Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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August 28, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Events, announcements and other noteworthy activities headline this week’s “News & Notes”

From Knoxville:

  • The fall semester edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition” begins at 5:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Room 303 of the Haslam Business Building at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the five-session series features four topic-specific sessions followed by the finale – a pitch competition where participants present their ideas. Prizes up to $1,500 are awarded to the competition winners. Winners of other competitions are not eligible to pitch the same business idea at Vol Court, but are encouraged to attend and learn from the speakers. There is no application or cost to attend the series, and participants are not required to pitch in order to attend. Sessions continue each Wednesday at the same time and in the same room before the finale on September 28.
  • The Knoxville Chamber has announced a new initiative titled eKnox. It is a regional, digital inclusion program designed to increase access to digital literacy training, low cost devices, and affordable internet subscriptions. eKnox will host in-person classes at community organizations beginning Fall 2022. Participants will receive: (1) 15 hours of digital literacy instruction; (2) the option to purchase a discounted Chromebook for $50; (3) small class sizes with a trained instructor; and (4) help signing up for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program to get a $30 a month discount toward internet subscriptions. More details can be found here.
  • The Kitchen LinK, a membership driven business alliance focused on the food and service industry, has announced a “First Friday Food” event for this Friday. It will run from 5 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, 17 Market Square. The event is designed as “a showcase experience where the public can come in and learn about local businesses while sampling their products.” The Kitchen LinK will feature a new culinary artist and mixologist each month. There is no fee or registration required.

From Oak Ridge:

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation recently celebrated the opening of its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility. Located in the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the facility is leveraging the region’s specialized workforce to produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s advanced Micro Modular Reactor Energy System that is gaining traction in the U.S. and world markets. Click here to learn more.

From Chattanooga:

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that city officials have allocated $1.4 million in federal pandemic relief funds to establish a new minority business resource center. According to the article (subscription required), the project is envisioned as a hub and source of support for entrepreneurs. Clients would be able to get technical assistance, business counseling services, access to mentoring programs and back-office support for things such as accounting, inventory management or human resources.

From Cookeville:

The Biz Foundry‘s Jeff Brown says 20 individuals attended one of the two meetings last week focused on angel investing. Featuring representatives of Knoxville-based Appalachian Investors Alliance (AIA) that has been engaged to help develop the fund, the sessions were designed to answer questions and gain insights from individuals interested in the development of a professional, member-managed angel fund for the Upper Cumberland Region. “All are ready to move forward,” Brown told us.

From Nashville:

Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) are in the news for two significant accomplishments.

  • The first is a long-acting antibody combination discovered at VUMC that protects against COVID-19 in high-risk individuals, and which was optimized and developed by the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, has received a gold medal in the latest edition of the “R&D 100 Awards” program from R&D World Magazine. The monoclonal antibodies were discovered by James E. Crowe Jr., Robert Carnahan, and colleagues in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC), months after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States in January 2020. Six antibodies were licensed in June 2020 to AstraZeneca for optimization and advancement into clinical trials. Click here to learn more.
  • Researchers at the main campus have unveiled a product that is the result of a technology research partnership with the U.S. Army. It is a lightweight exosuit that boosts soldiers’ weightlifting capability while reducing the risk of a back injury. Funded by a $1.2 million Pathfinder Project grant from Army Futures Command, Vanderbilt researchers have collaborated with soldiers at Fort Campbell over the last year to develop technology inspired and informed directly by soldiers’ needs in the field. More information can be found in this Main Street Nashville article.

From Memphis:

Bite Ninja, a tech company making remote work possible for the restaurant industry, has raised $11.3 million in bridge funding. Founded by serial entrepreneurs Will Clem and Orin Wilson, the company provides a virtual workforce to restaurants. Using thousands of U.S.-based “Ninjas,” Bite Ninja helps restaurants virtually staff their drive-thru and front counter to create a more efficient and error-free ordering system, allowing in-store workers to focus on food quality and customer service. The Ninjas, working from a location of their choice, appear on-screen to customers at menu boards.

From Techstars:

Applications are open until September 28 for the “Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator” in Washington, DC. Run in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, founded by Melinda French Gates, the program focuses on innovative solutions to address the unmet needs of older adults and their caregivers. Program themes include: (1) caregiver support; (2) care coordination; (3) aging in place; (4) financial wellness and resilience; (5) preventive health (both physical and cognitive); and (6) social engagement.

The partnership with Techstars, which will soon open applications for the second cohort of the “Industries of the Future Accelerator” in Knoxville, is just one of several involving Pivotal Ventures that has current or former Tennessee ties. Leslie Lynn Smith, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Epicenter in Memphis, moved to Pivotal Ventures-backed GET Cities as its National Executive Director two years ago after leading Epicenter for about five and one-half years.

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