By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
A long-time coach, mentor and teacher in the local entrepreneurial support system has assumed the role of Director of “Vol Court,” the University of Tennessee’s (UT) twice-a-year pitch competition and speaker series.
Shawn Carson was a key member of the team at the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth at the now defunct Tech 2020. After the non-profit ceased operations earlier this year, he joined the newly-formed Three Roots Capital as Director of Advisory Services, bringing his expertise to the fund’s portfolio companies.
In addition, the always upbeat and engaging Carson, who is also pursuing his doctorate, signed-on as a Lecturer with UT’s Haslam College of Business and its affiliated Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) which operates “Vol Court.” He assumes leadership of the six-session series from Tom Graves, ACEI’s Director of Operations.
“I’m honored to take over a solid foundation and successful tradition that Tom has established ,” Carson told us. “It has its momentum; I just want to keep it moving.”
The “Vol Court Pitch Competition and Speaker Series,” launched in 2010, has seen significant growth over the ensuing years. Attendance at the weekly one-hour session has jumped from about 20 in the early years to 75 in in Spring Semester.
The inaugural session in the Fall Semester program was held last Wednesday night when Graves led a discussion about the business model canvas, a tool that is very popular among start-up support organizations. Subsequent sessions and the discussion leaders are:
- David Morehous of Morehous Legal Group on the “Legal Structure of Your Business”;
- Joy Fisher who will share “An Entrepreneur’s Journey,” built on her work with several start-ups;
- Brandi King and Ryan Aoukar, two local entrepreneurs, who will lead an examination of “Unconventional Funding Sources” such as Kickstarter; and
- Carson outlining strategies for “Pitching the Concept.”
All of the sessions lead up to the finale on November 16 when participants will pitch their ideas for money as well as legal and financial consulting services.
“Vol Court” meets on Wednesdays from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. in Room 104 of the Haslam Business Building. It is open to UT students, faculty and staff as well as the general public. There is no registration fee, but those who want to pitch on November 16 must attend at least four of the five preparatory sessions.
Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from sponsors, which include Cirrus Insight; PYA, sponsor of teknovation.biz; Morehous Legal Group; Hard Knox Pizzeria; IT Company; Funding Sage; Three Roots Capital; and UT Research Foundation.