Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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May 14, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Market Square Ventures celebrates first three investments

The venture capital firm is based in Knoxville with a focus on early stage (Pre-seed, Seed, Series A) startups in Tennessee, the Southeast, and Appalachia.

Market Square Ventures (MSV) launched with a bang in April. Just one month as an active venture capital (VC) firm, and they’ve already invested in three Tennessee-based companies: VetVerifi, Daily Crunch, and Authentrics.AI.

MSV is an investment firm targeting early stage start-ups that are in a pre-seed or series A round. The firm is comprised of five general partners: Brandon Bruce, Founder of Uncat and current Managing Director of the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator; Marty Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PYA; Harry Boston, President, and CEO of Boston Government Services LLC, Rosa Mar, retired executive with Levi Strauss & Co.; John Bruck, former founder of a Cincinnati-based engineering company, and current advisor to Innovation Crossroads, Spark Innovation Center, and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Additionally, there are nearly 30 limited partners in the firm.

“We are committed to investing in exceptional founders,” Bruce said at the MSV launch party on Monday evening.

The firm said it can invest in companies anywhere; however, they are dedicated to investing in companies based in Tennessee and the Appalachian region.

So far, Market Square Ventures has $4 million committed in capital that the firm plans to invest over the next three years. Bruce said they’re hoping to increase the capital investment amount to $35 million within the next few years, with a goal of 3X return.

Bruck explained the critical need for more people to get involved in VC opportunities in Knoxville.

“We have two significant problems in the area. The first is access to lab space, which is a problem the UT Research Park is actively trying to solve. We’re slowly improving in that area. The other major issue is access to capital. Market Square Ventures is only a small solution to a very large problem,” Bruck said.

The first three investments display the MSV’s commitment to a diverse portfolio. Two of the three founders attended Monday’s launch event in-person, while the third attended via a pre-recorded video.

David Servodidio is the Founder of VetVerifi, which better connects veterinarian clinics to pet service providers on a secure, automated platform to fetch, verify, and share vaccination records in seconds.

Dave Henry
David Servodidio

When Servodidio went through the customer discovery process, he realized that a typical vet clinic may receive between 20-30 calls a day just for records. Since then, he has ventured into a completely new space with no competitors for his technology.

VetVerifi is currently working with some big-name brands on integrating its technology with their systems for easier use.

John Derrick, who is based in Knoxville, is the Founder of Authentrics.AI. His company is still in the pre-seed stages but offers a promising technology in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI).

John Derricks
John Derrick

He explained AI as being a black box of data. If you’re not monitoring what data is going in, how can you be sure that what comes out is accurate? Authentrics.AI offers an “MRI” for the data and gives visibility into the black box.

“Nobody understands how we do what we do, but everyone realizes how big of a problem it is,” Derrick said.

Laurel Orley is the Co-Founder of Daily Crunch, alongside her aunt, Diane Orley. They create uniquely crunchy nut snacks with a patented sprouting method. Their patented process packs a bigger punch with extra crunch and protein in each nut.

The start-up struck a deal with Target and can now be found in 500 stores across the United States. Additionally, they are working with other big-chain grocery stores to get their product on the shelves.

The partners in Market Square Ventures stand proudly behind their first three investments and foreshadowed that more announcements will be made soon.


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