Spark Cleantech Accelerator Graduate, Ryan Ginder, named UT Research Foundation Executive-In-Residence

UTRF introduces its first two Executives-in-Residence

Bob Vanderhoff, a seasoned corporate executive, and Ryan Ginder, an academic researcher turned entrepreneur, are filling those roles.

It was a little more than five months ago when The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) announced the launch of its $5 million Accelerator Fund and Venture Launch Program (see article here). Both initiatives are focused on starting, growing, and retaining sustainable start-ups in the Volunteer State.

During a webinar on Wednesday that was part of “Innov865 Week,” UTRF introduced the first two Executives-in-Residence (EIR) who are participating in the program. They are Bob Vanderhoff, a seasoned corporate executive, and Ryan Ginder, an academic researcher turned entrepreneur.

Kusum Rathore, Vice President for the UTRF Multi-Campus Office, moderated the discussion and explained that the EIRs work with founders and inventors at the early stages, providing both entrepreneurial and sector-specific knowledge.

“They have done this successfully already,” she explained.

The EIRs fall under the Venture Launch Program where the goal is to not only help existing start-ups affiliated with UTRF but also assist in creating a pipeline of future new ventures.

Vanderhoff noted that he had served in both family-owned, public, and private companies as a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and President. Those roles involved everything from a true start-up to a $50 billion business.

“I’m sort of a hybrid on the academic research side and in business,” Ginder explained. He helped his wife launch her business with two employees and saw it grow to 56 employees. Ginder also founded a company around a technology he developed and later sold the business.

Because of the diverse nature of the UTRF portfolio, the two EIRs are working with a variety of start-ups. They range from one focused on new performance materials in the sustainability sector to ones in nuclear fusion, preventative maintenance, transportation, and athletic turf.

“I’m helping the entrepreneur or inventor look at and understand all it is going to take to move their idea forward,” Vanderhoff said. Answering a question about his biggest surprise as an EIR thus far, he said it was the “drumbeat of the academic world. I need to get it to beat faster.”

Ginder, who has lived in the academic world and experienced what Vanderhoff was describing, said his greatest surprise was the level of organization that many start-ups don’t have. “No one is born the create a business,” he said, citing the importance of establishing accountability and decision-making rules early on.

Rathore invited those interested in possibly becoming a UTRF EIR to contact her directly.