Monday, November 30, 2009
'Not sure they should allow Ironman tri-athletes in startups. Now, PureSafety CEO Bill Grana's got a list of 350 acquisition targets, and he sounds confident. Here's the story.
Brainwave Studios may be launching wih FranktownRocks.com, but it could be the first of a series of products that will breathe new life into the smattering of gamer-driven cyberproducts in Middle Tennessee -- if they succeed in raising $3MM. The story's here.
Bondware Inc., the 11-year-old enterprise cultivated by CEO Tim Choate, has started buying content from other 3-D/2-D content creators, to accelerate growth and improve quality control of products in its proprietary Renderosity marketplace. The story's here.
Bill Hapner (left), who'd led sales for Smartvue Corporation here, has established a Nashville presence for Birmingham-based Vision Security, as director-sales. Hapner was also once president of Beacon Technologies in Nashville.
[Updated] Market Center Management Co. CEO Bill Winsor (left)told reporters a few minutes ago he believes lenders will be highly receptive to financing the planned Nashville Medical Trade Center. Owners and allies of the proposed Nashville Medical Trade Center gathered here today, announcing details of plans to locate the Center in Metro's existing Convention Center, after construction that will expand the facility to 2MM sq. ft. See our related story and check back for updates.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Chattanooga and its Georgia allies for development of a maglev train connecting Choo-Chootown with Atlanta need $3.5MM before they can deposit a federal grant and complete an environmental assessment. The TFP has it. Post on possible Nashville link, earlier this year.
State Sen. Andy Berke (D-10) puts an oar in on Gov. Bredesen's push to shift postsecondary budgeting emphasis from measuring students enrolled, to students graduated. The TFP has it.
Peter Nelson (left) of Memphis BioWorks Foundation's AgBioworks project touts the leverage inherent in AgBio as he world turns to new sources of energy and food production. The CA has it.
The University of Tennessee's new Engineering building is further evidence, says the school's dean, of the University's progress toward becoming the state's research hub. Column in the KNS.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
As previously reported by VNC, the Nashville Medical Trade Center's location and some details on features and timeline are to be unveiled during a media teleconference, Monday, Nov. 30, at 3 p.m. Read background on the Trade Center here.
To help existing business lower energy outlays, the TVA has created a $40MM fund to help reduce energy costs for businesses that might otherwise relocate or close. The TFP reports it here.
Now, the oft-celebrated students of Oak Ridge High School have won a $10K Lemelson grant and are developing a clever water-purification technique, with the aid of engineer-mentors. The KNS reports.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox has reported the state may be losing tax revenue it is due, because of inappropriate shifting of corporate profits to tax-haven states like Delaware. Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr reportedly told The Tennessean he's concerned broad changes in state laws could scare-off industry prospects and jobs, but that the issues raised can be addressed in targeted ways. The Fox report was commissioned by State Comptroller Justin Wilson.
During a visit to Chattanooga, Gov. Phil Bredesen indicated receptivity for the idea of resident halls on the campuses of two-year campuses. The TFP reports.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Today's Wall Street Journal report on the national labs certainly burnishes the reputation of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a major recipient of a tide of Stimulus funding for research. Meanwhile, the KNS reports on the impending opening of Y-12's new U-235 storage facility.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
At 5:22 p.m. today, VNC received the following statement from ECD and Revenue Commissioners Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr regarding the status of TNInvestco: "In our November 5, 2009 announcement of the finalists for the TNInvestco program, we publicly stated our intention to seek two additional allocations of tax credits from the Tennessee General Assembly totaling $40 million dollars. Our goal is to award allocations to the Tennessee Angel Fund and Solidus-TNInvestco, LLC, which were both selected as alternate funds. Subsequently, we've been approached about our support for an additional allocation over and above the $40 million we intend to seek. Our position is that while we believe an expansion of the program beyond our request has merit, any additional allocation over and above our request would need to be initiated by members of the General Assembly." Our original story earlier this afternoon.
Innova Fund II may be the first TNInvestco company to plant its flag in the insurance industry. VNC reported today that there may eventually be 10 winners, rather than six, and the capital pool could rise to $200MM. Now, Innova's Ken Woody has confirmed that his fund has "successfully closed on a commitment for all of our $20MM allotment of tax credits. Four Bridges assisted us in that transaction," Woody told VNC.
Metro Nashville Chief Investment Officer Fadi Bousrama told VNC Friday that the investment committee of the Metro employee benefit system agreed Nov. 19 to approve investing up to 10 percent of fund assets in hedge funds. An RFP will be out eventually for a hedge-fund advisor, but the RFP's issuance is "not even close." The advisor retained will be asked to create a special-purpose vehicle for Metro and to help develop policy. The SPV will contain "equity long/short hedge funds," said Bousrama. Other tactics may also be employed, subsequently. VNC's original story is here.
Ayers Capital LLC began operating this week as a registered investment advisory company providing services in Tennessee. The company is a JV between an affiliate of Parsons, Tenn.-based Ayers Asset Management Inc. and Chicago-based InterOcean Capital LLC. Principals include executives previously with U.S. Trust, Bank of America, SunTrust and InterOcean Capital.
UT Chattanooga and IBM are putting the finishing touches on a partnership to first simulate aircraft turbines and, later, maybe enter into a longer-term partnership to leverage the Simulation Center resources in Chattanooga. The TFP reports.
The TFP reported the State announced it has received a $1.2MM Lumina Foundation grant to help reenroll adult students in college to complete their degrees. Also, the KNS reports State THEC and Education agencies have reportedly given grants to MTSU and UT-Knoxville to increase the numbers of students graduating to become science and math teachers.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The Tennessee Valley Corridor Fall Summit is underway in Murfreesboro today. U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon (left) and Zach Wamp are among featured speakers, addressing energy and the economy, workforce development, innovation and entrepreneurship. The agenda's here.
Memphis-based arGentis Pharmaceuticals has licensed a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis from the UT Research Foundation. The CA reports.
The New York Times' Sunday story of the top-workplace culture of SAS Institute Inc., based in Cary, N.C., is a good read, with lessons about freeing the workplace from distractions that create a drag on creativity...as well as how success in analytics and predictive modeling breeds new competitors, such as Big Blue. fPrivately owned SAS resulted from university faculty research and development.
We're not sure we fully understand this, but it seems Knoxville-based Procon Partners has entered into some kind of co-marketing agreement with fabled coach and racing impresario Joe Gibbs. Procon's about mobile-resource management. The Gibbs organization is placing increasing interest, it seems, on leveraging the brand.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
KNS Columnist and Capitol Hill Reporter Tom Humphrey writes that Gov. Phil Bredesen's blunt criticism of legislators and others who have criticized his initiatives has been pretty effective. Related background.
Knoxville News Sentinel columnist David Moon, president of Moon Capital Management, seems to be saying factors converging for another big financial and economic jolt.
Memphis keeps generating new forms of networking and co-learning: This past week it was 'Core Conversations on Entrepreneurship' and the EscalatorPitch event. One participant said he sees renewed 'vigor and tenacity' in Memphis startups. Here's an earlier story on Memphis' energetic scene.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber told the Times-News the State will honor all the incentive and support commitments it has previously made to new industry, including Volkwagen and Wacker.
The KNS reports on the Quadriciser Corp. therapeutic device created by Larry Bohanan. The machine exerciser helps patients regain lost mobility and flexibility, and it's now at the center of a growing business. Bohanan is a former ORNL patents illustrator.
Chattanoogan.com reports on a Volkswagen executive's remarks before locals, when he explained the role of the British Army in keeping VW alive, after Germany's surrender. The VW factory was to be dismantled, but was saved by demand for vehicles for occupation troops.
Friday, November 20, 2009
BusinessTN offers its Hot100 Tennessee up-and-coming companies, and included among them are a dozen or so VNC thought you might want to know more about: Aegis Sciences ... Capital Confirmation ... Cell Journalist ... eMids ... Emma ... Informatics Corp. of America ... Magazines.com ... onFocus ... StudioNow ... VGT ... Human Capital Corp. ... Waddey & Patterson ... Enjoy!
Cogent CEO Gene Fleming (at left) told NashvillePost.com he intends for the company to grow significantly via aquisitions, but no deals announced. VNC's earlier profile of the hospitalist company is here.
We think that means "Wacker loves you," but Wacker Chemie execs' comments about waiting for market conditions for polysilicone to stabilize have sent a few tremors through Chattanoogans, who're hoping the Munich- (or, Munchen-) -based company follows-through on its announced plans for a $1BN factory in Hamilton County, where about 500 would be employed, beginning in 2011. State ECD says not to worry, alles gut. The Times Free Press reports.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is getting more than $54MM for its new Carbon Fiber Technology Center and for study of ways to make commercial buildings more energy-efficient. The KNS reports.
An Oak Ridge NL team of scientists won the ACM Gordon Bell prize for development of a scientific application, in this instance for measurement of certain properties of materials, in the interest of improving magnetic properties. Release here.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center is being criticized by PETA regarding treatment of animals and a former VUMC researcher, who's now an MBA student in Georgia, is accused of falsifying data in a cancer-related trial. The City Paper reports.
The Memphis-Shelby County IDB has voted approval of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) incentive to McKesson Corp., making the action the first time the incentive has been used in an effort to retain existing jobs. The future of the company's presence will remains uncertain, some months. The CA reports. The IDB also voted incentives for American Esoteric Laboratories.
The Commercial Appeal this morning recaps the rationale and requirements of TNInvestco, citing importance of Innova Memphis having won a capital allocation, and the hoped-for impact of that on Memphis-area startups.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This week, Gov. Phil Bredesen, his Cabinet and their staffs are reviewing each agency's budget issues, and face a myriad of challenges amid an economic recovery that promises to drag on for years. During a break in the hearings, the Governor and Economic and Development Commissioner Matt Kisber entertained reporters' questions. We asked for their comments regarding further funding for Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC) and how the Administration might fare in asking the General Assembly to authorize an additional $40MM in premium-tax credit allocations, to fund two additional TNInvestco proposals that were deemed meritorious in the latest round, but which went unfunded. Kisber said cautiously the climate is "favorable" for authorization of further TNInvestco allocations, (a program which is viewed as producing a net return for the state, economically). Regarding TTDC, Kisber noted that TTDC continues to work to achieve the objectives on which funding has previously been predicated, and must now demonstrate they have achieved enough progress to warrant further funding. TTDC has projected that the $5MM it obtained through a contract with Kisber's ECD will be virtually exhausted by June 30, 2010, and is pressing for what TTDC sometimes refers to as a B-round, given that it feels constrained from seeking funding from the same private-sector and other sponsors who now support TTDC stakeholder groups. Commenting on such requests, generally, Gov. Bredesen indicated there'd be efforts not to "gut" organizations and programs that rely on state funding. Meanwhile, comments by all hands throughout this week's budget hearings suggest that a Damoclean Sword may hover over the General Assembly, when it convenes in about seven weeks.
Genera Energy, the UT Research Foundation startups charged with advancing biofuels in Tennessee, got approval for an $11 MM transfer of funds, which had been sought by Gov. Phil Bredesen. Larisa Brass reports for the KNS.
Grad-school scientists, future lawyers, engineers and MBA-wielding execs statewide are being invited into a relaunching Tennessee Biotechnology Association Graduate Alliance. Industry executives will convene with TBA-GA members, Dec. 7. The story's here.
The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Tennessee more than $765K in ARRA funds for training and information services to help Tennessee workers retrain for Green jobs. DOL release here.
TCRS Private Equity Director Lamar Villere is doing business with some VC luminaries. The latest: A $25MM investment commitment from the state's pension fund to Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Menlo Park. Read about it here.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
PureSafety President and CEO Bill Grana announced today the company has added Kevin Eggers, who previously held a similar position with Dealerskins.com, and who retired as a Chief Petty Officer after an enlisted career in the U.S. Navy. PureSafety has recently stressed it'll be expanding through acquisitions, which means an ever-broadening content footprint for Eggers to manage.
Nashville-based FiledBy, an online directory of authors, writers, illustrators, photographers and other book contributors, said today it's integrating Scribd Reader technology into the online toolset for authors and other creators. This will let registered FiledBy users use Scribd to publish documents on FiledBy and Scribd, simultaneously.
Louisville's Business Journal reports GE Consumer and Industrial is hiring more than 40 engineers, and searches of job sites indicates many of those are in software fields, as well as industrial.
Birmingham-based BioCryst, which has a product targeted H1N1, said yesterday it intends to raise about $57MM through a stock offering. The release is here and a Birmingham Bus. Journal story here.
Goldman Sachs, Warren Buffett, community-college leaders and others announced $300MM in aid for inner-city businesses and workforce development.
This time, it's BusinessWeek, naming Clarksville the best city in Tennessee in which to raise children. Earlier, the city made CNNMoney's list of top 4 places to start a business. Gannett's Leaf Chronicle reports.
Word is imminent, apparently, that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is putting $90MM into teacher effectiveness in Memphis schools. The CA reports.
Sen. Lamar Alexander and a Democrat co-sponsor have introduced the Clean Energy Act, calling for creating mini-Manhattan Projects and coming close to likening support for more Nuclear power to surrender to enemies, which are unnnamed. Chattanoogan.com reports.
Nissan is among the players in the new Electrification Coalition calling for federal subsidies for providing incentives for building the e-car charging infrastructure and purchasing e-cars. Design News reports, as does The Washington Post.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
nTelagent, a revenue-cycle management player, filed with the SEC, reporting it has raised less than a million, according to NashvillePost.com, to cover growth-related expenses, having resorted to equity markets because credit is so tight.
No one claims to have a crystal ball, but they all think the chances are good Nashville has a bright future -- Bobby Frist, Mike Shmerling, Sid Chambless, Mildred Walters, Jeff Cornwall, Joe Freedman... but, as always, there's value in the details. The details are here.
Nashville Technology Council will host a "Capital Formation" roundtable, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, beginning 5 p.m., in the offices of Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings, LLC, 1600 Division Street, Suite 700. Panelists will be: Vic Gatto, Solidus; Jim Phillips, XMi Capital; Gary Peat, Council Ventures; John Chadwick, Claritas Capital; Chris Sloan, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. Details here.
Nashville Internet entrepreneur David Repas, who controls a batch of Internet and IT businesses, is preparing Finagle for its VC closeup. Today's story is here.
The Claritas-backed raise by Pace Payment Systems reported earlier by VNC, was for a total $18MM, according to a story published today by TechJournalSouth.
Pharos Capital Group LLC of Dallas and Nashville announced Monday its acquisition of Rush Tracking, an RFID, business process and systems integration consultant based near Kansas City, Mo. Read about Pharos' twin-city origins and Partner Jim Phillips, who made the Rush announcement. Nashville-based, Vanderbilt-linked Universal Robotics is also heavily focused on the logistics space. No word, yet, on the outcome of Universal's repored $2MM raise.
The KNS provides an update on the UT-ORNL Bioenergy Science Center. The KNS says the Center is due further hearings tomorrow in a legislative fiscal review committee, partly because of mixed signals regarding use of switchgrass as feedstock.
Evernote, 'your ubiquitous online memory forever', has now raised $16MM from the VCs, providing online access anywhere to notes that are indexed and storied for eternity.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The City Paper or NashvillePost reports on the mission of Vanderbilt University's Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development, which earned $11 MM in licensing revenue in the year ending June 30, 2009. Previous VNC OTTED coverage here.
The University of Tennessee College of Business Administration honored Randy Boyd, founder of Radio Systems as Entrepreneur of the Year, and Michael Strickland, founder of Bandit Lites, as distinguished alum. The KNS reports.
Although we hope for everyone's good Dollar General's topmost position in the NYSE's IPO brag list is short-lived -- with the company succeeded there by other IPOs -- it's interesting to see that even NYSE feels the need to tout is prowess in attracting new public companies.
University of Tennessee faculty in Nursing and Engineering collaborated to develop and now market to other universities an affordable electronic health record product, called iCare. The KNS reports.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Our recent coverage of Tri-Star Technology Fund's tentative strategy (they're waiting on TNInvestco funds to arrive) contained provocative comments about faster routes to new-drug discoveries and other breakthroughs. Today's New York Times reports on parallel efforts at MIT and elsewhere.
Thanks, a lot, CA: The Commercial Appeal introduces us to Phoenix-based Casey Research and their eye-of-the-strom projection of a Dow at 8,000 or lower and unemployment at 15%, amid a recession that'll last several more years.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
As we reported yesterday, the Nashville Medical Trade Center is moving along, with management confident they'll get financing, based in part on Dallas-based Crow Holdings' track record. Right now, it seems the Center could be operational at some level ahead of competing facilities in Cleveland and New York City. An interesting angle that's emerged is that of public engagement -- how best to interest, inform and educate the general public about healthcare, medicine and technologies. One idea is that of an interactive museum. What do you think? Here's the article.
Dubbed "Project Diana" by State economic-development officials, the Clinton, Tenn., area is in a horserace to grab a Solar-industry player, in a deal that could mean 500 jobs. The KNS has it.
Expansion Solutions magazine says the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce is one of the nation's five best economic-development organizations in the Automotive category. Chattanoogan.com reports. Other agencies among top 5 for Auto are in Miss., Ala, La. and NC. Other categories recognized include Biotech, High Tech, Logistics and others.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Nissan said in a release today, "The Renault-Nissan Alliance today announced that Nissan and Reliant Energy of Houston, Texas, one of the major competitive electricity providers in the nation, have forged an agreement to advance zero-emission mobility in the United States. The announcement helps pave the way for the 2010 introduction of Nissan LEAF, the industry’s first all-electric, zero-emission car designed for the mass market. The company expects to begin sales in late 2010. Reliant is a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG), one of the largest electricity generators in the United States..." The announcement precedes the Leaf's zero-emissions tour.
Three Nashville-based attorneys with Bass Berry & Sims sound-off in a recent issue of National Law Journal with notes on what recent federal anti-trust enforcement actions suggest, including heightened scrutiny of dominat firms, M&A in the crosshairs and aggressive action against cartels. The reprint is here. Among firms mentioned are Microsoft, Intel and Yahoo!
Nashville-based small-market radio and ad startup Debut Broadcasting reported a 9-month net income loss of nearly $600K, despite chopping operating expenses. VNC's earlier Debut story here.
In Murfreesboro, Gannett's Daily News Journal reports that a consultant's estimate of jobs and economic benefit flowing from Nissan e-car and battery-making operations in the region was overstated, at least in the view of MTSU Economist David Penn.
The Emdeon-sponsored U.S. Health Efficiency Index -- which today puts at 43% the healthcare sector's efficiency in claims processing and related functions (which Emdeon happens to influence) -- will have a new data-collection center. Release here. The Index was architected by Miriam Paramore, Emdeon's chief for strategy.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
TechJournalSouth reports Harbert Venture Fund has recruited about $56MM of its target $150MM raise for its IT- and healthcare-oriented fund. Harbert's mezzanine debt operation is based in Middle Tennessee, while the corporate headquarters is in Birmingham.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the city of Memphis have gotten a $30MM federal tax credit under the New Markets program, representing strong leverage for community development. MDN reports it.
Hundreds of economic-development officials and corporate execs gathered for the Tennessee Solar Symposium in Nashville yesterday. It wasn't a backslapping occasion. Rather, the goal was to learn more about creating wealth and jobs in Solar and other green-energy fields. New grants and tech assistance programs were announced. The story's here.
During a review of the situation, Vanderbilt University has placed two of its former tech-transfer executives on administrative leave, in the wake of the two winning a slot in the TNInvestco competition. Read the story here.
Citing the economy and alluding to frustrations in getting the deal done in Lebanon, CoreTech Industries President Greg Quinn told VNC today the company has dropped plans to put its CoreTech Park there, and is instead looking at other Wilson and Williamson County sites. VNC reported earlier on CoreTech's plans. Quinn said today CoreTech still aims to create the nation's "first green technology R&D business park."
Memphis Bioworks Foundation CEO Steve Bares posted yesterday on the foundation's BioBiz blog his views on how Innova's winning a TNInvestco allocation for investment advances biomed excellence in Memphis.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
NotifyMD, the healthcare voice-communications provider, announced today the appointment of Ray DeArmitt as EVP-Sales. The release said, in part, "DeArmitt’s previous experience in healthcare includes executive level positions at Allscripts-Misys Healthcare and Emdeon.... DeArmitt earned his bachelor's at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. VNC believes the search was handled by Buffkin Associates.
PureSafety, the provider of online support for workplace-safety and health education and training, announced it's hired Nashville-based Avondale Partners to shop for acquisition targets.
In addition to HealthStream announcements of marketing and service alliances with Quorum Health and DisastersNet, today the company announced it's offering with OnFocus Healthcare a new "HealthStream Improvement Center" resource, to help customers act upon findings of HealthStream surveys and other research. The HealthStream offering builds upon OnFocus' Enterprise Performance Management product.
Over in Memphis, entrepreneur Pitt Hyde (at left) has for decades spurred sales of everything from biotech to batteries. The AutoZone founder and philanthropist helped found MB Venture Partners, Memphis Bioworks and more. For the past few years, there's been a good bit of questioning in Middle Tennessee regarding whence may come comparable leadership in the high-growth, high-tech arenas, apart from healthcare services, where a clutch of Frists have helped spawn so many ventures. Well, one candidate has got to be Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., Vanderbilt's now vice chancellor emeritus for health affairs, an advisor to ICA, a board member at Merck, co-founder of the new Tri-Star TNInvestco fund, and much more. Here's our story covering some of Jacobson's thinking, his entrepreneurial track record and his views on Informatics Corporation of America, ICA, where he's an advisor.
Cumberland Pharmaceuticals today reported quarterly revenue up 58 percent to $13.6 million, and what it says is the strongest balance sheet in the company's history, thanks in large measure to Cumberland's recent IPO. Release is here.
Memphis-based GTx Inc. marches onward, hoping yet to convince the FDA to approve Acapodene for use in fighting bone fractures in men taking chemo for prostate cancer. MDN reports. It wasn't so long ago, we note, that Nashville-based BioMimetic had to shrug-off an FDA bruise, and continues to move along.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Brentwood-based Brookdale Senior Living Inc. (NYSE: BKD) announced today that certain funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group LLCintend to offer in an underwritten offering 11,000,000 shares of the Company's common stock, in keeping with a May shelf registration.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Jan Bouten, who, as reported by VNC, joined the Memphis Bioworks Foundation TECWorks management team earlier this year, is now a member of Innova Memphis' new TNInvestco investment team, within Innova Fund II. Innova is a subsidiary of Bioworks. Innova also told Memphis Daily News it has for some time been courting insurance companies for participation in TNInvestco. Innova is the only funded TNInvestco applicant that is also a member of the TNInvestco Consortium, which was created to seek insurecos' participation.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Capital-short for decades, Tennessee has put its hat in the ring to compete in the New Economy. Within about 120 days of Gov. Phil Bredesen signing the Tennessee Small Business Investment Company Credit Act -- introduced by bipartisan legislative sponsors, and creating what we now known as TNInvestco -- state officials have not only crowned six winning firms, tagged two more for possible future funding and drawn a total 25 competitive venture-capital groups into the formal competition...they've also galvanized the venture and entrepreneurial communities of Tennessee, at a time of dire economic and fiscal circumstances. It will be years before we'll know just how sagacious the TNInvestco picks prove to be... but, already certain is the fact that there is a deep reserve of entrepreneurial energy within Tennessee, which, despite the welcomed litany of prior successes, is just beginning to be tapped. The challenge, now, is to ensure these activities benefit the entire state and its people, and set the stage for further innovative steps.
Although the Tennessee Angel Fund, led by Nashville Capital Network Executive Director Sid Chambless, was named an as-yet unfunded Alernate in yesterday's TNInvestco winners announcement, the TNInvestco commissioners announced they'll be seeking additional funding from the General Assembly, come January, and the $40MM targeted could go to Chambless' and Solidus' groups. Meanwhile, Chambless told VNC yesterday, "We are pleased with the results of TNInvestco. Many of the winners already interface with our angel group so we believe NCN's stable of companies and pipeline of opportunities will have good exposure to the TNInvestco funds. Additionally, we believe the Tennessee Angel Fund is a nice complement to the other TNInvestcos and we are optimistic the additional two allocations will come to fruition." Chambless' 22 NCN board members include TNInvestco winner Council Ventures' Katie Gambill and Solidus' Townes Duncan.
Nashville-based ConduIT Corporation Chairman and Co-Founder Ray Capp, whose StartTN Fund was among the 25 initial TNInvestco applicants, but did not make the finals, told VNC yesterday his company is nonetheless "thrilled" the TNInvestco program exists and believes it'll "lift all entrepreneurial boats for many years to come." ConduIT Co-Founder and COO Mike Hassell agreed, saying in part, "We know most of the final grant recipients, and respect them highly. Many other worthy applicants weren’t awarded; the commissioners had a tough task in picking just six or eight. They seem to have succeeded in establishing a diverse portfolio..." TNInvestco winners were announced yesterday.
Times Free Press Legislative Reporter Andy Sher reports that Lupton Co. CFO David Belitz said his firm's Chattanooga perch gives Nashville-based XMi High Growth Development Fund a vantage from which to spot not only Chattanooga-area startups, but North Georgia startups willing to relocate to Tennessee. XMi was one of the winners announced yesterday by TNInvestco overseers Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Speaking briefly with VNC this afternoon, Nashville-based Council & Enhanced Tennessee Fund Co-Founder Denny Bottorff, at left (co-founder also of Council Ventures) expressed confidence the TNInvestco program will, indeed, become a "model" for the nation, because it has extracted strengths from previous models (i.e., especially CAPCOs) and integrated them with novel features. Bottorff commended State officials for their innovativeness and management of the TNInvestco program and the associated competitive process, and said he and his partners with Enhanced felt their firms were from the outset well aligned with the TNInvestco goal of nourishing "transformational companies" that will contribute to the state's economy and to the well-being of Tennesseans. He added that while Council and Enhanced routinely work with companies and partners nationwide, the TNInvestco program will mean greater focus on Tennessee-headquartered companies. He said he and Katie Gambill will lead the new entity.
Tri-Star Technology Fund co-Founder Christopher Rand (left) told VNC this afternoon the fund will "target investments in health care, broadly defined to include: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, personalized medicine, medical devices, health care IT and health care services." Rand, who is in the venture with Brian Laden and Harry Jacobson, M.D., added, "Tri-Star Technology Ventures plans to concentrate primarily on founding and investing in companies emerging from America’s top research institutions, with a focus on Tennessee’s great research institutions. All three partners...believe that there is a significant amount of promising research that isn’t currently tapped into by most VCs."
[Updated] Innova Memphis President Ken Woody and parentco Memphis Bioworks Foundation President Steve Bares make clear in a release this afternoon -- issued, we understand, after a celebratory lunch at Innova HQ in Memphis -- they're ready to make investments and mentor entrepreneurs through Innova Fund II. The pair note in their release, "Since Innova was first funded under the MemphisED Initiative of Memphis Fast Forward, the company has screened more than 200 potential business investments, and has made seven promising investments in the Memphis area. These investments have also attracted an additional $6 million in follow-on investment. The companies range from Biotech and Medical Device companies to Technology and Tech Service companies. All are performing well and ahead of expectations..." 3:07 p.m. Update: Steve Bares added this afternoon, "Memphis Bioworks Foundation is honored to have been selected by the State. The designation for INNOVA is confirmation of the impact that the Memphis Bioworks Foundation has made on the region in leading the transformation into an international center-of-excellence for bioscience companies. We believe INNOVA was selected for its expertise, track record of success and focus on early stage mentorship and investing. I have full confidence that under the leadership of Ken Woody, INNOVA will deliver upon the promise of TNInvestco’s goal of economic development and job creation in Tennessee."
He's still settling on where to office, but Eric Satz of Tennessee Community Ventures Fund told VNC this afternoon his group has already met with some entrepreneurs and while it's too early to say whether they invest in those firms, "they're all very promising." Satz said soon's he catches his breath, TNCV will sit down with other TNInvestco winners and compare notes about approaching "potential insurance-company partners." Satz noted that apart from the healthcare sector, there is no single industry sector in Tennessee large enough to warrant a VC's "pure focus." Instead, he said, TNCV's stategy will be more "generalist," looking at opportunities across industries and sectors.
Solidus TNInvestco LLC didn't get a $20MM allocation of tax credits to lure investors under the TNInvestco program announced this morning; but -- looking ahead to partnering with the firms that did get allocations, and possibly looking toward a second TNInvestco round -- Solidus Partner Vic Gatto told VNC this afternoon, "As I have said from the beginning of TNInvestco, it is a great program for our state. Obviously Townes and I are both disappointed, but we wish the six winners luck and hope to work with them as they invest the capital. If there is another round of tax credits, we would certainly be interested in participating."
Newly minted, Nashville-based TNInvestco certified VC Limestone Fund LLC issued a release soon after the State's announcement this morning of TNInvestco companies that'll share $200MM in tax credit allocations, explaining that Limestone will focus on life sciences and consumer-technology applications. That's Limestone partner Mountain Group Capital's co-founder, Joe Cook Jr., at left.
One thing we know is that as a result of Tri-Star getting one of today's announced TNInvestco allocations, there are two jobs open in technology transfer at Vanderbilt University. OTTD chief Chris McKinney just told us he'll be filling those jobs, the incumbents of which are not getting into venture capital. VUMC Vice Chancellor-Emeritus Harry Jacobson is also with Tri-Star, and has indicated he'll sever formal ties with VU. One surprising, but logical announcement: Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber said they are game to reapproach the General Assembly for another $40MM in allocation authority, which would probably go toward two alternates (entities linked to Solidus and Nashville Capital Network). The field of winners seemed to give a real nod to entrepreneurs of the Mike Shmerling and Joe Cook(s) variety. In fact, asked about it by VNC, Commissioner Farr said that, indeed, actual operating, as well as investment experience was a weighty element. We have the full story from this morning's press briefing, as well as profiles on all 10 finalists, right here.
Peabody Prof. Jim Guthrie (left) and Research Associate Arthur Peng, colleagues at Vanderbilt University's Peabody Center for Education Policy at Peabody College of Education and Human Development, say public school districts 'always have money to spend', and are essentially misleading the public about the 'funding crisis'. Here's the article.
Brentwood-based C3 Consulting LLC, the Nashville-based IT consulting and services firm, announced that Vicki Estrin has joined the firm as a "healthcare managing consultant," reporting to healthcare practice leader Helen Lane. During more than five years as a program manager at the VU Center for Better Health, Estrin was deeply involved in the Memphis-centered MidSouth eHealth Alliance project launched with Gov. Phil Bredesen and allies. In her VU role, Estrin worked closely with health IT and informatics influentials Bill Stead, M.D., and Mark Frisse, among others. Earlier in her career, Estrin worked for Healthcare Management Directions (once known as the "Smart Hospital Company") and Quorum Health Resources, among others.
CBL & Associates, the Chattanooga-based shopping-center developer, says it's looking for private-equity investors and JV partners for new projects. The TFP reports.
Grants attract proposals like bees to honey, and so it is with the latest round of U.S. EPSCoR funding for improving R&D infrastructure in laggard states, including Tennessee. There's $20MM at stake, and VNC reports on new collaborative efforts to win that money, on the parts of Tennessee universities, ORNL, companies and others. We note, too, the Tennessean's story this morning about some Tennessee legislators' resenting what they see as a changeup in the state's plans for its highly touted biofuels project, saying they were misled about the use of native switchgrass in the project. The KNS reports on the legislative pushback, also.
The KNS reports on efforts to retrain laid-off workers for Green jobs, dealing with hazardous waste, etc., but notes that wages are often much lower than applicants previously enjoyed.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
State Commissioners Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr (ECD and Revenue, respectively) will announced six TNInvestco finalists and two alternates tomorrow morning, during a 10 a.m. press conference at Legislative Plaza. Release is here.
While Gov. Phil Bredesen (left) has told agencies to brace for up to 9 percent cuts in their '11 budgets, on the heels of sharp cuts in the current year, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike turner says the budget for 2010-11 is going to be "devastating." Among other things, the long-threatened State layoffs now seem inevitable. The AP story is in the Washington Post.
At the University of Memphis, FedEx Institute of Technology Executive Director Shaye Mandle says tech transfer and commercialization are on the verge of 'exploding', after years of relative inattention. The Memphis Daily News reports.
Knoxville-based Innovation Valley Partners, an affiliate of Battelle, has invested with Battelle and others in Ampulse, a Golden, Colo.-based provider of new technologies for silicon production. PV-tech.org reports it.
Once again, a team of students from Oak Ridge HS is advancing to the regional contest of the Siemens Math, Science and Technology scholarship competition. ORHS is, thus far, the only high school in the state to field teams in Siemens' annual trial. The KNS reports.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Denise Wilder Warren, the SVP-CFO of Capella Healthcare Inc., was recently honored as Chief Financial Officer of the Year, through a competition sponsored by VACO and conducted by Nashville Business Journal. Warren has previously been with Avondale Partners, Merrill Lynch, Gaylord Entertainment, Ernst & Young, E.F. Hutton, Ford Capital, LTD and CS First Boston. She earned her MBA at Harvard University and her bachelor's in economics at Southern Methodist University. The other categories and nominees honored Oct. 30 are listed here.
Memphis-based GTx may be an acquisition target, in the wake of an FDA adverse ruling on a clinical trial that sent its stock reeling. The CA reports. A fuller story also appears in today's Memphis Daily News. The situation vividly illustrates the type risks many Tennessee VCs say they can live without. MB Venture Partners exited the stock at its IPO in 2006.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Pretty much as anticipated, HCA announced today Richard Bracken will assume the additional title of chairman of the HCA board, succeeding Jack Bovender, who's retiring, with both actions effective, Dec. 15, 2009.
A study by the University of Tennessee's Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group says there are "significant market opportunities" for agriculture, if Congress enacts a national renewable energy standard (RES) policy. Standards would increase the share of electricity generated by renewable-resource means, and produce new jobs and wealth, directly and indirectly. The release is here.
The CA reports today on the University of Memphis' efforts to achieve parity with UT, Vanderbilt and other research institutions. The story's here. Apart from competing for rankings, Memphis may also be concerned that if the governor follows-through on efforts to focus on a single state university as a research hub -- probably UT -- UM could suffer by comparison.
The KNS reports that, with another round of state budgeting just ahead, the debate about combining postsecondary governance institutions in the state is moving along, with more discussion about quality of education, as well as about operations, throughput of students, etc.
Automobile manufacturing is growing a bigger footprint in Tennessee and the surrounding region. The TFP reports on the emerging corridor.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
November's big in Memphis for Barcamp, Escalator Pitch, and other events targeting entrepreneurs. Read today's CA story. And, here's our earlier roundup on the Memphis innovation scene.
Larisa Brass of the KNS reports on how sustainability is permeating the University of Tennessee's courses, operations and more, partly in recognition of the need to compete on the basis of greenness. Accompanying KNS story here.