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December 07, 2017 | Tom Ballard

TAEBC’s “Opportunities in Energy” forum focused on entrepreneurship and innovation

TAEBC3By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

About 80 people registered for yesterday’s “Opportunities in Energy” forum organized by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC).

Held at The Square Room in Downtown Knoxville, the theme of this year’s annual event was entrepreneurship and innovation. The nearly three-hour program featured a fireside chat with two leaders in the region that I had the privilege of moderating as well as pitches from three start-ups in the Energy Mentor Network coordinated by TAEBC and funded by Launch Tennessee.

Beverly Davenport, the new Chancellor of the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus, and Craig Blue, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), comprised the fireside panel that I facilitated. The focus was on the foundations their institutions have established, the plans they have for the future to help Tennessee build on its national reputation for excellence in the advanced energy sector, and how their innovation efforts can help create new businesses and expand existing ones.

Appropriately, the event also marked the one-year anniversary of the Energy Mentor Network whose goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy start-ups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Three of the companies that are part of that program pitched to the attendees.

Just 12 months after launching the program, TAEBC recently announced that one of the participants – Nashville-based Solar Site Design – had already completed the process. Jason Loyet, Founder and President, said his company is marketing a collaborative, cloud-based marketplace platform that connects sales-ready commercial and industrial solar projects to top solar construction companies to drive down customer acquisition costs.

Loyet was the last of the three start-up Founders to pitch. He followed:

  • Anna Douglas, Co-Founder of SkyNano Technologies, one of the three start-ups in ORNL’s “Innovation Crossroads” program that has developed an open system manufacturing technique to produce low cost, high value carbon nanotubes, a material with potential applications in a variety of areas from energy storage to consumer electronics; and
  • Ming Qi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Peroxygen Systems, a company previously spotlighted on biz thatis focused on commercializing a break-through technology for producing hydrogen peroxide onsite, targeting the paper and pulp industry.

Prior to their pitches, Shawn Carson of Three Roots Capital had another fireside with Jeff Kanel, CEO of Johnson City-based Renewable Algal Energy. The 10-year old company that is producing sustainable, economically viable products from microalgae. It is one of the state’s most successful in securing Small Business Innovation Research grants, the lifeblood for many early stage start-ups. Kanel described some of the factors that contributed to his company’s success, a process that we captured in this two-part series (Part 1 and Part 2) in 2015.

For more information on the first-year success of the TAEBC Energy Mentor Network, read the organization’s news release issued late yesterday (TAEBC Opportunities in Energy Release).

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