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April 04, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Steve Ripp offers advice on successfully building a company through SBIR and STTR grants

Successfully growing a start-up via what is frequently referred to as “America’s Seed Fund” was the focus of last Thursday evening’s monthly gathering of the Knoxville Chapter of BioTN’s Academic Alliance.

Ripp presenting at the event

Under the tagline of “Beer & Careers,” an update on the former “Beer & Biotech” brand, the event featured Steve Ripp, Chief Operating Officer of 490 BioTech, who offered tips to attendees on writing successful proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants.

Utilizing these two sources of non-diluted capital was one of the factors that the judges cited in selecting the 10-year old company as the winner of last September’s pitch competition during Knoxville’s annual “Startup Day.” Just last month, 490 BioTech also won the inaugural “Ballard Innovation Award” presented by PYA, the power behind

“I can guarantee you (that) whatever your idea is, something will hit,” Ripp said as he referenced the diverse interests of federal agencies. He recommended that attendees simply do an internet search of their topics. “Whatever you are working on, something will fit.”

Ripp described the two funding phases of SBIRs. Phase I is around concept development and typically brings about $150,000 for a 12-month effort. Phase II awards average $1 million and fund the development of an actual product over a two-year period.

“Don’t deviate from making a product,” he cautioned.

Ripp, who also serves as an SBIR Reviewer, offered other cogent advice such as: (1) a person’s home cannot be the address of the business; (2) “Everything you write is reviewed by three reviewers (who are) looking for a fatal flaw so they can reject it”; and (3) it takes about six months from time of proposal submission to a review being completed.

At the start of the session, BioTN Executive Director Abby Trotter said the May “Beer & Careers” event on May 6 will feature David Adair, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Solas BioVentures in Chattanooga; Mark Harris, a well-known Nashville entrepreneur; and a third person from Memphis.

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