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.