City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon participated in an Innov865 Webinar, where she presented her priorities and vision for supporting Knoxville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Mayor Kincannon was out on a family vacation as she joined us remotely to share her goals under her administration. During the webinar, the mayor gave a shoutout to our entrepreneurs pivoting in these uncertain times to meet the needs of our community and beyond.
- EDP Biotech, a Startup Day 2019 alum, was focusing its lab work on cancer screenings but has since become one of a few entities on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website now recognized as a commercial testing lab and manufacturer of COVID-19 serology (antibody) tests.
- Integrity Labs gained a nod from the mayor as they are also assisting in COVID-19 testing, as well as the many distilleries that began producing hand sanitizer in light of the shortages and donated a lot of it to our public safety and first responders.
- Songboarding, a recent winner of Innov865 Alliance member Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s What’s the Big Idea? competition was also mentioned by our mayor. The startup produces workplace safety training songs, and as public health is top of mind in light of COVID-19, co-founder Mike Benn created a song to encourage people to wash their hands and follow CDC guidelines.
Mayor Kincannon also stressed the importance of working with community partners and the Chamber of Commerce to make sure opportunities and resources are equitable to all.
“One of my goals as Mayor is to support the entrepreneurial community and make sure that those opportunities to invest and to grow your business and to plant your idea and turn your idea into a workable strategy is something that is available to everybody,” said Mayor Kincannon.
The mayor highlighted that in order to solidify Knoxville’s innovation ecosystem, there needs to be better connectivity. On top of having the infrastructure that supports collaboration, entrepreneurs need to be in close proximity with each other to catalyze more innovation. That’s certainly a challenge right now, in light of COVID-19, but the mayor said she wants the city and the mayor’s office to be a part of that strategic planning moving forward. The mayor reiterated one of her goals during her term is to launch and move forward on an innovation district or an opportunity district.
Mayor Kincannon shared how she’s had several conversations with Knoxville’s entrepreneurs to help understand what their needs are and how the City can help. Anna Douglas of SkyNano, a 2017 Startup Day winner, explained to the mayor the technology needs for wet labs and access to resources that new businesses need for facilitating and incubating.
Douglas is a familiar name in Knoxville as she’s a graduate of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program, and just won two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants that total $2.7 million, including cost share for one, and has two other smaller projects lined-up for the start-up founded in January 2017 and focused on manufacturing of low-cost, high-value carbon materials from carbon dioxide.
Mayor Kincannon also expressed interest in Knoxville mimicking Memphis’ 800 Initiative, which is dedicated to helping grow minority business through the deliberate investment of assistance, capital, corporate engagement, and other resources.
“Memphis is a much bigger city but ours might be the Knoxville 100. The idea is to not reinvent the wheel but to give access to minority owned businesses to the resources that already exist to support small and growing businesses,” said Mayor Kincannon. “The goal is very attainable and measurable, and it’s to give people access to services, remove the barriers for mentoring, and access to capital.”