Three local start-ups advance to “Big Idea” finale on June 24

Big Idea-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Nine competed, and three were left standing after last night’s knock-out round in the “What’s the Big Idea?!” business competition.

The event pitted a start-up from each of three teams in three rounds of pitching and judging to select one from each round to advance to the competition’s finale set for June 24 at Relix Theater, 1208 North Central Street.

Each three-company team had been coached for nearly a month by a local, successful business executive who volunteered for the role. The coaches were Guille Cruze, Founder of The White Stone Group Inc.; Misty Mayes, President of Management Solutions, LLC; and John Sharpe, President of a number of companies including ARG Executive Search and ARG Financial Staffing.

When the dust settled, the three that advanced to the finale were:

  • Round One: FlowSink;
  • Round Two: Vuture; and
  • Round Three: AmpTrader.com.

The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 to help defray start-up costs, office space, and complimentary business services.

“What’s the Big Idea?!” is a joint effort of the Knoxville Chamber, Development Corporation of Knox County, and Tech 20/20.

Judges for Tuesday’s knock-out round were Jim Biggs of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Amy Cathey and Tom Graves of the University of Tennessee’s (UT) College of Business Administration, Fred Hess of Tech 20/20, and Stacey Patterson of the UT Research Foundation.

Here’s a brief snapshot of all nine companies competing last night and the entrepreneurs behind them:

  • AmpTrader.com (Jonathan Owens) – He has developed a website dedicated to facilitating peer-to-peer, item-for-item trading for guitar-related music equipment. Owens said that guitarists are always in search of an instrument with the “perfect tone,” and trading is the best way to accomplish this. Existing services do not meet all of the needs, such as trust and bartering.
  • ComPark (Daniel Schuh) – Under the tagline that “Business Parks Here,” the company’s app uses a patent pending process and existing cellphone technology, such as QR code readers, to help businesses attract customers once they park in a specific lot or garage while also providing discounts to the parkers.
  • Elder-Tech (Theresa Maples) – Her company provides technical experts to assist the elderly and technically challenged with computers and mobile devices. “Elderly move more at the speed of a snail, while technology evolves more at the speed of a cheetah,” Maples said. She plans to use retired teachers to provide both phone support and in-home services.
  • FlowSink (Martin Wade) – He is developing a multi-use, portable sink that continuously exchanges dirty water with fresh. Wade describes it as “the tile layers and painter’s dream tool.” The device can be used in tasks like cleaning painting tools and mopping floors. During his Tuesday presentation, Wade showed a video where he demonstrated how cleaning excess grout from a tile installation job can be done better and quicker with the continuous importation of clear water to clean the sponge.
  • International House Works, LLC (John W. Cook) – Cook has been looking at the challenge for more than a decade. His concept is to move from a donor-based process to an investment process that builds and distributes simple homes, medical clinics, and Internet technology to developing countries and disaster relief areas. His tagline is “Delivering Safe Shelter to the World.”
  • MyPTshop.com (Christopher Saah) – He has a web application that allows personal trainers to effortlessly create an eCommerce website where they can sell and suggest fitness products.  In essence, his concept leverages the existing relationship that the nearly 270,000 personal trainers in the U.S. already have with their clients to enhance the former’s income while also ensuring that the customers get exactly what they need.
  • Prime Medical Training (Andrew Randazzo) – His company offers continuing education courses needed by professionals in the medical field who need to maintain certifications as well as consumers who increasingly need training for jobs such as babysitting and lifeguarding.
  • Retailius (Casey Ash) – This is a point-of-sale software that allows small businesses to reach consumers more efficiently and effectively through the integration of selling channels.
  • Vuture (Michael Crain) – He has developed a user-friendly iOS application that captures and preserves user’s memories to be viewed today or in the future. Crain’s concept has evolved to include a focus on commercial enterprises such as automobile dealers that will use the service to send video messages to consumers after a car purchase. His tagline is “The Future Delivery of Today’s Videos.”

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