By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
They are described as the best prepared start-ups with the most diverse technologies in the three-year history of the autoXLR8R.
Tech 2020, which assumed responsibility for the program this year after providing support earlier, has announced the nine start-ups that will participate in the 2015 program starting July 7 in Oak Ridge. The accelerator activities conclude August 28 in Oak Ridge after “Road Show” stops in Greenville, SC and Birmingham, AL.
Five of the participants are Tennessee-based and the other four include two from neighboring states and two international participants, one each from Mexico and Italy.
For Tech 2020’s Shawn Carson and Jack Sisk, the announcement represents a major milestone in transitioning the program. They have spent months recruiting participants.
“I am particularly excited for this year’s cohort,” Carson, Tech 2020’s Director of Venture Development, said. “Even though we have been involved with more than seven accelerator programs, there is always something to learn and something new to try.”
Innovation is a hallmark of this year’s efforts, both in terms of the focus of the companies and the manner in which the training, coaching and mentoring will be delivered.
“This year, about 80 percent of the program will be conducted remotely using online tools and distance learning technology,” Carson explained. “This opens-up our reach to start-ups across the state, region and internationally. The technology also makes it possible to have close relationships between peers and mentors without the barrier and costs of geography.”
Sisk, who has a long professional history in the automotive sector, noted the ever increasing demands that impact every element of the automotive industry from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to suppliers at all tiers. He is Program Director for autoXLR8R.
“The complexity of new technology and speed of integration into the design and production of vehicles today is profound and unprecedented,” Sisk said. “The OEMs are relying more on their partners in the supply chain for the discovery and development of these innovative technologies as they are often faster to market, thus making the supply chain more important to helping the OEM’s drive innovation to the market.”
Carson noted that many of the participants in this year’s autoXLR8R are commercializing technologies developed at universities in their region.
The Tennessee companies are:
- CBA of Knoxville that is developing a data analytics tool to be used to monitor production processes in automotive manufacturing. (Entrepreneur: Josh McMillan)
- IVRTrain of Cookeville that is focused on producing immersive virtual simulations to develop physical training for the operation of vehicles in manufacturing plants. (Entrepreneur: Ravi Venkataraman)
- OptoLogistics, also from Knoxville, that is developing software to optimize logistics in the automotive manufacturing industry. (Entrepreneur: Mustafa Varzaneh)
- SRM of Murfreesboro that is developing hub motor technology. (Entrepreneur: Jim Brewer)
- The PT Solution of Chattanooga that is a personal transportation service designed for metro areas and campuses. (Entrepreneur: Jim Brewer)
Two of the participants come from contiguous states. They are:
- The Smart Seat from Louisville, KY, that has an application designed to remind drivers of the presence small children and pets about to be left in an automobile. (Entrepreneur: Donald Suiters)
- Sleep on Trucking from Fayette, AL, that is developing a device that levels and stabilizes the sleeping quarters of a semi-tractor to make it easier for a driver to sleep. (Entrepreneur: Daniel White)
The international participants are:
- CASCI, a start-up in Aguascalientes, Mexico, that is developing a new automatic guided vehicle to deliver material in manufacturing operations. (Entrepreneur: Ricardo Valenzuela)
- Drive&Live, an Italian start-up, that is developing an app to monitor drivers for drowsiness and other impaired driving conditions. (Entrepreneur: Emanuel Fierimonte)
“It’s going to be a thrill to support start-ups all over the world from East Tennessee,” Carson said.