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.

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

KnoxEC: Vuture looks to wrap some VC money around Angels

Venture Tennessee ConnectionsMilt Capps recently published an article on Vuture, a startup with plans for a platform for storing, prior scheduling and custom-sending video messages. Knoxville-based Founder-CEO Michael Crain says his startup is hovering with Angel investors while seeking a venture-capital firm to lead its $500K Seed round.

Crain says a lead investor is likely to come from venture-capital ranks, where institutional money is not shy of capital targets such as his. Crain says he believes he can count on about $50K in Angel money, already, and he has invested $50K from his 401K. He’s talking with both Tennessee and North Carolina investors.

He presented the company during the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Aug. 5 MediaWorks Demo Day, as the app was nearing its first round of Apple review.

Vuture — its name conflates “view” and “future” — sends messages with links to video clips via text or e-mail. Crain said open-rates for text messages are typically much higher than for e-mails, although companies that want to use the service within their businesses are more likely to use e-mail delivery, at this time.

Pricing includes an attractive flex-factor: Customers only pay for videos “that actually reach your target audience,” Crain emphasized.

Knoxville-based Designsensory has supported its mobile app development, which is over the hump and nearly done with a second review by Apple, he said. Would-be users may sign-up via the Vuture website to be alerted when the app is ready.

Crain said his KEC mentor, Lewis Frazer, former CFO of listed Regal Entertainment, was tremendously helpful as Vuture made its way through KEC’s 13-week accelerator program. He gave strong credit, also, to KEC CEO Jim Biggs; and, to Jonathan Sexton, the KEC entrepreneur-in-residence who was particularly helpful in reaching out to specialists and potential investors.

Source: Milt Capps, Venture Tennessee Connections