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.

Launch Tennessee adopts updated strategic plan, emphasizes capital formation, market building, and resource deployment

Launch Tennessee’s (LaunchTN) Board of Directors recently adopted an updated version of its strategic plan at its latest quarterly meeting. The updated plan emphasizes three key strategies: capital formation, market building, and systemic resource deployment. 

Capital Formation
According to the plan, one of LaunchTN’s strategies is to “expand capital resources and expedite their availability to TN businesses so that they can grow, be sustainable, create jobs, and build accessible economic prosperity for our state.” To achieve this strategy, LaunchTN’s objectives are to increase access to available LaunchTN capital and proactively engage with investors across the state, country, and world to improve access to non-LaunchTN capital. The organization will also develop outbound marketing initiatives to target other investors. 

Market Building
Building upon capital formation, LaunchTN intends to “identify and recruit recognized leaders in relevant markets to drive a systemic solution for stakeholders to engage, connect, and achieve mutually beneficial results by working together.” To adhere to this strategy, LaunchTN has three main objectives: build an accountable environment of systemic teamwork, collaboration, and communication with market and ecosystem builders; optimize corporate/big company engagement with startups; and develop outbound marketing initiatives targeting market and ecosystem builders. 

Systemic Resource Deployment
LaunchTN wrote that it aims to “streamline the connection of our statewide Network Partners and other stakeholders to resources that enable a high-functioning ecosystem in Tennessee for entrepreneurship.” LaunchTN has outlined four objectives in order to work toward this strategy: enhance and drive connectivity and convening; establish competitive policy influence; implement and optimize information systems; and develop and execute an outbound marketing strategy. 

In addition to other changes, CEO Margaret Dolan highlighted the organization’s new mission and vision statement to include the words “empowering a network of resources.” 

One of TAEBC’s commitments to our members and stakeholders is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups. TAEBC works to fulfill this goal through our Energy Mentor Network that serves as one of LaunchTN’s Statewide Network Partners and pairs knowledgeable mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs in the region. 

Currently, the Energy Mentor Network has six participating startups who are working through the structured program, which involves panel presentations and mentoring sessions. The purpose of the program is to help develop and support quality advanced energy startups. Four startups have graduated from the program to date. To learn more about Energy Mentor Network startups or become a mentor, click here.