Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
September 25, 2022 | Tom Ballard

It’s another information-packed weekly “News & Notes” feature

This week’s “News & Notes” feature is topped by two start-ups with East Tennessee ties being selected for TechCrunch magazine’s first-ever “Startup Battlefield 200.” Other items include funding for Knoxville economic development initiatives and the naming of the five finalists for the upcoming “Idea Leap Grant Pitch Competition” in Chattanooga.

From Knoxville and Chattanooga:

Two companies with ties to East Tennessee are among 200 that have been for TechCrunch magazine’s first-ever “Startup Battlefield 200.” That means they will be able to exhibit at the “TechCrunch Disrupt” conference in San Francisco October 18-20. In addition, TechCrunch will pick 20 of the start-ups to compete for a $100,000 prize.

Those with Tennessee connections are:

  • FLUIX Inc., a participant in the inaugural cohort of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator.” The Orlando, FL-based company is focused on making liquid coolers that increase performance of high-end computers. During the roughly three months that Founder Abhi Sastri spent here, he made a connection with a Lenoir City company that is helping with the design and assembly of the Turbulent Liquid Cooling devices. Just last week, Sastri participated in the fireside chat during “Startup Day” in Knoxville where he shared his enthusiasm for the region.
  • Maro, originally known as BeforeWeBegin when it was co-founded in Chattanooga by Kenzie Butera Davis and Lilly Mittenthal. The company has built a full stack child development kit to equip the champions of a child’s life with the tools and data they need to support healthy youth and teen development, when and where they need them – at home, at school and at the clinic. We spotlighted their early efforts in two biz articles in January 2020 here and April 2020 here. The renamed start-up was part of the Fall 2021 cohort of Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundryprogram.

From Knoxville:

  • The Knoxville City Council unanimously approved two economic development-related budget items at its meeting last week. One, totaling $632,300, will fund the annual contract with the Knoxville Chamber and help underwrite the Chamber’s “Path to Prosperity” initiative. The other was a $100,000 contract with the Cherokee Farm Development Corporation to support the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.” Local online newspaper Compass reported that Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon credited the accelerator with being the reason the city is gaining national attention for nurturing entrepreneurs. She made that point as well at last week’s “Startup Day.”
  • Provectus Biopharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, announced that it has entered into an option agreement with the University of Miami (UM) for an exclusive worldwide license of intellectual property developed by the Ophthalmic Biophysics Center (OBC) of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (BPEI), which is part of the UM Health System. The option will be for the use of OBC’s photodynamic antimicrobial therapy medical device in combination with Provectus’ proprietary pharmaceutical-grade rose bengal for the treatment of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections of the eye. The company also initiated a sponsored research program with OBC to investigate Provectus’ rose bengal for the treatment of infectious keratitis. The Provectus news release can be found here.
  • The Knoxville Chapter of Bunker Labs will host a “Bunker Connect” event this Wednesday beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Five Thirty Lounge, 530 South Gay Street. Click here to register.

From Chattanooga:

The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union has announced the finalists who will compete in its fifth annual “Idea Leap Grant Pitch Competition” to be held October 18. The five finalists will compete for a total of $100,000 in grant funds. The grand prize winner will receive $50,000, first runner-up receives $20,000, and the other three runners-up will receive $10,000 each. All of the monies are focused on helping the winners expand their business and boost growth. Those selected are: Be CaffeinatedMountain View Low Vision ServicesNeutral Ground ChattanoogaNewTerra Compost, and Sleepyhead Coffee.

From Northeast Tennessee:

Applications are now being accepted for the “CORE Fundamentals of Construction Program” offered by the Sync Space Entrepreneur Center, DR Horton, and Northeast State Community College. It is a completely free program that will give participants the education and skills needed to become a general contractor in the region. Skills that students will master include: (1) Safety & Personal Protective Equipment; (2) Tape Measuring and Dimensions; (3) Marking and Drafts; (4) Hand Tools; (5) Construction Materials; (6) Power Tools; (7) Power Saws; and (8) Levels and Squaring. To apply for the program that begins October 3, click here.

From Nashville:

  • Nominations are being accepted through October 5 for the 14th annual “NTC Awards” program hosted by the Greater Nashville Technology Council. The in-person event, scheduled for next February at the Wildhorse Saloon, honors Middle Tennessee’s rich community of developers and technology entrepreneurs, enthusiasts and institutions with awards in 14 categories. Those categories are: (1) Chief Information Officer of the Year; (2) Chief Technology Officer of the Year; (3) Community Leader of the Year; (4) Cyber Security Leader of the Year; (5) Data Scientist of the Year; (6) Diversity and Inclusion Initiative of the Year; (7) Diversity and Inclusion Advocate of the Year; (8) Emerging Leader of the Year; (9) Innovator of the Year; (10) Product Manager of the Year; (11) Software Engineer of the Year; (12) Technology Company of the Year; (13) Technology Start-Up of the Year; and (14) Technology Educator of the Year. Once the nomination process closes, those individuals and companies will have until October 28 to complete an application. Finalists will be announced December 15. For more information and a link to the nomination form, click here.
  • Parler, a provider of a viewpoint-neutral, free speech social media platform, has raised $16 million in Series B funding, bringing its total investment capital to $56 million. In addition to the funding, the company also announced the acquisition of Irvine, CA-based private cloud company Dynascale Inc., which provides businesses around the globe with private and hybrid cloud solutions and customized managed services as an alternative to Big Tech providers.
  • Vanderbilt University’s the Wond’ry is hosting “The Tennessee Maker Fest” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT this Friday. More details can be found here.
  • Earth Rides, an all-electric rideshare start-up that officially launched October 1, 2020 in Music City, was featured recently on the TODAY Show (click here to view the clip). We first spotlighted Raven Hernandez, the company’s Founder, in this July 2021 article.

For the Eastern Half of Tennessee:

Opportunity Appalachia is hosting an informational webinar for Tennessee and Virginia projects beginning at 1 p.m. EDT on October 6 to share information about the upcoming application round. The webinar will feature Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and a welcome from Donna Gambrell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Appalachian Community Capital. Community and economic development leaders, local elected officials, developers, and business owners interested in projects in the Appalachian counties of the two states are invited to attend. To register, click here.

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