By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Knoxville can lay claim to a number of nationally-recognized media companies including Scripps Networks Interactive, Rivr Media, Jupiter Entertainment and Regal Cinemas. Somewhat less known, but very robust is the East Tennessee region’s emerging digital media start-up community.
The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) announced plans yesterday to build on both platforms with the region’s first-ever digital media accelerator for start-ups.
The new initiative, dubbed MediaWorks, is an intensive, 12-week program designed to help young digital media companies grow quickly. Ten startups will be selected for the inaugural cohort that kicks-off May 8. Applications for MediaWorks are being accepted now, and the deadline for applying is April 23.
“MediaWorks provides a great opportunity for some of the most talented and experienced people from the media industry to collaborate with the next generation of media innovators and visionaries,” said Jonathan Sexton, KEC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
The sector includes companies in digital video, augmented reality, digital signage, digital audio, and digital art.
“We see an opportunity and untapped potential,” Sexton said, adding, “It’s one step in a long-term commitment by KEC to develop a thriving start-up community here.”
Back Porch Group, a Nashville-based group, will lead the teams through the instructional and mentorship-driven accelerator program. The group’s collective resume includes work for Google, Disney, Microsoft, Warner Brothers, and a number of start-ups.
The content during the 12 weeks will cover customer discovery, product development, market identification, business development, growth strategy, and cultivation of potential strategic and financial partners.
For Jim Biggs, KEC’s Executive Director, and Sexton, MediaWorks is the culmination of concepts and possibilities we discussed during separate interviews over the past several months.
When we profiled Sexton late last year in a two-part series, he was serving as a master mentor in Launch Tennessee’s “The TENN” initiative and was playing a role in KEC’s “Start-up Day.”
“I’ve seen a lot of things across the state,” the serial entrepreneur said at the time. “There’s no reason we can’t do any of it here.”
Likewise, during our initial conversation with Biggs that produced this profile, we discussed options to bring more of a focus on technology to the entrepreneurial activities in a region that is one of only a handful in the country to house both a national laboratory and a major research university.
MediaWorks becomes a key element in KEC’s efforts to highlight the region’s leadership in technology, digital media, and media content creation.
“We’re excited to run a program that takes advantage of a robust media ecosystem that already exists and build new companies in that space,” Biggs said.