By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
As noted in a brief post in yesterday’s edition, Erica Grant captured the top prize – up to $10,000 in reimbursable business expenses – at Sunday night’s annual “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch” (WTBI).
Grant and her Quantum Lock start-up bested six other competitors in the eyes of the judges who were Richard Dapaah, Executive-in-Residence at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC); Shannon Harper of the sponsoring Harper Auto Square dealer group; and Patricia Robledo of the City of Knoxville.
The annual weekend-long event that culminates in a pitch competition is coordinated by KEC for The Development Corporation of Knox County. This year’s WTBI drew a capacity crowd, even on a rainy day, to its annual venue – Knoxville’s iconic Scruffy City Hall on Market Square.
“It keeps getting better and better,” KEC Executive Director Jim Biggs said at the start of the event. He and Jonathan Sexton, KEC’s Chief Operating Officer and master of ceremonies for the evening, thanked the competitors and nearly 50 mentors who started work at 6 p.m. Friday.
Quantum Lock, which we spotlighted in this recent teknovation.biz article, is the result of Grant’s involvement as an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech. She was President of the Virginia Tech Chapter of an organization named Help Save the Next Girl, a national non-profit that which seeks to sensitize young women and girls to predatory dangers. It was formed in honor of Morgan Dana Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who was abducted and murdered in 2009.
“We use quantum physics to create truly random passkeys with a state-of-the-art encryption system,” Grant explained. The doctoral student in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education – a joint University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory program – has a patent pending on the device.
Grant’s business plan now starts with a focus on marketing to hotels with apartments and homes coming later.
The other competitors were, in alphabetical order:
- DigDog is the concept of Lauren McNamara, a recent addition to the Knoxville community. She had previously described to us as “Tinder for dogs” . . . connecting people through their love of their canines for everything from play dates for the pets to breeding opportunities.
- JouleSpace is the team behind Knoxville’s recent “Co-Work Week” with the idea of turning underutilized venues during daytime hours into co-working spaces for entrepreneurs. We recently spotlighted the idea of Co-Founders Daniel Hodge and Miles Biggs in this biz article. They plan to launch the business in Knoxville next month and expand to Nashville, where Biggs lives, in June.
- Fit Cube Founder Mariano Ruiz started his company in response to a personal challenge – he could not physically pick-up his daughters due to an injury encountered while lifting weights. His solution is a small, Bluetooth capable device that will tell a person if she or he is improperly lifting weights. Ruiz secured a patent for the device in 2017.
- KnoxvillePage was pitched by Anthony Ragland. It’s a local search platform and eCommerce page designed to address the challenge that many local companies face if they do not appear on the first page of a Google search. His Co-Founder is Alan Sims, known locally as the Urban Guy for his Inside of Knoxville
- Scan2Scan and a sister app named Bridescan are the brainchild of Fred Jacob, a Knoxville businessman who coordinates 70 wedding shows annually. The apps are a more efficient way for vendors at events and those in attendance to connect through QR codes scanned on the latter’s phones. Bridescan is used at those events, while Scan2Scan is used at non-wedding events.
- Timbre was presented by Stephen Scott, Chief Technology Officer. As he noted, the company is in the proof of concept phase with a mobile radiation imaging device that is a single gamma photon detector.