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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
May 07, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Nine teams complete inaugural cohort of Mid-South I-Corps Hub

All but one of the teams came from UT, Knoxville. One participant came from UT at Chattanooga.

Nine teams from two University of Tennessee (UT) campuses participated in the inaugural three-week business model canvas and customer discovery program offered under the umbrella of the new Mid-South I-Corps Hub, and seven of them presented what they learned in a session Friday at UT, Knoxville (UTK). One team from UT Chattanooga (Amin) could not travel that day, and one (DiMas) from UTK withdrew due to illness.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated by The Wond’ry at Vanderbilt University, the Mid-South I-Corps program is designed to reduce risks associated with translating technologies from the lab to the marketplace by providing training focused on customer segmentation and value propositions.

UTK had been an active participant in the I-Corps South Hub that was coordinated for years by the Georgia Institute for Technology. When Vanderbilt decided to submit a proposal to lead a new four-state region, the university signed on to be a member of the Mid-South Hub, joining its fellow member of the Southeastern Conference and seven other universities in Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Rob Coleman (pictured here), Director of Entrepreneurship and New Ventures in the UTK Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, coordinates the Knoxville campus activities. He said there will be at least two programs annually – one in the fall and another in the spring.

Instructors for the just concluded cohort were Shawn Carson, a Lecturer in UTK’s Haslam College of Business who served I-Corps South Regional Node Director under the Georgia Tech umbrella; Angelique Adams, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence in UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering; and Coleman. Three

Technology Managers from the UT Research Foundation – Gregory Sechrist, Connor Perryman, and Tyler Newton – served as coaches for the teams.

The inaugural cohort under the new management began April 14 with the business model canvas and the all-important customer discovery process being the primary areas of emphasis. Participants were encouraged to make a minimum of 20 different calls or in-person meetings with potential customers to gain their feedback on the product or service.

A key part of the process is to answer a fundamental question: “Will someone buy the product or service being proposed?” Coleman told us that one of the participants was encouraged to modify its business plan to focus more on providing a service than a product, and that input is indicative of the value of the program.

“Talking to customers opens up new doors and opportunities,” he explained.

Adams and Coleman were joined by Tom Rogers, President and Chief Executive Officer of the UT Research Park, and Dan Miller, Director of the “Innovation Crossroads” program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in providing feedback to each of the seven after they presented the changes they made after talking with potential customers. Later, Rogers and Miller discussed the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” and “Innovation Crossroads” programs, respectively.

The nine teams were:

  • Jordan Cannon (pictured here) – Circular Bioplastic;
  • Pritesh Yeole and Vinit Chaudhary – Aligned Composite Technology;
  • Katy Daniels and Mackenna Cooper – Peak Me Up;
  • Eric Lukosi, Colin Patricelli, Colin Webb and Abdulrasheed Sado – DiMas;
  • Ryan Spencer – ThermaMatix;
  • Jake Dvorak – Scan to CAM;
  • Alex Stiles and Dustin Gilmer – Vitriform3D;
  • Gilmer again – AMFG; and
  • Amin Riazi – Amin.

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