By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) held its version of “speed dating” or, perhaps a more appropriate description would be “speed intros,” on Thursday night at its Market Square offices.
During a rapid fire hour, each of the 10 companies that comprise KEC’s inaugural “MediaWorks” accelerator had six minutes to introduce themselves to the mentors that KEC had recruited and media representatives that regularly cover local entrepreneurs.
That’s right; Carly Harrington of the News Sentinel and I were one of the stops for the entrepreneurs, many of whom we knew from past articles that one or both of us had written.
Attending events like this and meeting motivated entrepreneurs is an exhilarating experience. The passion, vision and commitment that I saw and heard are infectious.
All but one of the “MediaWorks” companies is local. (Click here for a complete list.) The out-of-towner is Jonathan Susman of Adagio, a Chattanooga-based company. When he told us he plans to put 500 miles a week on his car to participate in the KEC accelerator, I asked the logical question: why? Susman’s answer was simply to develop the best financial business strategy that he can, and “MediaWorks” offers that opportunity.
His answer helps underscore the importance of the mentors that KEC Executive Director Jim Biggs and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jonathan Sexton have recruited. It is a diverse, seasoned group that includes both advisors for all companies that need their help and others who will work more intensely with one company.
The overall advisory group includes:
- Channing Dawson, Senior Advisor, Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc.;
- Mike Manning, Founder of Strategic Advice, LLC; and
- Culver Schmid, Attorney with Baker Donelson.
The one-on-one mentors include:
- Mike Akers, Founding Partner of Blueriver Partners, LLC;
- Mac Bartine, Principal and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of VIEO Design;
- Bob Bradley, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NewsBreak Media Networks;
- Steve Chin, Chief Product Officer of Survature, Inc.;
- Craig Davis, former COO and Chief Financial Officer for HYPE Products, LLC;
- Lewis Fraser, Founder and Principal of Caliber Consulting;
- Chuck Morris, Founder of Morris Creative Group;
- Will Overstreet, Founder and CEO of VoicesHeard Media, Inc.;
- Tony Runyan, Vice President of Product for VoicesHeard;
- Tommy Smith, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy for ORNL Federal Credit Union; and
- Joseph Vangieri, President and CEO of DigiTrax Entertainment.
KEC publicly unveils the companies at its “MediaWorks Demo Day” on July 11.