Grow Bioplastics Wins Spring 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition

Winner-sliderGrow Bioplastics, a startup company founded by University of Tennessee students, beat 14 competitors to win the spring 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition last week. Their product is a biodegradable alternative to the plastic mulch film currently used in agricultural applications.

The Grow Bioplastics team is comprised of Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, both doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. They have developed a process based on a patent through Oak Ridge National Lab to produce biodegradable mulch film that is both cost effective and eco-friendly.

Currently black plastic sheeting is used on many farms as a solution for retaining ground moisture and temperature while keeping unwanted weeds out of their fields. It is effective for this purpose, but at the end of the growing season the plastic must be removed and disposed of, creating a significant cost for the farm. Grow Bioplastics’ solution to this problem is to create sheets of biodegradable mulch film made of lignin, a natural waste product of the paper industry. This allows farmers to simply till the film into the ground at the end of the season, saving them the expense of removing it and keeping oil-based plastic products out of the landfill.

Grow Bioplastics is the first repeat winner of the Vol Court Pitch Competition. They first won Vol Court in fall 2014 when pitching a separate product line that they have since expanded upon.

Grow Bioplastics won $1,500, provided by Cirruspath, the presenting sponsor of the Vol Court Pitch Competition. The team will also receive one year of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of Pershing Yoakley & Associates and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group.

Second place went to Kevin White and Gameday Weekenders, a startup providing UT fans with travel accommodations for away athletic events. White, a senior majoring in business analytics, won $1,000 provided by Cirruspath, as well as six months of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services from Pershing Yoakley & Associates, and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group.

Third place went to mooch, an app that allows individuals to save money by borrowing what they need, and make money by lending what they don’t. The mooch team is comprised of Jared Smith and Kyle Bashour, both seniors majoring in computer science, and Kaleigh Veca, a junior graphic design major. The team was awarded $500 provided by Launch Tennessee.

“The competition was very stiff for Vol Court this semester,” said Tom Graves, director of operations for the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “We had more teams competing than ever before, and as a whole, this group of 15 teams was probably the most prepared group we’ve ever had. It was very evident they’d paid attention to this semester’s speakers and put a lot of effort into refining their elevator pitches. Because of that, there was considerable debate when it came time for the judges to select the winners.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the spring 2016 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, teams attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like intellectual property, basic financial statements and opportunity identification.

Vol Court is a free event hosted by the Anderson Center each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community. It’s made possible through sponsorship from Cirruspath, UT Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley & Associates and Morehous Legal Group.

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Vol Court Adds New Topics, Begins Feb. 17

VolCourt-Slider

Now entering its seventh year, the Vol Court Pitch Competition encourages University of Tennessee students, faculty, staff and community members to pitch their business ideas for a chance to win $1,500, space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, and free legal and accounting services.

Vol Court is a six-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice. Based on suggestions from past Vol Court attendees, new topics such as “Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents” have been added to the lineup this semester.

Vol Court has come a long way since it first launched in February 2010. The competition has grown from a single $1,000 award to three cash prizes. Weekly workshops that began with just 20 people now average at least 60 attendees.

“It’s been really exciting to see Vol Court develop,” said Tom Graves, Operations Director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “When we first launched this program back in 2010, we didn’t know quite what to expect. Since then we’ve seen numerous startup ideas come to life and many students choose to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. The success of Vol Court is really indicative of the growing entrepreneurial culture on campus.”

Vol Court meets from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Wednesday beginning Feb. 17 in Room 104 of the Haslam Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. There is no charge to participate and registration is not required. Anyone who participates in the March 30 pitch competition must have attended four of the five series meetings.

The schedule for this semester’s Vol Court series is as follows:

Feb. 17 – Opportunity Identification and Validation

Feb. 24  – Reaching Your Market

Mar. 2 – Basic Financial Statements

Mar. 9 – Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

Mar. 23 – Business Plan Presentation

Mar. 30 – Pitch Competition

Vol Court is a semi-annual event hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from our sponsors: Cirrus Path, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley and Associates, Morehous Legal Group, and the UT Research Foundation.

Boyd Venture Challenge Accepting Applications Through Oct. 31

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is now accepting applications for the Boyd Venture Challenge, a seed fund grant that awards up to $20,000 to student-owned startup companies each fall and spring semester.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is open to any early-stage company owned by a UT student. To be eligible, companies must be legally established and the student owner(s) must be enrolled in a UT undergraduate or graduate degree program in Knoxville at the time of application. Applications must be received by the Anderson Center no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. For full application instructions and eligibility details, click here.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands. To date, this endowed fund has awarded $109,500 to 16 student-owned startups.

10/14 Vol Court: Finding Investors at the Right Time

Chris Miller, portfolio manager at Capital Bank, will be speaking at the fourth session of Vol Court tonight at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be discussing different types of funding, investor expectations and the importance of a management team.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Refreshments will be served.

10/7 Vol Court: Entity Selection and Issues

David Morehous, founder of Morehous Legal Group PLLC, will be speaking at the third session of Vol Court tomorrow night at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be discussing entity selection considerations and legal issues associated with entity formation. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. Refreshments will be served.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

9/30 Vol Court: The Business Model Canvas – Part 2

Eric Dunn, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Catalyst Coaching, LLC, will be speaking at the second session of Vol Court Sept. 30 at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be covering the second part of the business model canvas worksheet, discussing revenue streams, partners, and cost structure. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. Refreshments will be served.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

Vol Court Offers Entrepreneurial Workshops and Cash Prize

The Vol Court 2014 Speaker Series kicks off at the University of Tennessee on September 23. Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) and led by local entrepreneurs and business experts. The series culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 and professional services.

Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. The series and the pitch competition are open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community. There is no charge to participate in this series and anyone interested in starting a company is encouraged to attend.

The schedule for this semester’s Vol Court series is as follows:

  • Tues., Sept. 23 – The Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup – Part 1
  • Tues., Sept. 30 – The Business Model Canvas – Part 2
  • Tues., Oct. 7 – Entity Selection and Issues
  • Tues., Oct. 14 – Finding Investors at the Right Time
  • Tues., Oct. 21 – Preparing the Pitch
  • Tues., Oct. 28 – Vol Court Pitch Competition

Vol Court is sponsored by UT Federal Credit UnionUT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and Associates, Morehous Legal Group, and Launch Tennessee.

For information on past winners or to download materials that will be used in this series, click here.