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Knoxville Business News 2023 Investor Outlook
February 07, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Investor Outlook 10 | Final thoughts

Final thoughts cover a wide of needs and opportunities.

Today’s Final Question for 2023: Is there anything you want to address that we have not asked?

Eric Dobson, Chief Executive Officer, Sheltowee Angel Network: I can’t say this enough:  2022 was a great year for Sheltowee. We invested more money in more companies than any year prior. We launched our second venture fund and are making investments as we speak. We enjoyed working with the Knoxville Chamber to create an angel educational series that resides on the Chamber site for the public to access. And, after the success of the “Women’s Capital Series” in partnership with Let Her Speak, we are in discussion to support a women’s angel group forming in the region. We are proud members of the Knoxville community and look forward to another great year in 2023. Stay tuned! More to come.

Tony Lettich, Managing Director, The Angel Roundtable: We would like to wish the “Investor Outlook” series readers success and prosperity with all their entrepreneurial efforts during 2023!

Grady Vanderhoofven, President and Chief Executive Officer, Three Roots Capital: I believe this is a good time to be in Tennessee. Our state, while imperfect, is performing well from an economic perspective relative to many other states and regions of the country and the world. There are many, many positive influences and activities across the state. From a state budget perspective, Tennessee is very healthy. Many of the large institutions in the state are thriving and implementing growth strategies. Major corporations are making major investments in Tennessee. The recognition and appreciation of entrepreneurship and the need for access to capital for young and small businesses is at a very high level right now. This is a good time to think creatively about how to capitalize on the positive momentum.

Ken Woody, President and Partner, Innova: Innova was founded 15 years ago and is on our fourth fund, with two actively fundraising. We see brighter opportunities for early stage investing than ever before, even in this tough environment. Venture capital investing is both more risky than most other investing and also longer term to payout, but it is also one of the most rewarding. You can learn more about the founders, their teams, their technology or services than just buying a stock. You know where they live, how hard they work, how much their company means to them. You see the payback to the communities when they succeed and see the value of them investing in local businesses and investing in the lives of those who work for them, and those who follow. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done, and I love doing it.

David Adair, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Solas BioVentures: Our state is on the precipice of the tipping point for real biosciences, not just the health care capital of the world.    Chattanooga has announced a 100 gig Quantum internet that allows for massive data crunch capabilities. This lends itself well to artificial intelligence plays for healthcare analytics and drug discovery enhancement of potential target searches. The Cherokee Innovation Center is maturing to support unique start-up requisites. Our University of Tennessee System and Health Science Centers, as well as Vanderbilt University, continue to produce Tier 1 research which tends to support natural basecamps for bio plays. It is no happenstance the Bay Area and Cambridge just spontaneously appeared. It requires infrastructure that has and is continuing to be developed in Tennessee. The newsletter and the Life Sciences advocacy of Abby Trotter are ushering us into early innings of the Bio Evolution. We must examine all existing and future legislative efforts that can either hinder or alternatively enhance our state’s ability to attract venture capital firms, start-ups, and ultimately mature those efforts to benefit our state. We cannot rest on the laurels of automotive makers and battery producers. We must make innovative changes in the education system to support this industry; it must start as early as middle school to introduce the industry and culminate with unique high school offerings, such as those championed by Evelina Galas in the Williamson County system. I would be amiss if I did not mention specifically the Herculean effort Kurt Riemenschneider is doing to advocate for Bio-specific teaching efforts in our state. We must not accept the status quo, but rather challenge all dogmas to make our state more attractive to relocation candidates in the bio and med tech space.

Derren Burrell, Founder, President and General Partner, Veteran Ventures Capital: I’d like to stress our response to this question from last year. The best long-term play is veterans – year in and year out. We believe veterans make better entrepreneurs and business leaders (“vetrepreneurs”). While in uniform, their battle-tested leadership drives performance for our nation. After transitioning from military service, those same virtues and traits of successful veteran leaders drive performance and financial return in their business careers and civilian life.

This wraps-up the 2023 “Investor Outlook” series. We again thank each of our contributors – David Adair, Derren Burrell, Eric Dobson, Scott Ewing, Tony Lettich, Grady Vanderhoofven, and Ken Woody. It would not have been possible without their participation.

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