University of Tennessee

Boyd Venture Challenge Awards $35,000 to UT Student Startups

November 15, 2016

KNOXVILLE—The fall 2016 Boyd Venture Challenge awarded a total of $35,000 to four University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student startup companies to advance their businesses.

Prometheus, SimPath, GeoAir and In With the Old were selected from a group of 15 applicants. The businesses were pitched to a panel of six judges who determined funding awards. Recipients include undergraduate and graduate students representing a variety of disciplines including engineering, communications, business and computer science.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge continues to attract applicants with strong, innovative businesses,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the  Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “Insightful questions and comments by the judges are once again invaluable in helping our aspiring entrepreneurs develop their businesses.”

Christopher RuelPrometheus Group LLC was awarded $17,600.

The company is a consultancy group that focuses on risk management and travel security. It was founded by Christopher Ruel, an MBA candidate and U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, and Jared Smith, a senior in honors computer science and project leader at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Cyber Warfare Research Team. The company intends to reduce the cost of risk assessments for travelers while improving efficiency.  

Jared SmithThe founders plan to use funding from the Boyd Venture Challenge to develop an integrated and customized risk mitigation tool for global travelers. The service will provide up-to-date customized and detailed risk analysis reports based on the specific needs of each client.

Rob MoseleySimPath was awarded $10,000.

SimPath, a company founded by Rob Moseley and Ben Mohr, doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, offers quick low-cost DNA assembly solutions for synthetic biologists in the bio-based manufacturing industry.

Ben MohrThe company combines its assembly technology with high-tech web-based DNA design tools and DNA synthesis, offering a quicker cost-effective alternative to current assembly options. SimPath plans to use the funds to finalize licensing arrangements with ORNL.

Alex AdamsGeoAir was awarded $5,000.

GeoAir identifies mold hot spots, allowing farmers to proactively treat them, which increases crop yield. The company, founded by MBA candidate Alex Adams, will use the funds to gain national recognition and begin selling services prior to the growing season.

In With the Old was awarded $2,400.

Baker DonahueIn With the Old specializes in repurposing and selling retro college apparel. The company was founded by Baker Donahue, a junior in communication studies. The Instagram-based auction-style business currently operates at UT and Auburn University. With the funds from the Boyd Venture Challenge, the company will grow its current services and expand to a new location.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is administered through the Anderson Center in UT’s Haslam College of Business. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 33 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $277,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.

The fall 2016 Boyd Venture Challenge judges included Ralph Korpman, Tony Lettich, Mike Manning, Chris Miller, Jake Rheude, and Stefan Wilson.

“The competition from the companies was very strong,” said Rheude, director of business development and marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment and two-time Boyd Venture Challenge winner. “The variety and quality of businesses represented reflect UT well.”

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands.


Carrie McCamey (865-974-5126,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,