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January 04, 2022 | Tom Ballard

PART 3: Here are two more hopes for the Knoxville ecosystem and three start-ups

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked individuals who had been spotlighted in the past year or so in two questions ahead of the dawn of 2022. One concerned their hopes for their local entrepreneurial ecosystem, the other about their aspirations for their company. This is the third in a series capturing their responses.)  

The sixth and seventh respondents to our questions were Alicia Caputo, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Avrio Analytics; and Dan Close, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of 490 BioTech.

  • Founded in 2016 by Caputo and CSO Mik Bertolli, Avrio’s current focus is on AR training for first responders and the federal government. Its solutions take the guesswork out of workforce and infrastructure operations with the goal of increasing efficiency and decreasing risk with technology and methodology that are proven to deliver high ROI for mission-critical operations. The company was founded in Knoxville and considers the city is official headquarters although it also maintains a presence in Colorado.
  • 490 Biotech is focused on changing the way pharmaceutical drug testing is done, utilizing bioluminescent technologies that enable new drugs to move more quickly through the pharmaceutical testing process. The start-up was the inaugural winner of the PYA-sponsored “Ballard Innovation Award” announced in March 2021.

What one or two wishes do you have for the entrepreneurial ecosystem where you and your start-up are located?

  • CAPUTO: Companies to start trusting work from Knoxville start-ups. Being a start-up in Knoxville is almost a “bad name” for companies in Knoxville. Or really, they don’t trust the work you do. It wasn’t until we moved that we received more work from Tennessee. There are so many large and successful companies in Knoxville, but they do not invest in the work out of small companies that are local. Not just the support for the business groups and activities but actually hire them for work.
  • CLOSE: One thing I noticed this year was the growing number of first-time entrepreneurs. East Tennessee is a great place to start a business and has wonderful resources to help first time founders like myself. As we move into 2022, I hope to see that number continue to grow, with more folks deciding to turn their passion into a successful new business.

What specific aspirations/goals do you have for your start-up in 2022?

  • CAPUTO: We have more than doubled our revenue every year for five years and the goal for 2022 is to double once again.
  • CLOSE: Despite the unique challenges of 2021, 490 BioTech launched our lead products and started generating revenue. As we move into 2022, our goal is to build upon this success, help more customers, and continue to expand our product lines.

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