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2 weeks on the road with Allie

The LaunchTN team spends lots of time traveling around the state — hosting workshops, connecting with our partners, and sharing the Tennessee entrepreneurial story. Here’s a taste of what our intrepid commercialization manager Allie Mikels has been up to.

Dotted with security checkpoints, a desolate stretch of road leading deep into the hills of East Tennessee radiates a definite “X Files” vibe. But LaunchTN commercialization manager Allie Mikels, focused on getting to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was undaunted.

“I was overwhelmed with excitement and awe from all the science and discovery going on around me,” Allie reported.

She was there to meet the seven newly minted participants in Innovation Crossroads, a Department of Energy program that awards coveted fellowships to energy entrepreneurs from around the US. This elite group of innovators earn a two-year residence in Oak Ridge to help them take their research from the lab to the marketplace. They’re given access to equipment and other resources available at the nation’s largest science and energy facility — also the birthplace, back in the 1940s, of atomic energy.

“All seven entrepreneurs, the largest cohort so far, were eager to connect with mentors and networks provided by LaunchTN,” said Allie. “They asked a lot of great questions and were especially enthusiastic about getting connected with our SBIR/STTR program, microgrants, and equity initiatives. I’m proud that LaunchTN works with Innovation Crossroads, and I look forward to seeing how far this third cohort can go.”

If it’s Monday, this must be Boston

A week later, Allie was on the road again, this time to Boston and the SBIR/STTR Spring Innovation Conference, part of the TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo.

“This was a great opportunity to connect with people from across the country — individual companies, universities, reps from federal agencies, and other entrepreneurial support organizations,” Allie said.

She represented LaunchTN on a panel discussion, “SBIR Company Spotlight,” moderated by Jennifer Shieh from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“We provided the perspective of the ecosystem builder,” Allie said, “speaking to the importance of building and maintaining a network of resources to support our early-stage companies.”

From a mixer to matching funds

Later in the week, Allie headed to Knoxville for our Networks Mentor Mixer, an opportunity for LaunchTN to say “thank you” to the mentors who have dedicated time to sharing their insight and expertise with our startups. It was also a chance for us to connect with new potential mentors to add to our network.

Allie also facilitated a LaunchTN SBIR/STTR Workshop at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, co-hosted by the UT Research Foundation.

“We had 25 participants, which brings our total springtime series attendance to 140,” Allie said. “Four people also took advantage of one-on-one office hours with Jim Stefansic, our commercialization consultant.”

How to cap the whirlwind weeks? Finding out that two more Tennessee-based companies LaunchTN supported with our microgrant program earned SBIR/STTR awards. “That means our win rate to-date for microgrant-supported companies is 39%,” Allie said. “We’re well above the national average, which hovers somewhere between 10% and 20% for Phase 1.”

Congrats to all.