By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.
If you were a fast runner or had a driver, it would have been easier to catch a twofer of events Tuesday night – the first session of the “Fall Vol Court” series at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and the Entrepreneurs of Knoxville (EOK) pre-pitch event at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.
We did not fall into either category, so we started the evening at the UTK event and finished at the EOK session. While the two activities were about a mile apart, they shared a common goal – providing an opportunity for entrepreneurs to secure some investment capital and possibly other help to jumpstart their ideas or companies.
About 40 people, mostly students, showed-up for the “Fall Vol Court” kick-off where Joy Fisher outlined the business model canvas that is the framework used during the five weekly sessions leading up to the pitch competition on November 5.
Down on Market Square Mall, six individuals pitched their ideas to a three-judge panel charged with selecting those who will present, ironically also on November 5. The companies or ideas presented at EOK’s event included:
- Gludi, a company building a mobile phone app – the “Diabetes Virtual Assistant” – to make the task of self-managing diabetes better. The app is a place where individuals with diabetes to do everything from recording their periodic glucose checks during the day to receiving analytics and even inviting others to help them manage their disease. The company‘s founder was motivated to create the app based on his personal diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in 2010.
- Open Core, a company whose focus is on building customized big data stacks in the cloud or, as is pitched on its webpage, “Big Data Platforms-as-a-Service.”
- Willow List, an online registry service for people getting married that has characteristics of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. Couples can select gifts from any vendor and list them on the Willow List site. Then, wedding guests can go to the site, make a purchase or, if the price is more than they want to pay, contribute the amount they can afford and hope others will contribute as well. This allows the couple to list items they want and givers to contribute what they can. Ultimately, Willow List will buy the gifts, wrap them, and deliver them to the couple.
- A concept pitched by Kathryn Eaton of Eaton Tax & Business Services to build a family friendly skating rink that also doubles as a fitness center alternative for existing workout companies and even those who are home schooled.
- Camp Manitowa, an Illinois-based retreat center and sleepaway camp at Rend Lake for second through ninth graders that was seeking funding to expand its capacity by adding cabins.