Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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January 06, 2019 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: Gary Rawlings has a breadth of knowledge across a broad spectrum of technologies

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series spotlighting Gary Rawlings, one of several individuals who serve as mentors in both the Life Science Network and the Energy Mentor Network. More recently, as noted in this article, Rawlings has joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a Technology Consultant for the “Innovation Crossroads” program.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

If you’ve ever been in a meeting or general discussion with Gary Rawlings, you were no doubt impressed with the breadth of knowledge he has about a broad spectrum of technologies . . . from life sciences to energy and everything in between.

The Houston native and recent transplant to Murfreesboro says that “I always enjoyed science.” Somewhere between completing his M.S. in Physics at Southwest Texas State University and pursuing his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering, Rawlings came to an important realization that has driven him for more than four decades.

“All of this science I have learned I can use to solve real problems,” he told us in a recent interview. “That’s what I like to do.”

At the same time, over a more than three-decade corporate career that included nearly 24 years with Monsanto, Rawlings has also honed his skills in an equally important, non-scientific area.

“A core my whole career has been business development,” he says. “That teaches you a lot about a variety of things.”

Now, after the corporate years, a brief stint with start-up where the technology did not work, and another career with an entrepreneurial support organization, Rawlings is using his scientific and business knowledge to help technology-based start-ups in two mentoring programs funded by Launch Tennessee and operated by two membership-based non-profits.

One is the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s (TAEBC) “Energy Mentor Network” where Rawlings is the Executive in Residence for SkyNano and on the mentor team for NthCycle. Both start-ups are part of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The second mentor program is operated by Life Science Tennessee.

In addition, Rawlings also serves as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Cumberland Emerging Technologies in Nashville.

You get the picture; like many of us, he still likes being in the game.

Rawlings and his wife moved to Murfreesboro in early 2015 to be closer to two of their three children who live there. Prior to that, he had spent his weeks commuting seven hours each way from their home in Greensboro, NC to Columbus, OH where Rawlings served for six years as Vice President for Commercialization at TechColumbus, the non-profit now known as Rev1 Ventures.

“My primary job was to mine technologies at The Ohio State University (OSU),” he explained. “I integrated myself throughout the university. We had a great partnership with the tech licensing team. Mine was almost a middleman role.”

That experience working with a major research university and its commercialization folks has clearly benefitted Rawlings and the start-ups he is serving in the two mentor networks. He’s also part of the team from the TAEBC supporting companies in cohorts one and two of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” program.

“Eighty percent of the new deal flow at TechColumbus came off the streets,” Rawlings noted, quickly adding the antithesis that “80 percent of the deals that raised significant dollars came out of the research enterprises” – OSU and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

That’s a statistic that is not unique to Ohio.

NEXT: How is Rawlings drawing on his vast experience to help start-ups?

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