Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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October 28, 2019 | Tom Ballard

ETSU’s Innovation Lab hosts “meet and greet” featuring three Northeast TN start-ups

More than 30 people turned out yesterday for an early lunch “meet and greet” hosted by the Innovation Lab at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.

The event featured presentations from three very different start-ups that had one thing in common: they are all building their new ventures in Northeast Tennessee. The three were:

  • Connect Outdoors, a company founded by Ben Arnold around the ConnectScale device that he developed in late 2014 as a better way for fishermen to weigh and track their catch data, whether for personal use or as a part of a fishing tournament;
  • SME Bio LLC, the newest member at the Innovation Lab and a company founded by Michael Stump who has a long history in the life sciences space; and
  • rpl, an “almost to testing phase” start-up founded by Lauren Glass to help those wanting a career in the creative space get guidance and mentoring from more seasoned professionals.

As regular readers of know, we posted our first article on Arnold’s company, then going by the name of its inaugural product in May 2017. Earlier this year, he added several senior members to his team, including John Cannon, and turned his evening and weekend sideline business that was slowly gaining traction into a true ramp-up effort under a broader brand name. We captured those plans in this July article.

“We have 8,000 customers,” Cannon, Chief Operating Officer, told attendees yesterday. He was subbing for Arnold who had another commitment. The company plans to release version 3 of the ConnectScale device this winter as it expands its existing efforts working with high schools to also include colleges teams.

Beginning on Friday and continuing for 30 days, individuals who might work on the weekend and, therefore, unable to attend normal fishing tournaments can participate in the “Big Bass No Dinks November Challenge” that allows competitors to fish in an online, virtual tournament.

Cannon outlined a number of other plans on the drawing board.

“I am particularly passionate about youth that want to go into creative businesses,” Glass said at the beginning of her presentation about rpl, pronounced like the word “ripple.” Saying she had always been fascinated by art and creative things, Glass nevertheless went into corporate sales after graduating from college.

“I thought I could not pursue an entrepreneurial career because of where I grew-up,” she said. Later, the Northeast Tennessee native started a business, scaled it, and sold it three years later.

Now, she is focused on helping connect individuals wanting a career in the creative world with seasoned executive who can mentor them. A key part of rpl is the online platform that is almost ready.

In the case of SME Bio, Stump says his business plan is driven by the advent of precision medicine where there is a greater need for specialty products that his new venture will provide to the pharmaceutical, biotech, contract research organizations, contract manufacturing organizations, government and university markets for research purposes.

“We will also be hyper focused on providing fresh tissue samples, either only or with matched sets of PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) and tissues for chemosensitivity testing,” Stump adds.


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