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.