$600,000 Investment In GigTank Startup WeCounsel Proves Accelerators Still Work

WeCounsel, Chattanooga startup, GigTank, UltraGroup, Funding

WeCounsel CEO Harrison Tyner pitches at GigTank demo day (photo: NMI 2013)

Just last week we were in Chattanooga for the GigTank accelerator’s second demo day. GigTank debuted last year, right on the heels of Chattanooga becoming the first (sorry KC) city with 1gb ethernet to all residential and business addresses.  This year’s cohort came literally from across the globe with startups from Bulgaria, India and the Cayman Islands choosing to spend the summer in Tennessee.

During the two day celebration of startups in Chattanooga, there was a lot of hush hush talk about accelerators in general. It’s actually a common discussion, whether or not accelerators are worth the time and money. Many think the 3-4 month model isn’t enough time to build real companies, and with accelerators all over the country, there may be an accelerator bubble.

Another struggle is attracting investors. Outreach is tremendously important for an accelerator. Sure you can invite the same 50-100 investors on the VC academy list of VC Pro database, and they may come. But often the startups presenting aren’t in their investment wheelhouse. For accelerators not in their first season, the investors have seen the same PowerPoint template presented over and over again .

Accelerators and their demo days get interesting when you include anyone who’s interested into the startup community. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and so do startup supporters. CoLab and GigTank director Sheldon Grizzle is very good at bringing the whole community together around entrepreneurial events. On the eve of the GigTank demo day, there was an event called Fireside Talks which included entrepreneurs 20 and under working on a variety of projects.

UltraGroup is not one of your typical startup investors.  UltraGroup is a healthcare company that specializes in behavioral health programs.  They provide outpatient care at 40 rural hospitals across eight states, according to the TimesFreePress. They are based in Chattanooga.

WeCounsel is a GigTank startup that went through the most recent cohort, graduating  last week. They offer an online platform  that allows therapists to take notes, coordinate scheduling, share documents, store client records and interact with colleagues. They are also based in Chattanooga, and one of three local startups in this year’s GigTank Cohort.

WeCounsel co-founder and CEO Harrison Tyner told Nibletz by phone that UltraGroup was on their radar to talk with earlier this summer.

“Relationships we built at the GigTank made our talks with UltraGroup progress even further,” he said. He went on to say that without the GigTank helping them iterate their idea to perfection and mentorship from others in the GigTank’s network, they would not have been ready for UltraGroup’s $600,000 investment reported Wednesday.

“None of this would have been possible for us without the GigTank. It’s been the best thing to happen to our startup,” Tyner said.

Tyner  and his co-founders Riley Draper and Joshua Goldberg are all originally from Chattanooga and will stay there to grow WeCounsel. Currently they are still operating out of CoLab but plan on moving to their own office in about a month.

“Chattanooga continues to prove that it’s a great city for entrepreneurship,” Tyner said. By staying in Chattanooga, they will be able to work closely with UltraGroup and continue to work with the mentors and leaders they formed relationship with at GigTank.

When the GigTank presentations kicked off, Toni Gamayel co-founder and CEO of Banyan took the stage. His company, which has designed a collaboration platform for researchers, won $100,000 from Alcatel Lucent at last year’s demo day. Shortly after demo day the company went home to Tampa, Florida, where Gamayel has been a fixture in the startup community.  He told a story about coming up to visit during the winter last year and realizing that Chattanooga was on its way up. With that realization entire team loaded up a Uhaul and moved back to town.

For more info on WeCounsel visit them online here.

Check out more GigTank coverage here.



SellingThe Parents, Richard Branson & Acquisition: Bad Ass Startup Chick Stacey Ferreira Tells Her Story

Stacey Ferreira, MySocialCloud, Bad Ass Startup Chick, GigTank

Stacey Ferreira is a bad ass startup chick, and quite frankly has one of the most bad ass stories we’ve ever heard. That story starts when she was a student at an all girls Catholic high school in Phoenix, Arizona. When you hear about entrepreneurs starting out as developers in high school, a lot of times those stories are about boys.

Well Ferreira was lonely and missing all of her public school friends who were about 40 miles away. Looking for something to do to pass the time she turned to her brother Scott. He had just begun teaching himself how to program, so the two of them decided they would learn how to become game developers.

Through the rest of her time in high school, Ferreira spent her free time creating and developing different projects with her brother. Then the time came to graduate high school and their parents insisted that they had just one more summer left before they had to go get real internships like everyone else. The Ferreira siblings decided to go all in and move to Los Angeles to build out one of the projects that they had worked on in high school. That project became MySocialCloud.

During that summer Richard Branson held a fundraiser contest of sorts that said if you could donate $2,000 to his charity you could have cocktails with Branson in Miami. Stacey wasn’t even old enough to drink, but quickly realized the value in spending time with Branson. Oh, the other problem was they didn’t have the money. To make matters worse, when they called and talked with someone in Branson’s office they discovered the two of them would need $4,000 not $2000.

Scott and Stacey now had the daunting task of selling their dad on getting a loan. Dad wanted a business plan, Stacey told the standing room-only crowd at a startup event Tuesday in Chattanooga. So she and Scott developed a business plan. Almost reluctantly their dad said yes, but they had to return the money in 3 months.

That ended up not being too tough because that meeting in Miami ended up with a million dollar investment.

Stacey, who is also involved with the Young Entrepreneur’s Council, told her story during FireSide Talks, which featured Thiel Fellows and other entrepreneurs 20 and under. Stacey talked about her entrepreneurial journey from that private school in Arizona, to living in almost the slums of Los Angeles, meeting Branson, getting $1 million dollar investment, and eventually getting acquired. Oh, and that was in less than two years.

Watch Stacey tell her own story:



Startup Accelerators: The Hard Advice

GigTank, Mira Designs, Sisasa, TidBit, startups, accelerators

(Lawrence Yu CoFounder of Mira Designs. Photo NMI 2013)

Startup accelerators are great,] because they give young growing startups capital, access to resources, mentors, and hopefully investors. But they aren’t always rosy. In fact, if all your days in an accelerator program are rosy, then you need to run like hell from that accelerator program.

On our sneaker-strapped startup road trip, we’ve had the privilege of meeting several startups in mid session. We’ve seen startup founders cry, scream, cuss, even break things, typically right before they have that “aha moment”.  What we normally find is that the hardest piece of advice, and usually the “ugly baby” moment, is very early on in the accelerator. In fact most accelerators engineer an activity on day one or two where mentors, advisors, or even media members are invited in to tear an idea to shreds.

We got a chance to talk with Lawrence Yu, cofounder of Mira Designs, Alejandro Dinsmore, cofounder of Sisasa, and Sam Bowden, founder and CEO of TidBit. All three startups graduated from the GigTank accelerator in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Tuesday afternoon.

For Yu, the hardest advice came as an eye opening experience that they weren’t the only startup trying to fix offline retail with online components. The team at Mira Designs needed to make sure that they were clearly differentiating themselves from the competition and they needed to do it in a big way.

For both Bowen and Dinsmore, their harshest advice was an ugly baby moment that for both startups meant a pivot. Sisasa totally changed course from the idea they came into the accelerator with.  For Bowen it meant going after a different industry, actually an industry he knew more about first hand.  The end result of both of their “ugly baby” moments was what most would call traction.

The video below features all three founders talking about their harshest or most eye opening advice in the GigTank.

Check out the accelerator panel with accelerator heads from across the country at this national startup conference.


Tidbit, A Cayman Islands Startup, Is Fixing Training [video]

Tidbit, GigTank startup, startup,startup pitch, Cayman Islands startup

When Sam Bowen took the stage at the GigTank demo day on Tuesday afternoon, he talked about everything wrong with corporate training. And he should know. He’s been a trainer throughout most of his career. He has trained professionals in state government, the hospitality industry, and non profit organizations. At one point he even had to train judges, which can be an extremely hard task.

Kicking off his pitch, Bowen said, “I can tell you two things have remained constant, a majority of folks hate training,” which drew a chuckle from the crowd of investors and startup supporters in Chattanooga.The second thing, according to Bowen, is that everyone in the hospitality industry focuses on one number: the annual staff turnover rate. The national average annual staff turnover rate is a whopping 65%.

That’s obviously why everybody hates training. With employee churn that high, business owners, corporate trainers, and HR departments are constantly training new employees to do their regular jobs, making it almost impossible to find the time to teach existing employees new things.

Online training in one form or another has been around for nearly two decades. Text and “module” based training or even “knowledge base” training has fueled big corporations, staffing firms, retailers, and chain restaurants since the 90’s.

The problem with those solutions is, as technology improved, training didn’t. The other key factor is that for more and more busy people, the computer is becoming screen number 2. Screen number one is the phone or tablet.

So Cayman Islands native Bowen, his brother, and their team created Tidbit, a startup that incorporates the smartphone and all its available technology to make training materials easy for the trainer to create and just as easy for the employee to consume.  Bowen gave the example of a bakery owner who would be able to use her smartphone’s video camera and microphone to walk employees through how to make her latest cupcake designs. The employees can then in turn, watch the content created by the owner and make the cupcake at the same time.

Hotels could use Tidbit to quickly show an entire fleet of housekeepers some new way of making the beds or where a new piece of flair goes in a room. The employees become more productive by having those training modules in their hand, in the room while they’re doing the job.

For employers that want to allow their employees to access the content from their own device, training becomes something that an employee can do on the bus or at home in some down time without the worry of finding a computer.

There’s an unwritten rule across most accelerators: to wow the investors in the room, they save the best startup for last. Tidbit went last, here’s the video:



Sisasa Is Bridging The Gap Between Young Adults And Community Banks

Sisasa, GigTank, startups, demo day

Sisasa co-founders Alejandro DInsmore and Deborah Tien (photo: NMI 2013)

Community banks are great. Often times community banks have more 1:1 resources to give to their customers. They can offer education, guidance and products that benefit local businesses, local residents and bolster the local economy.

But what happens when a college student or young adult leaves home for another city?

Well often times they turn to one of the mega banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase. There the college student is just another number and they often times have questions that they just can’t get answered by an automated phone system. This is a real problem for college students.

“Students often find themselves incurring fees they don’t understand and can never get a real person to talk with them about it so they pay it and move on” Sisasa co-founder Alejandro Dinsmore told us before GigTank’s demo day on Tuesday. “We hear horror stories from students and their parents on a regular basis”.

What they found though, is that many of these students resort to the mega banks because they have better mobile apps. Bank of America and Wells Fargo have real time banking on their mobile apps. If you deposit $10 into a Bank of America or Wells Fargo branch, you can leave the teller station, check the app and see that $10. Community Banks are often not as up to date, relying on systems implemented years ago trying to sway young people in this digital age.

That’s how Sisasa is solving this problem. By offering a better mobile banking app for community banks they can help the bank attract or retain this important customer. If a young person has a good experience with a community bank they are more likely to stay with that bank as they continue to grow. That community bank could finance their first car or that first house, but in an internet 2.0 (almost 3.0) age, and in the age of mobile, without that technology the community bank is dead in the water.

Sisasa, who’s team hails from Michigan, Boston and everywhere else, developed their current product at the GigTank in Chattanooga. Dinsmore tells us that they blew up their original idea after their first meeting with their lead mentor. After pivoting that mentor’s company is now one of their beta customers.

Sisasa private labels their mobile banking app for community bank, giving those local community banks features comparable and at times even better than their mega bank counterparts.

We got a chance to talk with Dinsmore just minutes before their GigTank pitch. Check out our interview below.

Checkout more GigTank Demo Day startup coverage here


Monitor Your Older Loved Ones With Sensevery, No Smartphone Required [video]

Sensevery, GigTank, Startup Pitch

The GigTank, Chattanooga’s startup accelerator named after their gigabit ethernet, graduated its second class on Tuesday afternoon. Seven startups from across the country and around the world worked through the dog days of summer at improving their companies, iterating, and bringing products to market. When the accelerator announced this year’s application process, co-founder Sheldon Grizzle was looking for startups working on the “the internet of things.”

One of those startups hails from India and is using “the internet of things” to unobtrusively monitor elderly loved ones. As co-founder Bentley Cook said in his presentation, he would call his grandmother on a regular basis, ask how she was, and she always said she was good. But really, what does good actually mean?

Many older folks don’t want to tell their younger family members that something’s wrong. Either they don’t want to be a burden or they don’t want to give up their independence.

Back in the 80’s Life Alert had a system that allowed an elderly person to hit a button and yell out to a speaker box that they’ve had some kind of problem. The token line was “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” We all remember the commercials and how big and gaudy the pendant was for Life Alert.

Sensevery is building an unobtrusive device that allows family members to monitor a loved one without disrupting their lifestyle. Cook went through a bunch of devices, including a 1980’s digital watch-looking device, and acknowledged the fact that nobody wanted to wear something like that.

Cook even went as far as to dis Solidus portfolio company, EverMind, which makes a device that monitors an older person’s power habits to see for disruptions in their daily routines. Cook said in his pitch “If your doctor wants to know how often your coffee maker was on, then you’ve got a problem.” Solidus is one of the investment backers of the GigTank program. Aside from that awkward reference, Sensevery may be onto something big.

Their system uses a small bracelet style monitoring device no more obtrusive than a FitBit or other lifestyle monitor. Now typically these devices are synced to an app and a smartphone, but really how many folks in that older generation have a smartphone or the patience to program one.

For those people Sensevery has developed a syncing device that plugs into the wall, and voila. The wall device sends the data from the bracelet to the cloud where loved ones and family members can access the data in the cloud from any internet connected device.

The data coming from the bracelet can quickly tell the person monitoring if something’s not right. Alerts can also be set up to tell the monitoring person the minute something breaks from the norm. If all of a sudden there was no heart rate picked up, the device would also summon emergency personnel.

Cook, along with co-founder Parth Suthar, are hoping that others quickly see the value in the Sensevery platform.

Check out Cook’s GigTank pitch below.

No really click on this link right now, you won’t regret it.




GigTank Demo Day Kicks Off With Princeton Startup Mira

Chattanooga’s GigTank accelerator kicked off their second annual demo day on Tuesday afternoon. In perusing the startups in the second cohort before they took the stage, we quickly realized that startups from around the world were accepted into the program in the first GigCity in the U.S. (sorry Kansas City).

GigTank attracted startups from Bulgaria (HutGrip), The Cayman Islands (Tidbit.co) and of course across this country. One of those startups hailed from Princeton and chose to come to Chattanooga for access to the extremely fast internet and the wide range of mentors, lead mentors, and seed capital that Sheldon Grizzle, Mike Bradshaw, and the team at GigTank have provided.

Mira is the latest startup to tackle the offline retail experience with data points and information typically only found online. Now we’ve talked with a few startups in the space, but what they lacked was an actual hardware/software platform in the store that would allow the customer to get an online experience within the walls of the retail store.

During the presentation they talked about a woman, Michelle, who is looking for running shoes specifically for a 10k. She forgot to do research so rather than postponing the purchase or going “window shopping,” she was able to use the Mira Pod, an in-store interactive sign to choose the shoes that she needed. After she went through her personal experience, she was able to try the shoes on, pay, and get on with her day.

There is definitely value in bringing that kind of web experience into a retail outlet. Check out the pitch below to better understand Mira.

You can find out more about Mira here at shopwithmira.com

Here’s our interview with Mira Designs:

And here’s their pitch video:


Twelve Cities Founder And Thiel Fellowship Liason Nick Arnett On Three Themes For Building Great Cities

Nick Arnett, Twelve Cities, Indiana startups, Thiel Fellowship

While Brad Feld’s book on Startup Communities has become a bible to many people trying to jumpstart startup ecosystems across the country, one entrepreneur has been looking at not just the startup community but the city as a whole, and he’s been doing it since he was 15.

At an age when many high school students are considering the football team, the wrestling team, or a homecoming date, Nick Arnett was sitting in on economic development meetings in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was there that he started working on an idea to visit 12 great cities and see what they had in common.

The project officially began in 2011 when a team of individuals, spearheaded by Arnett, went on a series of twelve trips throughout the continental United States. Arnett pointed out to a standing room only crowd at the Fireside Talks event on Monday night that Chattanooga was the first city they visited.

The group working on twelve cities started noticing three big themes that existed across all twelve cities. Arnett said it doesn’t matter if they were talking to the Mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan or a resident in Tucson, Arizona. these three themes always come up.

  1. The importance of openness and embracing the weird. Arnett explains in the video that being open and embracing everyone in the city is crucial for entrepreneurship. A city needs to embrace those who are working on startups, their own ideas, or freelance. Long gone are the days of everyone going to work at the plant.
  2. The ability to make a difference no matter who you are. A lot of cities have a gap between their older leadership and younger leadership that makes it hard for one group to make a difference. Cities that don’t have that gap are more successful.
  3. The importance of social connectivity, connecting the connectors. Having your local city connectors connect with another city’s connectors. Cities need to leverage these kinds of people that have both strong internal and external connectors.

Arnett really goes deep into all three of these themes in the video below. If you’re working on a startup community, do you have the city component as well? I’ve seen a lot of startup communities that are struggling because the city is still stuck in old ways. Make your city great, and your startup community will be greater.


14 Year Old Social Entrepreneur Jack Skowronnek Has Been At It 4 Years Already

Jack's Chattanoggins, Jack Skowronnek, Chattanooga startup, Thiel Fellows, GigTank

Accelerator week in Tennessee kicked off on Monday evening with a VIP reception for the GigTank accelerator and then an event called Fireside Talks, which featured members of the Thiel Fellows Program and local Chattanoogans under the age of 20 who are doing great things.

The Fireside Talk event was kicked off by serial entrepreneur, angel investor, advisor, mentor, and “Mr. Chattanooga” Stephen Culp. Culp, who speaks on entrepreneurship and is passionate about startups. wanted to be brief and insisted that the focus be on the young entrepreneurs who he said “had me questioning what I was doing at age 20”.

Before he left the stage though Culp drove home three major points:

  • everyone has entrepreneurism in them
  • entrepreneurism isn’t just for profit
  • entrepreneurs need support

The second point was manifest Monday evening when Jack Skowronnek took the stage.  This unique 14-year-old didn’t start some social mobile game, nor did he develop some kind of note taking app for school students. Rather, Skowronnek is a social entrepreneur. The best part: he’s been doing it since he was ten years old.

It was when Jack was 10 and going into the sixth grade that his elementary school teacher in Chicago recommended he read the book “Drums Girls and Dangerous Pie” by Jordan Sonnenblick. He told the standing room-only audience at the Chattanooga Theater Center that “you’d never guess what the book was about,” and of course who knew that a book with a title like that would be about a boy who shaved his head in solidarity with his brother who has cancer.

Shaving one’s head to support someone with cancer isn’t anything new. Former President George HW Bush just recently shaved his head when he found out that members of his secret service detail had shaved theirs in solidarity with one of their agents whose son Patrick has leukemia.

What’s unique about Jack is that upon completing the book he immediately told his parents that he needed (not wanted) to shave his head. After stating his case his parents allowed him to do just that. Along with shaving his head he started raising money for St.Baldrick’s, a national non profit organization that encourages people to shave their head and donate to help cancer patients. In two years Jack had raised over $5,000 for the charity.

When he moved to Chattanooga, he continued to shave his head and raise money. His story got picked up by local radio stations and Paul Smith, General Manager at the Chattanooga Market, heard about Jack and immediately contacted his mother Dawn Skowronnek. Smith wanted to host Jack’s head shaving event at the market,  a very popular destination in Chattanooga.

As the event evolved, Jack was convinced to start his own charity to help the Children’s Hospital Foundation, which would keep the proceeds at a local level and help more than 50 Chattanooga area children with cancer. Jack’s foundation was christened Jack’s Chattanoggins, incorporating Chattanooga and noggin.

Young Jack moved the audience near tears when he told the story about a girl named Kennedy who he had befriended at the hospital. Kennedy had suffered through losing a lung and a leg to cancer but remained positive and upbeat. At one point she donated $20 to Jack’s campaign, even though he found out from the girl’s mother she never parts with her money. Jack also realized the significance of his efforts when the people he was trying to help were turning around and donating as well.

Last year Kennedy passed away, which made Jack start doubting his efforts. He explained that he attended the young gir’ls wake but couldn’t bring himself to come to the funeral. Jack dedicated the most recent Jack’s Chattanoggins event to Kennedy’s honor. It was also the most successful to date.

Jack obviously has hair in the picture above. In between events he grows his hair out so it can be shaved again. At the last event even the Mayor cut a lock of Jack’s blonde hair for the cause.

Jack plans on continuing this kind of work for the rest of his life. His entire family and the city of Chattanooga back him 100%. Jack’s looking forward to starting the 9th grade on Thursday and continuing to change the world one hair at a time.


When Bad Names Happen To Great Startups: Corpora And More NSFW

We were in Chattanooga Tennessee this past week covering GigTank’s demo day.  GigTank is a three month accelerator that was centered around building startups that utilized Chattanooga’s 1gb city wide fiber optic network. Chattanooga’s 1gb fiber optic network launched a year before Kansas City’s, Google backed 1gb network.

The first team that presented was a startup from Asheville North Carolina called Corpora. Corpora is a platform that uses social media to aggregate and crowdsource things on a grand scale. For the purposes of the competition they showed off how the service could be used to track medical conditions like allergy clusters. Corpora could also be used to source clusters of other conditions like a food poisoning outbreak or  conditions with widespread results.

One of the judges quickly shot the idea down by suggesting that they wouldn’t tweet about “a rash”. Aside from that, and if you can look past the medical vertical, there is a lot of data that could come out of something like Corpora. Although they didn’t win the grand prize of $100,000 they definitely have an idea worth continuing on now that the accelerator program is over.

So why is Corpora in the headline?

Well Thursday morning while sitting at the press table on the second row at the demo day presentations, I discovered something quite disturbing about Corpora.  I had just finished video taping their pitch and began to compile this story about Corpora. After writing a short summary of their presentation, and uploading the video to YouTube, I began to hunt for a logo for the startup. Like most people the first thing I did was a Google images search.

I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone reading this who was seated behind me and had their eyes on my monitor instead of the actual presentations. You see Corpora yielded a search for Corpora Cavvernosa. The first page of Google images results yielded over 25 pictures of penises. Some of the penises were pierced, some cut open, some were just medical illustrations. You see Corpora Cavernosa is the tissue part that runs on top of the urethra and fills with blood and expands as a result of nitric oxide during arousal. Yes Corpora Cavernosa is the actual part of the penis that “gets hard” during an erection.

In a half joking manner and in a half “WTF why didn’t these entrepreneurs vet this out better” manner, I texted a few of my colleagues who were sitting a few rows back (sorry Eric and Patrick) and of course they too saw the disturbing pictures that undoubtedly you’ve gone and Googled now as well.

Some may say that this is a minor thing, on the contrary it’s something that’s minor but could have been dealt with early on. They don’t actually have any significant brand presence at the moment.

We’re not totally in the clear either, however we knew about our issue early on and decided not to worry about it. There is an Urban Dictionary definition of niblets (with an s) that means something that may be a bit on the NSFW side (I’m sure you’ve Googled it now as well).

Our situation is a bit different, that colleague of mine I mentioned above Patrick Woods is a director at archer>malmo’s a>m ventures group. They specialize in branding, brand identity, advertising, and PR. Woods would love for us to change our name. When he thinks nibletz he thinks snacks, and now of course the UD definition we told him about.

Our name came about because we actually came out with our original tag line before the name itself, which was: “Small crunchy bytes from the tech and startup scene”. As a compliment to our huge Android site (which was sold in April) we came up with Nibletz last year. Our original plan was to do a capsulated version of tech and startups similar to what you would find on TechCrunch. We pivoted in January to “the voice of startups everywhere else” and kept the name.

Unlike Corpora we have an established brand presence so for now the name is the same.

a>m ventures has submitted a suggestion for a SXSWi panel/talk in 2013 called “When Bad Names Happen To Great Startups”. If selected archer>malmo’s Chief Creative Officer Gary Backaus along with their Senior Copy Writer will host and moderate a discussion on the importance of naming and having a great name that you can build an even greater brand identity with.

They’ll highlight some of the companies that have changed their names under archer>malmo’s direction and done very well.

Name changes happen for many reasons, but it’s much easier and a lot less costly when little nuances like your name being part of the word for erection, come up early on in the startup process. Even major corporations sometimes go through name changes. Phillip Morris Companies, the manufacturers of Marlboro cigarettes and one time owner of Kraft foods recently went through a name change to Altria. Of course for Altria many will always refer to them as Phillip Morris.

The Haloid Company was the first name for Xerox.  Lucky Goldstar, the Korean company that became LG, changed their name for better global adaption. Under the Lucky Goldstar name they released a number of very low end electronics, this may have had to do with the shift when they started shipping flat screens, and smartphones worldwide. Now with the shortened name they’ve adapted the slogan Life’s Good.

Many don’t realize that when they fly AirTran they are traveling on the same carrier once known as ValueJet Airlines. ValueJet quickly made a name for themselves in the early to mid 90’s until 1996 when a crash in the Everglades caused them to change their name permanently. Now, most people have forgotten (or didn’t know) that Airtran is ValueJet and just associate AirTran (a unit of Southwest) as a value carrier.

Our own word?

One thing we like about nibletz is that we’ve made it our own by swapping the S for the Z. Do we think we’re the next Google? No of course not but made up words can be fun. The downside to made up words is when you invert a letter like we did or use some other creative spelling that’s hard to articulate in speaking. We are forced to use some SEO ninja skills to help direct people who may be looking for us with an “s” and not a “z”.

We’ve also had a problem with good ole Heather who holds the Twitter name “nibletz” she used the name nibletz as her gamer name for many years and has tried to hold the Twitter handle hostage hoping we’ll pay her thousands of dollars to use it. Sorry we’re doing just fine wtih @startuptechguy my personal Twitter and @nibletztweets.

We’re hoping that the team behind Corpora will do something with the name (or flood the net with pictures to push down all those pictures of penises). We’re also hoping that archer>malmo will win a spot at SXSW for their valuable talk.


More great Chattanooga GigTank coverage here

Nibletz is the voice of startups “everywhere else” here are more startup stories from “everywhere else”

This may be our last crowdfunding campaign but we need it the most!


Chattanooga’s SimCenter Could Use The Gig To Plan For The Zombie Apocalypse And More

While we were in Chattanooga Tennessee for the GigTank Demo Day on Thursday, our hosts, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce took us on a great tour of the city with special attention to services, companies, and educational centers that utilized Chattanooga’s 1gb fiber optic network. Chattanooga was the first city to have 1gb ethernet fiber, a year before Kansas City and Google.

One of the stops on the tour was the University Of Tennessee’s Sim Center: National Center For Computational Engineering.

The SimCenter was established at Mississippi State. With the help of the Jack Lupton Foundation a SimCenter was established in Chattanooga in 2002. The SimCenter houses 6 super computers with the largest having 1300 cores and 325 node diskless cluster by Dell. There are 4gb of RAM per node and of course it’s hooked up to the 1gb ethernet.

Since it’s inception the SimCenter has worked for clients in the public, private and government sectors which require unheard of large amounts of data. When a company like Boeing needs to simulate new turbine engines for a new airplane project the SimCenter is able to simulate the airplane in various conditions to accurately calculate the data engineers need to know while designing new engines.

A recently completed SimCenter project for US Express truck lines resulted in $68 million dollars in fuel savings. The SimCenter did simulated data trials and research on drag and turbulence. They found that by adding “skirts” in three places on semi trucks and their trailers, US Express could save on millions of dollars on gas.

You want me to get to the Zombies part right?

A research project for the SimCenter that was commissioned by the Department of Defense after 9/11 was recently declassified. The Department of Defense used the SimCenter to simulate catastrophic events. More importantly though, the SimCenter research was vital in finding ways to quickly contain a public catastrophe, limiting casualties and losses and protecting first responders as best they could.

Through their super computers, and units called GENI’s, as well as sensors, and communications equipment all linked together on a super fast network, the SimCenter was able to simulate a hazardous materials spill and explosion. In a situation that would typically take hours to contain and more hours to clean up, using the SimCenters’ simulation they were able to:

– Give first responders on going data pertaining to atmospheric conditions, environmental threats, and the trajectory of where the “cloud” of hazardous materials would go.

– They were able to get first responders to the scene quicker by pinpointing the accident

– They were able to alert the citizens through a smartphone app, essentially evacuating the at risk area before any major harm could be done.

Through this study municipalities and local governments will be able to construct a similar system of super computers, sensors, communications and network to be able to respond to their own disasters just as quickly. As gigabit ethernet emerges we will see more and more public safety resources relying on that super fast internet to get vital life saving information to and from command centers, to first responders, to the public and to the media.

The SimCenter opened in Chattanooga long before 1gb ethernet was available.  The computer power alone coupled with the brain power of the engineering researchers in the SimCenter have provided research covering everything from lithium battery modeling, aerodynamic analysis, heavy truck modeling (see above), modeling of coastal and urban flooding and much more.

Our host for the presentation about SimCenter, SimCenter Enterprises President and CEO Tim Walsh, did tell us that the gigabit fiber provides even newer ways to utilize the center. Walsh was a mentor for some of the GigTank teams who were looking to send huge amounts of data over the internet.

Gigabit ethernet tackles huge problems for big data projects like the ones at the SimCenter. During the GigTank presentation for Banyan, the entrepreneur team that won, revealed that it would be quicker for an engineer at Stanford to drive to the airport and fly to London with a terabyte hard drive than it would be to send it over a 100/mbps connection. Using Chattanooga’s gig the Banyan team was able to send a Terrabyte of data to Standord in 2.5 hours. That coupled with the computing power of the SimCenter will mean even bigger things will be done at this amazing institution.


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Tampa Startup Banyan Wins Entrepreneur Track At Chattanooga’s Gig Tank

Over 500 people came from across Tennessee and across the USA to Chattanooga TN Wednesday and Thursday for GigTank’s Demo Day. 

GigTank is a 90 day accelerator program based in Chattanooga with an emphasis on using Chattanoga’s 1GBPS internet. Chattanooga was the first city in the United States (edging out Kansas City and Google by a year), to implement 1gbps internet. Every resident and business in a 600 square mile radius has 1gbps fiber optic line straight to their home or business.

Chattanooga was able to set up the 1gb fiber by rolling out a smart grid that provides communications from utility meters at every home and business back to a central location. Citizens of Chattanooga can elect to get data and tv services from the 1gb fiber pipe in their homes on a monthly subscription based model.

Chattanooga’s GigTank accelerator featured two separate tracks. The entrepreneur track was a traditional 3 month accelerator model with a seed investment, and access to services, mentors, office space and other resources. The student track was similar to the entrepreneur track but without the seed investment. Students participated in a pitch contest in Chattanooga Thursday where they competed for a $50,000 prize.

The winner of the entrepreneur track was a Tampa Florida startup called Banyan. The Banyan team was Toni Gamayel, Travis Staton and TJ Weigel.

Banyan is a cloud based collaborative research system. This allows researchers who are working on the same project to keep their research together. It also solves major pains for those managing the research.

During Gamayel’s pitch he brought up an instance where two students at the University of Kentucky were working on the same exact research one floor above each other and didn’t even know it. With Banyan the research manager would have easily been able to identify this duplicate research.

In another instance a Stanford professor had been working on some research. The need arose to validate that the particular research he was working on was being performed at the school rather than at home or another lab. With Banyan they could have easily identified the source of the actual research.

Banyan took a $100,000 check back to Tampa where they plan on using it to beef up their development and marketing. Gamayel is very active in the Tampa startup community. He was a judge for a recent Startup Weekend in Florida and is well known as a resource and mentor in the region. In fact he has provided mentorship to Feathr a Gainesville based startup that is working on eliminating the paper business card.

Check out Banyan’s complete pitch below:


Check out Banyan’s website here

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Georgia Startup: Vigia Shows Off Their Concept That Will Make Campus Life Safer VIDEO PITCH

Well we’ll be honest with you here, when we read the initial synopsis of Vigia we thought it wouldn’t be that exciting. When Anthony Guglielmo got on stage and started talking about a bee sting, we were still on the fence. However that bee sting shed light on a much bigger problem for college students on large campuses that has really snowballed in recent years as wireless phones and smartphones became more prominent on college campuses.

The problem here is that college campus’ public safety infrastructure is disrupted on a 911 call by the wireless companies who are required to route phones to the nearest 911 center. To put it in perspective for you, if you got stung by a bee, and were allergic to bee stings without an epi-pen near by, you would most likely call 911. From there you would be routed to the county or cities 911 center not your campus security or EMS.

In an incident like that the few seconds or minutes could prove fatal if you don’t get your medicine in time. Perhaps it’s because of  the recent tragedy in Colorado, but getting direct access to campus security and public safety could prove to be life saving for a number of reasons.

Enter Vigia, a startup from Athens Georgia. Vigia is a platform that allows a smartphone to connect directly to their public safety professionals and dispatchers and enhances the emergency services for the public.

In addition to routing your call more efficiently you can also add a profile to your device. If you’re allergic to bees, medicine, diabetic, or have any other medical condition, a profile could be delivered to a 911 center that could get you the help you need quicker.

Check out Guglielmo’s pitch video below, you’ll agree that Vigia is a great idea.


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Video Pitch: Asheville Startup Corpora Pitches At GigTank Demo Day

One of the startups in the entrepreneur track at the GigTank in Chattanooga is Corpora from Asheville. Corpora is a real time intelligenet agent that uses Twitter status updated and other public facing data to determine the health of individuals by geography, providing insights into the spread of illness and quantifying the impact of previously elusive factors on public health.

Andrew Abumoussa the CTO of Corpora was ready with his presentation on what seems to be an innovative new way to track health problems in mass. Now we’re not talking about an ecoli breakout. In his slides he showed off the value of aggregating this data from Twitter for things like allergy breakouts and other similar problems.

One of the judges asked Abumoussa if they were working on aggregating the data from other social networks telling Abmoussa he didn’t see people “Tweeting about that rash”. After a quick chuckle from the audience that raised a valuable point.

The team hails from Asheville North Carolina and is hoping to win the GigTank contest today and walk away with extra venture capital from one of the 500 investors in the room.

Check out his pitch here:


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