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November 17, 2013 | Tom Ballard

It’s “Cleantech Open” finals time for Knoxville start-up Fiveworx

FiveworxBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

It’s finals time in San Jose, and Knoxville’s own Fiveworx is one of just 22 companies to make it that far in the “2013 Top Cleantech Entrepreneur” competition.

As we have reported in several previous posts on, the start-up was founded by Suzanne Shelton and Patrick Hunt of The Shelton Group. They applied for and were selected to participate in the “Cleantech Open” competition, the only applicant from Tennessee to do so. The multi-stage competition is billed as the world’s largest accelerator for clean technology start-ups.

Deciding to participate was obviously a good decision. Fiveworx was one of five companies that emerged from the Southeast Region competition, out of 60 that applied, and it is now competing on a world stage.

“We are excited and proud to be in the (Cleantech) finals,” Hunt said. “It has been a wonderful opportunity.”

Noting that Fiveworx “fully embraced the ‘Cleantech Open’ process,” he added that the training and mentoring “helped us learn some things we would not have learned and do some things we would not have done.”

It’s an understatement to say that 2013 has been a whirlwind experience for the Fiveworx team. They’ve been in start-up mode while participating in the “Cleantech Open” and the new local VENergy accelerator cohort.

We caught-up with Hunt last week just ahead of three days of business travel, a brief weekend at home, and then back on an airplane today to fly to San Jose for the “Cleantech Open” event.

He told us the week ahead is going to be chockfull of activities, not only in San Jose, but also via telecommunications technology that will allow him to participate in Thursday’s “Start-up Day” event in Knoxville. Those sorts of challenges are the opportunities that drive the always smiling and upbeat Hunt.

At this week’s “Cleantech Open 2013 Global Forum,” Fiveworx will be vying for the grand prize valued at $250,000. There are eight categories, and Fiveworx is one of three companies in the information and communications technology group. If the start-up wins that round, it will compete with the other seven category winners for the grand prize.

“We present Wednesday morning,” Hunt said. It is a 10-minute pitch followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. He’ll know by Wednesday afternoon if Fiveworx won its category. If so, the final round is Thursday afternoon – California time.

The three-hour time difference between Knoxville and San Jose, coupled with the marvels of videoconferencing, will allow Hunt to also be one of the presenters in the Knoxville region’s inaugural “Start-up Day,” introducing Fiveworx to a local audience of more than 300.

“I would love to win the ‘Cleantech Open,’ but we also want to build relationships,” Hunt says in describing the long-term value of the experience. “We are using it as a networking opportunity with potential investors and customers.”

Three of those opportunities are an Expo that opens Tuesday and runs throughout the event, speed dating sessions with investors Tuesday afternoon, and a Thursday morning session where the “Cleantech Open” start-ups get to do three-minute pitches on their products. Hunt notes the latter presentations are not the typical pitch to investors.

“They’re focused on the problem you’re solving and how you’re solving it,” he explained. There’s even a prize for the winner of this competition. It’s called the Audience Choice Award.

For more information on Fiveworx, you can review the fact sheet here (Fiveworx_Fact Sheet) and a background piece here (Fiveworx_Background).

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