Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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September 30, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Three winners named in latest “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition”

Krista De Cooke, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) doctoral student, won first place in the semi-annual edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition” held last night as part of “Innov865 Week.”

The idea she pitched was Nurture, a marketplace powered by a robust database to help individuals identify appropriate native plants for their landscaping needs and then connect to providers of those plants. By winning the competition, she took away a $1,500 cash prize.

Second place and $1,000 went to Jace Smith of AltFair Solutions LLC that has developed an app to bring greater efficiency to the resume sharing process that takes place during job fairs and, in this COVID-19 pandemic era, also provide a touchless solution. Maria Lowe, a student in UTK’s College of Veterinary Medicine, captured third place and $500 for Easy Echo, an instructional tool for the teaching of echocardiography.

Organized by UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the latest “Vol Court” competition followed four weekly sessions that started September 2. Nine participants competed in the virtual event, the first time it has been offered that way.

During the sessions leading-up to the pitch event, participants heard from three local entrepreneurs – Bailey Foster of Real Good Kitchen (here’s our article on her presentation), Tommy Nguyen of StoragePug (here’s our article on his presentation), and Chris McAdoo who founded Best Behavior Creative Club before selling it (here’s what we wrote about his presentation). The fourth session was a roundtable discussion facilitated by Shawn Carson that also featured Lia Winter, Co-Founder of Winter Innovations; Kurt Jacobs of the Haslam College of Business; and yours truly that focused mostly on the “art of the pitch.”

Judges for last night’s competition were Winter; Amy Dickenson of Innovative Design Inc.; Kusum Rathore with the UT Research Foundation; Genesee Semon, winner of $5,000 in the lifestyle category in last spring’s “Graves Business Plan Competition”; and yours truly.

In addition to delivering the programming and having the competition in a virtual format, Carson also required the competitors to use a modified version of the PechaKucha format – in this case, nine slides in 90 seconds.

Other competitors and their ideas in the order they were presented were:

  • Inseob Choi who pitched the idea of a cost-effective method to use food waste for prebiotics;
  • Alexx Stevenson who presented ThePakPak, a small, handheld way to carry CBD and similar products;
  • Matt Benson who developed the TrackPack to help individuals track items like a backpack or pursue should they be lost;
  • Henry Eigen who pitched for several founders of TikPix, a centralized platform for creators of financial content;
  • Tiho Nikolic who presented a digital business card exchange solution from Emerald Strategy Group; and
  • Austin Connelly who pitched the concept of M2M as a way to provide more affordable housing by utilizing older and smaller motels.

Presenting sponsor for “Vol Court” is the Scott and Di Roe Foundation.In addition, other supporters include the UT Research Foundation; PYA, the power behind; Red Stag Fulfillment; Morehous Legal Group; Three Roots Capital; and Innovative Design Inc.

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