Tennessee’s Venture Community Is All Eyes On Chattanooga’s Gig Tank

Entrepreneurship and startups are a hot bed of activity this month in the great state of Tennessee. As we reported earlier, there are three different accelerators graduating this month, all with their own demo day. Possibly because it’s the first of the three graduations, or possibly because they have a unique program, Chattanooga’s Gig Tank has attracted a lot of attention from the entire state.

The City of Chattanooga along with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce have organized an entire press junket tied to various events throughout the city that are celebrating the graduation of the first Gig Tank class of entrepreneurs and students.

A little background.

Chattanooga was actually the first city in the United States to offer gigabit ethernet to the household, not just the node within a 600 mile radius. Every house and every business within Chattanooga’s gig footprint have the fiber piped to their home. The backbone of what is referred to here are “The Gig City”, is a smart grid. The City of Chattanooga has deployed a smart grid to communicate information from electric meters and other utilities for all residents and business’ within the footprint.

Now, it’s the decision of the resident or the business, if they want to also utilize that same fiber line for data services, tv and telephone. The “Gig” was deployed last year, a year ahead of Kansas City and Google. The gigabit ethernet in Kansas City functions more like a traditional cable company. The gigabit ethernet goes to the node, or the street, then Google signs customers up to bring the service down to the home. Of course one of the big things to consider in all of this is there aren’t wireless routers that can support wireless transmission of a full gigabit data stream, wirelessly to the device. Most traditional computers also can’t function at the gigabit speed. Right now, end users will experience speeds from 30-100mbps which is of course a huge feat in itself.

The GigTank is a traditional accelerator program that was designed for startups to utilize that huge bandwidth to develop startups. Unlike most traditional accelerators the GigTank had two classes, an entrepreneur class which received a $15,000 seed investment and a chance to win $100,000 in additional funding Thursday morning. The other class is a class of student led startups that received free room and board, but did not receive a seed investment. The students are competing for a $50,000 prize.

Also unlike most traditional accelerators, all of the startups will pitch the judges in a closed door session Thursday morning ahead of the actual pitch presentations on stage tomorrow.

Needless to say all of this excitement in Chattanooga has attracted a lot of attention. When commenting to a local reporter StartupTN President and President of Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center, Michael Burcham said “There will be 500 people here tomorrow who’ve either started companies, or invested in companies, and most of them are coming from out of town”. If the buses the city are running specifically for the event from the area hotels are any indication, there are definitely a lot of people from out of town here.

Jared Nixon, a partner in Daymond John’s Shark Branding, is one of those out of town guests. He’s here in Chattanooga to scope out the startups that are participating in the event, but he’s also intrigued by the infrastructure around the gig itself.

There are folks in town from Warner Brothers, Mozilla, US Ignite and other nationally known companies and ecosystem partners.

Even the Nashville centric Burcham, who happily announced that 70% of the investors and 90% of the venture capital is in Nashville, is eager to see the ideas that come out of the GigTank which is equally important to Burcham in his role as StartupTN President. Burcham says he looks for two main components in deals he does, the “idea” and the competition. If there’s no competition in the space, he stays away from that idea because there’s no market. One of Burcham’s strongest suits is nurturing good ideas. He does this on a daily basis through the Entrepreneur Center and Jumpstart Foundry, Nashville’s GigTank counterpart.

While there are a lot of startups presenting at Gig Tank’s demo day with similar ideas happening all over the country, these startups had a huge internet pipe to work on, and hopefully these ideas will win far more than the $150,000 available from the GigTank itself. Hopefully there are some multi-million dollar ideas in the bunch.


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