Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
January 24, 2024 | Tom Ballard

INVESTOR OUTLOOK 8 | What else is on your mind?

Five of our six prognosticators share their final thoughts.

Today’s question as posed to our experts is: “Are there other thoughts you want to share?”

Eric Dobson, Managing Partner, Community Equity Partners LLC and Sheltowee Venture Fund II: There are still many people predicting a market correction in the near term, likely 2025. These cycles occur. They are documented. Big growth cycles almost always follow introduction of new technologies and especially new material science advances. I think we are on the cusp of both an AI (artificial intelligence) revolution to rival the launch of the Internet and a staggering advance in material science. That should portend well for the Innovation Valley for the future.

Tony Lettich, Managing Director, The Angel Roundtable: With an improving economy, we expect 2024 to be a stronger year for investors and entrepreneurs in the state and surrounding region, especially as the year progresses.

Grady Vanderhoofven, President and Chief Executive Officer, Three Roots Capital: With respect to support for start-ups and young companies, our region needs to capitalize on the increasing collaboration among ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), UT (University of Tennessee), and TVA, as well as the new local leadership for Techstars. At the same time, we need to continue to encourage and support entrepreneurs and companies not affiliated with any of the large institutions in our region. “Grassroots” entrepreneurship and company creation is not in any way competitive with individuals and companies affiliated with institutions. We need to support and grow existing pools of capital and create/attract additional capital. We need to leverage the “InvestTN” and “LendTN” programs and attract as much of that capital as possible to our region. We need more capital in our region for equity and for venture debt. I’ve been involved in company creation and financing in this region for almost three decades. Collaboration and capital are critical elements of success in this arena. As a community and as a region, we need to continue to improve.

Ken Woody, President and Partner, Innova Memphis: It’s still a great time to be an investor, and a great time to start a company. The keys to both remain the same – (1) great idea that has strong market appeal, (2) dedicated management team willing to learn and add other sharp people, and (3) commitment to work hard and find a way to win. East Tennessee is a great place to start a company on top of being an awesome place to live.

David Adair, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Solas BioVentures: Solas continues to see across its portfolio slow enrollment in clinical trials (a post COVID phenomenon that will likely last). Slow enrollment, plus the overall rising cost of clinical trials, will remain a headwind.

We thank these five investors and Gene Bressler, Chairman of the Upper Cumberland Investment Alliance, for taking time to share their thoughts on the entrepreneurial ecosystem as we near the end of the first month of 2024.

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