By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Innova Memphis recently announced the first close of $20 million for its Innova Fund III.
As the name implies, it is the seven-year old venture company’s third undertaking. The inaugural fund, launched in November 2007, was focused on economic development in Memphis, Ken Woody, Innova’s President, told us recently.
Innova Fund II is one of the initial TNInvestcos.
“We have invested in 36 companies from these two funds,” Woody said. The last four were part of the 2014 “ZeroTo510” accelerator and, in essence, took the remaining uncommitted monies available from Fund II.
As Woody looks back over the past several years, he is very proud of the impact of Innova.
“We’ve had really good results thus far,” he says, noting that the $15 million invested in the 36 start-ups has attracted more than $50 million of outside capital for a total annual impact greater than $90 million. Equally significant, the Innova portfolio companies support more than 150 direct jobs.
With Innova Fund III, Woody expects to continue the venture company’s focus on technology in general and healthcare in particular, but add a third category – agriculture.
“We want to continue to invest across the State of Tennessee,” he says.
Woody moved to Knoxville about two years ago so that he and his wife could be closer to their Carolina-based parents. He says it has been both beneficial and insightful.
“One of the benefits is a better working relationship with UT and ORNL,” he says of the region’s two technology assets. In fact, two of the six deals currently being evaluated by Innova are based in East Tennessee.
Woody has also seen the impact of what many people in the region see.
“Anyway you look at it, East Tennessee has been underserved by the flow of capital,” he says. “I’m seeing really good opportunities, and that’s what I hoped to see when I moved over here.”