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April 03, 2014 | Tom Ballard

QuickSod wins “Tennessee Venture Challenge”

TN Venture ChallengeBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

QuickSod, LLC swept the field during yesterday’s “Tennessee Venture Challenge” (TVC) finale at The Foundry in Downtown Knoxville.

The event was held just two months after a February 4 party when the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) launched its inaugural TVC program that is designed to promote the commercialization of UT inventions.

“This event highlights UTRF’s mission to support entrepreneurship and create jobs,” according to Stacey Patterson, UTRF Vice President. “We are offering the cash prize to help early stage, but promising companies compete for follow-up funding.”

Six companies presented at the event attended by about 75 people, and the top prize of $25,000 from UTRF, as well as the “Audience Favorite Award” of another $5,000, went to the start-up based on UT Institute of Agriculture technology.

Three area investors – Eric Dobson of the Angel Capital Group, Grady Vanderhoofven of Meritus Ventures, and Ken Woody of Innova – judged the competition and made the decision on the $25,000 prize. Those attending the finale selected the winner of the $5,000 through a mobile voting app.

QuickSod is focused on enabling sod producers to decrease the time it currently takes to grow and harvest sod – now from 12 to 30 months, depending on the type of grass, to 12 to 16 weeks. The “secret sauce” is a proprietary biodegradable growing medium that not only accelerates the growth, but also extends the shelf life of the sod and requires fewer pesticides.

Other companies presenting during the finale were:

  • Fertility Focus – a company improving fertility rates in beef and dairy production.
  • GCaDD, LLC – a company developing optically active glass components and associated devices for use in dental radiography.
  • Paradox Pharmaceuticals – an early stage company dedicated to translating laboratory discoveries into new drugs to treat cancer and heart disease in humans and companion animals.
  • PALSAR – a company improving food processing methods and reducing food wastage. Its technology will accurately capture the time required for different stages of seed germination, greatly reducing the chance of error and saving the customer time and energy.
  • ResourceIO – a company providing tools to aggregate, analyze, and create action plans for greenhouses and other confined agricultural operations. Its products combine innovative sensors, expert algorithms, and user interfaces to increase yield.

The competition was open to any start-up engaged in commercializing intellectual property created at a UT campus or institute. Thirteen companies showed-up for the first of seven workshops after the kick-off event on February 4, 10 pitched to a team of judges on March 25, and six were selected to present at yesterday’s finale.

Tech 20/20 helped prepare the companies for their presentations, and Patterson complimented the organization on its work.

Before announcing the winner, UTRF recognized inventors involved in 12 other start-ups that are based on UT inventions. Those companies were: TennEra; 490 BioTech; Solex; WattJoule; Entac, Inc.; Infusense, Inc.; LifeCareSim; Psychoeducations Associates; Raphael BioTech, Inc.;  Nanopthalmics, Inc.; Skimtek; and HandMinder.

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