How does Knoxville get to be more like Silicon Valley? Networking!
But here in Knoxville, in a lot of industries, it is all too often a networking dead-end -- never mind an order of magnitude fewer people to begin with. At networking "events" either people want to grab clients and run, or people are only interested in a very small sphere of what they do, or they simply aren't attending those events that seem not worthwhile or relevant to what they do (which is more a marketing problem, but more on that in another post).
Insularity is a big problem here, and it's slowly being chipped at by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. I recently met with their team, then was quickly introduced to a local app creator whom I met with today. That sort of casual connection is absolutely vital to spurring tech sector growth here in Knoxville. With a fragmented entertainment landscape and a plethora of nooks to crawl into, Knoxville has an odd way of isolating groups that should be cross-pollinating (so to speak).
The app, by the way, is iSpotlight. It's got a basic design, but the utility is quite cool. You select sports figures or celebrities, musicians, etc. from a list (curated by the staff) and the app filters news only about those people to your phone. It seems simple, but it's actually pretty cool on the backend. If you need something to follow people you're into, I think the app has a lot of growth potential. They need more people to test it out, however, so download it (it's free, iOS-only for now) and try it out -- support your local business!