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SBIR Matching Fund entrepreneur success stories

Over the past five years, LaunchTN has worked to bolster startup activity and increase participation from Tennessee entrepreneurs in what’s colloquially known as America’s Seed Fund.

Every year, 11 participating federal agencies allocate capital totalling $4 billion to SBIR/STTR programs. The programs are the country’s biggest source of early-stage funding for research and development.

LaunchTN supports founders’ applications to the federal programs, and if the founders land that funding, then LaunchTN invites the company to apply for matching funds.

LaunchTN has deployed matching funds to more than 130 Tennessee companies. 

Those funds have gone on to create 650 jobs that have an average of more than $80,000 a year. Tennessee companies that have received SBIR/STTR Matching Funds have created nearly $350 million in total economic impact 

Check out these profiles of Tennessee entrepreneurs, who have received matching funds. 

Company: Whisper Aero
Company overview: The business, which came out of stealth mode in July 2021, is building an electric thruster that is meant to blend noise that comes from delivery drones into background levels so it becomes undetectable to the human ear. The company also hosted a Demo Day and brought venture capitalists from across the world to Crossville, TN.
CEO: Mark Moore
Location: Crossville, TN
Year of Award: 2023
Fast fact: Whisper Aero is also working with Tennessee Tech University to build a wind tunnel.

Company: Dextrous Robotics
Company overview: The startup is building robots for logistics. The company’s smart robots can unload a trailer three times faster than a human.
CEO: Evan Drumwright
Location: Memphis
Year of Award: 2021
Fast fact: The picking appendages were modeled after chopsticks, and allow the robot to pick a variety of sizes and textures, just like the eating utensils.

Company: Couture Technologies
Company overview: The company’s team is dedicated to creating the most accurate and efficient technology that allows customers to try on clothes virtually.
CEO: Deanna Meador Location
Nashville Year of Award: 2020
Fast fact: The technology the company works with is called VTO — virtual try on. 


Company: SkyNano
Company overview: Science-based tech startup SkyNano is working on commercializing a free-market solution to carbon pollution.
CEO: Anna Douglas Location Knoxville Year of Award 2019
Fast fact: CEO Anna Douglas landed on Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Energy in 2019, and her startup was a finalist in Tesla founder Elon Musk’s $100 million XPRIZE Carbon Removal prize. 

Company: HD Clean
Company overview: HD CLEAN is a disabled Veteran-owned, sole-proprietor small business with a mission of bringing products to market that make dialysis safer.
CEO: TJ O’Neil
Location: Johnson City
Year of Award: 2022
Fast fact: HD CLEAN LLC was awarded the American Association of Kidney Patients’ 2023 Jenny Kitsen Patient Safety Award. And O’Neil was named SBA Innovator of the Year in 2022. 

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