Six “rising stars” selected to compete in Knoxville’s virtual “Startup Day” on September 29

Six “rising stars” in the Knoxville area entrepreneurial ecosystem have been selected to compete for up to $10,000 in prizes during the pitch competition that highlights the community’s annual “Startup Day.”

Set for 2 p.m. September 29, the 2020 event will be shorter than in past years since the programming, including the competition, will be delivered virtually via Lunchpool that has become a frequently-used platform for local activities.

Hosted by the Innov865 Alliance, “Startup Day” is the signature event during “Innov865 Week” that spotlights Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses and connects the entrepreneurs planting roots here with support systems to succeed.

Two prizes are up for grabs. One is the “Innov865 Judges’ Choice” award, and the second one is the “Innov865 Crowd Favorite,” presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist. In addition, a third award, presented by Verizon, is being offered. Called the “Innov865 Impact Award,” it will recognize an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19.

All three winners will be announced at an awards ceremony that will be held at 11 a.m. October 2 and presented virtually via Lunchpool.

The six start-ups that will pitch on September 29 were selected by the Innov865 Alliance based on their extraordinary potential and investability. They are, in alphabetical order:

  • 490 BioTech has strong ties to the University of Tennessee (UT). Co-founded by Dan Close, the company makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The start-up’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines.
  • Electro-Active Technologies Inc. is one of the participants in Cohort 3 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Co-founded by Alex Lewis, Electro-Active is developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into low-cost hydrogen. Its system keeps food waste out of landfills and provides a zero-emission fuel to offset gasoline and diesel use.
  • PowerUp Fitness, founded by Stacy Baugues, certifies wellness champions as youth fitness instructors and provides them with the training and support needed to empower youth through fitness, education, and fun in their communities. She’s a participant in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s (KEC) current “The Works 2020” start-up accelerator.
  • Songboarding, co-founded by Mike Benn, won the “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Pitch Competition,” the last “in-person” event of that type held before COVID-19 hit. Songboarding is a subscription-based platform that combines music with safety training, providing employers with a fun and memorable alternative to traditional training methods.
  • Qardian Labs, founded by Sofia Tomov, develops innovative artificial intelligence-based software solutions for evaluating heart disease risk. The company is dedicated to reducing the occurrence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest by improving screening for people in high stress environments. Tomov is a participant in the second cohort of CO.LAB’s “HealthTech Accelerator” in Chattanooga that wraps-up later this month and the just launched cohort of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’sProject Healthcare.”
  • Quantum Lock Technologies LLC, a member of Cohort 4 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program, is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable. Co-Founder Erica Grant came to Knoxville to participate in the doctoral program of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint effort of UT and ORNL.

“Startup Day” is a free event. To register, click here.

The Innov865 Alliance’s mission is to make Knoxville a “nationally recognized” hub of innovation and entrepreneurship by leveraging the region’s world-class research, creative, and technological capabilities to build the most connected and diverse startup community in Tennessee. Founding members include the UT Research Foundation; ORNL; PYA, the power behind; UT Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Three Roots Capital; Tennessee Valley Authority; Launch Tennessee; KEC; UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm; and Bunker Labs Knoxville.

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