Startup Day 2021 is right around the corner! In the next few weeks, we will follow up with some of our 2020 pitchers and winners to ask how they are doing and see if they have any exciting updates to share and advice for our 2021 pitchers. We will also reach out to several of our valued partners.

Today, we got the chance to catch up with Erica Grant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Quantum Lock. Quantum Lock won the Crowd Favorite award at Startup Day 2020. Here are some of Grant’s answers to our questions.

It’s been one year since you brought home the Crowd Favorite award at Startup Day 2020. What was the pitch competition experience like?

Grant: The pitch competition was very organized, especially considering the challenges of COVID-19 and social distancing. We were able to meet up and do a professional recording of the pitch prior to the event. I also enjoyed using LunchPool to connect with the fellow entrepreneurs and professionals in the Knoxville community. It was such an honor to be selected for the “crowd favorite” award. I was stunned by the voting response.

What advice do you have for the entrepreneurs competing this year? 

Grant: A great pitch grabs audience attention with the problem and its relevance to society or its impact on their lives. Then the pitch should hook the audience with your unique solution to that problem. If your technology is complex,  the key is to not focus on how your solution works but instead how it solves the problem and why they should care. Presenting a clear and comprehensive plan for delivering your solution to a market is what sets an inventor apart from a founder in the judges eyes.

What has been happening for you this year? For example, what have been some of your favorite highlights? 

Grant: The past year has been very exciting for Quantum Lock. We were able to secure two U.S. patents and set up a new lab space for prototyping at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s cybersecurity group. Through the Innovation Crossroads program, we have now grown the team to include hardware developers, a software engineer, cybersecurity consultants, and a graphic designer. I am thankful that the Innov865 crowd favorite award was able to help fund the intellectual property. I also graduated with my PhD in quantum computing in December 2020 which has allowed me to work on Quantum Lock full time.

Looking forward into the next year or so, what do you and Quantum Lock have on the horizon? 

Grant: Our next prototype is set to be complete in September 2021 and will demonstrate the system with multiple magnetic locking doors. We plan to execute a pilot by summer of 2022 and have shifted our initial market to securing utilities and substations.

What do you enjoy about the Knoxville entrepreneurial ecosystem? And/or what was/is it like growing your company here?

Grant: We have a great team working on Quantum Lock through our connection to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Innovation Crossroads. There are so many advisors from the Knoxville community who have worked closely with me, and I’m very grateful for that.