Friday, January 30, 2009

Hello, Marko?

[UPDATED 3:20 P.M.] Buzzmaster Mark Montgomery (left), co-founder of Echomusic LLC, now d/b/a simply 'echo', said earlier this week he's leaving the company, which is now a Ticketmaster unit that helps performers (e.g., echo cites work for Keith Urban) build fan-facing online communities and e-commerce revenue. Mark's posts indicate he's spending time attending events, walking beaches and strategizing his next move. One entry suggests that two years ago, when Mark and co-founder Neil Einstman, and later co-owner Pinky Gonzales sold echo to Ticketmaster, the pricetag was a pretty cool $25MM. Mark told us this afternoon Einstman is playing a lot of golf. Gonzales, according to recent reports, is trying his hand at some angel investing, in addition to presenting at events like BarCamp Nashville, a part-time gig as adjunct faculty at Belmont University, and other pursuits.

Avondale Partners adds hospitals analyst

Avondale Partners today announced the addition of Brian Williams, formerly of Credit Suisse, to their analyst ranks. Release is here (pdf). He'll initially cover the hospital sector, but not, we're told, companies such as HealthStream, at this time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tate Update

Nashvillian and former FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate's already on Free State Foundation agenda for Feb. 26 symposium on key issues and the Obama Administration, to be held at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. The foundation announced Tate's joining its ranks, earlier this week. Lawyer Tate continues to explore career options, locally.


CoreTech Park near Lebanon in Wilson County could employ 1,000 'Green' industry workers within a few years. Our story's here.

Transcard, the Chattanooga-based provider of stored-value cards, yesterday announced the appointment of Jerry Uffner as its new president. Earlier this month, Transcard announced appointment of Brad Townsend as CFO...

VNC's report on Vanderbilt's response to The Tennessean's report on the health of the VU endowment is here...

Nearly 15 years after it launched, FedEx announced this week a major upgrade of its parcel-tracking technology...

Oak Ridge NL is strategizing how best to absorb additional resources it seems destined to receive as part of the nation's stimulus program...

Private-equity investors have put Brentwood-based PetDRx on a short leash, to keep the company out the hands of those looking for dog stocks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The best of times, the worst of times

Either way, it's Our Time to ponder: At VU Portfolio company TyraTech, execs take a paycut, putting the company's consideration of relocating to Nashville (or somewhere) into the deepfreeze, for now... CNet says Al Gore will share the spotlight with Google Ocean, next week and, okay, here's that NOAA report... Leadership Music announces Digital Summit agenda for the expanded March event... Knoxville-based Claris Networks, an IT services company, adds a Birmingham office to its growing net... A class-action lawsuit hits EPB, brought by folks who don't want their power easement used for video services... MDN's good piece on prospects for U.S. funding of EMRs... While VUMC investigators get a nice grant for collecting data via the Web... and, the State says it'll begin holding mass meetings for folks to sign-up for unemployment...

Petra Capital's Blackburn on the Great Implosion

Petra Capital Partners' Mike Blackburn submitted to an interview in Petra's well-appointed Beford Commons office, with interesting results. The story's here.

Uloop and Pathfinder to Venture Forum

C-level execs at Nashville-based Uloop and Pathfinder Therapeutics are packing their Powerpoints, by now, on their way to the Southeast Venture Conference at Atlanta. It'll be the first such outing for Uloop, while Pathfinder's an old hand. The story's here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

VNC Member News: Nexus Group data center unveiled

Today's release from The Nexus Group, formerly ISDN Net, announces the 14-year-old company's launch of a new 19,000 sq. ft. data center in Davidson County, and the appointment of Joy Mangrum to direct operations. Nexus' release is here.

'Green' NSF-funded venture in Roane Tech Park

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports today that Cool Energy, a Boulder-based company founded by a former Oak Ridge NL engineer who's reportedly moved back to Tennessee, will help anchor the Roane County Business and Technology Park. Cool Energy recently won a Phase II SBIR grant and will be prototyping a solar-heating and -energy system and a high-tech ceramic manufacturer. Entrepreneur Sam Weaver (at left) says he'll spawn other startups, as well. The story's here. Cool Energy's release has Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter extolling the firm's virtues for contributing to expanding his state's economy.

Education: Gates X 2 to the Nth

Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation's sphere of interest is broad, as reflected in Bill Gates' Buffettesque letter to stakeholders. Of particular interest to Nashvillians: Gates' support for education in KIPP schools, such as the one here in Nashville. Related Nashville Scene article on KIPP Academy Nashville.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Newswrap Jan. 26

An AP story out today says Gov. Bredesen still wants repeal of the F&E tax exemption now enjoyed by family-owned non-corporate entities (FONCE), despite bipartisan opposition to a change, KNS, here (our earlier related story here). ...Memphis-area's masterIT sells IT-as-a-Utility preventive maintenance, CA, Jan. 26. ...U.S. stimulus spending for electronic medical records, smarter electrical grids and rural broadband could get $37 billion in the Obama stim package, but some observers fear IT industry's skills shortage could create bottlenecks, a prospect one executive discounts. New York Times, Jan. 25. ...Closer to home, Telemedicine expands in East TN, TFP, Jan. 22. ...A portable EHR is offered by Maryville-based Critical Access Inc., in the JCP. ...U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon says the stimulus package may include money for MTSU's $135 million new science building, TSN, Jan. 23. ...MTSU economist David Penn says creating new durable jobs will require renewed emphasis on workforce education, DNJ, Jan. 25. ...Tech2020 will convene on Wednesday to hear from Y-12 National Security Complex about doing tech-transfer partnerships. KNS, Jan. 25. ...We love our new VW plant, but Business Facilities says it was the deal second-best to Rolls-Royce's announcement in Virginia. ...ORNL's Kraken supercomputer cranks up, KNS, Jan. 23. ...East Ridge is the second city to take Chattanooga-based EPB's video service, rather than a cable competitor's, ...'Noogans want stimulus money for their proposed maglev rail link to Georgia, KNS, Jan. 24.

Friday, January 23, 2009

ORNL Global Venture Challenge March 25-28

The ORNL Global Ventures Challenge is shaping-up to be one of, if not the foremost entrepreneurial education program in the state. As they put it, "Global Venture Challenge 2009 is an educational event designed to foster entrepreneurial spirit by engaging students, industry, government and the investment community in the discovery and development of innovative ideas. The ultimate goal is to encourage students to launch new technology-based businesses that can improve the well-being of the world. Specific areas of interest include Industrial Energy Efficiency." Here's more on the energy bizplans showcase.

Villere to lead TCRS private equity moves

Lamar Villere, at left, the new director of private-equity investing at Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, will have many new friends. Tennessee's indigenous private-equity and VC players are concerned they'll be left out of allocations of about $800MM. Our story's here.

FORTUNE finds VU one of 'the best places'

Pretty cool. Vanderbilt University the first such institution to crack FORTUNE's "Best Places to Work" list. Here's VU's release.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

VU profs report 'Obama effect' on test-taking by African-Americans

In a report that seems likely to garner national attention, Owen Graduate School of Management Prof. Ray Friedman and his colleagues report that the positive role model of then-Presidential Candidate and now President Barack Obama seems to have had beneficial effect on African-American students taking. The report indicates that African-American students who did not witness prominent events in Obama's run for The White House, did not fare as well on portions of the Graduate Record Exam. The report further suggests that test performance was linked to reduced concern regarding stereotyping of African-Americans, which is widely egarded as a hindrance to performance and achievement. The VU release is here. Friedman is the school's Brownlee O. Currey Professor of Management.

Nashville Technology Council unveils Brand Strategy

Kicking-off 10th Anniversary celebrations, Nashville Technology Council CEO Tod Fetherling is unveiling this morning at a member breakfast the NTC's new brand, positioning and other strategic elements of establishing a stronger leadership positioning for the association. The story's here.

Belmont aims to compete with MBA

Our report this morning shines a little light on competition among local MBA providers Belmont University and Vanderbilt University. See why Dean Pat Raines (left) is introducing a new "5th Year" MBA. The story's here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WSM Redux Online

Nashville's 83-year-old WSM Radio, no longer worried about becoming an automaton of Cumulus Media, is pleased to be running its own show, again, albeit within Gaylord Entertainment. In NBJ, Jeanne Naujeck reports that GM Chris Kulick says the station -- saved by listeners from reformatting in 2001 -- has a new lease on life, via the Web. WSMOnline shows new programming consistent with WSM's roots. The NBJ story's here. WSM was named "Legendary Station" in the NAB's 2008 Marconi Awards.


Vanderbilt University unveiled the GoLocal online health resource, tailored to cities, while HelloMetro touted Nashville as one of its hyperlocal news and entertainment sites.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Foundation

With today's Inauguration of the Forty-Fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, the nation's science and technology communities are placing great hope on the new Administration's commitment to renewing the nation's knowledge infrastructure, as reflected in this recent post by the American Institute of Physics, based in suburban Washington, D.C. The White House website has been changed to reflect history.

Knoxville Knews

There's something good in the water in East Tennessee -- Gleanings from the past day or two: UT business incubator is home to seven high-tech startups, just six months after opening... UT College of Business MBA Innovation and Entrepreneurship curriculum produces a case study on Health IT implementation... The search is still underway for a new chief for Oak Ridge Associated Universities... UT visiting scholar shares a bit on his personal experience with 'crowd-sourcing'... A Virginia company has bought ETN's Nuclear Fuel Services... and, a report on how the Knoxville business community gets behind improving schools and building a student-tracking database. Review VentureNashville stories here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NTC prepares to kick-off 10th Anniversary

'Tomorrow the world' may be Tod Fetherling's maxim as he unveils this week the Nashville Technology Council robust new set of marketing and membership initiatives. As reported earlier by VNC, NTC is reinstating its work with ventures, as well as providing new programs for out-of-work techies, a new Techville directory to the Middle Tennessee tech community and much more. Later this week, at an unprecedented NTC member breakfast -- which will feature, among other, NTC founder Warren Ratliffe -- Fetherling is set to reveal the results of the "brandprint" process he's been employing the past couple months to set NTC's new course. Today's related story by William Williams is here. Fetherling told Williams he aims for NTC to be the best regional tech council in the world.

Vanderbilt's new Internet pipe links to 'Big Bang'

The power of global connectivity shows through in our latest story on Vanderbilt University's new 10-gig connection to places like the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Europe (at left), where a number of VU scientists and thousands of colleagues are working to learn more about the origins of matter, the Universe and more.

TBA Business Plan Competition

Our story on Tennessee Biotechnology Association's 2009 Business Plan Competition is right here. The challenge now is to get graduate and postdoc students in sciences, law, business and other fields to enter.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ORNL targets expansion

DOE has given initial approval to doubling the research capacity of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source facility (illustrated, with expansion highlighted). The potentially $1B project could be completed by 2020. The center advances materials sciences, nanotech, energy generation, pharma and other fields. The ORNL release; the Knoxville News Sentinel.

LaunchMemphis impact

LaunchMemphis reports in today's Commercial Appeal it has generated a half-million dollars in economic impact for its hometown and supported startup or acceleration for six companies. LaunchMemphis' calendar of coming events, including another go at StartupWeekend, is in the CA's story. Our earlier report on the Memphis entrepreneurial scene is here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Report: TNECD's Kisber may offer for Governor

[Updated 11:11 a.m.] Bredesen Administration Economic & Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber may run for Governor of Tennessee in 2010, according to Times Free Press Columnist Randall Higgins, writing in today's paper. TFP Reporter Andy Sher weighed-in with news about Kisber, also. Prior to becoming Bredesen's ECD chief, Kisber, 48, served ten consecutive terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives, eventually chairing the body's Ways and Means Committee. Kisber has been a key figure in recruiting Volkwagen to Chattanooga and, as noted in his official bio, in shaping the relaunch of Tennessee Technology Development, among other initiatives. In 1999-2000, Kisber, who ultimately opposed creating a state income tax, was for a time accused of fence-sitting during debate of then-Gov. Don Sundquist's proposal. The only other Democrat to express interest in the post, thus far, is former State Rep. Kim McMillan. To this point, announced Republican candidates include Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, and Shelby County DA Bill Gibbons. The VN Blog has queried Kisber this morning, asking confirmation of this report.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Noog: Volkswagen opts for EPB over TVA

[Updated Jan. 17] reports that Volkswagen has opted to have local utility EPB build its new substation, rather than TVA. The report is here. Meanwhile, an Atlanta Fed economist told a Chattanooga audience that the city's growth in IT services jobs is outpaced only by Seattle. That story's here. Update: Volkswagen of America President-CEO Stefan Jacoby will address the April 29 Spirit of Innovation Awards event in Chattanooga.

DisastersNet and HealthStream partner

That's DisastersNet Inc. CEO Gene Kirby and President-Founder Chris Riddle at left, and they're eager to sell hospitals on their incident-response training and management products. Someone has almost $2 million in the venture, thus far. Our story's here.

Bootstrapping amid adverse economy

Sramana Mitra says the current "recession" is a good time to start a business, particularly if you bootstrap and don't lose control of your firm to investors, in a panic. See her post here in Forbes.

Passport still on M&A trail, adds officer

Our story on Passport Health Communications' unrelenting push for M&A-linked growth is posted here. Earlier, Passport announced appointment of Chief Accounting Officer Kerri Kelley Frye (left).

Obama taps another VC for key post

Julius Genachowski is at least the second VC nominated by President-Elect Obama, and his assignment, if confirmed, would be leading the Federal Communications Commission. Story posted here. [Updates: Jan. 15: Aspen Institute announces FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will leave the FCC on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. Jan. 18: The Tennessean interviews Tate, story briefly resides here. 'Main news is, Tate says she's not looking to run for political office, anytime soon.]

Tennessee alternative investments

We checked this week, and there's still no hire to report for director of private-equity or alternative investments at Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, within the Treasurer's office, which will now be occupied by David Lillard, who succeeds Dale Sims, following the General Assembly's constitutionally mandated vote.

Morgan still riding shotgun for Bredesen

Well, in another example of fleet footwork, Gov. Phil Bredesen is today reportedly naming former Comptroller John Morgan to serve as his new deputy governor, succeeding Stuart Brunson, who recently resigned. Ken Whitehouse breaks the news.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tennessee Green: 'There's a BYD F3DM in your future'

[Updated] We reported recently that Gov. Phil Bredesen is definitely tracking more companies poised to expand and-or invest in Tennessee. This morning's Tennessean has U.S. Sen. Bob Corker saying there'll soon be another announcement in one of the other Grand Divides. Mentioned today: Hemlock Semiconductor, Sharp Electronics (Memphis, possible expansion candidate), Aerisyn Energy (wind), AGC Flat Glass, Dupont Danisco Cellulosic (biofuel). There are also hints Tennessee is pursuing Nashville-based Nissan North America and General Motors for production of new electric cars. Meanwhile, today's WSJ reports on the emergence of The People's Republic of China's BYD, maker of the new F3DM e-car, which is prepared to take on the world, albeit with a few engine-mount shakes and rattles. Updated Jan. 13: KNS's Brass reports on Knox-based Enerex's business in wind-to-energy, story here.

Shared Health CIO

Shared Health, the Chattanooga-based health-information exchange (HIE) spinoff from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, has named veteran technologist Adnane Khalil (left) its vice president-technology and chief information officer. Khalil was previously EVP for Technology/CTO/CIO at MedAvant Healthcare Solutions. Earlier, he was WebMD director of corporate technologies; MAXIM Group senior manager database admin and disaster recovery, and held positions with Kaiser Permanente and D&B software services.

Cybera partners-up

Franklin-based Cybera is moving product and services out to Omaha-based Pamida and Salt Lake City-based Tomax, releases here. Cybera integrates enterprise applications, including private intranet, VoIP, transaction processing, Wi-Fi hotspots and IP video with managed-security and network technology. On Jan. 12, Cybera issued a release on recent milestones in service to customers, here.

Dialogic Communications

Franklin-based Dialogic Communications, the emergency-response folks, announced a collaboration with Holland, Mich.-based Code Blue, the latest of a series of partnership announcements from the company.

Dalcon Communications

David Condra's (left) West End-based Dalcon Communications announced winning Internet Telephony Magazine's product of the year award for integrating IP voice into products used in the healthcare setting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vought Aircraft: Nashville workers approve offer Jan. 16

[UPDATED Jan. 16, 2009: The Tennessean reported the Vought workers represented by IAM&AW voted 498/190 to accept management's latest offer, and ended their strike.] There's not a Baltimore Raven in sight, but Nashville may be about to fumble-away a bunch of higher-tech jobs. Yesterday's Ft. Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram reported that Vought is preparing to fulfill a $1B contract in Texas, rather than Nashville, if the strike here persists. The story's here.

Bart Gordon gaining 'Big Mo'

Twenty-four years after his election to Congress in 1984, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon's (D-6) momentum is building. The Tennessean reports that President-Elect Barack Obama recently told Gordon, "I'm a science guy," signalling support for Gordon in his role as chair of the increasingly influential House Science and Technology Committee. The Tennessean's story this morning indicates Gordon's first priority, along with all other Members, will be supporting U.S. economic reconstruction. But, there's gathering evidence that Gordon's emphasis on AmericaCOMPETES legislation and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education will quickly gain deep traction. The story's here.

Tennessee legislature's website 'upgrade'

Our thanks to Gail Kerr, Tennessean columnist, for reminding us this morning about the General Assembly's website upgrade and a new URL. Unfortunately, while the site looks miles better, and the addition of staffers' names is great, the search function, as of today, absolutely stinks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

VU drug discovery, industry partnership

Vanderbilt University's deal with Janssen Pharmaceutica NV is initially worth $10 million in funding for the lab run by Jeffrey Conn (at left), director of VU's drug-discovery program. The target: schizophrenia. VU stands to earn more than the base by meeting or surpassing milestones and through royalties on product sales. Janssen is based in Beerse, in the Antwerp province of Belgium, with U.S. offices in Titusville, N.J.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Angel Capital Group announces fundings

Angel Capital Group, based in Hendersonville, announced in today's weekly edition of Nashville Business Journal that three firms have obtained investments from angels in ACG or from the closely aligned North Carolina-based Inception MicroAngel fund. ACG CEO Rachael Qualls did not reveal financial details for the transactions, which were apparently the first consummated by ACG, founded in spring 2007. Recipients are: Traklok Corp., in Knoxville, which provides devices for tracking and shipping intermodal containers; Optivia Medical, a North Carolina firm that's commercializing endoscopic technology; and, BugleMe, a Nashville company that allows fans to signup to receive voicemail messages from celebrities.

VW daisy-chain massive jobs-creator

An executive recruiter based in Atlanta, Kevin Krause, told a Chattanooga Chamber breakfast audience yesterday that Volkswagen's $1B investment at Enterprise Park could produce a total 28,000 jobs and transform the city, much as BMW's smaller investment in Greenville, S.C., dramatically restored that city's economy. reported it first here. The Times Free Press' story ran this morning.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Transcard Names CFO

Chattanooga-based TransCard, provider of prepaid debit cards, named Brad Townsend to CFO post. Townsend was previously CFO with Advanced Interactive Systems, and earlier served with SafeNet, VectorSGI, McAfee and Delta Airlines. The company said he has experience dealing with federal agencies and in guiding M&A's. Townsend holds a bachelor's in corporate finance from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Emory University.

TN Revenue's Farr seeks 'true VCs'

Venture Capitalists and others remain wary, but Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr lays out in our story today what he's up to with this year's 'technical corrections' to the Tennessee Tax Code. The story's here.

Secure remote access role for Sparco

Millington-based Unistar-Sparco Computers Inc., a software, hardware and IT services provider, is a national launch distributor for "Enterprise-in-a-Flash," a secure remote computer access service offered by West Virginia-based Plethora Technology. Stories were in today's Commercial Appeal and an earlier issue of Memphis Business Journal.

No blues in Memphis Tech community

Yesterday's story on the grassroots development of the Tech sector in Memphis offers a glimpse of that city's best practices for tech-driven economic development, as seen through the lens of Eric Matthews of Mercury Technology Labs. The story's here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Luminetx claims health sector embraces VeinViewer

CORRECTED Jan. 12: Saying the company is "truly leading the health care industry to a new standard of care when it comes to vascular access," Memphis-based Luminetx Corp. announced yesterday that "VeinViewer sales have now occurred on every major continent," phrasing that may signal Luminetx is taking a pass on marketing at the North and South Poles. Luminetx avers its sales jumped 77 percent in '08 over '07, but no financials are provided. The puffery comes in the wake of intensifying Luminetx litigation against its former sales and clinical chiefs, who've joined a competitor. CORRECTION: VN Blog was in error re: Luminetx presenting to JP Morgan. The company Luminex, and VN Blog regrets the error.

AT&T rival TN Cable eyes General Assembly

Our update on the world of Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association President and Executive Director Stacey Burks Briggs suggests it ain't over til it's over between AT&T and the Cable industry. The story's here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

RIAA offshores its snooping

Many were delighted to see RIAA sheath the sword it's brandished against downloaders, promising to lighten-up and go back to helping the Music industry get a life. Now comes word from WSJ that RIAA is offshoring its file-snooping to Copenhagen-based DtecNet Software. Could it be because RIAA's previous investigation-prior-to-litigation vendor, MediaSentry (SafeNet), had itself become a bit of a lightning rod for rights issues? Meanwhile, MusicRow mag reports that illegal downloading continues to rise, and legal downloading is doing well, as exemplified by Nashville dowload site NoiseTrade.

Wind to Energy

Chattanooga-based Signal Wind Energy has built more than 25 wind farms across the nation, the Times Free Press reports here. Signal Wind is a subsidiary of EMJ Corp., a construction and engineering firm, and is ranked the nation's 47th-largest energy producer.

Healthcare Media resilience

As reported by Forbes, DeSilva + Phillipas, the New York City-based M&A specialists, said they completed 12 M&A deals in 2008 and reported that in the Media sector, both consumer and business-to-business media in the healthcare space showed remarkable resilience. The authors say 109 deals valued at 2 billion-plus were done last year -- not, they say, terribly out of sync with other years, thus far this century. The report is here. D+P also has an invitation-only media deal-makers summit coming up.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Tech advocates Wamp, Haslam eyeing Governorship reports Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp (L-R, respectively) will run next year to succeed Gov. Phil Bredesen, and that former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will be taking a pass. As reported by VNC, Wamp has been the motive force of the Tennessee Valley Corridor initiative and a supporter of U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon-inspired Mind2Marketplace. Haslam was recently appointed to the board of the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation. [Update: Frist made official Jan. 4th his plans to remained focused on his roles at Cressey & Co., Vanderbilt University and elsewhere, rather than run for Tennessee governor.]

Ingram Digital's Daniels on future publishing

The Tennessean's interview this morning with Ingram Digital Group COO Frank Daniels is worth a read, and a big of googling shows the depth of Daniels' expertise. Asked whether runaway sales of Amazon's Kindle e-reader (at left) this Christmas mean e-books have arrived, Daniels noted, "The beauty about the Kindle isn't that the device is great. The device is terrible." He went on to extol the wonder of the consumer-user experience via Amazon. For more detailed comments from Daniels, see his letter nominating himself to the International Digital Publishing Forum; his interview with The Futurist; and, this story in Book Business. Here's an industry pdf whitepaper on e-publishing.