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September 22, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Seven entrepreneurs participating in inaugural VENergy accelerator

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

Seven entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the inaugural VENergy accelerator program that launched today in Knoxville.

Focused on energy-related technology ideas and start-ups, the initiative is a natural given East Tennessee’s regional strengths in the topical area. Those assets include Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), University of Tennessee (UT), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

The energy-focused accelerator is a joint effort of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC), Tech 20/20, UT Research Foundation, and Launch Tennessee.

“We have a concentration of energy technology and expertise here in East Tennessee” explains John Morris, Chief Executive Officer of Tech20/20.  “We want to leverage this asset for the benefit of high growth potential startup companies that will bring these technologies into mainstream consumer markets while creating local high paying jobs for our community.”

He added that the program is for entrepreneurs with an idea or young companies based on an energy-based technology.

“We are thrilled to see VENergy kick-off this fall,” said Jason Denenberg, LaunchTN’s Director of Entrepreneurship. “This type of focus will continue to drive entrepreneurial activity while supporting East Tennessee’s rich energy sector.”

Five of the seven companies have official names. Their names, technology focus and accelerator participant are:

  • ARiES Energy, LLC – Alternative Renewable Innovative Economic Solutions for Energy (Mary Shaffer Gill);
  • EGAS, LLC – building a fuel cell/electrolizer (Malcolm MacDonald);
  • Fiveworx –  Software-as-a-Service marketing optimization platform (Patrick Hunt);
  • LED North America, LL – Technologically-advanced LED lighting solutions (Andy Wilhelm); and
  • Sonotech – Replacement for Electroporation (Beth Papanek).

The other two participants are Travis Lange, who is focused on a waste heat scavenger heat exchanger; and Ming Qi, whose focus is an onsite hydrogen peroxide production device/high energy density zinc air battery.

Morris said the participants have committed to about two hours of group meetings per week and a few additional hours of applied assignments between sessions. The formal programming includes a mix of instruction and peer-to-peer learning.

The entire program, which will be held at the KEC offices on Market Square in Downtown Knoxville, is designed to help the participating entrepreneurs define and grow their businesses.

VENergy will culminate with “Start-up Day,” a celebration of entrepreneurship and a showcase of start-ups in East Tennessee. It is set November 21 at The Standard in Downtown Knoxville.