It’s Almost Time! The Excitement is Building for Startup Day 2015!


Startup Day Pitcher Bryan Crosby talks about FunLPro on WVLT, a new product he will be introducing during Startup Day, Thursday, November 19. Crosby is one of seven pitchers competing to win $5,000.

Knoxville’s third annual Startup Day, an event to celebrate Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit, will be held Thursday, November 19 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

Startup Day includes fireside chats with Knoxville’s most outstanding entrepreneurs and investors and new this year, a pitch competition between seven startups, competing for a $5,000 cash prize. The first Traction Award will be presented to a Startup Day alum that’s made the most progress over the past three years.

More than 400 attendees participate in the event including: business leaders, entrepreneurs and startups, investors, young professionals and community leaders.

International Entrepreneur and CEO, Alchemists Collective, Angel Gambino
City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero
Jon Shieber, Senior Editor, TechCrunch and CrunchBase
Click here for a complete list of speakers, startup competitors and Traction Award nominees.

Where: U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre, 803 S. Gay St., Knoxville, TN
When: Thursday, November 19, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Startup Day 2015 showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. It is presented by a steering committee that represents the region’s entrepreneurial assets and support network: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, Tech 2020, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

To learn more, visit

UTRF Launching a New “Tennessee Venture Challenge” Initiative

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF), a Startup Day sponsor, has just announced details for its second “Tennessee Venture Challenge” (TVC).

The business plan competition, first held in 2014, is designed to encourage students, researchers and those from the TVC-760-x-380community to create new, high growth businesses that are based in whole or in part of intellectual property created within the UT system.

“UTRF exists to help ensure that the inventions of UT faculty, staff and students have a strong commercial pathway,” Stacey Patterson, UTRF Vice President, said. “The ‘Tennessee Venture Challenge’ is one of the tools we are using to not only make that happen, but also accelerate the time to market for these technologies.”

Companies can register to be part of the TVC through December 10 by completing the Intent to Compete Form and the TVC Participant Form. Before doing so, Patterson advises individuals to carefully review the eligibility criteria.

The start-up must be a legally established company seeking to develop a product or service based in whole or in part on intellectual property created within the UT system. The obligated technology must comprise an integral part of the start-up’s business focus. The start-up does not have to be located in Tennessee.

With the exception of grants through the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the new venture cannot have revenues that exceed $50,000 in the prior 12 months. If so, they are excluded. The $50,000 limit also applies to equity capital, but not to funds provided by founders or friends and family.

Applicants are encouraged to form teams that must consist of two to four people with one of the members committed to playing a leadership role in the new venture. “If an applicant is deficient in an area, we will let them know what needs to be corrected to be eligible to participate,” Patterson said.

The TVC will have its kick-off event beginning at 4 p.m. January 26 at the UT Business Incubator. After those festivities, the inaugural workshop in a six-session series participants will begin. After the first four workshops, the participants will be cut to a handful of companies that will participate in a semi-final competition March 8. That event will produce a set of finalists who will compete to be selected the TVC winner in a finale set for March 25.

UTRF is working with regional partners to organize the workshop series. While the sessions will be instructed live in Knoxville, participants at other UT locations around the state can participate via videoconferencing.

“We strongly encourage that all participants in the TVC participate in the sessions,” Patterson said, adding that each team should plan on having at least one representative present at each workshop.

For more information, click here.

Believe in Yourself Knoxville (and Why Startup Day Matters)

by: Jonathan Sexton, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center


Jonathan Sexton

Knoxville is so full of talent, creativity, and ideas. I’ve always THOUGHT I knew that. Being raised a musician here exposed me to that early on, singers, songwriters, poets, painters, craftsmen (and women) of so many kinds. I also thought for most of my life that’s what creativity was: Art. And it is. But Startup Day taught me that Knoxville’s Creative Capabilities were so much more than that, and so much bigger than I ever imagined.

Let me explain. My first work in the local startup scene was in Startup Day 2013. Knoxville Entrepreneur Center was brand new, and I was a volunteer mentor fresh off a few years of launching a startup in Nashville. KEC and Tech 2020 wanted to celebrate KEC’s inaugural two accelerator programs. It was the first event in the area to celebrate entrepreneurship. 300+ people showed up, 13 very nervous teams took the stage and it was a great event. But looking back it wasn’t the music, food, attendance, glitter, lights, or speakers that made the first Startup Day important.

The inaugural Startup Day mattered because it was the beginning of a new chapter in the life of our city.

A rebirth. We don’t live in the same Knoxville that we did in November 2013, which is a beautiful thing, but what’s more beautiful is what’s still to come for Knoxville.

Here are the top 3 reasons I’m excited to be in my industry (working with startups) in THIS town (Knoxville) for the next 5 years:

Startup Culture: Two years ago, I was often asked a simple question. “We have startups in Knoxville?” Now, the only thing that has changed is the punctuation. I hear someone say it all the time: “We have startups in Knoxville!!!” It’s a big change, and the startups here span the spectrum. Advanced Manufacturing, Material Science, Media, Automotive, MedTech, Music, 3D Printing… you name it, we’ve got it. And we have experts in the industry to support it. Literally hundreds of startups and infrastructure to support it, no matter the stage of your company. Knoxville is one of the most comprehensive innovation hubs in country, the roots of that go back further than Startup Day, but Startup Day started telling the story. We are a humble bunch in this region, more concerned with doing the work than talking about the work. But it’s time to talk about the work, to celebrate the work, and to BRAG about the work that entrepreneurs in this area are doing. It’s world class. Thanks to Startup Day for teaching me that.

We live in a community of collaboration: Startup Day was originally a KEC and Tech 2020 event. Immediately afterward ORNL, UTRF, The Anderson Center, PYA, LaunchTN and more stepped up wanting to take this event to the next level, and thank goodness they did. Not because it made for a better Startup Day every November, but because of the lasting relationships that have been built that add value to our startup community the other 11 months of the year. Collaboration between Entrepreneurial Support Organizations is at an all-time high. The Kauffman Foundation recently acknowledged this effort with a $25K grant for Knoxville to build software to streamline the effectiveness of our comprehensive support ecosystem. In terms of collaboration, the last 2 years have brought 10 years of progress. For that I am grateful to the event and all my community partners.

Traction: The first Startup Day was about 13 companies launching. Now those companies and many more have gone on to do great things. One of the 13, Aries Energy, was just acquired by a bigger company for a large sum of money, hopefully the first of many. ProNova is reinventing cancer treatment. Local Motors printed the world’s first 3D-Printed Car. EventBooking,, and Audiohand are reinventing the music industry. ORNL and UTRF have collaborated on over 1,000 new patents in the last few years. NewsBreak Media installed their product in nearly 1,000 locations, and raised multiple rounds of funding. Arkis and 490 just got huge SBIR grants. Little Fishkopp has customers all over the world buying children’s clothing products. Any Roam is installed on 350 Universities. SpareTime Entertainment is reaching hundreds of millions of people on YouTube.

And this is just the beginning. There are so many more positive things happening in our area, and one day I’ll get to those too. But if you read nothing else, read this:
It’s all happening here and more is coming. So believe in yourself Knoxville, your creativity and your ideas will define the next generation of our great city. And when we look back down from the top of that mountain, I believe we’ll look back at Startup Day as the key moment when we started celebrating the brilliant and creative minds of our entrepreneurs, and that is why Startup Day Matters.

Seven Pitchers, One Chance to Win: Who Will Claim the $5,000 Prize?

They’re gearing up for their big pitch and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

SD Logo-on transparency for web trimmed (1) (1)Seven East Tennessee startups pitch their innovative businesses on the U.S. Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre on Thursday, November 19, 2015, competing to win a $5,000 prize.

Meet the pitchers:

Marva Solt, founder of RadiantWear LLC, creates patent-pending clothing for women going through radiation treatment for breast cancer.

Fadi Saleh, founder of SpareTime Entertainment, makes millions laugh by curating and remixing familiar video content into hilarious entertainment.

Will Sames, founder of Additerra, an E-Commerce Platform developed for Direct Business to Business Sales and designed to permanently change the way customized parts and products are purchased.

Bryan Crosby, co-founder and CEO of FunLPro Technology LLC, produces a patented closure system for fluid containers that provides a lengthy, extendible, and directional pouring spout within the closure system itself.

Philippe Hanset, founder of ANYROAM LLC, a company that provides Wi-Fi roaming service for the research and education community called eduroam.

Rob Moseley, founder of SimPath, a proprietary assembly technology that reduces the time researchers spend on monotonous tasks, increasing the time needed to spend on true science.

Robert Wilson, working with RDI LLC developing a patented technology platform capable of measuring motion, vibration, and displacement not visible to the human eye.

Cheer on the pitchers at the Bijou. Tickets are free; registration is required,



COMMENTARY: Support “Start-up Day” on November 19

By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.Tom_Ballard

There’s a great program that has been planned with three dynamic fireside chats, a pitch event featuring seven individuals competing for a $5,000 cash prize, and three companies vying for the community’s first-ever “Traction Award.”

What are we talking about?

I hope you already know the answer. It’s Knoxville’s third annual “Start-up Day,” and the event promises to be the biggest and best yet. All that needs to happen is for you and your friends to pack the Bijou Theater on Thursday afternoon, November 19.

A Steering Committee composed of individuals representing champions of entrepreneurship in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region has been meeting since spring to plan the event. Representatives come from the region’s:

  • Key generators of intellectual property – Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, specifically the UT Research Foundation;
  • Entrepreneurially-focused support organizations – Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Tech 2020, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Launch Tennessee; and
  • Private sector – Pershing Yoakley & Associates, the power behind

The Steering Committee established three key goals for the 2015 event:

  • Celebrate entrepreneurship – past, present and still to come;
  • Showcase the region as a destination for start-ups and entrepreneurs; and
  • Address our greatest local challenge which is access to capital.

The program is all about celebration. The “Traction Award” was created to recognize significant progress achieved by companies that pitched at past “Start-up Days.” The addition of a cash prize for this year’s pitch competition elevates the event to a new level. And, there’s been an aggressive effort to attract more investors from outside the area to see the exciting start-ups our region is spawning.

By moving this year’s event to the Bijou, “Start-up Day” can accommodate many more attendees than was possible previously.

So, the table has been set, and now it’s up to you and others from the region to do your part. It starts by registering for the event (here’s the link) and showing-up when the doors open at 2 p.m. November 19. We are asking that you commit a few hours to an event that is about the long-term growth and development of the place we call home.

If you want more details about the program, click here.

Knoxville Hosts Startup Day: WBIR Newsmaker Interview with Knoxville Entrepreneur Center Executive Director

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center Executive Director Jim Biggs provides a preview of Knoxville Startup Day 2015 on WBIR’s newsmaker segment and discusses the entrepreneurial spirit of the city. Startup Day is in its third year and the event continues to grow. On November 19 at the Bijou Theatre, seven pitchers will compete for a $5,000 prize.


Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.15.08 PM

KEC Executive Director Jim Biggs talks Startup Day on WBIR.



First Friday Preview: Meet Startup Day 2015 Traction Award Nominees

Since 2013, Knoxville’s Startup Day has promoted new ideas and businesses, awarding the winning power pitch from a local startup with a $5,000 cash prize. New to Startup Day 2015 is the first Traction Award, sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union and presented to a Startup Day alum that’s made the most progress over the past three years. This First Friday panel discussion will feature two of the three Traction Award nominees, discussing how they’ve grown their businesses and sharing thoughts about what it takes to start a business in Knoxville. The nominees will be joined by sponsor UT Federal Credit Union.

Harvey Abouelata, ARiES Energy
Uta Preston, Little Fishkopp
Jonathan Patrick, UT Federal Credit Union


Traction Award Sponsor

Moderator: Amy Nolan, Editor, Greater Knoxville Business Journal

Friday, November 6, 2015 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM (EST)
Knoxville Entrepreneur Center – 17 Market Square. #101. Knoxville, TN 37902

Startup Day 2015 is Thursday, November 19 at the Bijou Theatre. Doors open at 2 with program at 2:30 pm. Tickets are free but registration is required. Info:

Sponsored by: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, Tech 2020, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Finding access to capital doesn’t have to be challenging

By: Jonathan Mills Patrick
Senior Vice President/Chief Lending Officer
UT Federal Credit Union

In the movie “Arthur”, with Dudley Moore, the main character is asked what it’s like to own a yacht. “It doesn’t suck” he quips in response. This is true of access to capital for startups.

JP speaking

Jonathan Mills Patrick, Senior Vice President/Chief Lending Officer, UT Federal Credit Union

92% of startups fail(1)

In a recent article in Fortune Magazine startup founders were asked the chief reason their startup failed. Now, you might think the #1 reason was access to capital. In fact, it was not (we will get to #1). However, access to capital was listed as the second most common reason for failure.(2)

The top reason for failure according to the poll was failure to find a market. Most likely it wasn’t that no market existed. Rather it was the difficulty in finding the right market to enter. Taking us indirectly right back to access to capital. It is easy to run out of cash when it takes 2-3x longer for startups to validate their markets(1) than traditional businesses.

Idea stage funding?

As a startup founder myself I can tell you the difficulties entrepreneurs face in finding access to capital. I was fortunate enough to be able to self-fund GoGrabLunch (my former business-to-business networking site). In fact, I deliberately choose not to take on outside investors. Which was one of my many mistakes (I’ve written a tell-all eBook about the lessons from that experience). We had some successes too, like accomplishing members in 45 countries.

Enter Line12

My biggest take away was the desire to help create a “Capital Continuum” in Knoxville. And so in March of 2014 my company launched the Line12 fund. Regardless of their stage, our goal has been to help entrepreneurs launch and grow the business of their dreams. To support them when no other investor or lender would. To date we have provided over $200,000 in capital to various companies in the Knoxville community through this particular program. That includes folks like Charlene Oosterling of Stoopid Good Foods.

“If I didn’t have a resource like Line12(3), I’d probably be still spinning my wheels…” Charlene Oosterling, founder of Stoopid Good Foods

I imagine if you asked Charlene she’d tell you, that while not as fun as owning a yacht, access to capital doesn’t suck.
(1) From “The Startup Genome Report Extra on Premature Scaling”
(2) Fortune Magazine article, “Why startups fail, according to their founders”
(3) Line12 is the business micro fund from UT Federal Credit Union that has won national awards. Learn more at

City wins $25K to help entrepreneurs succeed

By: Shelley Kimel

The city of Knoxville has won a $25,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support the region’s entrepreneurs, Mayor Madeline Rogero said this week.

Rogero presented Knoxville’s proposal for an “Entrepreneurial Passport” app and related website at the 2015 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Albtuquerque, N.M.

“This is a software platform that will put entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support organizations on the same page,” she said during the presentation.

Read the full News Sentinel article here.



Knoxville ranked No. 4 for startups

Knoxville has claimed the No. 4 spot in a ranking by financial technology company SmartAsset of U.S. cities with the lowest business-startup costs.

The firm looked at factors such as office space, utilities, filing fees, legal and accounting costs, and payroll in rating cities as startup friendly.

Read Knoxville News Sentinel’s full story here.