(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a three-part series spotlighting John Bruck who moved to Knoxville from Ohio in 2015 and has established himself as a major supporter of entrepreneurs and start-ups in the region.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“This community is far more robust than I thought it was when I moved here,” John Bruck says of Knoxville. “Not only did I think it was small, but I was told it was. That’s just not true; there are tremendous opportunities here, and there has been tremendous evolution in the last few years.”
Now, three years after relocating from Cincinnati, the long-time business executive knows a good deal more about the community and its assets and needs. Several of those are glaringly apparent – some not surprises and one that might be.
“The organization of and access to investor capital and to the participation of big companies in the development of start-ups are big challenges,” Bruck says. He’s seen how it can work better through his experience as a member of Queen City Angels in Cincinnati, and anyone who spends time working with or listening to local entrepreneurs would agree that access to capital and support from corporate partners are at the top of their needs.
There’s one, however, that is not on everyone’s radar.
“We really need to have well-resourced and inexpensive co-working and maker space downtown,” Bruck says. “Those outside the UT and ORNL worlds have real challenges finding space where they can hang out, work, collaborate and even make stuff. Maybe there are some local dots that can connect here to make these things happen.”
Bruck saw that need first-hand as lead mentor for nearly two years at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and sees the benefits that come from co-working space as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) and its new accelerator.
The Purdue University alum started his role as EIR in September.
“I was absolutely thrilled that Lynn (Youngs, ACEI Executive Director) agreed that the first thing I needed to do was write a business plan for the accelerator,” Bruck said. “We need to practice what we preach – begin with a vision and create value around that.”
As the EIR for the new accelerator located in the UT Research Foundation’s Business Incubator, he’s focused on helping students, staff, researchers and faculty build their companies, providing mentorship, and teach entrepreneurship.
“The first phase of our strategy and plan is outreach to the campus and follow with intense individual mentoring,” Bruck explains. “We are giving students a platform and space and making connections with outside resources to help them learn how to develop their companies and ultimately pitch to prospective investors and customers. I’m honored to be given the opportunity to be the EIR.”
On a broader front, Bruck says that he sees a need for “more transparency and collaboration across the community. It’s a challenge that I hope the (Innov865) Alliance can address.” With the energy he brings to everything, we know he’ll continue to push that goal.