Iconic Knoxville studio perfect venue for “The Works Demo Day”
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
In an 8,000 square foot television studio built by a Knoxville entrepreneur and media legend, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) formally presented the eight companies participating in its inaugural “The Works” accelerator program.
About 275 people pre-registered for the event, part of “Innov865 Week,” that was held in Studio A at Scripps Networks Interactive. Roughly three decades ago, Ross Bagwell built the studio to support his Bagwell Communications and Cinetel work in the early days of cable television. By the early 1990s, his company was the largest independent producer of cable network programs in the U.S.
Scripps Networks, which as Scripps Howard acquired Cinetel in 1994, was the sponsor of the four media content teams participating in “The Works,” while Angel Capital Group provided investment capital for the four coding companies.
Ahead of the formal pitches, another local entrepreneurial legend – Ashley Capps – participated in a fireside chat with Jonathan Sexton, KEC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AC Entertainment admitted that his foray into music event promotion started as a part-time activity, based on his long-time interest in music. Running Ella Guru’s in the Old City in the late 1980s whetted his appetite, so Capps launched AC Entertainment in 1991 after the club closed.
“Challenging the status quo is really hard,” Capps said. “You get a lot of pushback. It would not be disruptive if people loved it.”
Capps, who admitted it was only in the last five or six years that he had come to consider himself to be an entrepreneur, has first-hand experience with the naysayers.
“I was advised against starting music festivals,” the Founder of the legendary Bonnaroo festival said. Capps explained that he believed at the time there was strong interest in music festivals, based on attendance at those in Europe as well as the U.S. experience with bluegrass events. When he had to turn away 4,000 people from a festival near Asheville that could only accommodate 6,000 attendees, Capps knew his instincts were correct.
“Believing in your idea and putting it forward” is a big challenge for entrepreneurs, he observed. At the same time, Capps advised those in the audience that “you can have a lot of contrarian views, but that doesn’t mean your idea is a good one.”
While Capps now offers music festivals around the country, he has not lost sight of being a good citizen in his hometown. One of the greatest manifestations of that commitment today is the annual “Big Ears Festival,” something he wrote about in this guest column on teknovation.biz.
As Sexton noted, Capps played a key role in helping establish the cultural foundation that has made Knoxville, particularly its downtown area, so attractive to creatives. His fingerprints are seen on the revitalization of the Bijou and Tennessee Theaters as well as “Sundown in the City.”
After the fireside chat, each of the eight teams in “The Works” pitched their ideas to rousing applause and cheering from the attendees. Those teams were previously profiled on teknovation.biz although the names of two have changed. The teams, in alphabetical order, are:
- AirFlare, a start-up founded around technology licensed from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and focused on bringing to market an easy-to-use device to take metabolic measurements.
- Alluvium Media, formerly known as DateBooth, that utilizes Twitch as a model for live streaming of events like dates.
- DuzerTV, a start-up with a goal of inspiring people to get off their couches and become more active in the outdoors;
- Rogue House Media, formerly known as Engineer Your Space, is a Los Angeles-based company whose founder uses videos to help people better understand options for making small living spaces as efficient and attractive as possible.
- ImmersaCAD, a new “business to business” (B2B) company, targeted at the design community – architects, interior designers and engineers – by utilizing the emerging area of virtual reality (VR) to literally add a new dimension to what people normally see in designs.
- RDI Technologies Inc., a start-up utilizing its non-contact optical system to monitor infrastructure and equipment.
- Reviewbox, a local start-up focused on helping companies that sell on Amazon more effectively leverage the reviews and feedback received about their products.
- Travelista, a company that links fragrances and scents with places to which people have traveled or want to travel.