Monday, August 31, 2009

VC pitch deadline Friday

Sharpen your elevator pitch... The next Tennessee Valley Venture Forum will Oct. 22, 2009, at the Knoxville Conference Center... but the deadline for applications is this Friday, Sept. 4th! More information is here.

BorderJump update

Nashville entrepreneur Bobby Frank (left), who recently made himself a full-time, rather than part-time CEO of BorderJump, says the Latin American market for U.S. retailers is wide open, thanks in part to e-commerce. The City Paper reports. Here is VNC's story on BorderJump's launch.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Biotech innovation threatened (SJMN)

During the Aug. 26 meeting of the Menlo Park-based BioScience Business Round Table, one speaker described the lack of VC funding as 'Armageddon' for biotech startups, blaming the problem partly on increased regulatory drag on the drug-approval process. The Mercury News reports. Related post regarding Bio in TN is here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

[Updated] Third Rail: Healthcare Costs

[Last updated 1:54 p.m.] In Nashville this morning, the Third Rail of Healthcare Reform: Cost symposium (site here) is well underway at the Schermerhorn. Early on, key speaker Gov. Phil Bredesen stressed the need for "a genuine national solution." Several speakers decried the lack of focus in the current national debate on the role of patients and importance of spending to achieve outcomes, rather than to protect the current system. Great speakers, and no way to do it all justice here...But: Abraxis CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong called for a nationwide information exchange to enable evidence-based medicine...he said similar efforts are underway in other nations, and America has chance to lead Health IT innovation. In reporting this billionaire's wealth, Forbes noted he has announced plans to donate $1 billion to found "the Bell Labs of healthcare." In response to a VNC question submitted online, Soon-Shiong commented that he is trying to put together a 10-state coalition to win ARRA funding to pilot the highway. Extraordinary tech tools are now available, he stressed, to both empower patients and provide timely scientific information to physicians. Some real tough love from former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, who reviewed the cold, hard facts of America's "credit card" mentality and the unfunded liabilities associated with $56.4 TRILLION in healthcare promises. RAND Health Associate Director Elizabeth McGlynn also had a fact-filled presentation, noting along the way that, among dozens of other factoids, it'd take an additional 16,000 surgeons to provide 47 million obese Americans the lapband or other digestive surgeries they need... and, that one effective strategy for reducing costs is to increase emphasis on retail clinics. She said RAND Health's COMPARE initiative will issue a report on retail clinics' roles, in the next few weeks. The program continues til 3:45 p.m. Central. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said maybe a third of healthcare expenditures are wasteful. He focused on the crucial tax-preference issue and repeated his preference for the Healthy Americans Act (Wyden-Bennett), which he says is bipartisan and tackles the thorniest issues... HealthSpottr CEO Carleen Hawn said her group's new Healthspottr Fellows Program is largely underwritten by Nashville serial entrepreneur Charlie Martin, founder of Vanguard... The entire conference will be stream-archived on the event site.

Friday, August 28, 2009

[Updated] BioVCs? TNInvestco invoked

[Updated 12:44 p.m.] Joyce Emerson Cleary -- formerly a sales exec with Schering-Plough, Protherics, MedImmune and other pharma-bio players -- argues in today's Tennessean that while the TNInvestco venture-capital program being launched by the state is a potential boon to the state's life-sciences industry, abbreviated protection of proprietary pharma research data, as proposed in legislation now before Congress, will undercut bio entrepreneurial activity, here and elsewhere. Given the apparent aversion of most local VCs for tech development of any kind (particularly in this economy), invoking TNInvestco in this argument may be a stretch. Cleary's comments, and those of the authors of an opposing argument in today's paper are worth a read. Unfortunately, TSN content goes behind the cost wall, pretty quickly. [Update:] Cleary is president-CEO of The BioGenesys Group, a consulting company that Cleary intends to organize as an LLC. Cleary told VNC following our original post that she believes it is realistic to think that Tennessee VCs will invest in biologics and other life-science ventures, once they understand the "lifecycle" of such ventures. New ventures need not develop their own new assets (they can buy or license assets from others); also, throughout the long lifecycle of bio ventures, there are often a number of profitable exits available for investors, prior to the venture becoming profitable or being sold.

Wunderlich in $21MM PP

Memphis-based Wunderlich Securities managed a $21.3MM private placement for California-based Sierra Bancorp. The release is here.

NV fund in ZST Digital

According to staff at MidSouth Investors here in Nashville, Midsouth has invested $500K in ZST Digital Networks Inc., which focuses, according to ZST's recently filed red herring, on "supplying digital and optical network equipment to cable system operators in the Henan Province [PRC] of China... The Company has assisted in the installation and construction of over 400 local cable networks covering more than 90 municipal districts, counties, townships, and enterprises." As reported earlier by VNC, Mid-South is controlled by Buzz Heidtke (left).

OHL crates-up

Brentwood-based Ozburn-Hessey Logistics says its direct-to-consumer shipment biz grew 21 percent in the past year. OHL announced it's landed, a portal for consumers' direct-to-manufacturer orders. The entrepreneurs behind have previously sold ventures to Microsoft, Wolters-Kluwer, and others.

e-Car industry power grab

Addressing an issue closely followed by Tennesseans and their Governor, the Columbus Dispatch reports that the advent of rechargeable e-cars will require building at least 160 new power plants. The story also discusses relationship to the smart grid, a new power plug that speeds e-fueling and reports data, and more.

Baseball LLC transaction

Cherokee Athletic and Cherokee Baseball and Softball Academy in Maryville have been sold to Baseball LLC, backed by a group of East Tennessee investors who indicate they plan to expand the franchise. The release is here. Former MLB Pitcher Doug Bochtler founded the companies, after a 15-year career pitching for the Padres, Tigers, Royals and Tigers.

EPB bests Cable

EPB, the Chattanooga-based utility that's building a regional broadband business, won another point over Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association, when the Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed with a lower-court judge that TCTA couldn't sue EPB in Davidson County. The TFP reports.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

VU's Owen GSM 'entices' recruiters

Joining other institutions in an effort to help recent grads find gainful employment, Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management recently announced it has created a new website to 'entice' recruiters. The site includes student profiles and testimonials from some heavy-hitter employers, as well as info about Owen and VU. In fact, the VU "recruiting cycle" begins Monday, Aug. 31.

Leadership Music update

Leadership Music announced today Pat Collins (left), who is president and COO of SESAC, the recording rights and royalties organization, has become LM's president. President-elect is Jamie Cheek, manager/partner of Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy. Treasurer is Tim Wipperman, Wipperman Music Group; Secretary is Beverly Keel, former newspaper entertainment journalist and MTSU professor of recording industry. Executive Director Kira Florita remains on the LM board, as well. Full board listed here.

Hiring: No cheer from Atlanta Fed chief

Speaking in Chattanooga, Atlanta Federal Reserve Chief Dennis Lockhart yesterday told a Chamber audience we'd better prepare for a long, tough slog -- and adopt a 'human capital' agenda that fosters a strong, skilled workforce, because the emphasis on productivity over hiring is likely to remain inplace a very long time. Read the whole speech here. Also, Meanwhile, over in Knoxville, DOE Oak Ridge Office Manager Gerald Boyd says about 600 folks have been hired at ORNL as a result of Stimulus funding. The KNS reports.

Memphis AgBio, TECworks update

A Memphis BioWorks report says AgBio could generate 50,000 jobs as plant-based materials replace petroleum-based products. Memphis Daily News reports here. BioWorks engaged the Battelle Partnership Practice to study the potential of AgBio. A new AgBioWorks site has been launched to support new efforts in that sector. Memphis Daily News Reports. Related CA story here. Meanwhile...TECworks is offering the Kauffman Foundation's FastTrac Ventures Program training. Program details here. Earlier VNC story on TECworks here.

Cathey heads In10Sity

Over in Lenoir City, Robert Cathey has been tapped as president of In10Sity Interactive, an online marketing agency. He'll start officially on Sept. 1. Cathey was previously vice president for administration and business development for BarberMcMurry Architects in Knoxville and, prior to that, a VP at Ackerman Public Relations, and director of marketing for Fuziware, a software company. In10Sity says it has offices also in Nashville, New York, Atlanta and Naples, Fla.

Cumberland Pharma, Medtronic updates

At Nashville-based Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, latest quarterly revenue's up 18 percent over year earlier, to $9.8MM, but net income is down, mainly due to Caldolor-related FDA- and marketing-related costs, and salesforce buildup. Analysts call is this morning. Today's release is here. VNC report on recent Cumberland IPO is here. The Memphis Daily News reports that notwithstanding the company's 38 percent slump in profits, Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins stressed in an analysts call that the company's pipeline is full.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

HMS' Stim-funding roadmap

Nashville-based Healthcare Management Systems (HMS) provide useful calculators and other resources for community hospitals that are eying Stimulus funding (ARRA) reimbursement. The HMS site is here.

ClinixMIS news

Brentwood-baed ClinixMIS announced enhancements to its electronic medical records system, including e-prescription technology. The release is here.

Council Venture med-devices play

2nd Ave.-baed Council Ventures announced today it led a $7.5MM B round for EndoChoice, an Alpharetta-based venture serving the endoscopy market. Coinvesting was existing investor River Cities Capital Funds. River Cities announced completion of an A Round of undisclosed amount in EndoChoice, less than four months ago. Council General Parter Grant Jackson and Operating Partner James Balkcom will respectively join the EndoChoice board and serve as chairman.

Bredesen eyeing higher-ed reform

The TFP reports that the University of Tennessee trustees are concerned about poor communication and micromanagement of campuses beyond Knoxville. That may serve to whet the appetite of Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has said he will make reform of Tennessee's higher-education system a priority for the balance of his Administration. Earlier this week, among other appointments, he named two prominent Democrats, Charles Bone (at left) of Bone McAllister Norton law firm to the board of Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Cookeville vet Steve Copeland, to the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Bredesen appointments release is here. The KNS reported Aug. 26 that business leaders meeting in Knoxville were critical of higher ed, and called for private-sector support of increased funding.

Emdeon data deal

Emdeon's latest SEC filing shows the company's doing a build and lease-back deal with Solomon Builders for a new data center at Airpark Center East, no doubt much to the chagrin of such local data-hosting and managed-services providers as SunGard, Peak10 and Nexus Group.

LBMC Tech partners

In Chattanooga, LBMC Technologies teams with Airnet, which offers data center and email services. reports.

Informatics alliance for ICA

ICA, or Informatics Corporation of America, announced yesterday it has formalized and branded its process for integrating its technology with its growing number of partners, by establishing an integration-certification process. First to take on certified partner status is Ulrich Medical Concepts, a health IT company based in Paducah. Other ICA coverage here.

Venture items

The Wynnchurch Capital recapitalization of Brentwood-based Centrum Equities, reported in July by VNC, has resulted in a new name for the company: Vista-Pro Automotive (reflecting its Visteon lineage), as reported by also reports giants Alcoa and Novelis, well known in the TN and the mid-South, have created a JV recycling facility here, Evermore Recycling. Lastly, the Post reports aluminum scraps are fueling a turnaround gambit by Roundabout-based Tortola Partners.

Knox newsies get more clout in E.W. Scripps

The E.W. Scripps newspaper chain, which includes the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville News Sentinel, announced this morning that several Knoxville execs are getting more clout on both interactive and newspapers within the overall corporation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Call home! TN healthtech vendors passed-over, again

Earlier this month, we posted on how Healthways went to Vermont for an onsite Med-services vendor. Now, it's Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee that's gone to Beverly, Mass.-based Eliza Corporation for wellness, compliance and other phone support for its BCBS members. In both cases, the companies had to overlook or opt against providers based in Tennessee, or so it seems.

Health IT partnership

Partly in order to bid for a share of Stimulus funding, the State and allies associated with current and prospective regional health information networks have created the Health Information Partnership for Tennessee (HIP TN), according to a release yesterday from the Bredesen-created Office of e-Health Initiatives. In addition to execs from the state's regional health information exchange organizations, the HIP TN board includes execs from insurers, AARP, government and others.

ORNL Climate: Raining money

The KNS reports that Oak Ridge National Laboratory will get $215MM for advanced research from the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration for climate change-related studies, in addition to funding already flowing toward ORNL for that purpose from DOE, NSF and NASA. The combination of supercomputing resources and a high-calibre team of scientists-in-residence gives ORNL momentum.

China's Solar flare

The New York Times reports that, as the Obama Administration funds new clean-energy initiatives, China is pushing for domestic and offshore production and adoption, and is eyeing new production facilities in the United States.

Monday, August 24, 2009

China Healthcare Corp

Nashville-based China Healthcare Corp. announced today an update on its plans for a hospital in China. Dr. Tommy Frist, a founder of HCA, is one of the China venture's founders. Gresham Smith has been chosen for much of the design work for the 500-bed replacement hospital in Cixi. [Corrected 5:08 p.m. CDST]

MetroLight's loss

Randy Reid (at left), who opened an office here for Israel-based MetroLight, to sell high-tech lighting, has left the company he joined seven years ago to play a similar role with Cali-based LUXIM Corp. The story is here.
Google's search technology now graces the Vanderbilt University and Medical Center website, which has more than 1 million pages, and which experienced about 300,000 search queries per month. Here's a VU IT posting on the subject.

TN Education critique

State Rep. Harry Brooks (R-19-Knox) is the latest to sound-off on the interim report of former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist's Tennessee SCORE, a nonprofit targeting comprehensive education reform. The KNS reports. As reported a week ago, Gov. Phil Bredesen and others are dusting-off their own critique of education. The Governor has previously said he'll make reform of higher education in the state his focal-point, during the remaining days of his second term, which ends in January 2011. Brooks is chairman of the Tenn. House Education Committee.

Unum Group thrives

The Times Free Press provides an update on Chattanooga-based Unum Group (NYSE:UNM). Though caution is CEO Thomas Watjen's mantra, the company is rebuilding its reputation with some employers, producing extraordinary earnings and keeping its cards close regarding its future agenda with respect to acquisitions and the development of 28 acres of prime 'Nooga real estate it controls. Prior to joining Unum in 1994, Watjen was a managing director with Morgan Stanley & Co. He's held the Unum helm six years.

University expands math-sci

Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., has more than 4,000 undergrad students and is building a $14 million math-science complex. The TFP reports.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No. 1 NetApp: Lessons Learned

The change of command underway at Sunnyvale's NetApp Inc., a data storage and virtualization leader, reflects trends in data, ethics, mergers and demand-driven innovation. The Mercury-News' SiliconValley reports. NetApp ranked No. 1 on the FORTUNE list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, for 2009. That's just one of numerous recent achievements and accolades for NASDAQ-listed NTAP. NetApp was also named No. 1 among Best Places to Work in the UK, and ranked No. 11 among the top 50 employers, Europe-wide.

DOE $37MM deadline nears

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that $37 million in funding from the Recovery Act will be made available to qualified small businesses (under 500 employees) through the Department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The deadline for applications is Sept. 4, at 7 p.m., Central Time. $8.5 million is expected to be available for Phase I awards of up to $150,000 each, to demonstrate clean- and sustainable-energy ideas with commercial potential. Note: The Re-Energizing America: 2009 National Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Conference will be held Nov. 2-5, near Reno, Nev.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aerisyn bought by Germans

Chattanooga's Aerisyn Energy, a wind-power tower manufacturer, was bought by a German firm, SAIG Schaaf Industrie AG, which says it'll invest $3 million to expand and double the workforce to 240 by mid-2011. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The TFP reports.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Noog's nuclear news

In Chattanooga, Toshiba Group's Westinghouse Electric training facility is preparing to meet rising demand for nuclear reactors. The TFP reports.

TN java venture robust

Year-old jAVERDE Coffee Co., based in Powell, Tenn., with a growing presence in Knoxville, focuses on a high-quality blend of beans, environmental sustainability and a strong local following. The KNS reports.

NV Med Trade Center Update

Trammell Crow's Market Center Management CEO Bill Winsor (left) has been in town this week, accepting the healthcare community's embrace for his proposed Nashville Medical Trade Center. But, the project's fate could be influenced by a Metro Council vote this afternoon. Our story's here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Nashville-based Consensus Point LLC, a provider of prediction market software and services, announced the 6th generation of its Foresight on Demand platform. The company cites favorable reception from an executive with Best Buy.

Dollar General IPO update

Dollar General Corporation, based in Goodlettsville near Nashville, today made its shelf IPO registration with the SEC. The story's here.

ICA Informatics

Nashville-based Informatics Corporation of America (ICA), the Vanderbilt spinout, today announced another tech alliance, this time with Mark Logic, which ICA says is the leading XML server provider, which is supposed to advantage ICA CareLogic data analytics, beginning in December. Related earlier coverage here.

Vanderbilt news

[Updated 4:45 p.m.] Vanderbilt announced yesterday it recently performed its 1,000th liver transplant...VU also reported the VU Medical Center has been chosen one of ten centers to participate in the Chemical Biology Consortium, which will work to discover and develop new agents to treat cancer. VU also made it to number 17 in the USNW&R ranking.

Solar farm touted by Finney

State Sen. Lowe Finney (D-27-Jackson), at left, yesterday expressed confidence in federal funding for the Solar Institute championed by Gov. Phil Bredesen, and said the 30-acre, 22,000-panel farm will energize the Westate. The CA reports.

Nissan greening

Nissan announced Wednesday it has cut computer-server energy usage at its Tennessee plants. The company's release is here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Knoxville-based Provectus Pharmaceuticals, an OTCBB development-stage biotech company, announced today that Maxim, an analyst, has issued a report on the company and its prospects.

VU portfolio action: TyraTech

Although its consideration of a possible relocation to Nashville from Melbourne, Fla., has been slowed, but not killed by the economic slowdown, TyraTech, a Vanderbilt University technology transfer portfolio company and the maker of insecticides and other technologies, announced today a renewed and expanded partnership with Arysta LifeScience North America, a sub of a Tokyo-based parent.

Southcomm media portfolio

10:37 a.m.: Nashville-based Southcomm Inc. today confirmed through a release on the earlier report from The Tennessean regarding Southcomm's planned acquisition of alt-weekly NashvilleSCENE and money-making socialite pub nFocus. Southcomm is controlled by Townes Duncan and his VC firm, Solidus. The media rollup strategy is being executed by Southcomm CEO Chris Ferrell, who was previously publisher of the SCENE and nFocus. Ferrell earlier owned a marketing firm and prior to that was a community-relations executive with Citysearch in Nashville, and an executive with Telalink, an ISP. Ferrell served eight years earlier as a member of Metro Council in Metro Nashville Davidson County.

Belmont international grant

Belmont University's Dr. Jeff Overby is leading a group that won a $188K Title VI Grant made via the Business and International Education (BIE) Program of the U.S Department of Education. The Belmont proposal, titled "Collaborating to Equip Belmont and Nashville for the Dynamic Global Economy,” received BIE funding over a two-year period, which began August 1. It improves faculty, instruction and international experiences for students. The BU release indicates they believe the grant will stretch pretty far.

TCRS private-equity: $150MM flows

The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System's new private-equity director, Lamar Villere, tells VNC that three major fund-management firms have been retained, with commitments up to $150MM. The VNC story is here.

Bill Gates eyes Memphis Schools

Memphis City Schools is one of eight districts nationwide still in the running for major grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness. The CA reports.

Keepin' it Real

Biz author Don Hutson (left), creator of The One-Minute Entrepreneur, told Memphis business owners that in hard times it's vital to refocus on customers, competitors and competence. The CA reports.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Memphis bridge to future

The MemphisED economic-development effort is getting its next $6.5MM tranche of funding, despite the economy, from local partners who want to maintain momentum in developing the life-sciences sector and achieving other objectives. The Memphis Business Journal reports.

Tesla accelerates

The Mercury News reports electric automaker Tesla is expanding its Bay Area footprint to accelerate its R&D and manufacturing of ion-lithium batteries and related technologies for use in its own line of vehicles and for other automakers. Tesla Motors will be closely watched, no doubt, by Nissan, et al. That's the charging port for a Tesla, at left.

CBU's new CEO

In Memphis, Christian Brothers University has its first permanent lay president, John Smarrelli (at left), a former Loyola biology teacher, who's already stressing increased service to the community. The CA reports.

Goldleaf on the block

Goldleaf Financial Solutions, the erstwhile Brentwood company that has long since been based out of the Atlanta area, with a steadily dwindling tech staff remaining in Brentwood, is now being sold to Jack Henry & Associates (NASDAQ:JKHY), of Monett, Mo. Many here will remember GFSI CEO Lynn Boggs. The Tennessean says the deal nets-out to about $19MM for GFSI, tho the JH&A release speaks of retiring debt and other benefits.

Monday, August 17, 2009

edo Interactive gets more VC money

Clayton Associates and First Avenue Partners made news this morning by announcing their investment of $8.5MM in edo Interactive. Apparently, getting marketing traction in this environment is taking more juice than edo imagined, prior to the Great Recession. VNC's earlier report on edo's $8MM placement registration and related stories.

UT-UM: 'Research powerhouses'

Gov. Phil Bredesen and VU/Peabody Prof. Jim Guthrie (at left) are reportedly dusting-off the 10-year-old report of a commission Guthrie chaired for then-Gov. Don Sundquist, taking a fresh look at putting the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Memphis into the ranks ot top public research universities and creating conditions to attract top-drawer scientists and teachers. The Commercial Appeal reports.