What’s The Big Idea 2024

6 Teams. 6 Ideas. $10,000 Prize.

2024 marks the 16th year of the annual What’s The Big Idea? Pitch Competition, and the competition was as strong as ever. The KEC team received over 40 applications, narrowed it down to around 20 Public Voting companies, then finally selected 6 Finalists to compete in the Big Idea weekend! 

Read on to find out all about the 6 finalist, and meet the mentors and judges participating in the 2024 What’s The Big Idea? Pitch Competition.

Huge Congratulations to this year’s winner: HumanAI! HumanAI was mentored by Patrick Hunt, Cordelia Norris, and Frank Ramey. Their Desinger was Sierra Plese. 

Meet the 6 Finalists

First Take Co. | Website

Founder: Ethan Graham Roeder

First Take Concepts is the newest offering from First Take Co., a multi-modal production company. Drawing from our expertise in theatre, music, film, and customer research, we produce high-concept pop-up events for the ever-expanding experience generation. Our goal is to curate a new cultural scene in Knoxville, inspired by major metropolitan areas where events are king.

Human AI | Website

Founder: Preston Garland

Our big idea is to fuse human intuition with the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence to deliver personalized content campaigns to small businesses and teams through our startup, HumanAI

SnowBNB | Website

Founders: Daniel and Macee Armston

SnowBnB is designed specifically to integrate into short term rental properties to create the most unique guest experience possible, while proven to solve the annual problem of low occupancy rates during the slow winter booking season.

Agriwater | Website

Founder: Dr. Bianca Bailey

Agriwater, an early-stage Ag Tech company, has developed a small-scale electrolyzer system that transforms liquid animal manure from dairy farms into clean water. The innovative process employs a reactor emitting electrical currents through the liquid waste, purifying the waste into clean water.

Lib3 | Website

Founder: Elisha Jewell

Lib3 is a blockchain powered publishing and marketplace service redefining the landscape of peer-reviewed literature in research and academia. Our big idea? To provide a streamlined, equitable, and accessible approach to academic publishing, breaking free from the traditional constraints of third-party intermediaries.

Order Otter | Website

Founder: Mark Gill 

Order Otter is AI powered inventory automation for small businesses.

Meet Our 2024 Judges

Breanna Hale is the Executive Director for the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Coming from Utah Valley University’s Entrepreneurship Institute, she brings vast experience in developing entrepreneurship programming, building a network of mentors and resources for emerging entrepreneurs, and increasing business funding. She has served on the boards of Tech Coast Venture Network, WeAngels and the Mountainland Association of Governments Revolving Loan Fund.

Charley Bible was still a student at Morristown East when he began working with the company his parents started in their home garage. He has served in executive leadership – currently as Vice President of Business Development – through KaTom Restaurant Supply‘s rise from a minor player to the sixth-largest in its industry, contributing significantly to that meteoric growth. He earned an MBA from UT’s Haslam College of Business in 2015 and is a Leadership Knoxville graduate. He was named to the News Sentinel’s 2020 40 Under 40 list and received the 2022 Accomplished Young Industry leader Award. He is extensively involved in the community, including with Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Mend House of Knoxville.

A transplant to Knoxville from Northern California, Rosa Mar, of Market Square Ventures grew up in Healdsburg, California the eldest of four children of immigrant Mexican parents. Rosa retired in 2012 after a 27-year career with Levi Strauss & Co where she held various executive management positions, the last being the Global Sourcing Manager. Rosa is currently serving on several community non-profit boards of directors which include Pellissippi Community State Foundation, Leadership Knoxville Facilitation Committee, WDVX radio station, HoLa Hora Latina Cultural Organization and the Knox History Project. In 2024, Rosa same out of retirement for a short period serving as the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee which she held through January 2016. Rosa is a 1994 graduate of Leadership San Francisco, 2001 graduate of Leadership Knoxville, a 2001 winner of the Levi Mentor Award, a 2013 YWCA tribute to Women Finalist, and a graduate of the East Tennessee Regional Leadership Association Class of 2014. The role she cherishes most is that of mother, and she is proudest of her attorney daughter Marisa who resides in San Francisco.

Meet Our Mentors

Patrick Hunt
Cliff Caudill
Cordelia Norris
Taylor Bozarth
Aaron Owen
Dr. Ki Stulberg
Gary Jackson
Josh Wright
Frank Ramey
Eugenia Almeada
Jonathan Henry
Bailey Foster
Alex Stiles
Dan Close
Jian Huang
Ben Savage
Andria Yates
Ed McFawn
Brandon Bruce
Victoria Frankel
Femeika Elliott
Rob Cochran
Zain Zitawi

Meet Our Designers

Sierra Plese
Courtney Hendricks
Greer Miceli
Tricia Bateman
Steph Wadman
Wade Austin
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