KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — At the 2023 PYA Ballard Innovation Award Pitch Competition & Reception, iO Urology won $50,000 in capital and in-kind services – the largest prize of its kind available to startups in the region.

Captis Aire took home second place, winning $10,000 while Carbon Rivers received $5,000 as they placed third.

“PYA is committed to supporting startups in our region. We’re proud to recognize iO Urology as this year’s winner of the PYA Ballard Innovation Award,” said PYA President Marty Brown. “This annual award allows us to help companies stay, grow and thrive in the greater Knoxville area. At our core, PYA wants companies that start here to stay here, and those that move here to love here.”

While this is the third annual PYA Ballard Innovation Award, it is the first year finalists have competed in a pitch competition. A panel of five regional leaders – Joan Bienvenue of the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, Gabe Bolas of KUB, Kathryn Eggleston of H.T. Hackney, Tanika Harper of the Shora Foundation, and Raj Patel of Atlas Physical Therapy selected the winners based on their five-minute pitches.

At the event, attendees also heard from PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer Tom Ballard, and Deborah Crawford, UTK’s Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation, & Economic Development. The two spoke about opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in East Tennessee.

“There are more opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in our region than ever before,” said Ballard. “From two new startup accelerators recently launching to a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship overall, there is a lot to celebrate. I’m proud to work for an organization like PYA that supports the regional business community.”

The award is named in honor of Ballard, who has spent decades working on creating relationships and supporting the East Tennessee region’s entrepreneurial community. He is also the editor of, which shares stories about regional innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about PYA and the competition, visit their website.