Energy Entrepreneurs in Tennessee Get A New Advantage: A Mentor Network

What exactly is advanced energy? According to the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, it’s “any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient is considered advanced energy.” This could be anything from electric and plug-in hybrid cars, lightweight composites for the automotive industry, natural gas fueled trucks, pollution control equipment, bio energy, high-performance buildings, more efficient industrial processes, power reliability, smart grids, combined heat and power and the latest wind, solar, and nuclear technologies.

This seemingly new sector is already a $1.3 trillion global one, with Tennessee well in the mix in accessing part of the economy. In the 2015 Tennessee Advanced Energy Impact Report, $33.4 billion was contributed to the state gross domestic product by Tennessee businesses in advanced energy sector. The new three-part video series created this year vividly capture the people behind these businesses. 17,000 business entities in the state already operate in this industry, but the TAEBC now sees an opportunity to not simply increase in numbers, but also increase the Tennessee share of that ever-expanding pie.

One initiative TAEBC is launching at annual “Opportunities in Energy” event serves to utilize current resources to develop future ones. The Energy Mentor Network, a mentorship program specifically for energy entrepreneurs and startups in Tennessee, is officially open for applications from mentors and startups to participate. It’s already a proven model, patterned after CONNECT San Diego’s 30+ year old Springboard program. At CONNECT, each company or entrepreneur is matched with a team of C-level executives who have deep experience in growing and scaling companies. Likewise, the mentoring team is led by the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) that coaches and guides their company through The Energy Mentor Network’s program for a period of 3–9 months.

“Mentorship is critical to developing Tennessee’s advanced energy ecosystem because it gives entrepreneurs a leg-up in a marketplace where Tennessee has a distinct advantage,” said Jill Van Beke, Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Launch Tennessee, a partner with TAEBC for the network.

The goal of the Energy Mentor Network is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. The Network pairs mentors with promising new companies through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions, using a video-conference service to engage and connect mentors and entrepreneurs across the state. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. TABEC says these tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

“Events like ‘Opportunities in Energy’ serve as a convening point for industry leaders to celebrate our successes, network and explore the latest trends and opportunities to grow our own businesses,” said Matt Kisber, President of TAEBC and President & CEO of Silicon Ranch Corporation. “Tennessee is uniquely positioned to be a mecca of energy entrepreneurs and businesses.”

Photo Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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