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Moyer-led Innovation Studio raising $2.5MM to advance Industry AI mission
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FRANKLIN-based The Innovation Studio filed yesterday for its Innovation Studio Fund I raise, providing fresh evidence of Studio's progress in its campaign to create and grow a sector-agnostic series of industry-specific SaaS ventures, each enabled by proprietary solutions that help solve prevalent industrial problems.

The firm, which is based in the Franklin Innovation Center, said in its SEC filing that it had thus far raised $300K from two investors.

The Form D filing was made by Innovation Studio Co-founder and CEO Brian Moyer, who previously served nearly six years as president and CEO of nonprofit Nashville Technology Council, stepping down from that post in April 2022.

The new raise has an initial $2.5MM target, with securities described as including equity and-or pooled investment fund interests. An estimated $400K of the raise's gross proceeds may fund payments to "related persons" named in the filing.

VNC research shows the new LP and The Innovation Studio Management I LLC were both registered in Delaware roughly two months ago, on Oct. 18, according to records online.

Brian Moyer

Last June, Moyer, then age 66, told VNC that he and some or all his cofounders had settled on the industrial AI focus prior to announcing his departure from NTC. He said the founders had invested in the business to fund first-year operations. He added that, going forward, all outside Studio equity investors get shares in company's Studio creates.

At that time, he said his pro forma model called for launching at least 12 companies during an initial four-year period, with eight companies estimated likely to survive to exit. He said candidate businesses will be vetted using a 60-step process.

Earlier this year, Moyer said the team was at that time considering sundry ideas in retailing, logistics, healthcare, automotive and other sectors.

He acknowledged that the Studio will operate in a manner similar to those of SwitchPoint Ventures, Hashed Health, 25 Madison-Lifepoint, Neighborhood Studios in Atlanta (formed by Dave Payne), and others.

Moyer was joined in forming the company by:

  • Tim Estes was co-founder and founding CEO of Nashville-based Digital Reasoning Systems, which he had founded in Virginia, and which was ultimately sold to Smarsh. Estes has more recently founded a startup dubbed Angel AI, which is still cloaked, but which he has described as enabled by AI to support superior child care and development. His LinkedIn is here.
  • Peter Rousos, 74, is set to retire Dec. 31 from his decades-long role in new venture development for the Vanderbilt University Chancellor's Fund and VU's Center for Technology Transfer & Commercialization. LinkedIn.
  • Matt DiMaria, a board member, former CEO and leader of multiple software company exits. LinkedIn.
  • Lerry Wilson, board member, currently a senior director at Splunk (Nasdaq:SPLK), which this morning shows a market cap of $25.6BN+. LinkedIn. Splunk recently announced it has agreed to sell to Cisco.

At the moment, each of the five men named above have roles with other organizations, as indicated in their LinkedIn profiles. Moyer made clear that the Studio is his lead commitment.

Moyer said in June that Studio was actively recruiting both a chief technology officer and a chief product officer. VNC research indicates announcements regarding those hires may be imminent, but we have not yet received formal confirmation. Moyer has not yet responded to an interview request placed earlier this morning.

The company has yet to formalize one or more advisory boards, Moyer confirmed last summer. Subsequent VNC research indicates Studio has relied for legal counsel on attorneys with the firm of Nelson Mullins.

On Studio's website, the management team asserts, in part, "What separates us from traditional incubators, accelerators, and venture is our disciplined approach to founding companies that devotes human capital around an idea rather than relying on businesses and business ideas formulated by external founders. We support startups under one roof to be able to provide extra human capital resources at the earliest stages of development when it is needed most."

When interviewed, Moyer told VNC he was moved to undertake Innovation Studio by his continuing desire to remain involved in the technology ecosystem, but with emphasis on launching new companies, instead of recruiting new companies to town.

Moyer also emphasized that he pursues "thought leadership" activities not only for the good of the Studio, but also to "ratchet-up" Nashville's profile as a leader in AI.

As stated in the firm's release last summer, the purpose of the Studio is focused on building tech startups "that solve pervasive industry problems with the best commercially available artificial intelligence (AI) technology."

In that same June release, Moyer said in part, "The Innovation Studio leverages Nashville's growing technology ecosystem, the founders' global network, and Nashville's academic community to identify and solve enterprise scale problems that demand much deeper applications of AI than what off-the-shelf consumer-grade tools can provide. The kinds of Industrial AI solutions we are building require trusted business relationships, access to proprietary data, and iterative problem-solving methodologies in close communication with our industry partners. At present, retail, financial, manufacturing, and automotive markets appear to hold the greatest promise, but we will remain sector agnostic and stay alert to opportunities across the board."

The founders have repeatedly stressed, as they did in their inaugural release, that "...Unlike venture capital funds and accelerators, venture studios don't wait for companies to come to them for assistance - they look for unmet needs and then start and fund companies to meet those needs. Unlike venture capital funds, venture studios are closely involved in the day-to-day operations of the startups they create, including hiring the CEO and remain involved in consulting on strategic direction and execution until the company is sold. Unlike accelerators, venture studios' involvement in startup companies extends well-beyond a 12-week coaching program and seed funding.

In the same release, Moyer said, "The Innovation Studio's close ties to Nashville's academic community are also significant. They include Vanderbilt, Belmont and Meharry. These partnerships also set us apart from the typical venture studio, and I believe will be one of the keys to our success. We will have top data scientists from our academic partners on our board of advisors and plan to engage regularly with our partners in higher education to help us identify and vet business ideas," he added.

Tim Estes

In their inaugural statement, Estes added that The Innovation Studio's focus on industrial AI gives the founders advantages:

Estes said, "Thanks to the explosion of tools like ChatGPT, generative AI - which produces content - is much in the news today. We believe that 'Industrial AI' - the secure application of AI technology to solving industry specific business problems and processes - holds much greater potential for commercial success, as it can result in significant improvements in a business's efficiency, quality control, profitability and more. The fact is all companies are tech companies today because every company uses technology in some way. Applying AI to a company's use of technology holds the potential to dramatically enhance the company's value, but the speed of AI adoption needs to be carefully guarded and evaluated against the business risk associated with rapid AI implementation."

Moyer and his wife arrived in Nashville from Missouri in 1999. He was subsequently joined in Middle Tennessee by some of his adult children and his mother. He earned his bachelor's at Rolla, Mo.-based Missouri University of Science and Technology. His LinkedIn is here.

Notably, the Franklin Innovation Center is a program of Williamson Inc., a nonprofit that is the umbrella for both the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce and the county's economic development program. The Center's webpage notes that all its tenants must be revenue-producing prior to admission.

The Franklin Innovation Center resides in a building that is part of the Franklin Grove Restoration Project undertaken in recent years by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, after the Foundation acquired from Belmont University what was once the 7-acre campus of O'More School of Design. Related story here.

Prior coverage of Moyer here, Estes here, Rousos here. This story will be updated as warranted. VNC

.last edited 1050 13 December 2023

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Tags: Brian Moyer, Franklin Innovation Center, Innovation Studio, Lerry Wilson, Matt DiMaria, Nelson Mullins, Peter Rousos, The Innovation Studio, Tim Estes

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