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.

Mayor Madeline Rogero attends mayors conference on entrepreneurship

Mayor Madeline Rogero joined mayors from around the nation last week at the second annual Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Louisville, Kentucky.

With a focus on “Making an Entrepreneurial City,” mayors and entrepreneurship experts discussed ways to promote startup activity and encourage higher levels of entrepreneurship in their cities.  Christi Branscom, Deputy to the Mayor and Chief Operating Officer for the City of Knoxville, joined Mayor Rogero.

The 2014 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship: Making an Entrepreneurial City explored the growing “Maker Movement.” As more and more Americans have access to both the technologies to build things and the networks to learn new skills, creativity is being channeled into new business ventures, economically benefiting both the maker-entrepreneur and others in the community. Not only that, but “Making” has the potential to transform manufacturing and thereby American cities. This year’s event addressed:

  • The Maker Movement and ways to harness this activity,
  • Making and how it applies to advanced manufacturing,
  • The importance of immigrant entrepreneurs and initiatives to welcome them, and
  • Practical strategies to grow and promote the entrepreneurial economy of cities.

“Knoxville already has a strong Maker community, and we have great regional resources at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee,” Mayor Rogero said. “By connecting those resources with entrepreneurial efforts, including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, we can really put East Tennessee on the map as a hub of innovation.”

The program’s keynote speaker was Dale Dougherty, president and CEO of Maker Media, Inc., and founder of MAKE magazine. Attending mayors also heard from panelists who are experts in entrepreneurship, technology and manufacturing innovation and engagement of immigrant entrepreneurs.

The conference was convened by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, in partnership with Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville. The Kauffman Foundation covered all expenses of the trip.

“The mayors attending this conference understand how important entrepreneurs are to economic growth, job creation and innovation,” said Jason Wiens, policy director at the Kauffman Foundation. “The conference is designed to help them learn from experts and each other about successful programs and structures that can have broad impact on building stronger entrepreneurial communities.”

Source: City of Knoxville