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.

The Entrepreneurship Buzz: A summary of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Roundtable through the eyes of a University of Tennessee student

By Cameo Jonas, University of Tennessee student, who attended the Knoxville Entrepreneur Roundtable on November 7

Knoxville is buzzing with talk about entrepreneurship. The city has become an exciting and engaging environment for startups to come and succeed.

To discuss this new landscape, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center hosted its first Friday Fanfare on November 7. The Fanfare was dedicated to a Knoxville Entrepreneur Roundtable, which also served as the kick-off to Startup Day on November 20.

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Carly Harrington moderated the event. Panelists included: 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.

The panelists discussed how startup companies succeed and what factors are influencing entrepreneurship in the area. They all agreed that startups need funding to succeed. However, there are a lot of factors that go into receiving the necessary funds.

Hunt described fundraising for startups as a “numbers game. There are a lot of reasons for [people and corporations] not to invest and very few reasons to invest. You have to find the right timing and fit,” he said.

Even though fundraising for a startup can be a daunting task, Ballard stated that it is important to always remain positive. Gill also suggested obtaining clients that could someday turn into investors.

Other advice the panelists gave to the audience: have a mentor, find local customers, and “embrace the idea of failing fast.”

During the session the panelists also discussed how Knoxville could grow into becoming the South’s mecca for entrepreneurship. According to the panelists, for this to happen, entrepreneurs need to recognize the culture of the area and take advantage of it.

The region has a lot of strong assets like the Great Smoky Mountains and the numerous notable companies that are based in East Tennessee, like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, and Alcoa, to name a few.

Ballard stated, “The region just needs to set a brand that can entice people to come here. By doing this, we can [also] attract and maintain the talent we need to draw even more companies to the area.”

Entrepreneurship in the area will continue growing and changing, making Knoxville a great place to have these conversations. This will hopefully lead to Knoxville becoming the South’s mecca for entrepreneurship.

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

Beth Papanek hopes to earn PhD, exit her first startup in 2016

Tom Ballard, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.’s Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, published an article on Teknovation.biz about Beth Papanek, who is scheduled to deliver a Power Pitch at Startup Day 2014.

By the middle of 2016, Papanek hopes to achieve two major milestones – earn her doctorate from the University of Tennessee and exit her first start-up.

The Illinois native is one of the 80 students who are part of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint initiative of UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) focused on attracting the nation’s brightest doctoral students in energy science and engineering.

Papanek is in the second class admitted, having earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign. A strong interest in UT’s work in biofuels led her to apply for and be accepted into the new program.

Papanek says she’s “so privileged” to be able to work as a graduate student with some of the world’s leading scientists at ORNL. “I’m so connected,” she says, adding that her experiences are “amazing for career development.”

When the concept was still on the drawing board, the planners hoped that some fraction of the Bredesen Center students would pursue entrepreneurship, working with scientists at either UT or ORNL to commercialize the technologies on which they did their research.

“The Bredesen Center encourages us to pursue interests in either entrepreneurship or policy,” Papanek explained. The entrepreneurial track was a natural for her, having been part of a student team at Illinois working on two technologies from the Mayo Clinic.

“That started it (the entrepreneurial bug),” Papanek says. Since arriving here 18 months ago, the interest has only grown, thanks to involvement with many of the region’s entrepreneurial support organizations and ORNL’s Partnerships Directorate.

Papanek is focused on her research interest in bioenergy and a process called sonoporation that uses ultrasonic sound frequencies to modify the permeability of cells. The result of the process is the creation of genetically-mutated microorganisms that help optimize the process of making ethanol.

Those who attended last year’s “Start-up Day” in Knoxville saw Papanek present a concept for a company that she was exploring. It is named SonOPore for the ORNL technology on which it is built. This year, Papanek will present a Power Pitch for a new company she is exploring, Nanofermentation.

Source: Tom Ballard, Teknovation.biz

Engineering Students Help ORNL, Local Motors Print Drivable 3D Car

The only “car” that most people associate with printers is a “car-tridge” of ink, but may soon change, thanks in part to several UT students.

UT, Oak Ridge National LaboratoryLocal Motors, Cincinnati Incorporated, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities teamed up to print a working, drivable car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The Strati 3D is officially produced by Local Motors, which has an office on Market Square in Knoxville.

“The Strati was designed by our community, [will be] made in our Microfactory and will be driven by you,” says CEO of Local Motors John B. Rogers Jr. in a press release. “This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo, changes the consumer experience and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way.”

Read more here.

Source: Tennessee Today