490 BioTech wins PYA’s inaugural Tom Ballard Innovation Award

TAEBC Energy Mentor Network graduates Eonix and Ascend Manufacturing secure second and third places

Last week, Knoxville-based PYA awarded 490 BioTech the inaugural Tom Ballard Innovation Award. Eonix, LLC and Ascend Manufacturing, Innovation Crossroads Cohort 2 alumni and TAEBC Energy Mentor Network graduates, came in second and third places respectively.

In securing first place, 490 BioTech, a biotechnology startup, will receive $50,000 in in-kind and capital services from PYA. Second place includes $10,000 worth of in-kind strategy support and third place involves $5,000 worth of in-kind strategy support from PYA.

“Today we’re celebrating their accomplishments,” said Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and the award’s namesake, as he recognized the three startups during the award ceremony. Ballard has spent decades working on creating relationships and supporting the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He is also the publisher of Teknovation.biz.

According to PYA’s announcement, the Tom Ballard Innovation Award is the largest combination of cash and in-kind services available to startups in the East Tennessee region. Held annually moving forward, the award will support early-stage companies that demonstrate “great promise and an innovative focus.”

“In short, we want entrepreneurs and business owners that start here to stay here. And we want innovation and business that move here to love and thrive here,” said PYA President and Chief Executive Officer Marty Brown. “So, a full support system by long-time East Tennessee businesses is critical to accomplish this. And this award, along with the cash and in-kind services, is just another commitment on behalf of the PYA owners to this entrepreneurial community.”

Ballard is a valued TAEBC member and the inspiration for TAEBC’s annual Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever award to Ballard himself during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting.

Learn more about PYA’s Tom Ballard Innovation Award here.

Active Energy Systems Secures Funding as One of Three Initial Investments from New, Local Venture Capital Fund

Energy Mentor Network graduate, Active Energy Systems, was selected as one of three initial investments made by the TennesSeed Fund, a new, evergreen, seed-stage, proof of concept venture capital fund that seeks regional investments in Tennessee companies. 

The Fund is managed by a collaboration of Three Roots Capital, Meritus Capital, and Innova Memphis, Inc. Grady Vanderhoofven, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Three Roots Capital, and Ken Woody, the president, partner and founder of Innova Memphis, serve as the Fund’s co-managers, directors, and investment team members.

The Fund does not have a specific industry or technology focus, allowing it to help companies, like Active Energy, achieve specific, well-defined milestones. Woody said the evergreen structure “allows for the permanent, ongoing cycle of fundraising, investments, and successful investment outcomes, which hopefully will have direct and lasting economic benefits throughout the state.”

“Our relationship with the TennesSeed Fund has been great timing for us,” said Active Energy Co-Founder Mitchell Ishmael. “They provided the right advice at the right time and funds just when we needed them to secure our intellectual property claims. This investment and relationship has been immensely valuable for us.”

In addition to the Fund’s investment, Active Energy has received funding from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Combined, these investments amount to over $500,000.

In addition to funding momentum, Active Energy recently graduated the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with Launch Tennessee. To graduate, participating startups must build investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defend those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy also completed its two-year fellowship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program in May. Speaking with Teknovation.biz earlier this year, Ishmael said “the Innovation Crossroads team helped us make the necessary industry and investor connections to complete our pivot.”

Currently, the company is building a larger cooling system for a 6,000 square foot facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations. 

Visit Active Energy Systems’ website to learn more about this innovative startup. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for startups like Active Energy Systems in the Energy Mentor Network, follow this link.

Two Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurs named to Forbes 30 Under 30

(Originally published: Teknovation.biz)

Two Entrepreneurs in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads”initiative are among 600 individuals selected from across the U.S. and Canada for the “Forbes 30 Under 30” cohort for 2019.

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder of SkyNano Technologies, and Megan O’Connor, Co-Founder on Nth Cycle, made the prestigious list. They were two of 30 individuals selected from the energy sector, one of 20 industries that Forbes identified for recognition. A total of 30 up and coming leaders was identified in each industry group.

In making the announcement yesterday, Forbes said that “Everything old is new again with the 2019 edition of the “Forbes 30 Under 30,” our annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada. From creating milk without cows to trucks without drivers, these innovators are shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries. Spanning 20 different industries, our collection of 600 young leaders and entrepreneurs embodies how fresh vision, powerful technology and unwavering optimism can combine into earthshaking companies and movements. From finance to food, fashion to philanthropy, these risk-takers are forever changing how America does business.”

Forbes chose the 600 from thousands of nominees through what it says was a “three-layer process that relies on the knowledge and authority of our wide-reaching community, skilled reporters and expert judges.” The magazine’s Editors worked closely with a panel of judges that included well-recognized individuals like Tory Burch (Art & Style), Craig Newmark (Education), Padma Lakshmi (Food & Drink), Jim Hackett and Eren Ozmen (Manufacturing & Industry), David Axelrod (Law & Policy), Kirsten Green (Retail & Ecommerce), Thomas Tull (Sports), and Arlan Hamilton and Alexis Ohanian (Venture Capital).

Read more here.

Using father’s tools as a youngster sparked Ascend Manufacturing Justin Nussbaum’s interest

(NOTE: This is the third article in a five-part series spotlighting the work of the second cohort of start-ups comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” initiative. They arrived in the area in May to begin their two-year effort to further advance their early stage energy-focused companies.)

Credit: Teknovation.biz

By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

One characteristic of many young entrepreneurs we have met and interviewed since launching teknovation.biz in early 2012 is the influence that their parents had on their pursuits. That’s certainly the case with Justin Nussbaum who is part of the second cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative.

The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Manufacturing told us that his father had a lot of tools that were available to the young son as he grew-up in Clearwater, FL. “I enjoyed using them and, over time, they slowly became mine,” Nussbaum says. “I liked to take things apart. If I wanted something, I just built it.”

That curiosity led him to the University of South Florida where, as a volunteer at the school’s Micro-Integration Lab, Nussbaum was exposed to 3D printing. His interest in 3D printing began with the repair of a Fab@Home, one of the first commercially available hobby-level 3D printers. Nussbaum then used the printer to conduct research for his master’s degree and made his first invention disclosure for that work.

And, as they say, “game on” as his career path, at least for now, has been established. Ascend Manufacturing is developing an additive manufacturing  system, called Large Area Projection Sintering (LAPS), that offers many advantages over new and traditional technologies. With LAPS, components can be economically created with increased production rates, reduced peak processing temperatures, and extended exposure times, enabling the processing of a broader range of materials while also providing superior mechanical properties.

Read more here.

Nth Cycle all about recycling to provide secondary source for rare earth materials

(NOTE: This is the second article in a five-part series spotlighting the work of the second cohort of start-ups comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” initiative. They arrived in the area in May to begin their two-year effort to further advance their early stage energy-focuses companies.)

By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Megan O’Connor has adopted the mantra that all investors like to hear. She’s “all in” as it relates to Nth Cycle, the start-up company that provides a recycling technology to enable a secondary source of rare earth and specialty metals for a sustainable, secure energy future.

And, in spite of several detours along the way – one academic, another a “fork-in-the-road” career decision, and the third a difficult technology problem not solved until the proverbial 11th hour – O’Connor is very optimistic about the future several months into her fellowship as part of the second cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative.

The Plattsburgh, NY native says her interest in entrepreneurship began while an undergraduate student at Union College near Albany, NY. “I wanted to build a technology to solve a big problem,” O’Connor explained.

She went from Union College to Duke University in Durham, NC where, halfway through her doctoral work, O’Connor’s advisor left for Yale University. That individual was Desiree Plata.

“Desiree’s passion for teaching and the environment was the right fit for me personally,” O’Connor says, so she followed the inspirational advisor to New Haven, CT where she finished her academic work at Yale, but graduated with her doctorate from Duke.

Read more here.