring 2020 Session 2

Schedule

Vol Court includes five speaker sessions conducted by successful entrepreneurs and UT faculty and experts. Sessions are held Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community members are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to attend all speaker sessions but attend at least four of the five speaker sessions to be eligible to pitch in week six. There is no application or cost to attend this series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend.

Check out the other sessions here.

Partners

Vol Court would not be possible without the support of its partners. Many thanks to first prize partner Red Stag Fulfillment, and to our in-kind partners  UT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and AssociatesMorehous Legal Group3 Roots CapitalInnovative Design, Inc., and Make Me Modern.

If you are interested in partnering with Vol Court with either cash prizes or services, contact Shawn Carson or call 865-974-5126.

Session 2 will be held January 29 at the Haslam Business Building from 5:15PM to 6:15PM.

National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Fall Regional

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Fall Regional will be held at the University of Tennessee from October 3 – 19, 2017. This intensive two-week program is designed by I-Corps South to help individuals who are interested in commercializing their research to build a business model that addresses their customers’ needs. The curriculum will cover the customer discovery process, developing a value proposition, and creating a business plan. The program also serves as an informal kick-off for UT’s participation in the I-Corps South Node, one of eight regional networks developed to support innovation education, infrastructure, and research.

Instructors for the program include UT’s Shawn Carson, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation’s (UTRF) Maha Krishnamurthy, and two instructors from I-Corps National.