University Venture Challenge Winners & Partners

2016 University Venture Challenge Winners

Commercialized Technology – Grow Bioplastics A Knoxville based startup dedicated to improving food, sustainability by offering farmers and gardeners renewable, biodegradable plant containers and mulch films that eliminates oil based plastics from our agricultural system.

Lifestyle Business – Portmanteau Portmanteau Jewelry Collection is a collection of handmade, premium jewelry designed for layering. With a contemporary, boho-chic aesthetic, earrings, rings and necklaces are created to be layer-able and compatible, for endless combinations and personalization.

Technology Enabled – SilkOps SilkOps is a web-based company that provides operation management through a custom manufactured software specifically designed for the custom apparel industry. Currently, SilkOps offers fully functional order, project, client, and inventory management systems enabling users to manage all aspects of running their print shop. These integrated features provide the user with efficiency in one easy to use platform.

Social Enterprise – Theresa’s Twists Theresa’s Twists – Pretzels With A Purpose was founded for the purpose and mission of empowering young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome (autism spectrum) to become productive and employable persons and future assets to organizations, companies, and businesses.

2016 Finalists

Commercialized Technology – MERLIN Medical Technology MERLIN provides a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided, incisions alternative to neurosurgery. An MRI-compatible (non-metal) robot steers a patient-specific curved needle into the body, which delivers localized heat to treat tissue without requiring open brain surgery. 


Lifestyle Business – The Little Cottage Bakery The Little Cottage Bakery offers a full product line of “Little Bites,” a variety of sweet & savory mini sized baked goods. Our signature dessert is our “Little Apple Pie,” a scrumptious mini dessert perfect for curbing that sweet tooth without busting the wallet or the diet. In addition, we also offer custom and retail cakes, cupcakes, dessert cakes, and coffee.

Technology Enabled – Boomalang Boomalang is a “language exchange platform,” connecting English speakers in the U.S. with Spanish speakers in Latin America for live, guided conversation over a video tool they built. Think of it as today’s video version of a pen pal.

Social Enterprise – Ed Pack Global Ed. Pack Global is a backpack company that for every product that is sold, a portion of our profits goes towards funding female education both in developing countries and here in the United States.

Social Enterprise – Zabi A birth control distribution company with an integrated social cause component.


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