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October 06, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Seven start-ups pitch their companies, gain feedback during yesterday’s “Raising & Rising” event

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Seven Knoxville area entrepreneurs shared the start-ups they have launched and the aspirations they have during a virtual event yesterday hosted by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) and Three Roots Capital.

Held as part of “Innov865 Week,” the lunchtime session, titled “Raising & Rising,” included pre-recorded pitches followed by a live discussion between the individual who pitched and someone from CGI Knoxville, a fairly recent addition to the Knoxville community that was the presenting sponsor. Each CGI representative asked the person who pitched more about their plans and strategy, much as any investor would. We were impressed with the level of advanced preparation that CGI’s team had done to learn more about the entrepreneurs and their products or services.

More than 70 people tuned-in for the roughly 90-minute session that was kicked-off by KEC’s Jim Biggs and included opening comments by Matt Kittrell, CGI’s Knoxville-based Director of Consulting Delivery. The session was moderated by Chris Miller of Three Roots Capital.

Those presenting pitched a mix of companies, starting with Alt Route Meals, a one-year old company that markets 100 percent plant-based dehydrated meals with a focus on backpackers. Hope Westall pitched the company and her goal of raising $400,000 to move the company out of her home and into its own business location.

Others who presented included:

  • Erin Reece, Founder of Bear Accounting and Financial Solutions, who introduced Aught Entrepreneurs, community for women entrepreneurs that recently opened its second Knoxville location in downtown. Aught hopes to franchise the concept.
  • Paul Hassell of Breedwise, a company founded by a Pharmacist that brings together the best of conventional medicine and homeopathic remedies. “When our favorite canines have healthier, happier lives, we do too,” the start-up states on its webpage.
  • Ian Ratner of Poze, a revolutionary dating app where lasting relationships are built on a foundation of common passions, shared values and mutual interest. The target is “socially conscious” individuals in the 25- to 35-year old age group, and there’s an opportunity to also help a charity that helps make longer lasting relationships because of similar interests.
  • John Phillips of Primeaux, his latest endeavor built on skills he developed with his high-end cutlery business known as Phillips Forged. Part of the city’s well-known maker community, Phillips and Primeaux are focused on
  • Rafael Darosci Henrique of RepMe, a recent addition to the Knoxville ecosystem. The native of Brazil is focused on helping companies locate sales representatives, either part-time or full-time.
  • Sam Evans of Unbound Water Technologies that is using a waste-derived carbon material named C-MNA to filter water. He is also a member of Cohort 5 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


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