Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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January 23, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Our weekly “News & Notes” feature covers a variety of topics

The volume of announcements picked-up again last week with our weekly “News & Notes” summary including a variety of items from Knoxville/Oak Ridge, Johnson City,  Chattanooga and Nashville as well as a rebranding of a Cincinnati-based venture fund.

From Knoxville/Oak Ridge:

  • If you’ve talked much with Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator” that welcomes its first cohort in less than a month, you know that she talks about “deep tech” and opportunities for this region based on our technology assets. The term refers to a category of start-ups that develop new products based “on scientific discovery or meaningful engineering innovation.” A recent report in the MIT Sloan Management Review noted that the flow of capital to deep tech start-ups “is rapidly becoming a torrent. From 2016 to 2020, annual investments in start-ups focused on commercializing emerging technologies such as biotechnology, robotics, and quantum computing grew in value from $15 billion to $60 billion worldwide, with the average private investment more than tripling in size.” Corporate venture capital funds are the second largest source of investment capital for deep tech start-ups, yet there are significant barriers to getting big businesses engaged. Click here to learn what they are.
  • Shuchi “SK” Khurana is a participant in Cohort 5 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, working to advance technology focused on additive manufacturing/3D printing. His start-up named Addiguru and its work in limiting manufacturing defects as much as possible as well as automating the production process was featured in a a recent edition of 3D Natives, described as the largest international online media platform on 3D printing and its applications. Click here to read the article.
  • The Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has posted a new position for which it is seeking applicants. It is a Director of Industry Partnerships that will report directly to the Dean with a dotted line to UTK’s Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development. The position will develop partnerships with key stakeholders from industry partners to local community organizations and statewide economic development leaders in ways that leverage UTK resources while also coordinating opportunities to grow research outcomes and impact, capital investment, job creation, and space-based development. More information can be found here.
  • Lirio, whose Precision NudgingTM solution promotes health through artificial intelligence-powered behavior change, has announced two C-level executive appointments and several other key personnel changes. Amy Bucher was named Chief Behavioral Officer and Justin Beaver was promoted to Chief Technology Officer. In addition, the company announced that Wade Chandler was named Chief Architect, and Hemangi Apte was promoted to Vice President, Engineering. Joining Lirio as head of analytics is Chad Steed.

From Johnson City:

East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) College of Business and Technology celebrated the completion of several marketing projects with Winter Innovations Inc., the East Tennessee-based medical device start-up company that has been featured numerous times in posts. In this news release from the college, Sonu Mirchandani, Coordinator and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program, said, “The college has been engaging with businesses and start-ups in this region for several years. But our engagement with Winter Innovations underscores the consultative client service model used by ETSU’s College of Business and Technology.”

From Chattanooga:

  • Business texting software provider Text Request and conversational commerce platform Authvia have announced a partnership to provide text-to-pay services through the Text Request platform. The new offering, called Payments, enables organizations to request and collect secure payments through text message. Payments is now available on all Text Request plans, and is expected to be particularly valuable for service-based businesses to collect payments while reducing their workload.
  • Educators across the State of Tennessee will have opportunities to grow their knowledge and gain digital literacy skills as The Enterprise Center’s award-winning “Tech Goes Home” (TGH) expands. The new “TGH Tennessee” program is made possible thanks to partnerships with Signal Centers, The Tennessee Childcare Resource and Referral Network, and Tennessee Department of Human Services. Click here for more information.

From Nashville:

  • Ciari Guitars, the San Diego-headquartered company that produces its award-winning AscenderTM premium travel guitar  in Nashville, has announced the addition of Eric Dorton as President and Chief Commercial Officer. In this new role, he will lead sales, marketing, artist/influencer/public relations, as well as brand partnerships, for Ciari’s current and soon-to-expand line of revolutionary folding guitars. As noted in this April 2021 article, Ciari Guitars was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Spangler, produced his first prototype in 2017, and had his first truly playable version at the end of that year.
  • Another Nashville start-up that we spotlighted in 2021 announced the company has achieved a 39 percent increase in riders choosing the service and a 25 percent expansion of its pool of drivers over the past year. That new venture was known as Earth Rides when we published this article last July. Now known simply as EARTH, it is an innovative rideshare service exclusively powered by electric vehicles (EVs) that currently operates in Nashville and Austin, TX, two markets with a high density of electric vehicle owners. According to this news release, the company’s 2022 plans include expanding its team of independent contractor drivers to Chattanooga, Memphis, and two more cities in Texas – San Antonio and Waco.

From Cincinnati:

River Cities Capital, which is headquartered in Cincinnati and also has a satellite office in Raleigh, rebranded at the beginning of 2021. It is now known simply as RCC. In a recent news release, the firm wrote: “We shortened our name but kept our core mission: investing on the right side of healthcare, growing companies that enable clinicians to improve the delivery of care and the experiences and outcomes for patients.”

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