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.

 

GeoAir Wins Fall 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition

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GeoAir, a startup company founded by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, MBA candidate Alex Adams, won top prize at last week’s fall 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition. The company beat 18 competitors to take first place at the competition, which was hosted by UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

GeoAir gives a faster, more precise way to identify mold in fields by using a drone to take airborne samples of the field. That data is used to create a heat map, which identifies mold hot spots. This information allows growers to spot treat the areas instead of the entire crop, saving time, money and crop production.

L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Alex Adams, GeoAir; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI

L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Alex Adams, GeoAir; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI

Adams won $1,500 along with one year of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by Funding Sage.

Second place went to Taylor King’s ReInvent, an upcycling company that helps people take recyclable materials and transform them into works of art with the help of a local artist. King, a senior in business analytics, won $1,000, six months of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services from PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by Funding Sage.

 L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Taylor King, ReInvent; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI


L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Taylor King, ReInvent; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI

Third place went to Prometheus Group LLC, a consultancy group that focuses on risk management and travel security, reducing the cost of risk assessments for travelers while improving efficiency. The company was founded by Christopher Ruel, an MBA candidate and U.S. 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 team was awarded $500 and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by Funding Sage.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many pitches at one time,” said Shawn Carson, Vol Court director. “It was high energy, and the quality of ideas gets better every year.”

L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Christopher Ruel, Prometheus; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jared Smith, Prometheus; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI

L to R: Brittany Burgess, Launch Tennessee; Paul Sponcia, IT Company; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Christopher Ruel, Prometheus; David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group PLLC; Jared Smith, Prometheus; Jake Holt, Cirrus Insight; Eric Elliott, Teknovation.biz; Shawn Carson, ACEI

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the fall 2016 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, teams attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like legal structure for businesses and unconventional funding sources. Prize money was donated by presenting sponsor Cirrus Insight and supporting sponsors Launch Tennessee and the IT Company.

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 Cirrus Insight, the UT Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, the IT Company, Hard Knox Pizzeria, Three Roots Capital and Funding Sage.

Anderson Center Awards $8,800 In Funding To Eleven Entrepreneurship Research Proposals

Research15-SliderThe Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) recently awarded a total of $8,800 to fund 11 research proposals submitted by University of Tennessee faculty and doctoral students.

For the second consecutive year, ACEI accepted applications in four research categories: doctoral student proposals, doctoral student working papers, faculty proposals, and faculty working papers. A total of 18 submissions were received.

“The Anderson Center developed this competition as a means of promoting meaningful research in entrepreneurship at the University of Tennessee,” said Lynn Youngs, ACEI Executive Director. “Now in its second year, this competition received twice as many submissions as it did in 2014, so we are excited to see the momentum entrepreneurship research is gaining on campus. Our hope is that the work our students and faculty are doing will help entrepreneurs and policymakers make better decisions about opportunities and how best to pursue them.”

In most instances, the funding awarded through this competition will be used to pay for travel to and from research conferences where winners will present their work.

“Presenting at research conferences is one of the primary means of gathering feedback on research in progress,” said Rhonda Reger, ACEI Director of Research. “Researchers need that feedback in order to refine their research and strengthen their final product.”

Winners of the doctoral student proposal category are:

  • First place, $800 – Erika Williams, “I Need You But I Don’t Want You: An Examination of How Psychological Ownership Influences Entrepreneurs’ Help-Seeking Behavior”;
  • Second place (tie), $500 – David Jiang, “Is There a Socioemotional Paradox in Family Firms? An Experimental Examination of the Theoretical Tensions Between Family Firm Members’ Socioemotional Wealth and Socioemotional Selectivity”;
  • Second place (tie), $500 – Xinran Wang, “Do Shareholders Respond to Information Security Breaches: An Attributional Model”;
  • Third place (tie), $200 – Nastraran Simarasl, “Highly-educated Immigrant Entrepreneurs’ Startup Location Decisions”;
  • Third place (tie) $200 – Xinran Wang, “Silence versus Diffusion: An Evolution from Grievances on Social Media to Policy Entrepreneurship”.

Winners of the doctoral student working paper category are:

  • First place, $1,300 – Daniel White, “Traditional Scientist to Academic Entrepreneur: Why It’s Hard to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”;
  • Second place (tie), $500 – Daniel White, “Life Partner Dynamics and Entrepreneurial Action”;
  • Second place (tie), $500 – Jason Strickling, “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development: Media Influence on Entrepreneurial Orientation”;
  • Third place, $300 – Laura D’Oria, “Building Positive Traditional Media Attention and Social Approval: How New Ventures Might Leverage Social Media”.

Winners of the faculty working papers category are:

  • First place, $3,000 – David Williams, “Path Creating and Path Breaking: The Effects of Initial International Entries on Venture Growth and Performance”;
  • Second place, $1,000 – Jacob LeRivier, “Shareholder Protection and Dividend Policy: An Experimental Analysis”.

In addition to the individual research awards, the judging committee also approved a $3,000 grant to fund the purchase of the RavenPack News Analytics® Database which will be used to support entrepreneurship research across the university.

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlines Approaching for SBA Funding for Entrepreneurship Research

The Small Business Administration has several funding opportunities for entrepreneurial research. See below for a list of topics and upcoming deadlines.

Submission Deadline 12:30 pm (CMT) Thursday, May 28:

1. Research on Miscellaneous Small Business Topics Using Large Datasets (SBAHQ-15-Q-0030), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=e3d3c0d020a27b113a7fb213c1bc1821&tab=core&_cview=0

2. Research on Miscellaneous Topics: Small Businesses in the Supply Chain (SBAHQ-15-Q-0025), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=f1b1a65619e7cd4e529422568854b85a&tab=core&_cview=0

3. Research on Miscellaneous Small Business Topics on Minority Entrepreneurship(SBAHQ-15-Q-0031), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=a36aca0431755dc05ba66142dc37cad7&tab=core&_cview=0

4. Research on Millennial Entrepreneurship (SBAHQ-15-Q-0029), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=d32222351f6bab7a4f0e39e4479066fa&tab=core&_cview=0

 

Submission Deadline 12:30 pm (CMT) Tuesday, June 2:

5. Research on the Potential of Microfinance on Small Businesses (SBAHQ-15-Q-0028), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=2dfece9a06e15b536a66bc01e1b16b99&tab=core&_cview=0

6. Research on Miscellaneous Small Business Topics on Alternative Financing (SBAHQ-15-Q-0022), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=7464d4fcaa2b784c0b9360621e06e50b&tab=core&_cview=0

7. Research on the Impacts of Technological Innovations in Banking on Small Business Access to Capital (SBAHQ-15-Q-0021), available https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=8a867b75a81e9a350768dd7c6742120d&tab=core&_cview=0

8.  Research on Technology Effects on Small Businesses in International Markets(SBAHQ-15-Q-0036), available https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=0b6ae84325c487dc80588c0e2ba180a5&tab=core&_cview=0

National Women’s Business Council

1. Research on Resources and Programs that Support High Growth Women Entrepreneurs(SBAHQ-15-Q-0039), available at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=ff3b56d167cf35c45a108999f3768bbb&tab=core&_cview=0

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.