CONTACT: Hannah Whitson, l (423) 408-4203

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Regional business leaders, students and investors joined the Innov865 Alliance in person and online as the organization celebrated Knoxville’s entrepreneurial community at the 10th annual pitch competition, Startup Day, on Tuesday, Sept. 20. 

At the celebration, hundreds of attendees voted for John Phillips, Founder of Primeaux, to take home the Crowd Favorite cash prize of $7,000, presented by the Innov865 Alliance. In addition, Don DeRosa, Co-Founder and CEO of Eonix, won the $3,000 Judges’ Choice Award, presented by Truist

Judges’ Choice Award 


Eonix has created the first semi-autonomous materials R&D system, ATLAS-system, that drastically reduces the time and cost to design new materials for lithium-ion batteries. This breakthrough process shrinks product development cycles of application-specific lithium-ion battery chemistries from years to months. Eonix’s novel ATLAS-system enables the rapid design of drop-in compatible electrolyte solutions that address the market-specific barriers to electric vehicles, grid storage and hybrid defense systems to drive cleantech adoption. 

Co-Founder and CEO: Don DeRosa 

Crowd Favorite Winner


Primeaux is a small manufacturer of world-class hand-made kitchen cutlery and cookware. Producing the finest and most sought-after work in their class, all crafted in downtown Knoxville, TN.

Founder: John Phillips

“We are proud to display our support of the Innov865 Alliance and its efforts to cultivate entrepreneurial growth in Knoxville through the sponsorship of the Judges’ Choice Award,” said Harry Gross, Executive Vice President at Truist. “Congratulations to this year’s winner, Eonix.” 

The Innov865 Alliance selected six startups to reflect Knoxville’s diverse talent, including D3D, ThinkUp, The Lotus Program, Primeaux, Eonix and Windfall. The finalists pitched their businesses live before a panel of expert judges and an audience of business leaders, investors and Knoxville enthusiasts. The judges’ panel featured: Tanika Harper, Founder and CEO of Shora Foundation and Harper’s Naturals; Jenna Johns, COO at RDI Technologies; and Carol Carden, Managing Principal of Valuation Services for PYA. 

In addition to the pitch competition, Verizon awarded the Innov865 Traction Award to Kelly Tiller, President and CEO of Genera Energy. The award recognizes a Knoxville entrepreneur who has made significant progress in their industry and community. Genera recently secured a $200 million investment from Ara Partners to scale its operations and acquired MxG Fiber to support rural communities and decarbonize the packaging industry.

“Verizon is proud to partner with Innov865 Alliance in Startup Day 2022”, said Bob Davis, Director-Government Affairs, Verizon. “We recognize Genera for its impact on the East Tennessee region’s landscape by bridging the gap on the value of agriculture. Verizon is proud to present Genera, a local entrepreneur, with the Innov865 Traction Award for its well-deserved, innovative accomplishments.” 

In her opening remarks, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon highlighted the Innov865 Alliance’s work to support and celebrate the city’s entrepreneurs, along with the City’s initiatives aimed to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem grow and thrive. The event also celebrated the success of other Knoxville businesses in a fireside chat with SkyNano, Trillium Renewable Chemicals, and Fluix. The discussion was moderated by Lindsey Cox, the new CEO of Launch Tennessee. 

Innov865 Week continues with events that include Raising + Rising, Let Her Speak: Women’s Capital Series Happy Hour, Innovation Crossroads Showcase, Made for Knoxville Live and Building a Business: Knoxville Entrepreneurs Tell All. For a complete calendar of Innov865 Week events, visit the schedule on the Innov865 Week website

About Innov865 Week & The Innov865 Alliance

Innov865 Week is a weeklong celebration of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit that brings together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, Knoxville Chamber, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center,  Veteran’s Ventures, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, the City of Knoxville and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit