By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
To paraphrase a frequently used statement, “They are in the region.”
The “they” in this instance refers to the seven teams that comprise the 2014 autoXLR8R, the technology accelerator run by the Southern Middle Tennessee Entrepreneur Centers.
Six of the seven have strong ties to East Tennessee, and all of the teams gathered at Tech 20/20 in Oak Ridge yesterday to begin a week of programming, visiting, and other interactions in the region.
“We needed to bring the researchers, interns and technologies together,” Jack Sisk, Program Manager, said of the plans for the week. The teams will spend this morning (Tuesday) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), one of the key sources of technologies that many of them are pursuing. Their visit includes tours of ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.
Later in the week, they will be at Local Motors’ new front door on Market Square as well as the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Thursday includes their participation in a quarterly meeting of the “Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership” (RAMP).
At yesterday’s luncheon, John Morris of Tech 20/20 moderated a Q & A where the cohort was introduced to Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan. Tech 20/20 is playing a significant role in helping support this year’s autoXLR8R.
During the roundtable discussion, Beehan was actively engaged with the students working on the teams and, in several cases, the Chief Executive Officers of the local companies that were accepted into the autoXLR8R.
“You are in a friendly place for what you are doing,” Beehan said, citing his role on the Launch Tennessee Board of Directors as evidence of his support for entrepreneurship.
Saying people are looking for safe neighborhoods, good schools, and proactive economic development, Beehan said the region – not just Oak Ridge but also Knoxville – has those essential characteristics.
“There is a quality of life here . . . to what you are doing,” Beehan added. “We want you to know that you can come here, live, have a good income, and raise your family.”
Three of the established start-ups are based in the area – Clodico, previously profiled on teknovation.biz, InDrive, and LAS-IR Solutions – and three of the remaining four teams are pursuing technologies developed at either ORNL or the University of Tennessee. Only Cyberloop, a Hong Kong-based company, is not tied to East Tennessee.
Dave Mansfield of InDrive described his company as “hybrid for the masses.” He added that his vision is to do in that sector “what Henry Ford did with the Model T.”
This is the fifth week for the program that will have its “Demo Day” on August 12.
“It’s going great,” Sisk said of the first four weeks.
Tara Barnett, autoXLR8R Program Coordinator, said the feedback from mentors on the technologies is very positive. “They are saying they are stronger than last year,” she added.
For more information on the companies, click here (autoXLR8R 2014 Companies_Technologies).