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May 07, 2017 | Tom Ballard

“Pitches & Pints” helps build, promote Northeast Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

pitches-and-pintsBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“This is the fourth or fifth event in a row that we’ve had 75 to 100 people attend,” Tony Lettich, Managing Director of The Angel Roundtable, said about Thursday night’s “Pitches & Pints” in Kingsport.

Coordinated by the Startup Tri-Cities organization, the combination networking and presentation event featured some of the region’s diverse set of entrepreneurs. Seven competed for the prize money and, as noted in this post from last Friday, John Cowan’s Pano took the top honors. Look for a feature story on his start-up in tomorrow’s edition of

Second place went to Michael Rice for IncrediMed, an 18-month old start-up with a core product called HealthBase that Rice describes as a population health management solution. Taking third place was Luke Champouillon for his concept of a 10,000 to 15,000 square foot, family friendly indoor sports complex in Johnson City with a significant portion dedicated to a skate park.

Others who pitched were:

  • Paul Champion who presented SpectrumVR, a way to use virtual reality to promote learning, communication and life skills for people with autism.
  • Ben Collins with, an easy-to-use, wireless, USB-powered device to manage all types of digital screens like the one that all of the presenters used for their pitches Thursday night.
  • James Eaton with Thought Box Creative, a subscription-based service to help businesses more effectively tell their stories on social media.
  • Charles Kunene whose cloud-based product, named Obaa, allows scientists to more easily communicate, create files, and share documents.

The presentations were particularly significant for John Campbell, Executive Director of AccelNow, who told us his team had been involved in some way with all seven of the entrepreneurs. It is the region’s entrepreneurial support organization.

Prior to the pitches, Eric Latham, a local entrepreneur previously profiled in a series of articles on, shared some of the lessons he’s learned in his journeys that more recently include the Johnson City Brewing Company.

“I’ve learned a lot along the way,” Latham told the audience. Here are the key points he made.

  • There’s no shortage of ideas. You need to decide which ones are real and develop a plan.
  • Entrepreneurs are obviously the most passionate about their ideas.
  • Raising capital is essential.
  • Don’t let others decide the fate of your idea.
  • Be willing to sacrifice for your idea.
  • See it through.

During the event, Kingsport Mayor John Clark also reiterated his support for start-ups, noting that Charter Communications and the city were working together to make Kingsport a gig city.

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