By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Following a rousing welcome at a public event Tuesday night at Scruffy City Hall in Downtown Knoxville, they’ll finish their five-city, four-day statewide road show later today in Memphis.
We’re referring to the teams that comprise this year’s “The TENN” cohort. They are a diverse set of start-ups, both geographically and in terms of focus. Three hail from Knoxville, two have Chattanooga ties, two are from Nashville, and one comes from Memphis.
During introductory remarks at the Tuesday events, John Lanahan, Launch Tennessee’s Director of Capital Formation, noted that 50 percent of the teams had female founders, a comment that drew considerable applause at both stops.
In terms of industry sectors, this year’s “The TENN” teams cover a broad range – data analytics, a network for those seeking flexible employment, virtual reality to help those with dementia and their caregivers, an alternative to soft drinks, a care coordination platform, a software-driven content marketing service, and a producer of renewable and biodegradable products from lignin.
Their entrepreneurial motivations vary, but one in particular struck a chord with many attendees at the evening event in Knoxville on Tuesday and a private event earlier that day at Radio Systems. Jessica Harthcock of Utilize Health was declared a paraplegic at age 17 when she had a gymnastics accident.
“I was told I would never walk,” she said.
Rejecting the diagnosis, Harthcock fought back from the paralysis below the waist to walk again. The very challenging process of finding appropriate resources and a care path in the post-acute setting led to the founding of the Nashville-based start-up.
Now in its fourth year, “The TENN” has worked to accelerate a total of 33 start-ups by our count. Nearly 50 percent – 15 of the teams – hailed from East Tennessee. Nine called Knoxville home, while six had ties to Chattanooga. The East Tennessee teams from the first three years are as follows:
- 2014 – Vendor Registry and Survature, both from Knoxville, and Hatponics and HutGrip, both from Chattanooga.
- 2015 – Close-up FM and Fiveworx, both Knoxville-based, and Feetz, then from Chattanooga.
- 2016 – Innovasan and Sing & Spell, both of Knoxville, and Branch Technology of Chattanooga.