A $10,000 cash prize is on the line for six startups at the Oct. 5 Startup Day at The Mill & Mine.
The Knoxville entrepreneurs behind these startups will present their businesses to a panel of judges and in front of a crowd of potential investors.
It’s part of Innov865 Week, an opportunity for startups across the region to come together for panels, discussions, pitches and socializing.
Though the winner is selected in early October, all six of these startups are making waves in the Knoxville startup community. Let’s meet them.
Company name: CQInsights
Managing Partners: CEO Bruce Ramshaw, COO Briana Alvoid-Preston, CCO Remi Forman
Year founded: Founded in 2017 and restructured as a public benefit corporation in January
Number of employees: 3
Your company elevator pitch: CQInsights is a health care data analytics and consulting company committed to measuring and improving value for patients. It might surprise you that we don’t know of any health care organization that measures the value of care that they provide. And if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Our business model is to partner with health care industry companies to measure the value of their drugs and medical devices in the context of real patient care. We use our method of data collection, analysis, and our interactive data visualization tool to gain insight into how to lower costs and improve outcomes as well as determine where a drug or device has the best value and where it doesn’t have value or might even contribute to unintentional harm.
Through our patented and FDA validated method, CQInsights can transform the global health care industry into a true value-based system.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? Our company is the result of over 10 years of work to learn how to apply the principles of systems and data science to real patient care. It all started at The University of Missouri, where Dr. Bruce Ramshaw was the chief of general surgery, and Remi Forman became the patient care manager for the hernia team. While in Missouri, they learned that health care, in its current form, is not sustainable, so they began to build small teams around definable patient problems. Ramshaw completely redesigned his division around these patient-centered teams with Forman in a critical role.
After five years there, Ramshaw and Forman moved the hernia team to Daytona Beach and began to apply the same concepts they developed in Missouri to more patients. The biggest improvement in this new practice was the implementation of data collection for multiple patient populations. Over time, they learned how to apply systems and data science in order to lower care costs, improve patient outcomes, and increase the hospital’s profit margin using data analysis and regular feedback loops to mature a learning system for real patient care.
During this time, Briana Alvoid-Preston joined the team, and a business model was developed to sell the analysis of this real-world data to pharmaceutical, device, and diagnostics companies, whose products were already being used in the patient care processes being analyzed. Because health care industry companies are under more and more pressure to demonstrate the value of their drug, device, or diagnostic tool, the group saw a growing interest in our service over time.
The output of our proof of concept was the measurable improvement of patient outcomes paired with a decrease in cost of care and an increase of $1.4 million in hospital margin for patients within a specific subpopulation. We were able to monetize this success by selling the analysis of data from this group of only about 250 patients to over a dozen pharmaceutical, device, and diagnostics companies, generating over $2 million in revenue.
In 2015, Ramshaw became the chair of surgery at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Although the plan was to apply this model within the department of surgery and eventually across the entire University of Tennessee Medical Center, we found that working to implement this at one hospital was high risk and limited certain capabilities. So, in 2019, we made a pivot to apply these principles as a startup business serving targeted areas of the industry across the U.S. and eventually around the globe.
At CQInsights, our clients are industry companies, which include medical device and pharmaceutical companies. We have targeted this specific area of the health care industry because their main challenge is getting access to the analysis of real-world clinical data. The consulting and data analytics solutions provided by CQInsights are less expensive, more flexible and readily available for our clients.
Since our pivot, these are the key successes we’ve achieved that indicate we’re primed to scale and grow:
- Brought in revenue from three existing clients, including datasets from multiple clinical sites
- Published a patent based on our proprietary CQI method
- Influenced a client’s 510(k) approval with the FDA by presenting data generated from our method without the need for an Institutional Review Board (IRB) submission, instead of a traditional clinical trial
- Built an adaptive and interactive web-based data visualization tool, VALITY, to display the value of care for any definable patient care process
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian-based company Data Dissect to bring our CQI model to the Australian market
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with United Techno, a technology company that assists with automated data acquisition and cleansing to help develop a scalable technology platform for managing healthcare data in our CQI method
- In addition to multiple active clients and clinical sites, we are in negotiations with nearly a dozen prospective clients, including several multibillion-dollar medical device and pharmaceutical companies.
Even in the current climate of a global pandemic, CQInsights has found success in fostering new relationships with potential clients because of the need for real-world data across the global health care system. Our experience, knowledge, and proprietary assets have proven CQInsights to be the leader in applying data science appropriately to health care, which fulfills a substantial need within the industry.
How would you describe the current state of your company? Early growth stage. We’ve gone from zero to over $500,000 in booked revenue since February and we have about $2 million in current proposals in negotiation.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? Working in over a dozen unique clinical sites by the end of this year, we will need to mature a scalable technology platform for data acquisition, cleansing and management so that we can apply our CQI method globally at a faster pace.
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? Once the challenges of scaling our method are achieved, we will be expanding to hundreds of clinical sites in the U.S. and begin to expand globally beyond Australia. This will result in exponential revenue growth and demonstrate the potential for our global health care system to achieve better patient outcomes at lower costs.
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? One major change in the health care industry is the move away from traditional controlled clinical research trials to using real-world data for learning. This has been mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act for the FDA to use real-world data and complex adaptive methods for the U.S. regulatory process. This is critical to our success because this transition is embedded in our business model with our CQI method.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? We’re extremely grateful to the East Tennessee entrepreneurial community for their ongoing encouragement and support of our effort.
Endeavor Composites Inc.
Company name: Endeavor Composites Inc.
Founder/CEO: Hicham Ghossein, Ph.D.
Year founded: 2019
Number of employees: 1 full-time, 3 part-time
Your company elevator pitch: Endeavor Composites is intercepting landfill-destined carbon fiber, virgin or recycled, and repurposing them into high performance technical nonwoven fabric using 1-inch long fibers. These fabrics are isotropic in nature with the potential of replacing sheet metal in various industries.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? Our entrepreneurial journey has been extraordinary. Despite the pandemic’s challenge we have managed to gain traction and support from major OEMs on the supplier and client sides. So far we are conducting four major research and development projects with the potential of revolutionizing the transportation industry by adding another 30 miles per gallon range to vehicles.
How would you describe the current state of your company? We are in a seed stage were we are generating research and development revenue and looking to launch our industrial operation in 2022.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? As a hard tech company, our equipment is capital intensive, and an industrial production will require a significant amount of investment. The ROI is significant, but still requires support from serious investors who understand the field.
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? Two years from now, we strive to be the major nonwoven reinforcement supplier for the advanced composite industry. We are projecting an operation of $60 million square feet of fabric with over $20 million in revenue.
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? The composite industry is witnessing a major growth as it provides other industries such as automotive, construction, marine and aerospace with the high performance and lower weight solution. This adaptation calls for reinforcement solutions that are versatile and flexible to accommodate different scenarios and different manufacturers.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? We are a high-tech company that is serving major industries all while maintaining a green and sustainable performance. Our goal is to expand job opportunities in the area and preserve the beautiful landscape of our state. We are from Tennessee and big Vols supporters.
Anything else you want to add? The diversity of our technology allows us to serve almost any field of operation, so please bring us your pain and allow us to tailor a well-fitting solution.
Sentinel Devices LLC
Company name: Sentinel Devices LLC
Founder/CEO: Dr. Forrest Shriver
Year founded: 2020
Number of employees:1
Your company elevator pitch: Sentinel Devices is deploying intelligent devices to monitor individual controllers within industrial control systems, enabling cost-effective and scalable predictive analytics and cyber-awareness. Our devices learn the behavior of their assigned controllers over time, and raise alarms if those controllers exhibit anomalies due to equipment degradation, failure or cyberattack. Our end-to-end machine learning solution is completely self-contained on each device, and never communicates with the cloud, so there is zero risk of a data breach or device backdooring. This approach enables robust, easy-to-implement anomaly detection for industrial customers while keeping the attack surface and data transfer needs to an absolute minimum.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? I started working on the company full time as soon as I left grad school. I’ve had an absolute blast learning all-new skills I’ve never needed before. I’ve had to interview people, I’ve had to run design meetings, I’ve had to prepare technical briefs at low and high levels. It’s really opened up a whole new world and way of thinking for me that I didn’t see before.
How would you describe the current state of your company? Small but interested in iterating and building quickly. We’re deep in the software side of development right now, but hope to start putting things into hardware before too long.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? Right now we’re seeking industrial partners that we can work and iterate with to really prove out our solution and prove that we’re the right approach to solve their problems and concerns. We’re looking for anyone who’s willing to talk about the industrial controls they use, how they implement them and problems they see, and what they think could be better. If they’re willing to give us a test run, even better!
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? We’ll have a working software minimum viable product sitting inside of a robust hardware platform that we’re providing to customers for evaluation and feedback. We hope to be working primarily off of non-dilutive funding, although dilutive funding is not out of the question.
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? A lot of people are starting to wake up and realize that cybersecurity is a big issue for industrial automation, and that cloud-connected solutions might have associated security concerns. There’s also a big drive to understand when your machines are going to fail before they do, which we address, but balancing that kind of intelligence and staying secure is really hard and is an unsolved problem. We believe that we’ll be able to catch this wave of awareness, and that customers will use our product to detect faults and stay safe while doing so.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? We’re really looking forward to talking to everyone at Startup Day! We’re not just looking to talk to utilities; anyone who interfaces with industrial control systems — system integrators, service providers, design firms — we’re open and eager to speaking with you and getting your perspective on the industry and what it needs.
Company name: SkyNano Technologies, LLC
Co-Founders: CEO Anna Douglas and Cary Pint
Year founded: 2017
Number of employees: 6
Your company elevator pitch: We turn carbon dioxide air pollution into useful carbon nanomaterial products through the power of electrochemistry. At high temperature, we indirectly convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into valuable material products, such as carbon nanotubes (CNT), making our technology carbon negative when renewable sources of energy are used as inputs. This approach is positioning SkyNano to enter the CNT market with a product that is a third of the price of the competition and uses about one-tenth the input energy of incumbent, higher-volume production methodologies.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? After 14 years of automotive fuel cell development in industry and at Los Alamos National Laboratory and 11 years of advanced battery development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, (Pint) met Douglas through our work together on a joint ORNL/SkyNano lithium-ion battery (LIB) development project in fall 2020. I was so intrigued by the SkyNano technology and business model, and a personal desire to shift my scientific work towards reversing the impact humankind is having on the Earth’s atmosphere, that I decided to embark on a 3-year entrepreneurial leave program from ORNL in February to pursue development of the technology from benchtop to commercial scale.
How would you describe the current state of your company? We are still a small startup company, but we are comprised of a powerful, dedicated and talented staff full of passion for the environment and making a positive difference with our scientific skillsets. Our current production level is pre-pilot with a heavy emphasis on understanding of the fundamental process science and carbon nanomaterial properties.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? We will be increasing our scale from pre-pilot to pilot (an increase of 50-times production rate) in spring, which will be a significant undertaking. Adjusting to this magnitude of growth in production capacity while still maintaining high product quality is an extremely difficult challenge. SkyNano is well positioned technically to overcome it, but we will likely need to develop an entirely new process for providing carbon nanomaterials to our customers.
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? We will be in a larger new lab space with a 50% increase in staff producing 1 kilogram of high-purity CNTs per week after a successful completion of our Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy contract and growing our existing base of customers by fivefold. We will also have critical reusable materials selected by then, as well as mechanization of product removal, both of which are critical advancements needed to reach a pre-commercialization level.
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? A global emphasis is now being placed on addressing the ongoing climate crisis, the most important aspect of which is reducing the total carbon dioxide output to zero by about 2050 and subsequently returning its level to the pre-industrial range of 350-370 parts per million. In addition, CNTs are a highly desired material in many applications ranging from energy storage, building materials, advanced composites, functional coatings, elastomers, aerospace systems, etc.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? As Earth’s climate crisis continues to worsen due to excessive carbon dioxide emissions and uses for recyclables continue to rise in importance due to limited second-use possibilities, SkyNano remains committed to negative-emissions-based recycling gaseous (like power or chemical plant flue gas) and solid (plastic) waste into highly valuable carbon and graphitic products. These two important environmental problems threaten extinction of many species, upset the delicate balance between the oceans and atmosphere and destabilize life in general as humans know it today. They are also worsening in real time as the ocean plastic pollution continues to expand worldwide, especially in the Pacific Ocean, and extreme weather (forest fires and floods) engulfs the planet during the summer months on an annual basis. Finding a purpose for these carbon-containing plastic waste streams and gaseous carbon dioxide emissions are two integral pieces of closing the “carbon cycle” overall.
Anything else you want to add? A proud woman-owned and operated small business
Summit Performance Testing, LLC
Company name: Summit Performance Testing, LLC
Co-founders: CEO John Sorochan, Ph.D. and CTO Kyley Dickson, Ph.D.
Year founded: April 2020
Number of employees: 2
Your company elevator pitch: Four of the 10 most common sports injuries are to the lower extremities, yet relatively little attention has been given to the study and prevention of these injuries that frequently occur at the intersection of the playing surface and the athlete’s footwear. Until now.
Athletes and sports teams seek peak performance on playing surfaces that have no standard of measure or wear or playability. Until now.
Summit Performance has developed a proprietary and patent-pending system to measure and map the condition of playing surfaces, natural or artificial, across the worlds most popular sports, including football, soccer, rugby, and the like. The benefit to athletes is in both improved performance and safety. And imagine a future where our platform technology can actually provide shoe manufacturers with data-driven design elements to produce custom athletic footwear that will optimize the intersection of the athletes’ footwear and the playing surfaces.
Summit Performance was founded by experts in soil science applied to sports fields and playing surfaces. We serve as expert advisors to the NFL Players Union and to FIFA, the worldwide governing body of soccer. We have performed analysis of playing surfaces for professional football and for Division 1 NCAA teams. Our “secret sauce” is the proprietary collection, analysis, and reporting of data in an industry marked by generation-old practices that leave athletes vulnerable to injuries and held below their maximum performance.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? We have progressed from researching the problem to developing solutions to where, now, we have a company to take to market!
How would you describe the current state of your company? Revenue-generating and preparing to scale.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? Meeting international demand will be challenging. We will need to develop teams to service major sports stadiums and venues, all the while collecting the data to build the platform that will drive a future of data-driven custom footwear.
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? In two years we will be serving domestic and international markets across multiple sports venues (football, soccer, rugby, cricket, etc.).
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? As athletes and team owners become more educated about player health and safety, the demand for measures to prevent injury is increasing, and being able to do so while optimizing performance is a combination that simply hasn’t existed in an industry relying on generation-old technology.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? We are a unique company that applies our expertise and recognition gained during our research at the University of Tennessee into an industry overdue for solutions to improved safety and performance in the global sports market. We will bring jobs and recognition to the region.
Company name: Uncat
Co-founders: Adam Slack, Jared Smith, Kaleigh Veca Smith and CEO Brandon Bruce
Year founded: 2019
Number of employees: 4
Your company elevator pitch: Built by accountants and bookkeepers, Uncat makes it easy to resolve uncategorized transactions with your clients. We got tired of exporting spreadsheets from QuickBooks Online every month, chasing clients for information, and manually copy-pasting client responses into our accounting software. That’s why we built Uncat and packed it with time-saving features to help you close the books faster every month.
What’s been your entrepreneurial journey so far? (Bruce) started and grew a previous software company called Cirrus Insight to No. 41 on the Inc. 500 list in 2016 before exiting in 2018. I’m excited to be working with my fellow co-founders to solve one of the most persistent and burdensome problems facing public accountants and bookkeepers.
How would you describe the current state of your company? We have a robust integration with QuickBooks Online that is highly reviewed by accountants and bookkeepers. We’re ramping up our marketing while also developing integrations with Xero and QuickBooks Desktop.
What’s the next big challenge for your company and what do you need to overcome it? Our next big challenge is scale — serving more customers and continuing to build and enhance our technology.
What’s your vision for what your company looks like in two years? Uncat is a must-have app in the technology stack of accountants and bookkeepers. It’s 100 times our current size and we have the option of continuing to scale independently or combining with other technologies to best serve our customers.
What kind of innovation or change is happening in your industry and how will it impact your company? There is a big focus on workflow and efficiency in the accounting industry. Uncat is well-positioned since it solves one of the big recurring challenges facing accountants and bookkeepers every month.
What else would you like the East Tennessee business community to know about your company? We would love to serve more East Tennessee accountants and bookkeepers.
Growth and development editor Brenna McDermott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow along with her work on Twitter @_BrennaMcD. Support our local news efforts by becoming a Knox News subscriber.