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November 25, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Here are some great insights from “Start-up Day 2014”

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

Thanks to the News Sentinel for posting a guest column yesterday with my key thoughts about Knoxville’s highly successful second annual “Start-up Day.”

In writing the column and reviewing my notes, I was also mindful of some great quotes and insights that a number of program participants made during the event. They are shared below in no particular order after the first two bullets.

  • Jim Biggs, Executive Director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, kicked-off “Start-up Day,” noting it was both a celebration and “a sampling of the great things our region has built and the great things still to come.”
  • Mayor Madeline Rogero followed. “We have big ideas. We have the knowhow and grit to take these ideas and make something big out of them.”
  • Describing the time when start-up entrepreneurs inevitably reach the proverbial crossroads, John Sharpe, President of several Knoxville companies, asked the all-important question: “Are you going to accept the challenge or find an excuse?”
  • Those who have followed start-up competitions for the past year have to be impressed with the passion and persistence of Michael Crain of Vuture. He offered this gem: “Knoxville is one of those rare places where you cannot only raise a family, but also raise a business.”
  • TechCrunch’s Jon Shieber suggested that vision is the only limiting factor that entrepreneurs need to remember. “Your business is only as big as you think it can be,” he advised.
  • “Whenever you need money, no one wants to give it to you,” Jay Rogers, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Local Motors, observed. “When you have money, everyone wants to give it to you.”
  • Rogers also noted that “we have a capital deficiency in this country.”
  • As those who have followed Local Motors know, it is on the cusp of helping revolutionize manufacturing. Rogers describes the movement as the third industrial revolution. “It’s the Internet applied to things, not of things,” he said.
  • “I’m looking for unicorns who are unstoppable,” Mark Montgomery of FLO (thinker) said in response to a question about what he seeks in start-ups.
  • “Graphene could really put Tennessee on the map,” Ken Woody, Partner in Innova Memphis, said about a possible big exit in the state. He was referencing General Graphene, a start-up that Vig Sherrill had presented earlier in the program.
  • “Big data (is) a very fertile field that ain’t going anywhere,” Montgomery said. Woody agreed and added agriculture. “The opportunities are way outside biofuels,” Woody said.

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