PYA Announces the Ballard Innovation Award

Source: | Tom Ballard | November 29, 2020

PYA has announced the Ballard Innovation Award competition in which emerging companies can compete for a $50,000 investment of capital and in-kind services to support their emerging, innovative ideas.

The Ballard Innovation Award competition is open to any early-stage company in the East Tennessee area that has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue. Applicants must be able to present a business plan to optimize existing business operations by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and/or gaining new efficiencies, while demonstrating clear innovations to improve the business and empower the consumer.

The award is named in honor of Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and well-respected member of the East Tennessee entrepreneurial community. The East Tennessee native spent more than four decades building relationships for the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory throughout the region, state, and nation before joining PYA in 2012. During both careers, Ballard led initiatives to build multi-organizational alliances focusing on statewide telecommunications networking, automotive research, and land use planning. Ballard is also Editor and Publisher of, a daily electronic newsletter focused on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

“We are so proud to offer this annual investment in emerging companies with great promise and innovation focus,” said PYA Chief Executive Officer Marty Brown. “This award was inspired by Tom’s dedication and efforts to support area entrepreneurs. It was only fitting that we name the annual award after him and honor his legacy of encouraging business leaders to aspire, grow, and achieve.”


Applicant qualifications include a company that:

  • Is located in the geographic East Tennessee area (33 counties as defined by the State of TN) – metro areas include Chattanooga, Knoxville & Tri-Cities;
  • Has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue (as outlined);
  • Has achieved between $5,000 and $50,000 in monthly recurring revenues (annualized revenues of between $60,000 – $600,000 and must be “non-grant” revenue from independent customers);
  • Has a business plan to optimize existing business operations by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and/or gaining new efficiencies;
  • Can demonstrate clear innovations that will improve the business;
  • Has a focus on empowering the consumer to become more informed and engaged.

Applications will be accepted starting in January 2021 and an award presentation for the top three finalists will be scheduled in mid-March. Watch this page for application information. 

Award winners will be decided by a distinguished panel of area business leaders and entrepreneurial mentors including Charlie Brock, Brandon Bruce, Amy Henry, Mike Odom, and Mary Celeste Beall.