Boyd Venture Challenge Awards Funding to Four Student Startups

Four businesses owned by students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were recently awarded a total of $35,000 in the spring 2017 Boyd Venture Challenge. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosted the seed fund grant competition.

The Sorority Guide, Orion Investment Group, In With the Old and Campus Car were selected from a group of eight finalists. A panel of five judges determined funding awards.

“Funding at this level provides our student entrepreneurs with the opportunity to take their early-stage venture to the next step,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center. “The Boyd Venture Challenge not only grants this important funding, but students also receive feedback from the judges, which can help as they move their business forward.”

Kelsey Duncan of The Sorority Guide

The Sorority Guide, founded by Kelsey Duncan, a sophomore in marketing from Nashville, was awarded $15,000. The values-based analytical tool uses a cell phone application to guide potential new sorority members through the recruitment process. The application eases the process by providing users with information about each sorority, facts about recruitment events and journaling options for users to privately record their experiences. In addition to using the funds for travel to pitch The Sorority Guide to the universities across the U.S., Duncan plans to expand her company’s personnel.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge has been an incredible honor and experience to participate in,” said Duncan. “I am very excited about the future and what is to come for the Sorority Guide.”

Judd Conatser of Orion Investment Group

Orion Investment Group, a local real estate investment business, was awarded $10,000. MBA candidate and U.S. Navy veteran Judd Conatser, from Maryville, Tennessee, founded the company. Orion Investment Group plans to provide quality single-family rental properties in Maryville. The company caters to young, mobile families who often relocate for their jobs and find it impractical to buy and sell a home during a short turnaround time.

“This award will allow me to obtain the needed legal assistance and financial advice to move the company to the next level,” said Conatser.

Baker Donahue of In With the Old

In With the Old, a social media-based clothing retail service, was awarded $5,000. The company was founded by Baker Donahue, a junior in communication studies from Franklin, Tennessee. In With the Old uses online social auctions to sell repurposed vintage college apparel. Donahue plans to use the funds to hire a web developer and designer to improve the efficiency of the company’s e-commerce website. Originally a UT-based company, the brand now includes four other college campuses.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge has prepared me for real-life scenarios with real-life rewards,” says Donahue. “With the redesigned website we’ll be able to scale to every prominent university in the country.”

Ryan Cunningham of Campus Car

Campus Car, founded by Ryan Cunningham, a supply chain management major from Collierville, Tennessee, was awarded $5,000. The flat-rate ride-sharing company for the UT campus area plans to launch in August. The company will hire local students as independent contractors to provide low-cost transportation to and from campus in downtown Knoxville, Fort Sanders and the campus area. Cunningham plans to use the funds for cell phone application development and insurance premiums.

“The funds will allow me to be completely financially stable during the first couple of months of operation,” says Cunningham.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is administered each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community decides the funding awards. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 37 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $312,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.

 

Boyd Venture Challenge Awards $35,000 to Student Startups

boydf16-winner-slider

The fall 2016 Boyd Venture Challenge awarded a total of $35,000 to four UT startup companies to advance their businesses.

Prometheus, SimPath, GeoAir, and In With the Old were selected from a group of 15 applicants. The businesses were pitched to a panel of six judges who determined funding awards. Recipients include undergraduate and graduate students representing a variety of disciplines including engineering, communications, business, and computer science.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge continues to attract applicants with strong, innovative businesses,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “Insightful questions and comments by the judges are once again invaluable in helping our aspiring entrepreneurs develop their businesses.”

Jared Smith and Christopher Ruel of Prometheus Group LLC.

Jared Smith and Christopher Ruel of Prometheus Group LLC.

Prometheus Group LLC was awarded $17,600.

The company is a consultancy group that focuses on risk management and travel security. It was founded by Christopher Ruel, an MBA candidate and US Army Special Forces veteran, and Jared Smith, a senior in honors computer science and project leader at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Cyber Warfare Research Team. The company intends to reduce the cost of risk assessments for travelers while improving efficiency.

The founders plan to use funding from the Boyd Venture Challenge to develop an integrated and customized risk mitigation tool for global travelers. The service will provide up-to-date customized and detailed risk analysis reports based on the specific needs of each client.

Ben Mohr and Rob Moseley and of SimPath.

Ben Mohr and Rob Moseley and of SimPath.

SimPath was awarded $10,000.

SimPath, a company founded by Rob Moseley and Ben Mohr, doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, offers quick low-cost DNA assembly solutions for synthetic biologists in the bio-based manufacturing industry.

The company combines its assembly technology with high-tech web-based DNA design tools and DNA synthesis, offering a quicker cost-effective alternative to current assembly options. SimPath plans to use the funds to finalize licensing arrangements with ORNL.

Alex Adams of GeoAir.

Alex Adams of GeoAir.

GeoAir was awarded $5,000.

GeoAir identifies mold hot spots in agriculture fields, allowing farmers to proactively treat them, which increases crop yield. The company, founded by MBA candidate Alex Adams, will use the funds to gain national recognition and begin selling services prior to the growing season.

Baker Donahue of In With the Old.

Baker Donahue of In With the Old.

In With the Old was awarded $2,400.

In With the Old specializes in repurposing and selling retro college apparel. The company was founded by Baker Donahue, a junior in communication studies. The Instagram-based auction-style business currently operates at UT and Auburn University. With the funds from the Boyd Venture Challenge, the company will grow its current services, and expand to a new location.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is administered through the Anderson Center in UT’s Haslam College of Business. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 33 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $277,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.

The fall 2016 Boyd Venture Challenge judges included Ralph Korpman, Tony Lettich, Mike Manning, Chris Miller, Jake Rheude, and Stefan Wilson.

“The competition from the companies was very strong,” said Rheude, director of business development and marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment and two-time Boyd Venture Challenge winner. “The variety and quality of businesses represented reflect UT well.”

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence, and SportDog brands.

 

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.

Fall 2012 Boyd Venture Fund Winners Announced

Two student-owned ventures split $20K in seed funding grants from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Boyd Venture Fund. The Boyd Venture Fund is administered through the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s College of Business Administration. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, eight student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $62.5K in seed capital to achieve milestones that advanced their businesses. The Fall 2012 winners are:
 
    • InHouse GFX — a company focused on three service areas: screen printing, graphic/print design, and web development
    • Adams Innovations LLC — a designer, importer and distributor of leisure hammocks with a unique suspension system that eliminates the needs to readjust and reposition the suspension ropes

L to R: Randy Boyd, Anthony Smith, Justin Ruffin, Tom Graves

    InHouse GFX, founded by Anthony Smith (public relations ’13) and Justin Ruffin (communications ’14), offers custom screen printing, graphic /print design and web development to its target market of sororities, fraternities and campus organizations. InHouse has worked with various UT campus organizations, including the Student Government Association, Team Vols, Me4UT, Alpha Kappa Psi, IFC, NPHC, Black Issue Conference, and numerous Greek organizations. “Our vision is to be on numerous college campuses where we will employee students,” explains Smith. “Our company will provide these students with the opportunity to gain valuable experience in fields such as advertising, sales, marketing, production, management, and customer service.” Ruffin adds: “The Boyd Venture Fund grant will allow us to upgrade our computers and software and hire a much needed part-time production manager.” InHouse GFX can be contacted at general@inhousegfx.com.

L to R: Randy Boyd, Alex Adams, Tom Graves

Adams Innovation LLC, founded by Alex Adams (mechanical engineering ’14), designs, imports, and distributes leisure hammocks that are affordable, all-inclusive (hammock and rope suspension system are sold as one unit), and offer a unique suspension system. “I am committed to bringing quality hammocks to a growing market,” says Adams. Adams’s interest in hammocks started during his freshman year at UT. “Hammocks are a great way to relax, but when I had to constantly reposition the ropes to keep the hammock at the height I wanted, I thought that there must be a better way,” he says. His research into ropes and the logging market, which he used to create his unique hammock suspension system, ultimately led to a suspension system that does not require readjustment. He intends to sell his product online and through major outdoor retailers. His Boyd Venture Fund award will allow him to order his initial inventory and be prepared to sell in the Spring. The hammocks are marketed under the trade name Xada. Adams can be contacted at aadams@xadagear.com.

“Creating new local businesses is the cornerstone to a community’s success,” said fund benefactor Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corp. “These businesses create jobs, pay taxes that fund other investments such as education and support the local community with philanthropy. I cannot imagine a better return on investment than supporting future generations of entrepreneurs.” Boyd Venture Fund grants are available to any UT Knoxville student-owned business and are awarded each Spring and Fall.

Boyd Venture Fund Applications Due 11/9

For the fourth consecutive semester, the Boyd Venture Fund is soliciting applications from student-owned companies seeking seed-funding grants. All University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), students, regardless of academic discipline or degree program (doctoral, masters, or undergraduate) are eligible to apply. 

To qualify for the grant money, each business must be legally established (federal tax ID, business license, etc.). The student owners must be enrolled in a UTK degree program at the time of application (although meeting with the grant-evaluation committee after graduation is acceptable).

To apply for the grant, the student owner(s) representing the company should submit an executive summary of the business, a pro forma budget, and a “use of funds” statement detailing how the grant funds would be spent to move the business forward. This information should be sent to:

ACEI@utk.edu

Subject Line: The Boyd Venture Fund

Deadline for grant-application submissions this semester is Friday, November 9th.  Those businesses invited to “pitch” to the grant-award committee will be notified by Monday, November 12th with presentations to the awards committee scheduled for Friday, November 16th.  Pitches may be done by Skype or video conferencing for management teams not on campus.  

Up to $20,000 is available to be awarded. The money may be allocated to one company, multiple companies, or possibly no companies (if the judging committee does not think any of the applications are worthy). The Anderson Center will work with any business that receives a grant to connect it with a volunteer “mentor,” an experienced individual with interest in the type of business being awarded a grant.

 The grant-award committee will consider:

  • Viability of the business concept
  • Growth potential
  • Need for capital

The Boyd Venture Fund is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, President and CEO of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands. Radio Systems is a business built on the knowledge that pets are members of the family. Radio Systems’ 400 worldwide employees produce the industry’s most popular and innovative products in pet training, containment, safety, and lifestyle for an audience dear to their hearts: their own pets.