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East TN continues strong representation in the third year of “The TENN”

The TENN 3

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

Launch Tennessee formally presented the nine start-ups in the third edition of its “The TENN” master accelerator program at last week’s quarterly meeting of the organization’s Board of Directors in Nashville.

Three of the nine are East Tennessee-based – Branch Technology (Chattanooga) and both Innovasan and Sing and Spell (Knoxville). We have done teknovation.biz profiles on each of them that are available at these links: Branch Technology, Sing and Spell, and Innovasan.

As I thought about one-third of the companies coming from East Tennessee, I reflected back over the now three-year history of “The TENN” and realized just how significant a contributor this region has been to the program.

Consider these facts:

  • The winners of the first two cohorts have come from East Tennessee. Vendor Registry from Knoxville won the inaugural “Demo Day” in 2014, and Chattanooga’s Feetz won in 2015.
  • By my calculations, there have been 27 participating start-ups in the “The TENN” program thus far, and 10 – almost 40 percent – have come from either Chattanooga or Knoxville. The inaugural cohort in 2013-14 featured two teams from each city – HutGrip and HATPonics (Chattanooga) and Vendor Registry and Survature (Knoxville). For year two, there were two Knoxville start-ups – Closeup.fm and Fiveworx – and one from Chattanooga – Feetz.

Those statistics say a good deal about the vibrancy of the I-75 corridor, and the three-minute mini-pitches at last week’s Launch Tennessee Board meeting showed a continuing tradition of regional strength.

Branch Technology, winner of the “Investor’s Choice Award” in the 2015 “GIGTANK,” is clearly making good progress as it seeks to revolutionize the construction industry by combining freeform 3D printing technology, large scale robots, and conventional building materials to create buildings without design limits.

“We now have 41 projects, up from the six we had at ‘Demo Day,’” Platt Boyd, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, told the Launch Tennessee Board.

Sing and Spell, a product of Children’s Media Studio, is also making good progress. Cathy Vangieri has joined with her husband, Joe, and an impressive team to propel considerable growth since the company came on the Knoxville radar screen in early 2015, winning the “What’s the Big Idea” 48-hour launch. Sing and Spell is focused on teaching pre-preschoolers alphabet letter basics in a way that employs animation and music.

“Our app is pre-loaded on Android tablets available online at the Toys ‘R Us website,” Cathy Vangieri said. Other vendors like ClickN Kids and Nabi have it installed on their devices, and the app can be downloaded from the Google Play store. Finally, CD and DVD versions are also available.

Innovasan’s Jeff Hubrig, Jr. has spent much of the last year focused on various competitions as the company works to secure investment capital for its affordable, sustainable and safe approach for on-site treatment of fluid medical wastes.

“We hope to finish our initial capital raise before ‘The TENN’ end,” he said.

So, let’s salute the eight companies in the brand new cohort and celebrate the fact that our region continues to have a strong presence in “The TENN.”

To see brief profiles on this year’s teams, read on this PDF (The TENN 2015 Teams).


Tom Ballard

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

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