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September 10, 2015 | Tom Ballard

KEC, partners launching “CodeWorks” start-up accelerator

codeWorksBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The state’s first-ever start-up accelerator focused exclusively on the coding community is now accepting applications.

Five organizations – CodeStock, KnoxDevsBSides KnoxvilleLaunchTN and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) – are joining forces to offer the new program named “CodeWorks.” It builds on the community’s vibrant software development sector that is much more pronounced than many individuals realize.

Until we launched on January 23, 2012, we were not aware of just how many companies are involved in this space locally. During the ensuing period, we have witnessed considerable growth throughout the community.

Take for example the community’s first-ever “BSides Knoxville” network security conference held earlier this year. We highlighted the conference and the importance of the coding sector in a interview with Joe Gipson of Cisco. Just a few months later, the seventh annual and largest ever Codestock conference sold out in a greatly expanded venue, and KEC organized a start-up track within the overall conference.

“The idea for ‘CodeWorks’ came about gradually,” according to KEC’s Jonathan Sexton, but it clearly complements the overall mission of the Center.

“Software is eating the world,” he notes.“It’s really inseparable from any sector or industry at this point, so by having a program dedicated to supporting and nurturing software development in our area, it complements almost everything we do.”

Sexton said the KEC team had always seen coding as a key player in the region, but the staff’s interest intensified through involvement in Codestock and the BSides Conference. That interest reached a new level during one of this year’s “Media Works” weekend sprints when 25 coders showed-up to help the start-up teams get to a prototype stage.

“During the course of the weekend, we were pulled aside a lot by our volunteer mentors, asking for meetings about ideas they had been working on,” Sexton said. “Many developers mentioned that they could easily build the products they wanted to bring into the world, but had no experience with the business side of staffing, growing, funding, and marketing a company. At that point, it made perfect sense to run a start-up program for local developers, and we are thrilled to see it come to life.”

Sexton says those applying for the program should expect a “fast-paced, highly collaborative, and very intense program designed to help technical entrepreneurs find problem-solution fit, product market fit, and a scalable, repeatable business model.”

A total of six teams will spend more than 50 hours over 12 weeks focused on pushing code, developing customers, attracting users, and creating their investable story with the help of local industry experts, business mentors, and thought leaders. The first session begins October 6 and will continue every Monday night until “Demo Day” on December 17. There will also be at least one “weekend sprint,” a 48-hour launch like activity that KEC successfully used in its recently concluded second annual “MediaWorks.”

Applications are now being accepted with a deadline of September 23. Click here to apply.

KEC will also host an information session on September 15 for those interested in learning more about “CodeWorks.”



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