Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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December 06, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Reverse pitch highlights the final day of the “Tennessee Smart Mobility Expo”

Curtain comes down on second annual event in Nashville.

The second and final day of the second annual “Tennessee Smart Mobility Expo” at the Music City Center in Nashville featured a reverse pitch competition hosted by two of Launch Tennessee’s (LaunchTN) partner organizations.

The Company Lab (CO.LAB) in Chattanooga is one of the eight entrepreneur centers that LaunchTN supports, while TennSMART, organizer of the Expo, operates one of LaunchTN’s six industry-specific mentor programs.

Tasia Malakasis, Chief Executive Officer at CO.LAB, explained that the idea of the reverse pitch originated as her center was building on its successful “CO.MOBILITY Summit” and laying plans for the upcoming “CO.LAB Sustainable Mobility Accelerator.” She contacted Bryan Barringer, who wears many hats including serving as TennSMART’s Director of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.

They agreed to work together, backed by ideas that came from a number of organizations: EPB, Tennessee Valley Authority, Qubitekk, and the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress at the University of Tennessee (UT) at Chattanooga.

Three of the four finalists were able to pitch their ideas Wednesday. They were selected from 18 applicants, according to Barringer. The areas for which they were providing solutions and some information about them are as follows;

Workforce turnover could be reduced with better soft skills.

Workforce turnover is a key issue facing the trucking industry with one statistic cited that there is almost a 100 percent turnover rate among drivers. Gavin Pringle founded JAKAPA to address a key aspect of turnover: lack of essential soft skills. His company, which is a participant in the St. Louis-based ARCH Grants accelerator, works with its clients to measure, train, and track soft skills through a 10-minute-a-day, 10-week app and web-based tool. JAKAPA does so in five critical needs across 32 skills.

Bad soft skills are the #1 reason someone will be fired, and bad manager soft skills are a top reason why great employees quit. Through its services, JAKAPA helps businesses improve their productivity and decrease turnover.

Pringle said he is looking for pilot and is offering an incentive for those who sign-up. Instead of the normal cost of $129 per employee, he has discounted it to $65.

An alternate for off-the-grid charging infrastructure.

Nashville serial entrepreneur Scott Kozicki presented an idea called the Oasis platform that would help provide charging services without the need to be connected to the grid. Explaining that it could operate for seven to 10 days, the device comes in two versions. One includes options like a photovoltaic capability that could generate 9kw, four wind turbines that operate independently, and even a hydrogen fuel cell.

“It can be controlled and operated by a smartphone app,” Kozicki said.

There’s also a smaller device, much like a toolbox that fits in the back of a pick-up truck. Named the Buzz Box, that option called Barringer to quip, “You would never be without a way to charge your EV (electric vehicle) pick-up.”

System integration for owner-operators.

Brent Bowles and Derrick White described a challenge that owner-operators face that is not as critical for large trucking firms. It is integrating management system software while also being on the road frequently. Their solution that is being marketed under the FYT brand offers a cheaper and more efficient system for smaller trucking firms that also addresses two critical needs: (1) better work-life balance; and (2) optimization of the relationship between shippers and drivers.

Other highlights from the Expo.

In addition to two Commissioners who were on the program over the two days, there were also two leaders of higher education institutions. UT System President Randy Boyd and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier spoke on the first day.

There were also a variety of EVs that attendees could drive around the indoor track and other types of mobility on display such as an electric bus.



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