Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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January 10, 2022 | Tom Ballard

PART 7: Three more entrepreneurs share their hopes for 2022

(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 seventh article in a series capturing their responses.)  

The 16th, 17th and 18th respondents to our questions were Renee Carder, Co-Founder of PixelEXX Systems Inc.; Rachel Fletcher, Founder of Knox Upholstery; and Erica Grant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Quantum Lock Technologies LLC.

  • PixelEXX Systems, a member of Cohort 4 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is an imaging technology company developing ultra-small cameras for medical endoscopy applications. Minimally invasive procedures are increasingly replacing more costly open surgery, driving a demand for smaller, smarter visualization tools.
  • Knox Upholstery is a woman-owned, black-owned custom furniture upholstery business that grew out of Fletcher’s work at the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville where she was a Props Assistant. She was one of the participants in Cohort 2 of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s “100Knoxville” initiative.
  • Quantum Lock Technologies has developed a patented hardware-software solution makes facilities more secure and connected using completely unpredictable digital keys using quantum information. “We build the brains to make access control systems smarter,” the company writes on its website. Grant is also a participant in Cohort 4 of “Innovation Crossroads.”

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

  • CARDER: It is such a vibrant community that I’m so grateful to be part of. I would like to see it continue to expand the support and extensive set of resources it provides to deep tech entrepreneurs.
  • FLETCHER: I wish for local businesses to work more with each other vs. looking outside the region. And for a more whimsical answer, I also really wish for everyone to get the support and funding they need!
  • GRANT: I hope that the Knoxville start-up ecosystem continues to grow and that we see an emergence of venture capital in this region.

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

  • CARDER: We plan to have completed fabrication and testing of our first silicon imaging arrays in 2022. We continue to work through our fabrication process and have begun the design of our imaging array prototype.
  • FLETCHER: My goals this year are to expand further into Knoxville with a commercial space and to spread my wings.
  • GRANT: In 2022, we are planning to launch two pilots and generate some revenue. We are in the midst of developing our minimum viable product. It should be ready in the next four to five months. We are setting up a pilot with a local utility facility in which we will secure two doors of the facility. In January, I will begin fund raising so that we can execute our hiring plan and scale quickly.

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