Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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January 03, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Local entrepreneurs share their wishes for the community and their start-ups for 2021

Since early 2012 we have spotlighted the aspirations, plans and progress of entrepreneurs, primarily in East Tennessee. The progress that they have made in the nine years of is significant.

As we looked to 2021 and what we hope will be a much more positive 12 months, we thought a great way to launch the first feature article for 2021 was to ask several of those entrepreneurs that we featured in 2020 for their New Year’s wishes in two categories – for this community and society in general and as they look at their goals for their start-up.

Here are their responses in alphabetical order by last name.

Alex Abell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lunchpool.

  • For this community and society in general: In the new year, I wish that those in our community and the world at large will gather together and embrace differences of opinion as opportunities to widen their own perspectives.
  • Goals for Lunchpool: I hope we have a part in that at Lunchpool – helping people pool together and engage one another around virtual tables for now and physical tables once it’s again safe to do so!

Nate Brady, Founder, LEAPh Biosystems LLC.

  • For this community and society in general: I would have to say I am most looking forward to a return to speaking with folks in person again in 2021. I appreciate the new literacy I have gained with social networking tools and have newfound appreciation for their utility in the workplace, but being able to get out and continue to build on relationships within the rich start-up culture here in Knoxville is what I wish for most in 2021.
  • Goals for LEAPh Biosystems: We hope to win a spot in the fifth cohort of Innovation Crossroads, the hard-tech accelerator program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This opportunity would provide us the best chance to achieve our main goal for 2021, scaling our technology from the laboratory to the real world with the production of our first prototype.

Brandon Bruce, Co-Founder and CEO, Uncat; Chair of the Board, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC); and Co-Founder, Startup Knox (plus many more roles).

  • For this community and society in general: Only spend time lifting each other up.
  • Goals for Uncat: Product-market fit and customer scale for Uncat.

Dan Close, Chief Scientific Officer, 490 BioTech.

  • For this community and society in general: 2020 was quite the year! Although many of us were pushed out of our comfort zones or forced to adapt to “new normals,” what strikes me is how many of us used that as motivation to become better. My wish for 2021 is that we don’t lose that momentum of finding ways to be better, no matter what we face.
  • Goals for 490 BioTech: We’re aiming to make 2021 the year of transition at 490 BioTech. Transitioning our focus from product development to product sales. It may not be possible for us to transform how everyone does drug development in one year, but we hope this will be the year we get that transformation started by bringing our products to market.

James Horey, Founder and CEO, ReviewBox.

  • For this community and society in general: I’d love to see all the local startups become even more connected. My observations are that the software startups aren’t particularly well connected with the Innovation Crossroads startups, and I’d love to see that change. Post-COVID I’d love to see startups in Knoxville become more geographically concentrated (e.g., for us to have a geographic center).
  • Goals for ReviewBox: Our goal is to continue growing our customer base. We’re comfortably past $1 million in annual recurring revenue and hope to nail down a repeatable and sustainable growth strategy to take us to the next level.

Lindsey Lieb, Founder, Happego.

  • For this community and society in general: we live wholeheartedly, forgive more easily and practice kindness towards ourselves and others regularly
  • Goals for Happego: (1) Release our newest version on February 14 to coincide with the international day of love; (2) raise $2.5 million in Q1; (3) curate fresh content; (4) fuel the marketing machine; (5) collaborate with scientists to collect and publish efficacy results; (6) expand into our first B2B vertical markets; and (7) raise $18 million to scale rapidly and globally by Q4.

Bill Malkes, CEO, NellOne Therapeutics Inc.

  • For this community and society in general: Acute injury provides an opening for radiant regeneration.  2020 challenged our mettle physically and socially; my wish come true is for a stronger, more inclusive and vibrant community serving absolutely everyone in 2021 with Knoxville glistening in the lead.
  • Goals for NellOne: We are a company forged in service in all through our products, pursuits and provision.  In 2021 NellOne will grow our societal contribution in what is worthy and virtuous as we conclude safety and toxicity studies for our proprietary NV1 protein while raising our next round of capital.  Bem, the entire team, and I will seek this with all glory to Jesus Christ.

Catherine Porth, Founder and Program Director, Let Her Speak.

  • For this community and society in general: Unity, equity, and understanding. There is a mountain of opportunity on the horizon for Knoxville, and my hope is that we don’t only focus on the “big-time” opportunities but instead holistically look at the impact we can make on helping aspiring leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs at every
  • Goals for Let Her Speak: Let Her Speakcenters on three areas to serve women-in-business: community, research, and education. We plan to grow our community outside Knoxville, conduct new research to uncover barriers and issues we can address, and launch a new cohort program to bring aspiring leaders and existing leaders together.

Lilly Tench, Dual Degree Student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Ag Mentor Network Coordinator, KEC.

  • For this community and society in general: I hope for unity and for healing – in all senses of the word.
  • Goals for KEC: I hope that we can keep our finger on the pulse of the entrepreneurial community and be responsive to its needs during this unique time so that innovation and entrepreneurship can be a force for good in 2021.

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