By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
A student from the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education captured the top prize in the latest “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition.”
Erica Grant, a Virginia Tech graduate who is working on her doctorate in quantum information, described a concern that many students and others face – adequate security in the doors for the apartments, houses or condos where they live.
“Traditional (home) locks are outdated, and smart locks are less secure,” Grant said in her 90-second pitch during the event. She has already developed an initial prototype for the Quantum Lock and is working on an updated version.
By winning the competition, Grant secured a $1,500 cash prize from RedStag Fulfillment, a Knoxville-based company whose Vice President of Marketing is Jake Rheude. During his days as a UT Knoxville student, Rheude participated in a number of the entrepreneurial programs offered by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) in the Haslam College of Business. ACEI is the organizer of the twice-a-year program.
Other “Vol Court” sponsors include the UT Research Foundation which offers free office space to the winner; PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz, that provides accounting advice to the winner; Morehous Legal Group which provides legal services; and Hard Knox Pizzeria, the IT Company, and Three Roots Capital.
Grant was one of 24 student entrepreneurs who presented their ideas in rapid fire 90-second pitches. Second prize and $1,000 from RedStag Fulfillment went to Camille Dillard who pitched Dreams by Dillard Wedding & Events LLC, while third place and $500 was won by Thomas Jolley and his RentWorx concept.
As the name implies, Dillard is focused on special events management, particularly for brides-to-be. In Jolley’s case, he pitched a service to help individuals rent or access specialty equipment like CNC machines and 3D printers on an as-needed basis.