By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Several years of effort by a core group of technology-focused individuals will reach fruition on August 15 when the Knoxville Technology Council (KTech) holds its launch event at Jewelry TV, 9600 Parkside Drive.
The mid-afternoon to early evening event begins at 3 p.m. and will feature a series of live demonstrations of locally-developed technologies and will culminate with networking on the Jewelry TV rooftop bar. Individuals interested in attending can register here.
“I want attendees of the launch event to see live demonstrations of technology that they can’t see anywhere else,” says Brandon Bruce, one of the key players in launching KTech. As the organization’s Vice President, he’s in the midst of recruiting presenters who, as he says, “want to captivate, educate, and inspire the audience with their technology.” Those who think they fit the bill can contact Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent interview, the Co-Founder of Cirrus Insight explained how KTech evolved over a year or two from a question he posed to me and others into an organization with 16 founding members.
“Someone asked me a few years ago if Knoxville had a technology council,” Bruce explained. He assumed the answer was “yes,” but soon discovered it was actually “no” even though Chattanooga and Nashville did. Believing that void should be addressed, Bruce talked to John McNeely, then President of Sword & Shield Enterprise Security, who said such an organization was on his list, too.
“John and I are the instigators of KTech,” Bruce acknowledges.
Ironically, both local entrepreneurs sold their companies in the past year. Cirrus Insight was acquired by Clovis Point Capital LLC, a Houston-based private equity firm, and Bruce departed a few months later but remains very active in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Sword & Shield was acquired by Sunstone Partners, a growth equity firm that combined it with two other cybersecurity companies. McNeely now serves as East Coast General Manager for Avertium, the newly-formed organization.
Bruce explained that the duo pitched the KTech idea to other interested people in the Knoxville region over a period of a year or so. Founding members, in alphabetical order, are Bush’s Beans; Cellular Sales; Cirrus Insight; Clayton Homes; DENSO; Discovery Channel; Elavon; Jewelry TV; Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union; Ministry Brands; Ortho Tennessee; Rodefer Moss & Company PLLC; Sword & Shield; Team Health; University of Tennessee’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation; and Woolf-McClane.
A subset of the founding members serves on KTech’s board of directors that is chaired by Tom Lakins of Elavon. “Our amazing founding board members come from the relationships that John McNeely has built in this community and his reputation as a technology leader,” Bruce says of his fellow instigator who is KTech’s President.
“Our goal is to have an organization that is industry-driven,” Bruce says, adding that it is “of, by, and for the members, and in service to the Greater Knoxville community.”
KTech’s number one priority is the attraction, training and retention of a talented workforce, something that is closely aligned with another high priority – promoting the Knoxville region as a great place to live and work if you are in the tech sector. The latter is a message targeted at individuals who are either unfamiliar with the area or have a perception that it is not as favorable for tech workers as it should be.
One evolving strategy to serve members and also help market the region to a broader geographic area is a jobs board where the positions that members are trying to fill will be consolidated in one location. That site should be operational soon and will have the capability to access members’ job listings in whatever form they exist and integrate them with those of other KTech members in a single site.
There’s more to the new organization that just serving members; it’s also promoting the tech sector locally.
“Our message is that the technology industry is vital for this region to thrive,” Bruce says. “This is tech broadly defined . . . any employer that utilizes technology and/or has tech staff, from start-ups to medium-sized businesses to enterprises.” Membership in the Knoxville Technology Council is $1,500 per company per year, while founding memberships are $5,000 a company annually. Start-ups can join for free.
In addition to the talent/workforce components, facilitating connectivity among KTech’s members is another priority. “We have plans for a series of local events and workshops as well as tours of local companies and leadership trips to visit tech communities in Nashville, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Research Triangle, and other regional hubs,” Bruce says.
The organization also wants to connect talented technology professionals with non-profits that have technology projects or need technology help. Bruce said KTech is in the process of launching a system for non-profits to post their technology needs and connect with tech professionals who want to volunteer.
“We’re modeling it after Geek Cause in Nashville,” he says. “We think it can have a big impact here in Knoxville.”