August Lunch: Innovation Trends in the Flyover States

Our August event featured media mogul Tom Cottingham, co-founder of The Cobb Group, TechRepublic, NarrowCast Group, Insider Louisville and now CEO and Partner of Flyover Media Group, who talked about innovation trends he’s seen throughout his career.  Tom shared how cities like Indianapolis, Charlestown and Birmingham are creating industry clusters or “innovation districts” to drive economic development, why it’s […]

Tom Cottingham presenting to Venture Connectors

Our August event featured media mogul Tom Cottingham, co-founder of The Cobb Group, TechRepublic, NarrowCast Group, Insider Louisville and now CEO and Partner of Flyover Media Group, who talked about innovation trends he’s seen throughout his career. 

Tom shared how cities like Indianapolis, Charlestown and Birmingham are creating industry clusters or “innovation districts” to drive economic development, why it’s vital to develop physical locations to bring people together for innovation, and how those concepts can be applied in cities like Louisville. He discussed venture investment opportunities in the flyover states, and the hottest tech trends like AI and deep learning. He shared his thoughts on Louisville’s strengths and challenges, and how we measure up to other locations in terms of opportunities for innovation. 

Flyover Media Group is an integrated media company focused on connecting communities of innovators throughout “Flyover Country.”  Flyover Future covers innovation ecosystems in cities throughout the heartland and the investors, universities, entrepreneurs and communities most engaged in building the business of the future today. Tom was an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Winner-Ohio Valley Region in July 2000.

This was also our first lunch at Story Louisville, and we’re delighted to call it our new home! It’s not only an innovation hub, but the perfect space for networking and showcasing the startup community. We hope to see you there next month!

 

Celebrating Entrepreneurship

Thank you to everyone came out to our July networking event at TEN20 Craft Brewery! We had a HUGE turnout, which just goes to show what a thriving startup community we have in Louisville!

(Photo credit: Austin Lopesilvero)

Thank you to everyone came out to our July networking event at TEN20 Craft Brewery! We had a HUGE turnout, which just goes to show what a thriving startup community we have in Louisville!

(Photo credit: Austin Lopesilvero)

June Lunch: Why Your Startup Needs a Chief of Staff

Does your startup need a chief of staff (CoS)? At our June lunch, Cheston Newhall, the recently appointed chief of staff for Bamboo Health, shared why the role is important in startups, how it can take on different forms, and how a CoS can be a strategic growth lever, if used correctly. He noted that […]

Photo by Austin Lopesilvero

Does your startup need a chief of staff (CoS)? At our June lunch, Cheston Newhall, the recently appointed chief of staff for Bamboo Health, shared why the role is important in startups, how it can take on different forms, and how a CoS can be a strategic growth lever, if used correctly. He noted that many CoS roles are popping up in tech companies, but cautioned against hiring one simply because it’s the trendy thing to do. Read more in this KY INNO article.

Newhall joined Bamboo Health, a national collaborative care network, in 2022. As CoS, he leads special initiatives and projects for the CEO and partners with company leaders to drive the business’ priorities through strategy, development and operations. He also maintains and builds relationships with Bamboo Health’s board of directors, as well as current and future investors, partners and collaborators.

Newhall has a wealth of experience in fast-growing technology companies, with expertise in organizational growth, business development and go-to-market strategies. He previously served as a sales alliance leader for Bamboo Health’s holding company, Appriss, playing a role in the successful acquisition of its Appriss Insights business unit by Equifax in 2021 for $1.8 billion. Prior to Appriss, Newhall held sales and revenue management positions at TEKSystems and ZirMed (Waystar).

May Lunch: Equity, Equality and Empathy in Business

When trying to foster a workplace that is equitable and inclusive for all, it is imperative for leaders to be well-trained in inclusive strategies. There is one key trait that all great leaders should possess. Some may call this trait the crème de la crème of all leadership traits: empathy. Empathy is our ability to […]

When trying to foster a workplace that is equitable and inclusive for all, it is imperative for leaders to be well-trained in inclusive strategies. There is one key trait that all great leaders should possess. Some may call this trait the crème de la crème of all leadership traits: empathy. Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to understand what another person is experiencing. Leaders that are more empathetic may be more effective at fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces.

She talked about gaps and barriers to diversity, empathy and inclusion, and how she advises clients to let go of biases, recruit (not simply invite) diverse voices to the table, and ensure those voices are heard once they take a seat. She discussed recommendations for becoming more equitable and inclusive, and how she gets businesses to commit to the necessary changes in order to evolve. She also shared insights about how Louisville fares in these areas compared with other cities.

Dr. Johnson is also CEO and Founder of MEMStim LLC, a company that produces implantable electronics to treat neurological disorders. With a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, she has produced many patents, acquired funding from the National Science Foundation, and received millions in prestigious and highly competitive SBIR awards from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Johnson’s expertise is sought out at the highest levels, including the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee. She has served as a speaker for the eighth district of the Federal Reserve, the Royal Academy of Science International Trust, the International Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Assembly on Women and Girls in Science. She lends her leadership to the Standing Council, NSF Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, the Kentucky Statewide EPSCOR Committee, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering SBIR, the NSF NNCI External Advisory Board and Medtech Color.

April Lunch: Creating Generational Wealth

In the United States today, the top 10% of the population holds 76% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% holds just 1%. A major reason for that disparity is the transfer of wealth from generation to generation. Creating generational wealth is a focal point in lessening the racial wealth gap and increasing the concentration of […]

In the United States today, the top 10% of the population holds 76% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% holds just 1%. A major reason for that disparity is the transfer of wealth from generation to generation. Creating generational wealth is a focal point in lessening the racial wealth gap and increasing the concentration of wealth in the United States.

Our April lunch featured a fantastic presentation on how the Russell Technology Business Incubator (RTBI), is creating legacy for Black and LatinX companies in Louisville’s West End. Huge thanks to Monica Stewart, Director of Operations for AMPED and RTBI, for stepping in for Dave Christopher, who had a family emergency. Our thoughts are with Dave and his family.

The Russell Neighborhood was once known as “Louisville’s Harlem” for its strong African American business presence, but the area took a major decline after World War II. Household poverty rates in the neighborhood are 3.5 times higher than the general Louisville population, and 60% of the households live below the poverty threshold. The mission RTBI is to create a space for economic growth, mobility, entrepreneurship and independence.

RTBI is designed as a state-of-the-art, Black business incubator and technology service center offering business development training, business services, assessments, referrals and wraparound services to incubating businesses. RTBI provides the support small businesses need to launch in West Louisville communities. By providing these services, small businesses and entrepreneurs can maximize their potential for success, lift themselves and their families out of poverty, change the trajectory of their lives for the better and create generational wealth — the ability to pass assets from one generation to another including family businesses.

Monica introduced the incredible team at RTBI, and shared how the incubator prepares founders to successfully launch or relaunch profitable, legacy businesses. She went over how the application process works and some of the essential training founders receive, including a capital readiness assessment, coaching sessions and wealth strategy workshops.

March Lunch: The Experiential Age

At our March lunch, JK McKnight — founder of Art of Impact, Forecastle Festival and Forecastle Foundation — shared insights into the generational trends that led to the development of his three-tiered brand engagement platform. He noted that Gen Z and Millennials are rethinking not just how they work, but why. To connect with younger audiences, brands must shift their focus to […]

Jk McKnight presenting

At our March lunch, JK McKnight — founder of Art of ImpactForecastle Festival and Forecastle Foundation — shared insights into the generational trends that led to the development of his three-tiered brand engagement platform. He noted that Gen Z and Millennials are rethinking not just how they work, but why. To connect with younger audiences, brands must shift their focus to creating engaging experiences. He added that “experience” and purpose-driven brands have a competitive edge because it’s no longer all about the money for young workers and consumers.

McKnight is an entrepreneur, producer, consultant and community builder. He is best known as the founder of The Forecastle Festival, one of the nation’s premier outdoor festivals that draws 75,000 fans for a weekend celebration of music, art and activism. It was created in 2002 as a small community gathering in Louisville, and has grown into a major, international attraction. Outside Magazine hailed it as one of the “Top 10 Festivals in the Country” while Rolling Stone deemed it one of the “Coolest Festivals in America.” It annually posts an economic impact of over $15 million.

McKnight’s Forecastle Foundation is an international environmental 501(c)(3) dedicated to protecting and connecting the world’s natural awesome. It works by partnering with grassroots organizations to conserve the richest reservoirs of life left on the planet. These biodiversity zones, known as “hot spots,” cover just 2.3% of the Earth’s surface, yet account for 77% of all vertebrae species and 50% of all plant life. They play a vital role in regulating world temperatures and are highly threatened due to a variety of factors, including development, deforestation, pollution, poaching and unsustainable agricultural practices.

Art of Impact is an experiential agency specializing in festival consulting, experiential marketing and nonprofit partnerships. Combined together, all three form a new marketing platform to reach Gen Z and millennials effectively while positively impacting their lives and communities.

McKnight graduated from St. Xavier High School and attended the College of Charleston, Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville.

February Lunch: The Case for Kentucky

At our March lunch, Venture Connectors was pleased to host Ian McClure, University of Kentucky’s Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact and leader of UK Innovate, who presented “The Case for Kentucky: Why Today’s Sputnik Moment is the Commonwealth’s Calling Card.” When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space in the 1950s, the United States […]

At our March lunch, Venture Connectors was pleased to host Ian McClure, University of Kentucky’s Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact and leader of UK Innovate, who presented “The Case for Kentucky: Why Today’s Sputnik Moment is the Commonwealth’s Calling Card.”

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space in the 1950s, the United States was prompted to increase its investment in defense, research and education to bridge the perceived technological gap between our country and the U.S.S.R. This ultimately led to the creation of NASA. McClure says today’s Sputnik Moment has building for the past two decades, gaining significant momentum in the past five years.

“A Sputnik Moment is finally culminating in decisions on Capitol Hill and in the federal government right now as they look at the next investment, in fact, the largest investment in innovation infrastructure in this country since the Sputnik Moment basically in the 1950s,” he said.

In June 2021, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), a nearly $250 billion bill that is intended to boost technology and research, and help the United States compete with China. During his talk, McClure shared why funding from that bill could be game-changing for Kentucky. Read more on KY Inno here.

At UK, McClure leads efforts to translate the university’s discoveries for the public good, seek equitable returns on its intellectual property, develop innovative approaches to develop, fund and support opportunities for near-stage research, seek grant funding to enhance UK’s investments in innovation, and expand industry and other collaborative research programs.

Previously, McClure served as Executive Director of the UK Office of Technology Commercialization, where he oversaw a team of staff managing the university’s innovation, intellectual property and startup portfolios. In addition, he is an advisory board member for the Oak Ridge Institute, Chair of IPwe’s Advisory Committee for University Technology Transfer, Launch Blue Advisory Board member, a PI on two NIH grants, and is a co-founder of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, a state-funded program to provide IP and tech transfer services to all other universities in the state that do not currently have dedicated IP and tech transfer resources.

He began his career as a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and intellectual property (IP) transactions attorney. Following private practice, he helped build IPXI, a startup company in Chicago and the world’s first financial exchange for IP and technology rights, which he led through product development, capital raise, proof of concept and growth to 30-plus full-time employees and two offices.

January Lunch: Changing the ClimateTech Game

At our first lunch of 2022, Venture Connectors was pleased to feature Louisville-based Climavision’s founder and CEO, Chris Goode, who shared how his weather services and intelligence platform recently raised $100 million in equity funding. He talked about what the process was like, and how the company kept it “under the radar.” He also shared why he […]

At our first lunch of 2022, Venture Connectors was pleased to feature Louisville-based Climavision’s founder and CEO, Chris Goode, who shared how his weather services and intelligence platform recently raised $100 million in equity funding. He talked about what the process was like, and how the company kept it “under the radar.” He also shared why he believes the Louisville region is undervalued by investors, and how his company is providing cutting-edge weather data and forecasting tools that fill in the “observation gaps” to better prepare communities for major weather events. 

For almost 30 years, Goode has pioneered technology that merges big data with meteorology and remote sensing — a lifelong passion culminating in the launch of Climavision, a gamechanger in ClimateTech. After decades in weather tech, Chris knew intimately the value and the limitations of weather data networks. Climavision addresses this problem, expanding access to high-integrity weather information. Through strategic partnerships and a $100 million strategic investment from TPG’s The Rise Fund, his team is alleviating the burden of expensive weather infrastructure and rolling out a proprietary network of radio-occultation satellite and ground-based sensors to help mitigate the risks of increasingly volatile weather.

Before Climavision, Goode leveraged weather data to serve industries such as aviation, energy, media, insurance, defense and international governments. As the CEO for the world’s leading manufacturer of weather sensors and software, and a former vice president at weather heavyweights AirDat, The Weather Channel and WSI (now IBM), Goode helped craft national remote sensing networks for more than 90 countries and led the development of innovative software and data solutions that has changed the way the world sees weather data today. Some of these innovations include smoke detection, commercial dual-polarization, bird-tracking and volcanic ash detection.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Goode holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana.

November Lunch: Inside the EdjSports Merger

Venture Connectors’ November lunch featured Sean O’Leary, a prolific Louisville-based entrepreneur and founder of multiple data companies that offer proprietary content to both B2B and consumer markets. He shared an inside look at the merger of EdjSports LLC, an advanced analytics firm for the sports industry that enables smarter decision making and performance, and Champion […]

Venture Connectors’ November lunch featured Sean O’Leary, a prolific Louisville-based entrepreneur and founder of multiple data companies that offer proprietary content to both B2B and consumer markets. He shared an inside look at the merger of EdjSports LLC, an advanced analytics firm for the sports industry that enables smarter decision making and performance, and Champion Gaming Inc., a holding company that will soon become publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange.

O’Leary co-founded the sports-centric EdjAnalytics spin-out with Frank Frigo, and now serves as president of Champion Gaming, the premier sports intelligence destination for sports teams, bettors, players and fans. Prior to that, he served as co-founder and CEO of Genscape Inc., an organization that offers proprietary data to the global energy markets.

O’Leary has been recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which honors entrepreneurial excellence in vision, innovation and leadership in building and growing successful businesses. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s first MBA in Entrepreneurship class. In 2016, O’Leary was recognized as an Endeavor Entrepreneur.

Venture Connectors announces 2021 Venture Sharks winner

Venture Connectors is excited to announce Athelo Health is the winner of our 12th annual Venture Sharks™ business pitch competition. Led by founder Jessica Thurmond, Athelo Health is a B2B SaaS-based mobile application aimed at improving quality of life outcomes for patients with cancer while decreasing costs of service.  The winner was selected during the […]

Venture Connectors is excited to announce Athelo Health is the winner of our 12th annual Venture Sharks™ business pitch competition.

Led by founder Jessica Thurmond, Athelo Health is a B2B SaaS-based mobile application aimed at improving quality of life outcomes for patients with cancer while decreasing costs of service.

 The winner was selected during the final round of competition on Oct. 6, where three entrepreneurs seeking funding for their business plans faced off virtually with a panel of savvy investor sharks fishing for the next great deal. Athelo was selected based on the viability of its idea, the ability of the competition’s prize to positively impact the business and quality of its presentation.

Venture Connectors received dozens of applications from entrepreneurs across the region. During the finals, presenters were allowed a few minutes to describe their idea to the judges, who then fired off questions to the presenters in the style of the popular television show, “Shark Tank.”

The winner receives a grand prize package designed to help them take their idea to market, including a $5,000 cash award, one-on-one mentoring from established entrepreneurs and advisors, and other in-kind services provided by sponsors.

Venture Sharks’ presenting sponsor is Amplify Louisville. Cash sponsors are Amplify, the Community Foundation of Louisville and PNC Bank. In-kind sponsors include Amplify, Mightily, Fleur de Lis Communications, Ackerman CPAs and Frost Brown Todd

Judges for the finals event were Dan Beldy, managing director, Airwing Ventures; Paul Ford, managing principal, DS9 Capital; and John Willmoth, founder and managing partner, Poplar Ventures.

The other finalists were:

    • Grouper, founded by Chris Wiedmar, is a social messaging platform that connects users and creators based on their interests, hobbies and passions.
    • HBCU Tour, founded by Nasir Jones, is a subscription-based vendor services platform for current and former students of historically black colleges and universities.

Venture Sharks has awarded more than $100,000 in prizes since it launched in 2010. For more about the competition, click here