We have an incredible cadre of successful female founders in Knoxville including Sharon Pryse (The Trust Company), Patricia Nash (Patricia Nash Designs), Misty Mayes (Management Solutions)Â and Patricia Bible (KaTom Restaurant Supply), to name a few.
Today, female founders are leading the latest batch of exciting Knoxville startups including Sofia Tomov (Qardian Labs), Anna Douglas (SkyNano Technologies), Erica Grant (Quantum Lock), Megan OâConnor (Nth Cycle)Â and Lia Winter (Winter Innovations).
I recently caught up with all five founders to ask the classic end-of-summer question: What did you do over the summer?
I also asked two follow-up questions: What are your plans for the fall? How can the Knoxville community help you build and grow your business?
Sofia Tomov is a dual enrollment high school student and student at the University of Tennessee. She is the founder of Qardian Labs, where she has developed innovative artificial intelligence-based software for evaluating heart disease risk. It uses deep neural networks to achieve 99%Â accuracy on test data. Sheâs won a total of $16,500 in seed funding from UT’s Boyd Venture Challenge and Maryville College’s Scots Innovation Challenge
âOver the summer, I have been developing a mobile app for iOS that patients can use to evaluate and track their heart disease risk, and Iâve been working on software to aid with thyroid cancer diagnosis,â TomovÂ said. âMy plans for the fall involve concluding the first round of pilot tests, building relationships with hospital systems and individual doctors, reaching out to insurance companies for potential licensing, and targeting Electronic Medical Record (EMR) companies for integration.â
Tomov is part of the business accelerator program at the University of Tennessee Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where she cites the invaluable mentorship of John Bruck, Tom Graves, Lynn YoungsÂ and Carrie McCamey.
Anna Douglas completed her PhD in Interdisciplinary Materials Science at Vanderbilt University in May. She founded SkyNano Technologies in 2017 to recycle atmospheric carbon dioxide into advanced carbon-based materials that are the building blocks of next-generation technologies. She was first inspired by nanotechnology during her time as a summer intern at NASA Glenn during her undergraduate studies.Â Since founding SkyNano in JanuaryÂ 2017, sheâs won $15,000 in pitch competitions (Knoxville Startup Day and Cleantech University Prize); $600,000 in support from ORNL/DOE through fellowships, travel funds, health insuranceÂ and research money; and $225,000 from the NSF SBIR program.
âThis summer, we’ve been busy transitioning out of the Innovation Crossroads program, where all of our operations were out of Oak Ridge National Lab. We now split time between ORNL and space we’re renting at General Graphene,” Douglas said. “We kicked off our NSF SBIR project and hired two technical and one business intern.Â We’re really excited about the growthÂ and the caliber of talent we were able to attract over the summer. This fall, weâll be scaling our technology and getting product samples into the hands of early customers.â
Douglas cites the generous support of leading community entrepreneurs like Vig SherrillÂ and the mentors in the Energy Mentor Network.Â She encourages everybody to keep supporting local small business in Knoxville.
âIt helps keep Knoxville uniqueÂ and is extremely important when tech companies like us think about talent recruitment,” she said. “All of our recruited team members didn’t know very much about Knoxville before moving hereÂ and really love the community once they find all the wonderful local shops, restaurantsÂ and activities there are to do here.â
Erica Grant is a PhD student at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee studying quantum computing. She is the founder of Quantum Lock Technologies, which develops robust security solutions using quantum information with user-friendly interfaces. She has won startup funds at Vol Court ($1,500), Boyd Venture Challenge ($5,000 and $10,000), and KEC’s What’s the Big Idea ($10,000). GrantÂ is in the Anderson Center incubator at UT and KEC’s “The Works” accelerator program, where she is exploring using her technology for hotel security and other industries.
âThis summer Iâve been working hard on software development with my team and writing the full patent application to submit by Aug.Â 1,” she said.Â “This fall Iâm looking forward to participating in the student edition of 36|86 pitch competition in Nashville.â
Grant is always looking to speak with people in Knoxville with interest and expertise in security, locking systemsÂ and Internet of Things (IoT).
Megan OâConnor has a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University. She is the founder of Nth Cycle, where she has developed a technology for recycling critical materials from manufacturing and end-of-life products. The recycled materials create a domestic source of metals for automotive and electronic marketsÂ and reduceÂ dependence on mining and refining overseas.
âThis summer weâve been working on validating our pilot device with various metal waste streams from the electronics sector,” O’Connor said. “Weâre also developing our technology roadmap for when we complete the Innovation Crossroads program in May 2020. We were recently awarded an NSF Phase I grant to validate our technology for the lithium ion battery market, so this fall we will be testing our technology on waste streams from this sector and continuing customer discovery.â
O’Connor emphasizes that the Knoxville community has been extremely helpful over the past year âÂ especially the mentors in the Energy Mentor Network. She is currently looking for wet lab space to lease starting in May 2020.
Lia Winter has a dual MBA/MS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the founder of Winter Innovations, a medical product development company where she has invented EasyWhipTM, a patent-pending surgical needle that is designed to improve the speed and accuracy of the whip stitching step in orthopedic reconstruction procedures like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and rotator cuff surgeries.
Winter has had tremendous success raising startup funds by winning around $70,000 in pitch competitions including VolCourt, Boyd Venture Challenge, University of Louisville Cardinal Challenge, University of Manitoba Stu Clark Investment Competition, University of Georgia Next Top Entrepreneur, First Place. Sheâll be competing in the 36|86 Student Edition Pitch Competition in August.
âThis summer, weâve been participating in the ZeroTo510 medical device accelerator in Memphis,” Winter said. “This program enables entrepreneurs with ideas for medical devices to pursue clearance for commercial deployment through the 510(k) process. My plan for the fall is to continue pursuing launch of EasyWhipTM full time.Â We have been extremely fortunate to build a strong network of support in Tennessee. Ideally, we will file for FDA clearance within the next few months and launch locally here in Tennessee.â
Winter is seeking feedback on EasyWhipTM from orthopedic surgeons and surgical technicians who are willing to demo the prototypes. After the accelerator program ends in August, she will have a better sense of how much capital she will need to get EasyWhipTM to market, so sheÂ might be seeking connections to investors in and around Knoxville.
The future is bright for these female founders and their Knoxville-based startups.
Brandon Bruce is a board member at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and the Knoxville Technology Council. He can be reached at [email protected]
Read or Share this story: https://www.knoxnews.com/story/money/business/2019/08/07/meet-five-female-entrepreneurs-leading-successful-knoxville-startups/1672797001/
This is a syndicated post. Read the original post at Source link .