(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a series focused on opportunities for University of Tennessee, Knoxville students to hone their entrepreneurial ideas.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
A familiar face to many players in the Knoxville entrepreneurial community has a new gig.
John Bruck, a long-time resident of Cincinnati who moved to East Tennessee several years ago, started work this week as the first-ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI). He’ll be running a new business accelerator that ACEI, which is part of the Haslam College of Business, will house at the UT Research Foundation’s (UTRF) Business Incubator.
“John brings a wealth of experience that gives us a running start,” ACEI Executive Director Lynn Youngs says. “He has a great combination of background and skillsets as well as a personal passion for learning and mentoring.”
For Bruck, the new role is just an expansion and formalization of what he has been doing since he arrived here. The Ohio native and Purdue University graduate ran BHE Environmental Inc. for 25 years before selling the company and relocating to the Corryton area.
We first met the engaging and energetic business executive in June 2016 at Launch Tennessee’s then named “36|86 Conference” and quickly established a strong friendship. Since then, we have observed his success in becoming a key player in the region’s entrepreneurial support system.
Bruck has served as a mentor for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, sits on the Innov865 Steering Committee, and even joined with his two sons to found a couple of businesses in Knoxville.
“This is a great opportunity to work with an exciting flow of student and start-up ideas that are very well-resourced,” Bruck told us last week.
Youngs says the program and Bruck are important additions to ACEI.
“We need to have experienced entrepreneurs engaged with us, and John brings not only that background but also a strong connection to capital assets,” he explained. Among other roles, Bruck is a member of Queen City Angels, a Cincinnati-based group that invests beyond the Ohio area.
“He’s a company founder that has grown and successfully exited several companies,” Youngs added. Those include a real estate venture in addition to BHE Environmental.
In discussing the new initiative, Youngs emphasized that programs like the UTRF Business Incubator, entrepreneurship classes, and ACEI business plan competitions are a pipeline for early stage companies, while an initiative like the new ACEI Accelerator is focused on making the highest-potential UT student businesses ready for investors. “This new initiative complements our other resources already in place.”
Bruck added that the Accelerator will provide one-on-one mentoring as well as more detailed programming.
The ACEI Accelerator is located in the UTRF Business Incubator at 2450 E.J. Chapman Drive behind the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.
NEXT: The first of two articles describing the experience of past participants in several of the existing ACEI programs.