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September 17, 2017 | Tom Ballard


The Works Demo Day 3(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles spotlighting companies competing in this year’s “The Works” growth accelerator operated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center {KEC}. The teams will have their “Demo Day” on September 20 as part of the second annual “Innov865 Week.” To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Jake Cone started his entrepreneurial journey at an early age on a farm outside Washington, DC. He and his brother were buying horses for several hundred dollars and selling them for several thousand dollars. They also sold rolls of hay.

Like so many entrepreneurs, Cone found that one opportunity led to another, and the journey eventually led to Knoxville. In Cone’s case, the first opportunity came while he was majoring in equine science at Colorado State University. He was asked to join WEG 2010, an organization preparing the venue for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Lexington, KY.

While there was somewhat of a connection – horses, it was the experience that proved more fortuitous than Cone imagined when he agreed to interrupt his college studies.

“We were building an Olympic-size event,” he said. “Somehow, I ended up as a Venue Manager.”

Seven years later, Cone is taking the knowledge he learned about designing venues for all types of events and building a company with two partners to address what he says is a critical need for venue owners and event sponsors.

“Buzzer Intel is designed to help sponsors of events maximize their ROI,” Cone says, referencing the return on investment. This start-up complements Orange Production Solutions (OPS), another company Cone founded in late 2014 that handles all project management for an event, from design to construction.

Together, one might think of the expertise as “soup-to-nuts,” as the old saying goes. How did Cone come-up with the idea for the two companies including Buzzer Intel , a participant in KEC’s “The Works” accelerator?

“I learned how events are built from the ground up,” he says of his nearly two and one-half years working for NUSSLI Group, a Swiss-based corporation with a global footprint where it plans and constructs temporary structures for a variety of events.

Cone was a Project Manager and helped open NUSSLI’s New York City branch. After leaving the corporation, he formed OPS. Instead of selling structures, the company provides what he describes as “overlay planning” followed by full project management.

“I kept hearing from clients that they did not have the upfront money they needed to pay me,” Cone said. “They actually did; it was sponsorship dollars, but they could not document the ROI to the sponsor.”

Buzzer Intel has developed a suite of products to address various aspects of the actual execution during an event that provide not only increase customer satisfaction, but also information on which the sponsor can act. There’s Buzzer Gate that Cone says “is the best entry processing tool for any ticketed event. We’re faster through the gate,” a fact that results in happier attendees.

Phatom Pass is an app that acts much like a central pass, allowing individuals to be admitted to events with a smart scan technology. “Today, we sell access to events, not tickets,” Cone says.

The final piece is described as the “most powerful part.” It is the analytics that provides sponsors with the information they need to generate high ROI.

Cone carefully recruited his two partners to help build Buzzer Intel. They are Brian Woyt, a former Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing for the PGA Tour, and Ryan McClarren, an Associate Professor at Notre Dame University.

“Brian is the marketing side (focused on) what the sponsor needs to see, while Ryan is the technical guru,” Cone says.

So, how did Cone get to Knoxville from his days of working around the world? It was happenstance, helping his parents move to the region in 2015. While here, he decided to look around.

“I rolled through downtown on a whim,” Cone says. Duly impressed, he decided, “I’m coming here.”

As far as “The Works,” he says it has been invaluable. “They (the KEC team and mentors) are good people that just want to help,” Cone adds. “Knoxville is a special place like nowhere I have ever lived.”

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