Media Contact: Cortney Piper,, 865-789-2669

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (August 12, 2021) – Seven Tennessee energy startups graduated from the Energy Mentor Network, a rigorous mentorship program that cultivates energy entrepreneurship across the state.

Run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) in partnership with Launch Tennessee, the Energy Mentor Network equips promising young companies with the tools and connections to raise capital and scale their businesses to market success.

“The Energy Mentor Network is set up to create more quality startups in Tennessee. Companies that go through the program work with an Entrepreneur-In-Residence, a marketing mentor and a finance mentor,” said Cortney Piper, executive director of TAEBC. “They are given tools to create a solid business plan and funding opportunities once they graduate.”

The graduating energy startups were members of the third cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Innovation Crossroads program, a two-year fellowship that supports energy entrepreneurs to take their inventions from R&D to commercialization. Innovation Crossroads is a business mentor partner of the Energy Mentor Network. 

“Oak Ridge National Laboratory is incredibly proud of the seven Innovators that graduated Innovation Crossroads Cohort 3 earlier this summer,” said Dan Miller, Innovation Crossroads’ Program Lead. “With the help of sponsors and support organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, all of them are continuing to grow their early stage technology businesses with significant footprints in Tennessee.  Collectively, they have raised $4.9M in follow-on funding as they work to bring exciting innovations to market.” 

The startups include:

MantaPoole Technologies: Jesse Claypoole is developing a roll-to-roll, manufactured, active multispectral light field (AMLF) micro-optics architecture for applications including autonomous surgery, industrial manufacturing, robotic farming, and real time robot vision. Claypoole earned a Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MantaPoole Technologies. 

American Nanotechnologies, Inc.: Founded by William Fitzhugh, American Nanotechnologies (ANI) is developing material processing technology for purification of high-value nanomaterials. This material processing technology is critical to developing viable supply chains for next-generation electronics. CEO Will Fitzhugh received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.

Endeavor Composites: Founded by Hicham Ghossein, Endeavor Composites is designing and implementing an innovative mixer system for the hydroentanglement process that offers several advantages over the current fiber dispersion techniques. Hicham earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Electro-Active Technologies: Founded by Alex Lewis, Electro-Active Technologies was spun out of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2017 and has gone through multiple accelerators in addition to Innovation Crossroads including IndieBio, Plug and Play, H2 Refuel, and MCorps/Scale 4 ClimateTech. The company is developing a modular system for converting food waste and electricity into low-cost, green hydrogen. Alex earned a Ph.D. in Energy Science and Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Neptune Fluid Flow Systems: Founded by Trevor McQueen, Neptune Fluid Flow Systems is developing an advanced thin film cryogenic sample preparation device designed to substantially improve sample preparation for the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) community. Trevor earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University. 

Purist: Leila Safavi is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Purist, a company based on a technology she co-invented during her Ph.D. studies. Purist’s focus is developing a technology to be implemented in existing nuclear reactors to produce medical-grade radioactive ingredients. These radioactive ingredients are time-sensitive materials used daily to treat and diagnose life-threatening diseases such as cancer.

Grid Fruit: Founded by Jesse Thornburg, Grid Fruit is developing and evaluating a novel technology and operating framework for monitoring and control of commercial refrigeration systems installed at food retailers. Jesse earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

About the Energy Mentor Network

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee and is modeled after CONNECT San Diego’s 30+-year-old Springboard program. Each company or entrepreneur is matched with C-level executives who have deep experience in growing and scaling companies. The mentoring team is led by an Entrepreneur-in-Residence who coaches and guides each company through the program. The Energy Mentor Network has more than two dozen mentors with expertise in energy systems, clean tech, intellectual property, business and finance strategy. To learn more, go to