Street Jelly competing in Chase Bank’s “Mission Main Street” program

Street Jelly’s Frank Podlaha has entered Chase Bank’s “Mission Main Street” grant program.

The Knoxville-based start-up is competing to be one of 20 small businesses to receive $150,000 each from the $3 million pool. The 20 grants will be awarded in January.

Read the full story here.

Source: Tom Ballard,

Five valuable tips for startups

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.

Development is a critical time for startups. Below are five valuable tips that Sharpe offers to startups that are in the development stage:

  1. Monetize Your Idea
  • Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to create and a viable financial model for your product or service.
  • Bad ideas fail; good ideas can fail as well. Embrace the mistakes and learn from them because from failure comes success.
  1. Build Your People Skills
  • Always keep the customer in mind; treat others the way you want to be treated. As you grow you will meet professionals with a variety of personalities. Learn how to handle and influence each personality – not every person is the same.
  1. Always Be Changing
  • In the staffing world, every aspect of our business is constantly changing; job market, technology, people and their careers. Be ready to continually learn new tasks, technologies, techniques and adjust to those changes.
  1. Learn to Face Challenges
  • There is never a time where everything will run smoothly. As mentioned, in our business we have to take into consideration the changes in the job market, technology and people. Be prepared to come up with solutions, however be aware that not all solutions will work. Going back to #4, always be changing to create better solutions.
  1. Take Risks
  • Be willing to take risks – it means making decisions even if you’re not 100% sure they are the right ones. Without risks there are no mistakes, without mistakes you don’t learn how to move forward and create a successful business.

View John Sharpe’s LinkedIn profile here.

Knoxville startup TennEra looks to make maximum use of plants

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Carly Harrington wrote this story about Knoxville startup TennEra, a for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

For years, efforts to build a thriving, local bio-based economy have been focused on growing renewable energy crops such as switchgrass to produce fuels. According to TennEra, the problem with this approach lies within the refining process, which uses less than half of the plant. TennEra’s objective looks to completely rearrange the biorefinery model to essentially make sense out of using renewable energy crops for things like energy but also for biochemical and bioproducts.

Read the full story here.

Source: Carly Harrington, Knoxville News Sentinel

I hope you are in the 43%, not the 70%

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

It’s your baby, your dream. It’s something you have thought about throughout your professional career. I know the feeling myself. The exhilaration that comes with creating and then launching your own venture. I also know how quickly your dream can become a nightmare.

According to a recent study, 43% of Americans polled said they wanted to start their own business. The problem is that only about 1% of those people are willing to put in the work it takes to launch, let alone scale, a new business. There are plenty of reasons this happens. The fun wears off once the creation phase is over and the “real work” begins. Or the hobby-turned-business quickly loses its luster. Maybe you don’t have the right resources at your disposal in the first place.

Of the reported 70% of small businesses that end up failing, I would argue that a large majority do so because they don’t have access to the right resources that can help propel them forward. In particular, they don’t have access to capital and qualified advisors who have “been there, done that.” With those challenges in mind, UT Federal Credit Union set out to develop a business micro fund that not only provides startups access to capital, but also to other professionals that could provide insight into some of the typically challenging topics for a new business. Topics like accounting, business plans and strategy, and intellectual property law.

The Line12 micro fund launched in March of 2014, and I am proud to say that it has already provided capital to numerous startups for aid in expansion. Our participants have benefited in other ways, including introduction to angel investors that lead to additional funding offers. One applicant has even made it onto ABC’s Shark Tank and recorded that session in September. In fact, the Line12 program itself is a startup program that is currently being beta tested by other credit unions around the United States, including Silicon Valley.

At UTFCU we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to entrepreneurship. We have sponsored numerous pitch competitions around Tennessee and have been named the top SBA lending Credit Union in all of Tennessee for three years running. That’s because it’s our dream to help you accomplish your dreams.

For more information on our business lending offerings, visit or

View Jonathan Patrick’s LinkedIn profile at

Jonathan Patrick

Jonathan Patrick

Angel capital increasing locally

The Greater Knoxville Business Journal published this story written by its editor, Amy Nolan, which is an in-depth piece about Knoxville’s “growing spirit to find and foster entrepreneurs, recognizing their value in developing an economically healthy city.” The article states that several developments are on the horizon that could match more local investors to homegrown entrepreneurial ventures.

The full story is available here.

Source: Amy Nolan, Greater Knoxville Business Journal

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 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,

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

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, CodeStock Announce ‘Breakout Sessions: Turning Tech into a Business’

Fresh off the success of the MediaWorks digital accelerator program, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center has partnered with technology expo CodeStock for a three-part educational series, “Breakout Sessions: Turning Technology into a Business.” The series is aimed at bridging the gap between local coders and startup entrepreneurs.  Events will be held quarterly over the next year and are set to kick off on Oct. 2.

Programming is as follows:

  • Oct. 2 – Finding Users: I built it, where are they?
  • Jan. 22 – Finding Dollars:  How do I fund my idea?
  • April 16 – Finding People: Who else do I need?

All events will be hosted at KEC, located at 17 Market Square in downtown Knoxville.

“The goal of the partnership is to build a bridge between the local software development community and the local startup community,” said Jonathan Sexton, KEC’s entrepreneur in residence. “ There is so much technical talent in the Knoxville area, and these are the people KEC is built to serve, highly talented individuals with great ideas.”

Codestock is in its fifth year and attendance continues to expand with more than 500 coders showing up in Knoxville to this year’s July event.

“We are really excited to work with KEC, so many of our patrons have great ideas and often struggle with figuring out how to turn that great idea or technology into a business,” said Andrew May, CodeStock board co-chairman. “This is an awesome opportunity bridge that gap.”

Registration information and more details about the breakout sessions can be found at Attendance is free but seats are limited to 50. Donations will be accepted in support of TechCo, a local non-profit co-founded by CodeStock founder Michael Neel that helps “at-risk” youth learn how to code software.

Contact: Jonathan Sexton,

Source: Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

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

Knoxville: Home to emerging music-tech startups

According to an article in the Nashville Business Journal, Tennessee’s music-tech startups are coming from….Knoxville.

That’s right.  While Nashville is home to a $9.7 billion music industry, the latest round of Tennessee-based music startups aren’t coming from Music City. Why? Well, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) graduated its inaugural accelerator class in early August. The program, called MediaWorks, focused exclusively on digital media companies, and a third of those graduating were in the music-tech space.

The article quotes Jonathan Sexton, Knoxvillian and entrepreneur-in-residence at the KEC. “There’s got to be some benefit from actually being away from the industry, where entrepreneurs aren’t confronted with publishing rights the second they have an idea,” he said. “The KEC shows what’s possible when there’s not a lot of politics involved.”

Knoxville-based startups Audiohand,, and Street Jelly were all mentioned in the article.

Source: Nashville Business Journal