Knoxville’s 2014 Startup Day emphasizes startup-friendly culture, assets in East Tennessee

Knoxville’s second annual Startup Day kicked off Thursday, Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. at The Standard in downtown Knoxville. The event celebrated the success of Knoxville’s growing startup community and raised awareness about resources that support East Tennessee entrepreneurs.

“When most Americans think ‘startup community,’ they think Silicon Valley in California, New York City or Seattle,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “It’s significant that East Tennessee is nurturing its startup culture, making resources available to startups and generally creating a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs. Creating a startup-friendly city will keep and attract talent, capital and more resources.”

Startup Day featured fireside chats with eight of Knoxville’s seasoned entrepreneurs and investors, including Ben Brown, CEO of SwiftWing. SwiftWing invested $686,000 in Survature, a local startup at the University of Tennessee Business Incubator.

Ten local startups presented PechaKucha style, quick-fire pitches, including Vuture, an app that allows users to send personalized video messages to a recipient’s email or cell phone at a specified date and time.

“With Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Tennessee, we see plenty of highly advanced technological ideas particularly in the energy, agriculture, healthcare, big data and big media fields,” said Ken Woody, president of Innova, an early stage venture fund located in Knoxville and Memphis. “There are some very bright and capable mentors in the Knoxville area, and a strong passion amongst many businesses to support these early-stage companies.”

Vig Sherrill pitched his seventh company, General Graphene, at Startup Day 2014. Sherrill attributes the region’s big science assets and world class manufacturing to the success of his first six companies that brought more than $100 million to the region.

More than 400 people registered to attend Startup Day 2014. Attendees included businesses, entrepreneurs and investors looking for the next big idea, businesses, regional accelerators and research institutions that provide support to startups and East Tennesseans interested in learning more about the region’s entrepreneurial community.

About Startup Day 2014

Startup Day 2014 is presented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and Tech 2020, who organized the event.

Talent, Talent, TALENT!

Written by John Sharpe, President, Southeastern Technology Consultants and its affiliated divisions

Southeastern Technology Consultants is a division of StaffSource LLC, added in 2011 due to the high demand for IT professionals. Its President, John Sharpe, is originally from Knoxville and founded his first business, ARG Financial Staffing, in 2004. He is involved in multiple community organizations as well as the East Tennessee chapter of the Young Entrepreneur’s organization. He is President of ARG Executive Search and ARG Financial Staffing, StaffSource Employee Solutions and Southeastern Technology Consultants.

Sharpe is scheduled to participate in a Fireside Chat at Startup Day 2014.

Business is a combination of people, process and product or service, but your most important assets are the people you hire.

People are extremely important because they are responsible for architecting the process and conceptual creation of the product/service. The quality of the decision-making fuels the business.

Furthermore, each individual has their own strengths; for example, one person will be the seller while the other is the designer of the product/service, or another has a deep understanding of the financial concepts and economic models. Knowing who to hire and where to place potential employees to emphasize their strengths is key in developing your startup. You are looking for the best team possible that will help your startup grow rapidly.

A smart collective team approach is required. We have used a collaborative method in our company for the decision-making process, which has helped identify strengths and weaknesses that might have been overlooked. For a startup, collaboration is key. In order to grow and develop a business, changes are inevitable. Having a strong team that can face changes and find effective solutions quickly is the key to growth and success.

Hiring talent cannot be determined by following a checklist, but below are tips/qualities that I believe can help identify the most qualified potential hires for your startup.

  • Search for candidates with certain strengths that are currently missing or that can help your company and benefit the potential employee in future growth.
  • Culture is a big factor in organizations – make certain they are a fit for the already established culture in your company.
  • Search for candidates that know how to work through problems and can or have dealt with change; as a startup, there are many hats to wear, being able to balance it all is not an easy task.
  • Communication skills are essential.
  • Find team players.

View John Sharpe’s LinkedIn profile here.

John Sharpe

John Sharpe

Mark Cuban thinks I am a moron

By Jonathan Patrick, Senior Vice President/Chief Lending Officer of the UT Federal Credit Union

There is a video flying around the internet where Mark Cuban is quoted as saying that “If you are starting a business and you take out a loan, you are a moron.” Apparently, I am one of those morons. Cuban’s comments revolve around his belief that there is so much uncertainty in a startup, and that the banks don’t care about your business, so getting a loan to get started creates conflict.

Well, Mark, you are right. Most banks don’t care about your business. In fact, most won’t even bother talking to a startup. Which is exactly why UT Federal Credit Union launched the Line12 business micro-loan program. You see, as a credit union, it is in our DNA to impact our community and our members. So, if the only way a member can bring their startup to life and fulfill their dream of owning a business involves a loan, then you can count us in.

Rest assured it’s not about the revenue to our credit union. In fact, we probably have more expense associated with that loan than we do income. And yes, we know that we are “saddling” a startup with debt. That’s why we provide more than just capital in the form of additional resources to help them increase their chance for success. It’s easy to say as a lender, but there is such a thing as “better” debt to have. I’d much rather a member borrow five, ten, or twenty thousand dollars to start a business than on eating out and shopping.

So, is a loan for a startup right for everyone? Absolutely not. In fact, UT Federal Credit Union goes to great lengths to vet out our applicants and only take those who we feel can afford the debt without relying too much on expected business income. We also rely on our committee of outside experts to tell us which startups they feel have the best chances of succeeding. Unfortunately, we have to tell far more applicants “no” than we do “yes.”

Cuban does point out that there are plenty of ways to start businesses inexpensively through hard effort rather than capital. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve started businesses for a few hundred dollars that have brought me thousands of dollars in return. But there are times when the right idea takes capital to scale. That’s when UT Federal Credit Union is there.

View Jonathan Patrick’s LinkedIn profile at

Jonathan Patrick

Jonathan Patrick

Startup Day Power Pitchers featured in Knoxville News Sentinel “elevator pitch” videos

The Knoxville News Sentinel and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center teamed up to produce “The Elevator Sessions,” videos of each entrepreneur pitching at Startup Day 2014 giving their elevator pitch – you guessed it – in a real elevator. Below are links to each of the 10 Power Pitch videos.

To read the Knoxville News Sentinel’s preview story from this weekend, click here.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel

Startup Day returns as Knoxville’s entrepreneurial culture is growing

The Knoxville News Sentinel featured Startup Day 2014 this weekend with a story on the event and the November 7 Knoxville Entrepreneur Roundtable with moderator Carly Harrington, Knoxville News Sentinel, and panelists Chuck Morris of Morris Creative Group and Cirkel, Patrick Hunt of Fiveworx, Mary Shafer Gill of ARiES Energy and Tom Ballard of Pershing Yoakley & Associates and PY Analytics.

Read the full story here.

Source: Carly Harrington, Knoxville News Sentinel