Home Feature 36|86 Festival Winners Showcase Tennessee’s Startup Power

36|86 Festival Winners Showcase Tennessee’s Startup Power

by Maija Ehlinger

For Tennessee startups, being proactive seems to be the key to success this year. 

SecondKeys and ARMS Cyber, both Tennessee-based startups, took home first place in LaunchTN’s  and 36:86 Pitch Competition and Student Edition Competition, respectively. 

While SecondKeys is working on property management issues and ARMS Cyber is diving into cybersecurity problems, both are working proactively to solve common problems found across their industries.

Hypepotamus had a chance to talk with both teams to learn more about what they do and what it means to grow a startup in Tennessee.


ARMS Cyber – 36|86 Student Edition Winner 

ARMS Cyber was born out of a desire to “democratize cybersecurity.” And for this Nashville-based startup, several recent incubator and pitch competition wins, including 36|86, show that the sky isn’t the limit — the team is aiming for space. 

The team includes Vanderbilt PhDs Tim Potteiger, Bradley Potteiger, and Patrick Musau, along with Co-founder Michael Bryant. 

The idea for ARMS Cyber was born after Brad Potteiger spent time in the defense and intelligence industry working on operation security. 


ARMS Cyber Co-Founder Brad Potteiger

“Traditionally, cybersecurity is reactionary,” Brad Potteiger told Hypepotamus. “You’re waiting for someone to attack you. And from there what you are doing is just trying to mitigate the problem. What we’re trying to do is prevent the vulnerability discovery and the attacks in the first place.” 

The concept of moving target defense is designed to randomize the lowest internal memory of a program in order to make each program unique and therefore hard to attack. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole,” Brad smiled. 

Bryant offered another analogy for those new to the cybersecurity space. “With moving target defense, we’re scrambling the database and the memory beforehand. Think of it almost as if we’re building a moat with alligators in it and we took the drawbridge up. You aren’t going to be able to get in it in the first place.” 

According to the team, their technology can protect against 81% of vulnerabilities seen online, and can even stop ransomware attacks. 

Winning the student pitch competition comes after the team worked with Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, The Wond’ry, and several government incubators. While the team is excited to expand both their commercial use and government contracts, they are proud to call Nashville — and its budding emerging tech scene — home. 

Team members originally hail from all over, but Brad Potteiger said that Nashville is where they all “first felt southern hospitality and it felt like everyone took us in and kind of adopted us throughout our grad school tenure.”

After taking home first place at LaunchTN, ARMS Cyber plans to continue to pursue government grants and will participate in Booz Allen’s Catalyst Accelerator this fall. 

And, because attacks don’t just stop here on Earth, the team is looking at forming a partnership to test their technology on the International Space Station. 


SecondKeys – LaunchTN Pitch Competition Winners 

SecondKeys Founder Amber Hayes

Amber Hayes, an electrical engineer and computer scientist by training, got the entrepreneurial bug after experiencing the woes of on-site property management software first hand. 

When something breaks inside a rented apartment, tenants, property managers, owners, and contractors are all involved in the repair and the payment process. 

But Hayes realized that the software used in apartment complexes was not only out of date, but was often not transparent and ended up costing both tenants and property owners money down the road. 

SecondKeys addresses the pains associated with rental properties in what Hayes calls “proactive property management.” 

Their interactive dashboard allows managers to more quickly handle maintenance issues, streamline online payments, and keep track of appliances and warranty paperwork in one place. This helps mitigate any maintenance issues by predicting when appliances will need to be services. 

For tenants, maintenance requests and payments are organized in one simple dashboard. 

 “The goal is anytime anyone moves or rents anything, SecondKeys is there,” Hayes told Hypepotamus. 

SecondKeys believes it is addressing an important issue that causes headaches for renters and ultimately leads to high turnover rates in apartment units. The company estimates that up to 68% of renters leave a unit due to maintenance issues.  

At the moment, SecondKeys platform is utilized in HUD housing units and senior living buildings where the need for such property technology is greatest, but they have other commercial clients already on the platform.

Hayes told Hypepotamus that while she knows that SecondKeys technology will help both tenants and property owners, COVID has put a tremendous strain on renters across the country. Over the summer, SecondKeys has focused on making sure their customers get the attention they need. 

“We were trying to make sure that no one was stressing because of us. So property managers can pay, but if they can’t, that’s fine, we understand people are going through a hard time right now,” Hayes told Hypepotamus. 

Even with COVID-related shutdowns, Hayes is ready to grow SecondKeys and help more properties tackle frustrating maintenance issues. As the team continues to grow, Hayes is excited to stay in the warm and welcoming Memphis tech community. Hayes, who hails from the Mississippi Delta, told Hypepotamus that entrepreneurship is thriving across Memphis, especially in places like Epicenter and Start Co.



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