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September 21, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Seven more local entrepreneurs pitch their start-ups during Wednesday’s “Raising & Rising” event

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Less than 24 hours after six very diverse Knoxville area companies pitched their businesses at “Startup Day,” another seven, including one from Johnson City, presented what they are doing to make a difference in the lives of people during “Raising & Rising.”

Sponsored by CGI, one of the largest independent information technology and business consulting services firms in the world and organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the lunchtime event drew nearly 50 in-person attendees and an unknown number of virtual viewers.

Each of the participating start-ups was allocated four minutes to describe their work, then received feedback from four individuals. Those sharing their thoughts about the companies and their plans were:

  • Carol Carden, Managing Principal of Valuation Services at PYA, the power behind biz;
  • Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator”;
  • Lori Ortega, CGI’s Knoxville Technology Center Leader – Federal; and
  • Philip Persch, CGI’s Director of Consulting.

Presenting companies, in order, were:

BusiCard, co-founded by Tiho Nikolic (pictured left), allows users to share their business cards digitally, linking to their social media and website. The company, which won $5,000 in the Spring 2021 edition of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UTK) “Boyd Venture Challenge,” is initially taking direct to consumer approach but Nikolic said it is also interested in business-to-business/enterprise opportunities. “We help you get the most out of leads” generated, he explained. Click here to read our most recent biz article about BusiCard.

Quantal Security Inc., the new name for the company that Erica Grant (pictured left) founded in 2018 while still a graduate student at UTK, is “harnessing the power of numbers to make security better.” A member of Cohort 4 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Grant said, “It’s come a long way” in those four years including securing a seed round of investment that was raised locally. Click here to read our initial biz article about Grant and her motivation for starting the company.

Trucking Kit, founded by Nick Richards (pictured right), is focused on what he described as reducing the chances of compliance violations for trucking companies. The firm’s Truck Kit ELD is an app that includes an app for the driver and a comprehensive portal for back office personnel. It is designed for all transportation industries – from fleets to public transportation.

Kay Baker (pictured left) presented Green Llama, a participant in the inaugural cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.” We spotlighted the Johnson City-based start-up in this August biz article, noting the focus on environmental sustainability in the cleaning products sector. “Our solution is a solution . . . a cleaning solution,” Baker explained. It was inspired by Co-Founder Matt Keasey’s days growing-up in the United Kingdom where the milkman delivered milk in a bottle to your home and retrieved the used bottles to be cleaned and reused. It was recycling and environmental sustainability long before the terms were widely spoken.

Ayyoub Momen (pictured right) described Ultrasonic Technology Solutions LLC that has licensed a technology that he invented for one purpose while at ORNL and is now commercializing it for different applications. As he described in this April 2020 biz article, the technology was inspired by the way a dog responds after getting out of a pond or river. “They shake themselves with water going everywhere,” Momen said, asking himself, “Could we replicate that process with a man-made device?” The company is growing, and its Founder told us before “Raising & Rising” started that he had recently expanded into additional space in West Knoxville.

Bem Culiat (pictured right) is Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder at Nell One Therapeutics Inc., an early stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering advances in regenerative medicine. Its mission is to relieve suffering and restore lives by returning damaged soft and hard tissue to its pre-injury state. She said the company recently secured funding to explore how the NELL1 matricellular signaling protein could be used for those struggling with the effects of COVID-19 and other afflictions on their lungs.

Last up was a company named Mindpass As described by Jake Brantley, Chief Executive Officer, it is the world’s first 3D password management system. That means you save all your passwords and retrieve them on all your devices, by simply selecting four objects in a 3D environment. You never need to worry about remembering passwords, just a simple selection of four objects. The company was granted a patent in May, and the system, according to the orange clad Brantley, is 3000 times more secure than the average password.

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