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November 20, 2022 | Tom Ballard

“Start Here Pitch Competition” spotlights companies starting and scaling in the Upper Cumberland region

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Thursday’s “Start Here Pitch Competition,” hosted by The Biz Foundry and an organization named the Highlands CareerFest, was to show that “good companies can build and scale here in the Upper Cumberland region.”

That’s the word from Jeff Brown, The Biz Foundry’s President, who was very pleased with the six finalists and the turnout – a packed room of about 45 attendees at the organization’s Cookeville location, another two dozen across the street, and an undetermined number, like me, who viewed the competition virtually.

This first-ever event featured six start-ups doing exactly what Brown said . . . growing their businesses in the region. As noted in a brief post in Friday’s edition of, Skip the Line, an app that allows those attending concerts and other tour events to pre-order merchandise and literally have it waiting when they arrive at the venue, captured the judges nod. Its win came with a $10,000 award and an opportunity to pitch to the Upper Cumberland Angel Investors Fund, an initiative that Brown is championing.

Explaining that “buying and selling has dramatically changed over the last two years,” Luke Ramey (pictured right), Co-Founder of Skip the Line, said the company supports artists, artist companies, and vending companies by simplifying the process of selling merchandise at live events. The start-up’s five-step process is described on its webpage.

MetaFlex/ATS Innovations is marketing a therapy glove combining compression and progressive grip strengthening in a soft design that makes it comfortable during the day or at night captured the crowd favorite award. Téa Phillips (pictured left), Founder and Chief Executive Officer, said the glove is designed for the one in four Americans who will develop arthritis in their hands.

“I developed it for my grandmother,” she told attendees. The company has a design patent, and Phillips described a 30-person clinical trial that will be undertaken over a 30-day period.

Two of the other four competitors have been spotlighted in previous articles.

  • Arvo is marketing a software product that allows clients to rapidly create everything from standard operating procedures to client portals without coding or design skills. It was featured in this post on biz.
  • QVIN is a sibling or cousin of DOT Readiness Group Inc., another Cookeville-based company, that we spotlighted several years ago in this biz article. Tyna Bryan described QVIN as the “driver side of DoT Ready,” focused on owner-operators.

The other competitors were:

  • GoKNEE is a revolutionary device and exercise program that speeds-up recovery after knee replacement surgery. It is a creation of Shehla Rooney, a Physical Therapist, who told the attendees that one-half of adults will develop knee pain in their lifetimes.
  • Ripple is an app that uses the ripple effect of friends and their friends as recommenders and influencers based on a chain of trust. Jill Stalnaker said the basis of the social media platform was simple: “I want to be influenced by my real friends.”

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