Winners at yesterday’s “Startup Day” in Knoxville were CQInsights Inc., which captured the “Innov865 Judges’ Choice” prize and $7,000; Uncat, which captured the “Innov865 Crowd Favorite” prize of $3,000 presented by Truist; and Bill Malkes, Serial Entrepreneur, who was recognized with the “Impact Award” that was presented by Verizon.
The hybrid event drew around 150 people for the in-person option at The Mill & Mine in Downtown Knoxville and an unknown number thanks to the streaming provided by WATE-TV, the media partner for “Startup Day.” And, we were pleased to note that all of the winners have been spotlighted on several occasions each on teknovation.biz.
In the case of CQInsights, co-founded by Bruce Ramshaw, its Managing Partner, the selection was validation for his more than decade-long belief in the importance of assessment as an important way to transform healthcare and, in the process, improve patient outcomes and satisfaction while also reducing costs. The company is focused on using Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and was issued a utility patent for its approach to processing data to gain insights that are then shared in the company’s interactive data visualization tool named VALITY.
For Brandon Bruce, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Uncat, yesterday was a role reversal. He normally moderates the pitch event, but ceded the duties to the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Chris McAdoo so he could pitch the new venture that is focused on solving a common problem that bookkeepers and accountants face – uncategorized expenses. Uncat was launched last November as a tool to reduce time and increase accuracy for users of QuickBooks (QB) Online. Bruce reported that the company has about 1,000 clients who have processed 35,000 transactions.
In the case of Malkes, the recognition comes after several decades being a part of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. We met the engaging, passionate and forthright former resident of Detroit during our tenure as Director of Partnerships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) when he and Vig Sherrill, the two Co-Founders of a start-up that was known at the time as Aldis, were negotiating a license for lab technology. The venture, which rebranded as GRIDSMART Technologies Inc., was their third collaboration. In 2019, San Diego-based Cubic Corporation acquired the Hardin Valley enterprise, and Malkes left eight months later.
After taking time to decide what was next, he found another passion and cause that met his expectations, becoming Chief Executive Officer of NellOne Therapeutics Inc. in March 2020. Ironically, that more than decade old venture also has ties to ORNL. In a blogpost explaining his decision, Malkes wrote, “Indeed, there has been no shortage of opportunities. Through all the conversation, there was always a calling still looking to be satisfied. I knew that if I was going to take on another project then it had to fit some very specific criteria.”
He continued, writing: “So, if you’ve asked me what is next, let it be known that changing the world is what is next. This (NellOne) is bigger than any one person. Because it changes lives. Because it lets me be a servant leader. And because that NELL1 talented protein can only succeed if NellOne the company delivers on its promise. I answer to a higher calling and greater mission. I believe NellOne is where I am commanded to be.”
Malkes shared his thoughts on his own entrepreneurial journey and the local ecosystem in this April “Entrepreneurial Legends” article in teknovation.biz.
Judges for yesterday’s event were: (1) Sue Malone, Founder of Strategies For Small Business, who loves the region and flies in from California every year for the event; (2) Jordan Mollenhour, Co-Founder of Mollenhour Gross LLC; and (3) Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of the new “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator.”
Other pitch competitors, in alphabetical order, were:
- Endeavor Composites. Represented by President Hicham Ghossein, Endeavor is commercializing a technology licensed exclusively from the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) that implements an innovative mixer system for the hydroentanglement process. The innovation evolved around the ability to disperse long carbon fiber to produce, in a continuous scale, defect free non-woven mats and performs with excellent quality control. Ghossein was a participant in Cohort 3 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
- Sentinel Devices. Represented by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Technical Lead Forrest Shriver, Sentinel Devices is a next-generation anomaly detection platform for industrial control systems. These devices allow any customer to build up a detailed, component-level knowledge base of the behavior of their plant, and they do this without incurring any additional cybersecurity risk. From initial installation to final shutdown, the device serves as a silent watchdog, keeping an eye on what matters so that the customers can accomplish their mission.
- Summit Performance. Represented by John Sorochan, Summit Performance is a new company that uses technology that is pending Patent Cooperation Treaty protection to measure the performance, playability, and safety of sports surfaces while simultaneously measuring the forces on the body during athlete-to-surface interactions. This technology is also able to test the traction, safety, and durability of different shoes for all purposes including sports, work boots, orthopedics, etc.
- SkyNano. Co-Founded by Anna Douglas and one of three participants in the inaugural cohort of the “Innovation Crossroads” program, SkyNano has a patent-pending technology that utilizes a low cost manufacturing technique of high value carbon materials, using only inexpensive materials, electricity, and carbon dioxide as direct inputs. Relying on electrochemistry, SkyNano’s technique results in a highly efficient process to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into useful nanomaterials. David Wood, the company’s Director of Engineering, pitched yesterday.