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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 07, 2015 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: College friendship sparks new start-up years later

GigTank-tekno(EDITORS NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series focused on Knoxville start-up Evolvr that is simultaneously participating in two business accelerator programs – “GIGTANK” in Chattanooga and “MediaWorks” in Knoxville.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

A friendship formed during college days at the University of Tennessee is now a local start-up participating in business accelerators in both Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Ironically, one of the Co-Founders of Evolvr – Tyler Hays – grew-up in Knoxville, while the other – Patrick Teasdale – hails from Chattanooga. They are participating simultaneously in the “GIGTANK” program offered by CO.LAB as well as the “MediaWorks” accelerator offered by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC).

The dual arrangement is a first-time approach for the two accelerators that are participants in Launch Tennessee’s regional network.

“Tyler and I met in college,” Teasdale told us. “We ran in the same social groups. Tyler always had a video camera with him, and we became filmmakers in our small community.”

The duo stayed in contact after college. Hays, trained as an industrial engineer, now works for Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., and is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker. Teasdale, who earned his degree in marketing, worked for five years for a Christian non-profit, including two years in an overseas assignment.

They reconnected in Knoxville two years ago, just days after Teasdale returned to the states, and have always dreamt of building business together.

How did they get involved in the two accelerator programs?

“Alex Lavidge approached Tyler earlier in the year,” Teasdale said, referencing the former Knoxvillian who is 2015 “GIGTANK” Director. That interest was spawned at least in part by the core idea behind their start-up – the application of virtual reality in the marketplace.

“Alex threw out the idea working in VR,” Hays said, adding, “the potential that VR has is enormous, but developing the proper VR storytelling medium is vital to success of the technology.”

The tagline for Evolvr is “evolving the world of virtual reality, one story at a time.” This phrase aptly describes their vision – to incorporate the emerging field of virtual reality into their core expertise as filmmakers and storytellers.

As the two aspiring entrepreneurs assess the opportunities, they are very mindful that they are pioneers in an emerging technology.

“It’s a little bit like the Wild West,” Hays explains, noting that the rules and techniques have not been determined.

“We are more than excited to be part of shaping that world,” he says.

NEXT: Their plans for optimizing the accelerator experience and their future.

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