Vol Court Pitch Competition and Speaker Series Kicks Off Feb. 1


The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation invites students, faculty, staff and members of the local community to pitch their business ideas at Vol Court, a semiannual pitch competition and speaker series.

Winners of the competition receive up to $1,500 in prize money, space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, and legal and accounting services.

Vol Court kicks off Feb. 1 with a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series. The event culminates March 8 in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice.

Local entrepreneurs and UT faculty will cover a range of business topics. As part of the series, Vol Court director Shawn Carson will share his own entrepreneurial expertise.

“We’re excited to return for the spring semester with new speakers and topics,” Carson says. “Vol Court provides opportunities not only to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs but also to network with area businesspeople and entrepreneurial-minded students, faculty, staff and community members.”

Vol Court has grown in recent years to include more speakers, sponsors, participants and prizes. All pitch competition participants are eligible for cash prizes awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners.

Vol Court meets 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Wednesday from Feb. 1 through March 8 in the Haslam Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. The Feb. 1 meeting will be held in Room 103, but all other sessions—as well as the pitch competition—will be held in Room 104.

Anyone who participates in the March 8 pitch competition must have attended four of the following five series meetings:

Feb. 1: Opportunity Identification and Validation

Feb. 8: Getting to Your Market

Feb. 15: Understanding Basic Financial Statements

Feb. 22: Intellectual Property

March 1: Pitching the Concept

The speaker series and pitch competition are open to the public. There is no charge to participate in the event, and anyone interested in starting a company is encouraged to attend.

Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from sponsors, which include Cirrus Insight, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, Hard Knox Pizzeria, The IT Company, Funding Sage, 3 Roots Capital and the UT Research Foundation.


“Big Idea” Contest Accepting Applications


Submission Deadline is Feb. 3rd for the “What’s The Big Idea” Contest hosted by Tennessee Development Corporation, Knoxville Chamber, and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

 “What’s the Big Idea 48 Hour Launch” is a weekend-long business start-up summit designed to inspire entrepreneurial action. The competition will bring together bright minds Feb. 24-26 to participate in an intensive period of prototyping, community building, planning, incubation, and launching. The winning idea will be advanced to the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s CO.STARTER Program and will be eligible for up to $10,000 in business-launch reimbursement costs after completing the program from the Tennessee Development Corporation.

Want to know more? Check out this Video from last year’s WTBI, read the official rules, and submit an application. Deadline is Feb. 3rd.

Boyd Venture Challenge Accepting Applications Through Oct. 17


The application period is now open 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 Knoxville or UT Institute of Agriculture undergraduate, masters or PhD degree program at the time of application. Applications must be received by the Anderson Center no later than midnight, Mon., Oct. 17, 2016 and should consist of an executive summary, requested funds and milestones that will be accomplished with the funds, if awarded. Teams that advance to the presentation round will pitch to a panel of local business professionals on Fri., Oct. 28. For full application instructions and eligibility details, visit https://tiny.utk.edu/Boyd-fall16.

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. To date, this endowed fund has awarded $242,000 to 29 student-owned startups.

Southern Culture & Technology Merge June 12 – 13

Southland, a conference that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, thought leaders and inovators, has the goal of connecting the Southeast’s best early-stage companies with investors from across the country.  Positioned between CMA Fest and Bonnaroo, attendees will be able to meet a wide range of people from across the region and country who are building businesses using technology that impacts our day to day lives. Startups and early-stage companies have the opportunity to network with investors as well as hear a series of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and pitch competitions that can help shape their businesses.  Learn more here.

Four UT Participants are Finalists in “What’s the Big Idea?!”

Entrepreneurship at UT continues to flourish and produce entrepreneurs in the Knoxville region:  four out of 15 finalists in this year’s “What’s the Big Idea?” business plan competition are students or faculty at UT. The winning idea will receive a Big Idea Launch Package that includes up to $10,000. 

The Knoxville Chamber, The Development Corporation of Knox County, Tech 20/20 and Rodefer Moss & Company host this annual event to spur the launch and growth of new businesses. The Big Ideas were chosen based on growth potential, innovation and/or technical feasibility, newness of the concept or plan, and viability of a sustainable, competitive advantage.

The UT finalists are:

  • CampusLife, Chad Tate:  College-centered social media site focused on facilitating real world connections
  • Neural Energy Games, Charles Chin (a former Vol Court winner!):  Educational video games company targeting college freshmen level courses
  • PTlink, Trevor Grieco and Collin Howser:  Interactive mobile application that improves recovery by connecting clinicians and patients
  • Survature Inc., Jian Huang:  Online survey tool evaluating respondent’s answers and behavior

Contestants will now attend several seminars to prepare and deliver a five-minute pitch on May 7 during Team Selection Night. Inspired by the hit television show The Voice, Team Selection Night engages successful, local entrepreneurs as coaches. After hearing all 15 pitches, coaches Parker Frost, founder of Gigmark Interactive; John Tolsma, owner of Knowledge Launch; and Jimmy Rodefer, CEO of Rodefer Moss & Company, PLLC, will each select three contestants to be part of their team. The three coaches, who all have been recipients of the Knoxville Chamber’s Pinnacle Young Entrepreneur Award, will have one month to mentor their team members before contestants face-off in the Knock Out Competitions.

On June 3, the nine semifinalists will pitch their idea to an independent panel of judges in three separate Knock Out Competitions. Judges will select a winner from each Knock Out Competition, each of who will advance to the “What’s the Big Idea?!” finale on June 20 at Relix Variety Theater.