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August 22, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Hyder Alabed comes back home to serve as Program Director for Techstars new East TN accelerator

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

For the newly named Program Director of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator,” it’s a return back home to East Tennessee.

Hyder Alabed was born and raised for part of his youthful life in Johnson City before moving away with his family, yet he has returned annually to Northeast Tennessee to visit relatives. Then, for eight months in late 2017 and early 2018, Alabed was an Associate with Chattanooga’s Dynamo Ventures. His appointment several weeks ago to the Techstars role for the new Knoxville and Oak Ridge-based program allows him to check the box on the third metro area of East Tennessee.

“When I first heard about it (the new accelerator), I had to figure out how to be a part of it,” Alabed told us in an interview. “I’m so excited about the opportunity.”

Hyder Alabed

The smiling, outgoing graduate of Florida State University brings a very diverse, but relevant background to the role of Program Director for the initiative funded by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and University of Tennessee (UT).

Alabed has two B.S. degrees from the Tallahassee institution – one in Statistics and the other in Applied Economics. After college, he logged nearly three years with two law firms and the Florida Bar and another roughly two years with the Walt Disney Company, including its Los Angeles-based Disney Accelerator where he was exposed briefly to the Techstars organization which originally partnered with Disney to launch the accelerator program.

“My Disney Accelerator experience started with a cold email,” Alabed said in describing his first foray into the world of start-ups, but underscored the knowledge and insights he gained with this point: “Epic Games and Kahoot! were two of the many great accelerator participants I had the privilege of working with during my time there.”

At Dynamo, he said that he spent most of his time on airplanes meeting with and vetting potential investment candidates that met the firm’s criteria of “redefining global supply chains, rethinking the concept of mobility, and most importantly, led by an exceptional team.”

From Chattanooga, Alabed returned to Florida where, for the past three years, he has served as the Strategic Development Ventures Lead for Lockheed Martin’s Missiles & Fire Control division, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin Ventures (LMV). It is the investment arm of the global giant and makes strategic investments in companies that are developing cutting edge technologies in core businesses and new markets important to Lockheed Martin.

Alabed sees a strong comparison between the philosophy of Lockheed Martin Ventures and the role that the “Big 3” – ORNL, TVA and UT – will be playing in the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator.”

LMV writes on its webpage that it “provides partner companies with access to our world-class engineering talent, state-of-the-art technologies, and research and access to the company’s international business relationships and supply chain.” For the local accelerator, he notes how important it will be for the “Founders of the start-ups in the program to get to work with these great partners on their proof of concepts or other collaborations.”

Alabed sees further overlap in the technologies in which Lockheed Martin had interests and those that have been previously cited for the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator” like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and cybersecurity.

“My previous experience has inspired me to continue supporting emerging science and technology founders, and the ‘Techstars Industries of the Future’ program is the perfect opportunity to do that,” Alabed says, adding, “With the premier research-driven institutions (here), we have the recipe for success.”

He describes his role as supporting Tricia Martinez, Managing Director for the Knoxville and Oak Ridge accelerator, in identifying, recruiting, and serving the companies. You can read more about her in this recent article. Alabed’s role also includes planning the actual daily schedule of activities during the three months that the 10 teams are here, starting January 24, 2022.

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