By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Don DeRosa and Eonix LLC captured the eyes of the judges and a $3,000 prize award from Truist, while John Phillips of Primeaux wowed the audience to become winner of the $7,000 “Crowd Favorite” during Tuesday’s annual “Startup Day” in Knoxville.
The two winners underscored the diverse nature of Knoxville’s growing ecosystem with one of the winners being homegrown and the other coming here as part of a program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
- DeRosa brought Eonix to the region as a participant in the “Innovation Crossroads” program at ORNL and most recently made headlines for an exclusive collaboration with Schrödinger Inc. The work, as described in this teknovation.biz article, will accelerate the discovery and design of materials for safer, energy dense lithium-ion batteries. DeRosa (second from the left) is pictured here with Harry Gross of Truist and judges Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer at RDI Technologies Inc.; Carol Carden, Managing Principal of Valuation Services at PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz; and Tanika Harper, Founder and CEO of the Shora Foundation among many ventures.
- Phillips has built a team of artists, innovators and engineers that are designing professional-quality handcrafted cutlery and cookware. When he first launched the company, it was named Phillips Forged and 3was well-known in chef circles for its high-end knives. We described that company in this 2020 teknovation.biz article. Today, both products are sold under the Primeaux brand. He is pictured here with Cortney Piper, co-host of the event with Chris McAdoo of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.
The annual event drew about 300 pre-registrations and was held at The Mill & Mine on West Depot Avenue. In addition to the pitch competition, attendees also were treated to the announcement of the “Traction Award” winner (see separate teknovation article here) and a fireside chat moderated by Launch Tennessee’s Lindsey Cox featuring three start-ups that have chosen to locate here.
In addition to the winners, others in the finale were:
- Alex Weber whose D3D VR Studios was a participant in both the “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition” and the 22 Alpha cohort of Bunker Labs’ “Veterans in Residence” program and also spotlighted in this recent teknovation.biz article.
- Douglas Mapp whose ThinkUp start-up participated in the “100Knoxville” initiative and was also featured in this recent teknovation.biz post.
- Femeika Elliot who won the 2022 edition of the “What’s the Big Idea?” pitch competition for the Lotus Program that operates under the umbrella of her Meik Meals business that provides private dining and catering. We spotlighted her passion for helping women with postpartum in this teknovation.biz article.
- Ryan Ginder of Windfall, a start-up with ties to the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) and a participant in the inaugural cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.” The UTRF News spotlighted Ginder’s work in this November 2021 article.
The fireside chat featured:
- Anna Douglas, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sky Nano Technologies, an alum of both the “Innovation Crossroads” and “Spark Innovation Center” programs;
- Abhishek (Abhi) Sastri, Founder and CEO of FLUIX Inc., a participant in Cohort 1 of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator” who is maintaining a presence in the region; and
- Corey Tyree, President and CEO of Trillium Renewable Chemicals, who chose the local region as his home after founding the company.