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May 06, 2014 | Tom Ballard

“Big Idea” now has nine semi-finalists

Big Idea-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The latest round of presentations has been completed, the teams have been selected, and now it is time for several weeks of the intense personal coaching that is the hallmark of the “What’s the Big Idea?!” business plan competition.

During a mini-pitch event Tuesday afternoon, 12 aspiring entrepreneurs outlined their ideas to a three-member panel of judges who listened intently, asked a number of questions, and formed opinions on the viability of the concepts they were presented.

The judges were Guille Cruze, Chief Executive Officer of Clinical Health Communications, Inc. and Founder of The White Stone Group Inc.; Misty Mayes, President of Management Solutions, LLC; and John Sharpe, President of a number of companies including ARG Executive Search and ARG Financial Staffing.

Once they heard all 12 presentations, the judges went through a down selection process very similar to the upcoming National Football League draft, albeit with fewer rounds and one important difference – their work did not end Tuesday.

Each judge would shift to a mentor or coaching role over the next seven weeks, working with their three favorite ideas to help better prepare the entrepreneurs for success in the next rounds of “What’s the Big Idea?!” and success beyond the competition’s finale on June 24.

The selections, in alphabetical order by judge, were:

  • Cruze – Elder Tech (Theresa Maples), (Christopher Saah), and Prime Medical Training (Andrew Randazzo).
  • Mayes – ComPark (Daniel Schuh); International House Works, LLC (John W. Cook); and Retailius (Casey Ash).
  • Sharpe – (Jonathan Owens), FlowSink (Martin Wade), and Vuture (Michael Crain).

Next up are the “Knock-Out Competitions” set for June 3. This round pits three entrepreneurs against each other, one from each team, in three separate rounds. A panel of independent judges narrows the nine to three – one from each coaching group – for the June 24 finale.

The grand prize is $10,000 to help defray start-up costs, office space, and complimentary business services.

“What’s the Big Idea?!” is a joint effort of the Knoxville Chamber, Development Corporation of Knox County, and Tech 20/20. For more information about the nine companies, look for additional stories on in the days ahead.

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