News › Research

Southeast Universities Collaborate to Match Experienced Entrepreneurs and University Startups

Category: Research

Southeast XOR logo

KNOXVILLE – The University of Tennessee Research Foundation is part of the launch of the Southeast Executives-on-Roster (XOR) platform.

Southeast XOR is a collaboration between regionally-partnered Southeast universities, including the University of Tennessee, to broaden access to experienced entrepreneurial talent and facilitate matching of that talent to university-affiliated startups in need of executive management.

“UT and other SEC schools have faculty and students generating amazing technologies and programs to actively support entrepreneurship, and we are consistently launching startups to bring these innovations to market. However, for the most part venture capital still flows to California, New York, and Massachusetts. Today we are launching a new approach to this challenge that will help startups fill their critical talent gaps and increase their attractiveness to venture capital firms,” said Stacey Patterson, president of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF). “It’s well-known that early-stage investors seek startups with experienced management teams, and by creating a regionally-affiliated network of entrepreneurial talent and a platform to match that talent to our startup companies, we will see more startups with leadership teams capable of attracting the capital investment required to bring new products to market.”

This project started with a discussion at the annual meeting of the SEC Technology Transfer Directors in July 2017 at which multiple schools noted challenges in pairing promising technologies with experienced executive leadership. After agreeing that by pooling their resources all schools could end up with an increased flow of venture-fundable startup companies, a year-long collaborative development process was undertaken, engaging all 14 SEC schools technology transfer offices and led by the University of Kentucky’s Office of Technology Commercialization. During the past year, the group went from conceiving of the basic idea to:

  • choosing Wellspring as its software platform development partner,
  • creating the core principles for the platform,
  • designing the specifications for the platform,
  • drafting a “Guidebook” to govern the platforms use and operations, and
  • recruiting and qualifying entrepreneurs and startups to populate the system for its pilot launch.

Every participating university has a research scope that is broader than its immediately accessible entrepreneur talent network, and there exists a need to better match university startup companies not just with talent, but with talent having experience and relationships in the applicable industry. By combining the entrepreneur talent networks of all 14 participating universities, startup companies can access a larger talent pool and have a greater chance of finding fundable executive management and, ultimately, succeeding. Southeast XOR also offers entrepreneurs, who may be looking for their next move, an opportunity to review a larger pipeline of opportunities in a central and user-friendly space.

The launch of Southeast XOR marks the first day that more than 50 select entrepreneurs will be given access to the platform to begin searching through the profiles of more than 35 initial university startups in the system. Additional entrepreneurs and startups will be continually added through an application and qualification process.

UTRF has submitted five startups for the launch of the platform. Originating from across Tennessee, medical device startups Embrace Design; Neurodyne; biotechnology startup 490 Biotech; green chemistry startup Peroxygen Systems; and pharmaceutical startup OculoTherapy will be seeking to add one or more experienced entrepreneurs to their teams to accelerate their path to market. In addition, UTRF has prequalified three experienced entrepreneurs for access to the portal and will continually seek additionally interested individuals who have executive or entrepreneurial experience and are actively seeking to join a startup.

The University of Tennessee is partnering with the following universities: Auburn University, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Texas A&M University, University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, University of Mississippi, University of Missouri, University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University.

For more information about the Southeast XOR, please contact or visit

Tags: , , ,

Category: Research