TN well-represented at recent White House event

White House-tekno

It was a good day for the Volunteer State at last week’s “White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference” held on July 28, according to Grady Vanderhoofven of Meritus Ventures.

He told us that three well-known Tennesseans had key “speaking roles” during the event.

“The State of Tennessee was well-represented with Kelly Tiller of Genera Energy participating as a member of one of the three panel discussions that were part of the program,” Vanderhoofven said, adding that her panel dealt with the topic of opportunities for equity investment in rural and agriculture.

Genera issued a news release about Tiller’s participation. East Tennessee was not the only region to get good visibility at the event.

“Jan Bouten of Innova Memphis was a member of a second panel discussion on the topic of sourcing rural and agricultural deals,” Vanderhoofven said. “Steve Bares of Memphis Bioworks was interviewed on stage during another session of the program and talked about the success of Memphis Bioworks in cultivating the company creation and access to capital ecosystem in Memphis.”

Vanderhoofven noted that the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIC) was highlighted during the conference. As previously reported on, Innova is creating Innova Ag Innovation Fund 1 to invest in early stage companies, while Meritus Kirchner – Vanderhoofven’s firm – is establishing a fund that will be focused on growth stage enterprises.

“To date, four RBICs have been approved or conditionally approved by USDA,” Vanderhoofven said. “All four of the them participated in the event, and three of the four (Meritus Ventures, Innova Memphis, and Meritus Kirchner) have a presence in Tennessee.”

Ray Moncrief, a long-time partner of Vanderhoofven’s, also participated in the White House Conference.

“The event provided some context regarding Tennessee’s position within the broader ag and rural investment universe,” Vanderhoofven said. “The Governor, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the University system, and specific investor groups within Tennessee (including Meritus and Innova) are helping to position Tennessee as an increasingly attractive place to be for companies operating in rural areas and/or focused on agriculture-related opportunities.”


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