Innovation Crossroads Showcase webinar emphasizes value of East Tennessee entrepreneurship

This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase emphasized the value of statewide partnerships and entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region. Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, the virtual event took place during Innov865 Week 2020.  

Kicking off the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper spoke about TAEBC’s partnership with LaunchTN and creation of the Energy Mentor Network. The Energy Mentor Network program’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Piper highlighted the accomplishments of program graduates, including Solar Site Design, SkyNano Technologies, Stone Mountain Technologies, and Active Energy Systems.  

Afterward, Piper moderated a fireside chat with Van Tucker, LaunchTN’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, where they discussed Tucker’s background, LaunchTN’s work in the state, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Tennessee.  

“I’m really proud of the work that is being done in East Tennessee,” Tucker remarked. 

Speaking about what gives her hope for the future, Tucker said that while there are plenty of challenges and problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, she believes “this is the moment for innovators and entrepreneurs” to rise up.

“Entrepreneurs are, I believe, the best chance we have of rapid economic recovery in our nation at the moment,” she said. “And they need to be given the resources they need to grow and thrive and help contribute to that economic recovery.”

Later, Dan Miller, Director, Innovation Crossroads, spoke about the Innovation Crossroads program and upcoming Cohort Five application deadline. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation Crossroads program leverages ORNL’s scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace. 

Miller then introduced Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups for their pitches. Attendees heard pitches from Actinic, AquaQuant Laboratories, Becq, PixelEXX Systems, and Quantum Lock Technologies.

Mitchell Ishmael, Cohort One alumni and co-founder of Active Energy Systems, moderated a panel discussion with Cohort Two alumni as they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their time in the Innovation Crossroad and Energy Mentor Network programs. Panelists included Don DeRosa of Eonix, Shane McMahon of Lux Semiconductors, Justin Nussbaum of Ascend Manufacturing, and Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle.

“The Knoxville area in general is extremely supportive,” Nussbaum said. “Everyone that I have worked with around here is always willing to help and provide feedback. It’s just been a great area to build a company in because of that assistance.” 

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network or become a mentor, click here. To learn more about Innovation Crossroads or apply for Cohort Five before the October 31 deadline, follow this link.

Innovation Crossroads Showcase

Join TAEBC and LaunchTN for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase! RSVP here

About this Event

Innovation Crossroads, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory. The program, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Tennessee Valley Authority, leverages ORNL’s unique scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace.

Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, this virtual event will feature a fireside chat with Cortney Piper, TAEBC Executive Director, and Van Tucker, LaunchTN Interim Chief Executive Officer.

During this event, you’ll hear pitches from Innovation Crossroads’ Cohort Four startups!

The event will showcase a panel discussion with Dan Miller, Director of Innovation Crossroads, and Cohort Two alumni as they give us updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads.

There will also be discussions on the resources available for energy startups, including the TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network!

This event will take place via Zoom Webinar.

Register for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase during Innov865 Week 2020!

Join us for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase during Innov865 Week 2020! The virtual event will take place Wednesday, September 30 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. Register today to attend!

Innovation Crossroads, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory. The program, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Tennessee Valley Authority, leverages ORNL’s unique scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace.

Presented by the TAEBC and LaunchTN, the Innovation Crossroads Showcase will feature a fireside chat with Cortney Piper, TAEBC Executive Director, and Van Tucker, LaunchTN interim CEO. Later, Cohort Four startups will pitch their companies!

The event will also showcase a panel discussion with Mitchell Ishmael of Cohort One and Cohort Two alumni as they give us updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads and the Energy Mentor Network. The event will highlight resources available for energy startups, including the TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network. To learn more about the program or become a mentor, click here

During LaunchTN’s recent 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, Cohort Two alumna Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle moderated a panel session with seven members of Cohort Three to discuss what advice they would give to burgeoning entrepreneurs and how the Tennessee ecosystem has helped their companies over the past year.

“This area has so much to offer. It’s so accessible,” explained Trevor McQueen of Neptune Fluid Flow Systems. “It has helped every facet of our business grow. We couldn’t be happier.” 

Register for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase today!

LaunchTN’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival panel sessions with TAEBC Executive Director, Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three, highlight value of Energy Mentor Network

LaunchTN’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival celebrates visionaries and innovators who are actively shaping their entrepreneurial ecosystems through their expertise, research and forward-thinking ideas. 

During the 10-day, virtual festival, Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council Executive Director, Cortney Piper, spoke in a panel session about innovation partnerships, while the Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three startups held a live Q&A session with alumni Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle. O’Connor and the Cohort Three startups are enrolled in TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network program.  

The “Startup, Inc.: Advancing Strategy with Innovation Partnerships” panel session featured Piper; Reed Hayes, AVP of Digital Strategy & Innovation at Unum; and Anthony Oni, Co-founder and CEO of Cloverly, and Vice President Corporate Communications at Southern Company Gas. The panel was moderated by Daley Ervin, the Managing Director of Engage. 

Participants discussed how investing in innovation partnerships can be lucrative for small or large businesses, and can help rapidly increase scale for emerging companies or advance existing strategies for market incumbents. They explained how and why companies and organizations invest in establishing these partnerships, along with how other businesses can benefit from doing the same.

Piper spoke about the mission of TAEBC to champion advanced energy as an “economic development and job creation strategy,” along with the Energy Mentor Network, which is run by TAEBC in partnership with LaunchTN. One of the main goals of the Energy Mentor Network, said Piper, is to “foster the growth of advanced energy companies and technologies in the state of Tennessee.” 

In the final segment of the panel, Piper explained that the Energy Mentor Network helps startups learn how to “concisely and compellingly” tell their story, understand that “just because a company can partner with you, doesn’t mean they will,” and to be persistent when reaching out to potential partners or sources of funding.

Meanwhile, the “Live AMA with ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads” showcased O’Connor sitting down with seven members of Cohort Three to discuss what is next on the frontiers of cleantech and energy. Cohort Three includes Williams Fitzhugh of American Nanotechnologies Inc., Hicham Ghossein of Endeavor Composites Inc., Jesse Claypoole of MantaPoole Technologies, Leila Safavi of Purist Inc., Trevor McQueen of Neptune Fluid Flow Systems, Alex Lewis of Electro-Active Technologies Inc., and Jesse Thornburg of Grid Fruit

During the session, Cohort Three startups answered questions ranging from what advice they would give to burgeoning entrepreneurs to how the Tennessee ecosystem has helped their companies over the past year.

“This area has so much to offer. It’s so accessible,” explained McQueen. “It has helped every facet of our business grow. We couldn’t be happier.” 

Safavi remarked that the best piece of advice she would give to new entrepreneurs or researchers is to have a “great support group.”

“Without them pushing me forward at times when I had doubt, without their support, it wouldn’t be possible,” she continued. “Having a good group of supporters that can advise you and help you move forward is key.”

O’Connor echoed Safavi’s advice about the importance of support systems, saying, “I think that’s one of the great benefits of Innovation Crossroads, having that really early stage support behind you.”

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network program or become a mentor, click here.

TAEBC Annual Meeting 2020 highlights transportation electrification initiatives, advanced energy leadership

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) held another successful Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub earlier this month.

TNECD Commissioner and TDEC Commissioner Featured speakers included Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

The event kicked off with TAEBC awarding Dan Hurst, CEO and founder of Strata-G, with the second-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award, which honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Last year, the inaugural award went to Ballard himself.  

“As a founding board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Dan Hurst embodies the qualities of a servant leader,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director and Vice President of TAEBC. “His dedication and commitment to building a new organization that represents an entire industry that makes Tennessee a better state in which to live, work and play is truly admirable. That same vision and devotion have enabled Dan to lead and grow a successful business in East Tennessee that embraces energy innovation, environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Power Products, Emily Heitman, welcomed TAEBC to Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub and reinforced the company’s commitment to doing business in Tennessee. Her presentation was followed by Piper, who outlined TAEBC’S top achievements in 2019 and emphasized the organization’s goals and priorities moving into 2020. 

Next, Silicon Ranch Corporation’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations. Since launching Regenerative Energy with one 52-acre project in 2018, the program has grown exponentially with 31 projects on 5,923 acres throughout five states this year.

On TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network Panel, Helge Nestler, Founder and President of Ginko Technologies, pitched his startup and mission to accelerate the use of sustainable waste treatment methods to reduce landfills and recover energy from waste. Afterwards, he was joined by Ira Weiss, Energy Mentor Network Entrepreneur-in-Residence and principal of Weiss Associates, for a panel discussion about Nestler’s entrepreneurial journey and value of the Energy Mentor Network program for startups like Ginko Technologies.

Later, Drew Frye, Senior Power Utilization Engineer at TVA, spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state. In addition to providing a 10-year snapshot of the role of EVs from 2010 until now, Frye highlighted TVA’s role with Drive Electric Tennessee and what is next on the horizon for TVA, including improving charging infrastructure, enhancing consumer awareness, promoting supportive EV policies, and ensuring EV availability. 

Commissioner Salyers also spoke about Drive Electric Tennessee and the continued development of a statewide EV charging network. He reinforced TDEC’s commitment to providing a cleaner, safer environment and support for technologies that reduce emissions and improve air quality. Through its electrification efforts, “TDEC seeks to improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and strengthen the resiliency of the transportation sector.”  

“Our vision for Tennessee is to become a leader in the electric transportation space,” remarked Salyers. “Electric vehicles have the potential to make our transportation system both more efficient and more resilient. We are excited to continue working alongside our fantastic partners to achieve these benefits.”

During Commissioner Rolfe’s TNECD update, he emphasized how the agency’s “first job” is to create high-quality jobs for Tennesseans. His second job, explained Rolfe, is to make sure the companies that call Tennessee home “are happy,” such as Volkswagen, Nissan, and others who are focused on EV efforts. 

“We’re going to focus on recruiting companies to Tennessee that are focused on the electric vehicle business because we think it’s here to stay,” said Rolfe. “For Tennessee to remain number one in the southeast, we’re going to be doubling down on those efforts.”

After their presentations, Saylers and Rolfe held a joint Q&A session, where they answered a range of audience questions. For example, when asked what TAEBC can do to support the state’s efforts in propelling electrification efforts further, Saylers emphasized the importance of workforce development programs that promote technical training for jobs that support the state’s advanced energy economy.

Rolfe echoed Sayler’s statements, adding, “a lot of good things are happening in Tennessee, but what we can continue to do is to make it the most inviting, business friendly state to come do business in.”