Kevin Kragenbrink, who has been serving as interim executive director of Tech 2020, has been named president and chief executive officer, a press release said.
Kragenbrink is the co-founder and CEO of Estrada Strategies Inc. He stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities at the coaching and consulting organization in early November to accept the interim role at Tech 2020, the press release said. He assumed the top position following the resignation of John Morris.
Both Kragenbrink and Tech 2020 Board Chair Teri Brahams acknowledged that what was originally viewed as a role for not more than six months has evolved into a longer term relationship.
“At the time that Kevin was named, he told us that he was not interested in seeking the leadership role on a permanent basis,” Brahams said, explaining he had a good business that he had developed with solid clients. “It was a sacrifice for Kevin to step away from Estrada for those months, but it turned out that our mission drew him in, and he saw great opportunity for the organization to continue to positively impact our region.”
The press release said Kragenbrink is a serial entrepreneur and has participated in nine startups over a 30-plus year career. He has also been a successful leader in other entrepreneurial support organizations, most notably serving as director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at California State University at San Bernardino.
“Working with entrepreneurs and business owners has been my passion for more than 15 years,” Kragenbrink said in the press release. “The opportunity to continue this at Tech 2020 is an exciting opportunity for me.”
Tech 2020 was founded in 1995 as what is now more commonly referred to as a venture development organization. At the outset, Tech 2020 had a strong focus on entrepreneurship in the telecommunications and information technology sector. When the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute bid on and won the management contract for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tech 2020 created the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth in 2000 to help accelerate technology-based start-ups in the region.
“Tech 2020 has a rich heritage that has made a difference in this community’s start-up ecosystem,” Kragenbrink said. “Today, there are more players in the space—here and in all communities—which presents exciting partnership opportunities for us. We are committed to play a well-defined role in the ecosystem.”
He defined the key priorities for Tech 2020 as working with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and community leaders across the region to launch, accelerate, and grow businesses in the technology and advanced manufacturing sectors. This will continue to include working closely with ORNL and UT’s Research Foundation to assist with technology commercialization.
Kragenbrink is a Wisconsin native who enlisted in the Army at a young age. He chose to locate in East Tennessee after beginning his career in California, where he founded and led nine start-up ventures. In addition to serving at the director, Kragenbrink also worked as the director of new business initiatives of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State, San Bernardino. He has a doctorate in history from Auburn University, and a master’s degree from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s from Pacific Christian College.