Innov865 Week 2022 wraps up after 23 events, countless connections
By Shannon Smith, Teknovation Assistant Editor, PYA
Eight days, 23 events, hundreds of people, and countless networking connections later, Innov865 Week 2022 comes to a close.
The most involved year yet kicked off with the three-day Maker City Summit at the Maker Exchange. The seventh annual event but the first full-scale one since the pandemic
featured 30 speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions, one-on-one mentorship, food from all-local vendors, and even the option to get a professional headshot taken.
“It helps broaden the community,” said Courtney Hendricks, Director of Maker Initiatives with The Maker City. “We are ‘The Maker City.’ We make efforts to support and build the creative culture of the city. Additionally, much of the programming we offer is small business education. Being connected with Innov865 Week, it makes sense to interweave these audiences.”
PYA’s Charlotte Managing Principal Anna Bhat taught a ‘Valuation 101’ class to entrepreneurs to help them learn how to estimate the true economic value of their businesses.
Some of the attendees were owners of the businesses pitching in Startup Day.
Startup Day is the big event of Innov865 Week, where six local founders pitched their businesses to a panel of judges and a packed audience at the Mill and Mine to win funding.
Don DeRosa, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Eonix took home the $3,000 judges’ choice prize.
John Phillips, Founder of Primeaux, took home the audience favorite $7,000 prize.
At the event, Genera Energy Inc. was also named the winner of the ‘2022 Traction Award.’
Startup Day was followed by a networking happy hour onsite, as well as a VIP reception in the Sunsphere sponsored by PYA, featuring guest speaker, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) Head Baseball Coach Tony Vitello.
Vitello shared stories about his path to becoming the coach of the Vols, and how he’s learned from his mistakes to keep moving forward.
Wednesday brought more business pitches to the forefront with the “Raising & Rising” lunchtime event, where seven businesses that started in the East Tennessee region shared their pitches and discussed their journeys with a panel of experts. The event, sponsored by CGI, helped grow relationships between those businesses and potential investors, as did Startup Day.
Directly after “Raising & Rising,” CGI gave a presentation premiering its newest technology, CGI Convenu™, and discussed its partnership with UTK around the future of secure digital asset sharing.
Wednesday night, the annual Vol Court speaker series continued at UT’s Haslam College of business, where there was also another local entrepreneur panel. Let Her Speak hosted a happy hour geared toward women entrepreneurs, and all week there have been downtown Knoxville beer and history walking tours!
Thursday boasted two big events, starting with the ‘Innovation Crossroads Showcase,’ where 11 businesses from Cohorts 5 and 6 of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory program pitched their startups.
Then entrepreneurs from several different fields took the stage at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s second “Made for Knoxville LIVE” event at The Square Room. They spoke about their biggest “big pivot moments” that led them to start their own business, nonprofit, or shop. Made for Knoxville described their event as “a high-energy mix of TEDX, MOTH, and PechaKucha all rolled into one, with colorful conversations and audience questions throughout the evening.”
Friday morning took entrepreneurs to Oak Ridge, for the weekly East Tennessee Economic Council breakfast meeting. Cortney Piper of Piper Communications and Tom Ballard of Teknovation and PYA moderated a discussion recapping Innov865 week and its contribution to the area’s entrepreneurial goals.
Then to wrap up the record-breaking 23 events of the week, Techstars hosted a discussion on angel investing. Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of Techstars Industries of the Future, and Samer Saab, Senior Vice President of Product at Alloy Labs, worked to clarify what angel investing is and how to take advantage of it as an entrepreneur.
After a busy week, the business community is buzzing and plans are already in the work for Innov865 Week 2023.