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.

ORNL technology transfer continues strong upward trend

New methods are improving connections between private businesses and technology from Knoxville Startup Day 2014 presenting sponsor Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with 101 licenses and options executed during the last three years.

Mike Paulus, director of Technology Transfer, attributes the growth in large part to the Technology Innovation Program, Bridging the Gap and SPARK! These programs helped the lab double the number of licenses for the fiscal years 2012-2014 compared to 2009-2011, and Paulus expects a new initiative, the Invention to Innovation Webinar Series, to help maintain the upward trend.

“We have a talented staff that has worked very hard to identify, develop and market high-potential technologies that provide the best opportunities to licensees,” Paulus said. “Our two-pronged approach focuses on increasing the overall deal volume while at the same time concentrating on our most promising technologies.”

Through the Technology Innovation Program, ORNL invests about half of its royalty revenue to make promising technologies market ready. ORNL scientists and engineers propose technologies for funding and a panel of laboratory leaders and external experts select the winners based on their near-term potential for societal and economic impact.

Two technology forums, Bridging the Gap and SPARK! bring together entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and economic development leaders to explore partnering opportunities. These conferences, hosted by ORNL, allow potential licensees to meet inventors and learn about some of ORNL’s most promising technologies and capabilities. The next SPARK! is planned for spring 2015.

Read the news release here.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory