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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
August 21, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Thirteen start-ups begin 13-week program in Knoxville

The first-ever collaboration involves seven participants in Cohort 7 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program and six start-ups participating in the "Spark Cleantech Accelerator."

Two weeks after announcing that participants in two Knoxville area start-up accelerators would attend classes together (see article here), the inaugural session of that first-ever collaboration kicked off on August 21.

The seven participants in Cohort 7 of the “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory joined the six start-ups in the second cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” for the latter’s 12-week program. They will be working from space at the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park.

During the next three months, they will participate in shared learning and mentoring sessions, organized events, and other activities designed to help the 13 companies advance their start-ups while also encouraging them to consider establishing permanent roots in the region.

One of the Spark participants – Joe James of Agri-Tech Producers in Columbia, SC – said he was seeking a Co-Founder for a Tennessee operating affiliate. Similar thoughts were voiced by Daniel Lee, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Perseus Materials, a Bay Area of California-founded company, who said that one of his goals during the two-year IC program is to find “a place to build our company.”

Five of the 13 companies call Knoxville home. They include two in the Spark accelerator – Aligned Composites Technology and Algaeo  and three in the IC program – Qubit Engineering Inc., Re-Du, and ThermaMatrix. The other six participants, not counting James and Lee, come from Ann Arbor, MI; Chandler, AZ; Columbus, OH; London, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; and Nairobi, Kenya.

Lilly Tench

In a facilitated session where they described their goals for the accelerator in which they were a participant, Lilly Tench, Director of the Spark accelerator, asked them for the top goal they had. Many talked about the importance of the business aspects, while several talked about making connections that could lead to pilot projects.

The curriculum, subject to change, is as follows:

  • Week #1 – Orientation and introductions;
  • Week #2 – Business model canvas, market fit, and validation;
  • Week #3 – Product/market fit;
  • Week #4 – Business modeling and value proposition;
  • Week #5 – Intellectual property;
  • Week #6 – Partners, supply chain, and engagement;
  • Week #7 – Organizational design;
  • Week #8 – Financial and valuation modeling;
  • Week #9 – Funding and non-diluted outside investment;
  • Week #10 – Investor Week;
  • Week #11 – Communications and branding;
  • Week #12 – Pitch preparation; and
  • Week #13 – Final presentations and “Demo Day.”

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