Relive Knoxville’s 2015 Startup Day and hear from Angel Gambino with this recap video

Relive Knoxville’s 2015 Startup Day and hear why the event is important to the community from International Entrepreneur & Alchemists Collective CEO, Angel Gambino.

“If any of us are going to grow our businesses, we can’t be defined by geography. Most of us are in our hometowns and not moving to Silicon Valley because our friends and our family and our lifestyle are what we love most,” said Gambino.

Startup Day Crowd of More than 500 Celebrates Knoxville’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

(Knoxville, Tenn) – More than 500 of East Tennessee’s leading investors, innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders convened at the U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre in Downtown Knoxville on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 2015 for the annual Startup Day, now in its third year and the area’s biggest event that recognizes entrepreneurship.

Bryan Crosby, FunLPro Technology LLC, was awarded the $5,000 cash prize from sponsor BOBA (Business Owners Benefits Association). Crosby was one of seven startups in competition for the prize.

Bryan Crosby is the co-founder and CEO of FunLPro Technology LLC, which produces a patented closure system for fluid containers that provides a lengthy, extendible, and directional pouring spout within the closure system itself. FunLPro eliminates the need to purchase, store, and reuse separate pouring devices such as traditional funnels that allow spills and contaminants to be present in the transfer process.

Harvey Abouelata, ARiES Energy founder and Startup Day 2013 alum, received the first ever Traction Award, sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union. The Traction Award was given to a Startup alum who has gained the most momentum in the past three years. ARiES Energy is an alternative energy solutions company launched in 2011.

One of the largest Series A funding investments in the Southeast region was announced during the event by Eric Dobson, Chief Executive Officer of Angel Capital Group. General Graphene, led by serial entrepreneur Vig Sherrill, is the recipient of the investment from Angel Capital Group, a national syndicate of angel groups and funds. General Graphene, introduced by Sherrill during a Startup Day 2014 Power Pitch, makes graphene, one of the most expensive substances on earth, affordable for material innovators throughout the world. At only one atom thick, graphene is harder than a diamond; 200 times stronger than steel; 1,000 times the current carrying capacity and 20 times more thermally conductive than copper; impermeable to all substances known; inert in the human body; anti-microbial; corrosion resistant; flexible and almost transparent.

“What a banner day this was for the Knoxville entrepreneur community,” said Stacey Patterson, University of Tennessee Research Foundation Vice President and Startup Day Steering Committee member. The University of Tennessee Research Foundation is a presenting sponsor of the event. “This was the largest Startup Day event in our history and shows the power of the entrepreneur and innovator spirit in Knoxville. Congratulations to the winners and to the startup pitchers; all are to be commended for their exemplary work. We’re also fortunate to be the place where such a significant investment announcement was made and look forward to seeing all the good things that General Graphene will do for the world.”

Startup Day 2015 also brought international entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer of Alchemists Collective, Angel Gambino to Knoxville. Angel Gambino has founded and developed digital media companies that floated on the stock market and sold in high profile trade sales including the $850 million AOL TimeWarner acquisition of bebo. She is a native of Detroit who moved back to her hometown from London to join others committed to reigniting economic growth in her hometown. Her Startup Day message focused on how an entrepreneurial spirit and passion can reignite cities like Knoxville.

Additional activities included fireside chats with some of the area’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs representing Angel Capital Group, Meritus Ventures, The JumpFund, TennEra, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

About Startup Day

Several organizations that share in the mission of promoting new ideas and businesses, host Startup Day, an annual event that showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. The event is hosted 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.


The Time Is Now. Seven Pitchers, One Chance to Win Cash and Make Dreams Come True.

Your cheat sheet to the startups taking the stage at Startup Day, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19. at the Bijou Theatre. More
information and a full agenda are available at


Additerra Additerra offers a Web application and e-commerce platform to custom manufacture, price and distribute parts quickly, based on 3-D files uploaded by customers. The company, based at Technology 2020, provides prototyping and production services with 3-D printing. “Knoxville is a very exciting place to be right now for advanced manufacturing,” said founder Will Sames. “I’ve personally had previous development projects fail due to long lead times and high costs on custom parts. Our business is solving that problem.”


RadiantWear RadiantWear offers a line of clothing for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The tops use various fasteners to provide discreet access for various medical tests and follow-up care. “My mother, Linda Henderson, created the first top for me last year when I was going through radiation therapy for breast cancer,” said founder Marva Solt. The top “removed the psychological hit of having to put on a hospital gown every day,” Solt said. The design is now patented and they’re looking to expand the line for other types of patients.


SimPath Simpath will commercialize technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to reduce the time researchers spend on work other than “true science” by providing quick, reliable, DNA synthesis and assembly. “My desire to start a company that does DNA synthesis and assembly was created by another desire: to have a meaningful impact in science,” said founder Rob Moseley, who is also pursuing a PhD. “I plan to show how important DNA is and how helping researchers be more productive can improve all of our lives.” The company was also one of 13 contenders at the recent Vol Court pitch contest.

FunLpro Technology Is a patented closure system that eliminates spills and messes when pouring chemical fluid products by integrating a pouring spout within the product’s container cap. The company has partnered with KenJo Lubricants to include the FunLpro on motor oil products in KenJo stores across Tennessee. A second agreement will see FunLpro sold separately in all truck stop locations where IdleAir has operations.

Founder: Bryan Crosby


SpareTime Entertainment SpareTime Entertainment is the next iteration of Baracksdubs — a series of YouTube videos featuring musical mashups with President Barack Obama singing popular songs — that creator Fadi Saleh has grown to nearly 1 million subscribers over the past three years. To turn that hobby into a business, Saleh developed a proprietary content search and management system, Optimus, to search for video clips on the Web and speed up his editing process. Now that platform can go further, building remixes from a variety of entertainment types and eventually letting users create their own. Saleh successfully took the idea through the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Media Works digital media accelerator earlier this year.

Founder: Fadi Saleh


RDI LLC RDI LLC provides an optical technology platform capable of measuring motion, vibration and displacement not visible to the human eye in real time. Originally used in baby monitoring, the company has expanded to critical infrastructure and manufacturing machinery.

Founder: Jeff Hay


Anyroam Anyroam looks to increase connectivity in the research and education community through the eduroam service. The service provides Wi-Fi roaming services that will securely accept a user’s local logon credentials at other partner organizations.

Founder: Philippe Hanset


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.

And the Nominees Are…Meet The Entrepreneurs Vying for the Traction Award


Traction Award nominees Harvey Abouelata and Uta Preston talk startup strategy at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) during November’s First Friday preview.

Three Knoxville area entrepreneurs and Startup Day alums are vying to be the recipient of the first ever UT Federal Credit Union (UTFCU) Traction Award during Startup Day 2015, Thursday, November 19, 2015 on the U.S. Cellular stage at The Bijou Theatre. Doors open at 1:45 pm with the program beginning at 2:30 pm.

The UTFCU Traction Award recognizes an alum who has made significant progress, gaining the most ‘traction’ since presenting a Startup Day Power Pitch.

Knoxville’s Startup Day , which began in 2013, promotes new ideas and businesses in the East Tennessee region. In addition to the UTFCU Traction Award, this year’s event includes seven pitchers competing to win a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by BOBA.

Meet the Traction Award nominees:

HARVEY ABOUELATA, ARiES Energy An alternative energy solutions company launched in 2011 by Harvey Abouelata, ARiES Energy takes customers through a process of evaluating, reducing and producing while leveraging savings that provide the greatest economic impact. Since its launch, ARiES has installed the first proton power gasification system at Wampler’s Farm Sausage; signed a contract for Sevier Solid Waste’s waste to energy gasification system; and installed multiple commercial, residential and off-grid solar systems, including a 1.73 MW community solar project agreement underway for Appalachian Electric Coop. Doubling in sales every year, expanding from four to nine full-time employees, ARiES’ recent merger increases the company’s buying power and bonding capabilities, further enhancing the success of an evaluation process that includes monitoring customer habits and feasibility studies.

BOB BRADLEY, NewsBreak Media Networks What started out as an outlet to provide news and advertising on over-the-pump television screens at Knoxville-area gas stations in 2009, has since grown to include a proprietary software to introduce new revenue streams through merchandising. NewsBreak Media Network’s growth is the brainchild of President/CEO Bob Bradley, a 2014 Knoxville Startup Day alum who became an investor in the company in 2011. He’s since taken the start-up digital company to national prominence. NewsBreak is now a fully integrated, smart merchandising platform that converts fuel-only customers to multi-product purchasers with expected growth to include 200 convenience stores by the fourth quarter of this year, up from 88 at the end of 2014 and 32 at the end of 2013. Earlier this year, NewsBreak opened its first site in Santa Clara, California, a major change from locations primarily in Tennessee.

UTA PRESTON, Little Fishkopp When Uta Preston founded her German-inspired kids clothing brand Little Fishkopp, she had a simple vision of bringing safer, sounder and more stylish sleep to babies across the globe by producing eco-friendly clothing that lasts. In just a few years, Preston’s vision has spun into a business that sells worldwide, proving that while she may have “little fish” in her company name, business is booming on a big fish scale. A 2013 Startup Day alum, Preston sells locally at two prominent vendors in Knoxville – Bliss and Twig – and she’s bringing more vendors onboard in 2016.
Boasting a robust online business, Little Fishkopp is found in nurseries worldwide. She’s also expanded beyond lightweight and standard sleep bags to include infant bodysuits and toddler T-shirts.

Additional activities during Startup Day include three Fireside Chats featuring international entrepreneur Angel Gambino; and several local investors and innovators.

For more information,



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.

TechSmarrt Wins Fall 2015 Vol Court Pitch Competition

TechSmarrt, a team of UT students, beat twelve competitors to win the fall 2015 Vol Court Pitch Competition. The student team pitched software they developed for use in industry and pharmaceutical applications.

Eva Mutunga, Christine Ajinjeru, Adeola Adediran, and TechSmartt-teamAkinola Oyedele—all doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education—along with David Keffer, professor of materials science and engineering, and Orlando Rios of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed the software, which streamlines the process of interpreting structures of materials.

While the current process requires hours on a supercomputer, TechSmarrt’s software enables the same information to be produced in seconds. The software runs on a laptop, further expediting the process of materials discovery.

Read more here.

Fireside Chats Feature International Entrepreneur; Regional Innovators and Investors

Startup Day 2015 will host three Fireside Chats with the highlight being international entrepreneur and executive of Alchemists Collective Angel Gambino.

Angel Gambino

Angel Gambino

Featured Fireside Chat: A native of Detroit who moved back to her hometown from London to join others committed to reigniting economic growth in the city, Angel Gambino will share how an entrepreneurial spirit and passion can reignite cities like Knoxville.

Angel Gambino has founded and developed digital media companies that floated on the stock market and sold in high profile trade sales including the $850 million AOL TimeWarner acquisition of bebo.

Tech Crunch’s Jon Shieber will moderate Angel Gambino’s discussion.

Additional Fireside Chats: Investors Eric Dobson, PhD with Angel Capital Group; Grady Vanderhoofven with Meritus Ventures LP and Kristina Montague with The JumpFund will join Bob Bradley with NewsBeak Media Networks for a Fireside Chat discussion on how entrepreneurs can gain capital investments in an environment that is risk averse. “Hungry for Success but Starving for Capital” promises honest dialogue on Knoxville’s aversion to risk.

“Three Technologies that will Change the World: Made in East Tennessee” will close out the Fireside Chats, featuring discussion with some of East Tennessee’s primary innovators sharing insight into why this region is fertile ground for innovation.

The Fireside Chat is moderated by Beth Papanek with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education and participants include Adam McCall with TennEra; Vig Sherrill with General Graphene and discussion from Craig Blue with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation.



Knoxville entrepreneurs vying for cash on Start Up Day

By: Shelley Kimel, Knoxville News Sentinel

Some of Knoxville’s top entrepreneurs are paving the way for faster cures for complex diseases, turning a surprise viral video hit into an enterprise that could “transform the content genre,” and developing technology to monitor our nation’s infrastructure in real-time — and those are just a few of the business ideas that will compete to win a $5,000 prize Nov. 19 at Start Up Day 2015’s pitch competition.

Now in its third year, Start Up Day is focused on Knoxville’s next generation of entrepreneurs, and encouraging community involvement and support for new ventures. This is the first time a cash prize has been offered.

startup_Additerra_26376755_ver1.0_900_675East Tennessee’s successes are being noticed on a national scale, said Tom Ballard, chief alliance officer at Pershing Yoakley & Associates and a member of the Startup Day Steering Committee. Ballard recently returned from a White House forum on regional innovation.

“What struck me about the forum was our region had more representation than any other region, and it was people from the West Coast and East Coast. We had more stories to tell about examples of things we were doing here than any other region,” Ballard said.

The event is also growing in size — last year the organizers had to turn guests away after the room filled to capacity — and the steering committee moved it this year to the Bijou Theatre, which can accommodate hundreds more attendees.

Read more at the Knoxville News Sentinel here.