$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.



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:


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.


Chattanooga Startup QuickCue Secures Major Partnership With Mellow Mushroom

QuickCue, Chattanooga Startup,Startup,Startup News, Mellow Mushroom

We’ve seen quite a few startups that are trying to help improve the restaurant experience. There are a lot of “wait list” startups. We reported on Chicago based NoWait app just last week. The challenge for these startups is the ability to penetrate the restaurant industry, and they have to take care of the entire host stand experience, not just the wait list.

That’s how Chattanooga-based QuickCue was able to secure a deal with Atlanta-based Mellow Mushroom that spans the entire chain and future locations to come.


QuickCue is a host stand app that allows the host or hostess at a restaurant to take a guest’s name, add them to the wait list and then notify them by text message that their table is ready. This allows guests to go elsewhere while waiting. They could go to nearby shopping or even run errands. Rather than being tethered to a pager, their phone lets them know when their table is ready.

QuickCue also offers an entire suite of features and analytics for the restaurant itself. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, restaurants can even create customer profiles. With these profiles they can make notes on where customers like to sit, what they order, how frequently they visit, and how many people usually dine with them.

The restaurant also has a vital piece of information from every guest in the QuickCue system: their phone number. Now not only can the restaurant notify the customer when their table is ready, they can also market them deals by text message as well. What if the kitchen crashes? Now a restaurant can let the customer know there’s been a slight delay and offer them a coupon instantly for a free drink.

bounceit-sponsorThe potential for a restaurant using QuickCue is almost infinite. The startup’s attention to customer service is what made the partnership with Mellow Mushroom a natural fit.
“One of our core values is providing excellent customer service,” David Danowitz, Mellow Mushroom’s director of operations, told the Times Free Press. “Mellow fans often will drive 100 miles to get to the nearest location, so we need to deliver a quality product and an awesome guest experience every time. Quickcue has a similar approach, which made partnering with them as the exclusive provider of our host stand technology an easy decision.”

QuickCue is being installed in all 100 of Mellow Mushroom’s existing locations and will also be integrated into future locations. Mellow Mushroom plans on opening 200 new locations each year for the foreseeable future.


Find out why the inventor of ethernet will be in Chattanooga next month.


Chattanooga Startup Skuid, The Easiest Way To Build Salesforce Pages

Skuid, Chattanooga startup, Southland, startups, Salesforce

Salesforce, the cloud-based customer relationship management platform, is feature packed and quite possibly the best way to retain customer data. There are literally thousands of features, and customizations built into the platform. For a lot of companies, the easiest way to get their employees on the platform is to scale it down or build custom Salesforce pages, apps, and UI’s based on the information relevant to that company.

Normally, building interface components can be a long, drawn-out process. Salesforce has attempted to make it easier by providing shortcuts and one click access to certain features, but there’s still quite the learning curve.

Now a Chattanooga startup called Skuid has built a drag and drop platform that allows just about anyone to quickly build customized Salesforce pages. You can take one data field and move it to wherever you need it on the interface.

The company launched four months ago and has already bulked up to a staff of 12 and moved to the Southern Saddlery building, home to some other “ramp up” companies. Nooga.com reported that the company was able to go cash flow positive without taking a venture capital investment.

“We thought when we started out that we would need investment to get launched, and we don’t need it at this point,” Ken McElrath, co-founder and president, said. “We started with in-pocket capital, and we’re already cash flow-positive. We had numbers we were trying to hit in our first quarter, and we blew those out of the water. I think we were too conservative in our growth plans.”

Skuid isn’t the only Salesforce startup to go straight to revenue in Tennessee. Memphis based Cloud For Good, a company that does SalesForce development for non-profits and religious institutions, went straight to revenue.

Check out our video interview with Skuid from The Southland Conference below. For more information visit squidify.com


Here’s more Southland coverage at nibletz.com




Banyan, The Git Hub For Science, Shows Off New Features & A New Deck At Southland

Banyan,Chattanooga Startup,startup, Toni Gamayel, Gigtank, Southland

On Wednesday, Chattanooga transplant startup Banyan was selected to pitch on stage as part of the Southland Summit in Nashville. You may remember Banyan; they won the entrepreneur track at the GigTank demo day last summer and took home $100,000 dollars. Although it wasn’t a condition of receiving their prize, the Banyan team–Toni Gamayel, Travis Staton, and TJ Weigel–decided to relocate their startup from Florida to Chattanooga late last year.

Banyan billed itself as a collaborative research tool that could handle enormous amounts of data. They were the only GigTank participant that really talked about the effects of 1gb ethernet and big data during last year’s Demo Day. To make his point, the company’s pitch man, Gamayel, point it this way: To take two terrabytes of data from Stanford to London, it would be faster to get on a plane with two hard drives than it would be with conventional Internet speeds. In contrast,  Chattanooga’s 1gb ethernet pipe would allow that data to transmit in just four hours.

seriousDuring the Southland pitch Gamayel revealed that scientific research hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1700’s. Even in present day scientists have a really hard time collaborating because they need to keep control of their authorship. Gamayel also said that universities are very protective of their researchers as well. Gamayel pointed to a case where Stanford University lost $50 million dollars when they couldn’t clearly state whether or not a professor worked on a certain piece of research under his university role or independently.

The newest iteration of Banyan solves all of these problems. For starters they’ve added profiles for scientists and researchers on the system. Scientists can clearly list their accolades and achievements, skills, and research they’ve authored. There is also the base tool for collaboration as well as a way to leave comments and feedback. Finally Banyan has incorporated a system that can time and date stamp each iteration of the research and correctly credit the author. So in that case at Stanford, it would be clear whose “time” the professor was on.

Although we thought Gamayel did a fine job pitching their exciting product, he was a little hard on himself, stating after the pitch that it was the first time that he’s talked about the new features to a large audience, with some of their investors in the crowd.

Banyan is a fascinating product and is sure to continue changing the way researchers and scientists work. Check out Gamayel’s Southland pitch below.

Here’s more of our Southland Coverage at nibletz.com



Chattanooga’s CoLab Hosting Women’s 48 Hour Launch

CoLab,Company Lab, Chattanooga startup,tennessee startup, 48 Hour LaunchTennessee is a great state for startups. There are 9 accelerator regions across the state, that draw resources from Launch Tennessee, and one of the most active Startup America Regions.  Startup Tennessee was the second Startup America region launched two years ago.

The major accelerator hubs across the state; Memphis,Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga work very well together and naturally collaborate on ideas and generally help each other out.

That’s why when Memphis held the UpStart 48 Hour Launch for women in December two young women from Chattanooga joined in the festivities and pitched in all weekend long. Next weekend on April 5th, Launch Your City Chief Relationship Officer Elizabeth Lemmonds, will return the favor by taking part in the city’s first women’s 48 Hour Launch.

48 Hour Launch works very similarly to the Startup Weekend model, just a few hours shorter.

Friday April 5th, the community will gather up all the interested female entrepreneurs. At that time the women will pitch their idea to the audience. A voting process will take place and it will be decided which teams will continue on to create a business in 48 Hours.

Saturday the teams will continue to work on their startups and Sunday they will be judged. Danielle Inez, and her event in a box startup, Pink Robin Avenue, won the Memphis event back in December. Inez won a free booth at Everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference.

CoLab has put together sponsor supported prize packages of great business services for the top three teams on Sunday.

For more information click here

4.2% of venture capital funded startup deals go to women. 

Kauffman Foundation Follows Hackanooga’s Footsteps With “Hacking The Gigabit City”


Over the course of last week’s everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference people saw that Tennessee was a contender in the startup and entrepreneurial space. What some may not realize is that it Chattanooga Tennessee that was the first to offer wall to wall gigabit Ethernet.

Two years ago Chattanooga, the city known for it’s choo-choo, became “The Gig City”. As the gig came online, Chattanooga’s startup leaders like Launch Tennessee CEO Charlie Brock, and CoLab founder Sheldon Grizzle quickly embraced the high speed Internet and developed several startup focused initiatives around it. All the while Google was still vetting out locations.

The first such initiative was The Gig Tank a hybrid accelerator that welcomed not only a cohort of startup teams but students as well. The program ran the entire summer last year and resulted in a student team winning $50,000 and a startup team, Banyan, winning another $100,000 and relocating (at their own accord) to Chattanooga.

This fall the Gig City welcomed a hackathon event that drew developers and hackers from across the country. The event was intimately known as Hackanooga.

Now with its big budget roll out almost complete, Kansas City is starting to embrace some of the ideas already tried and proven in Chattanooga.

Deep rooted startup supporters, the Mozilla Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation have teamed up to bring a hackathon to America’s newest gigabit city, Kansas City.

Both organizations continue to support the efforts in Chattanooga as well.

The Kansas City event is being held March 22-24, 2013. During the 54 hour period participants will hack together apps utilizing and taking advantage of Kansas City’s gigabit fiber

“We are looking for hackers to use the speed of the Google Fiber network to build applications that push the tech envelope forward,” said Cameron Cushman, manager in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “We are trying to invent the future, and Kansas City is at the forefront of ultra-high-speed internet access. This event is for people who want to work and build something that can truly help others and improve lives.”

The event will begin on Friday, March 22 with dinner and rapid-fire project pitches, culminating with the formation of teams in specific areas, including health care, public safety, education and gaming. The next two days will be focused on designing, creating, making and building. The event concludes on Sunday, March 24 with demos of the applications to a panel of judges.
The applications created during the event could evolve into a submission to the Mozilla Ignite Challenge, which on April 3 will award $250,000 of seed money and mentorship to help the most promising projects get off the ground.

They are offering scholarship for free travel to Kansas City to a limited number of hacker, for consideration you need to apply here by February 26, 2013.

Spottlife Aiming To Simplify Your Social Life

Spottlife, Chattanooga startup,startup,startups, Tennessee startup, startup interviewPeople in today’s world have been inundated with social networks. Many people want to be a part of as many social networks as they can because they don’t want to miss anything from anyone important to them. This is a daunting task though when you consider managing just the most popular social networks on a day to day basis.

Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Instagram can be a pain in the butt to manage. When you’re on your smartphone it’s a constant, battery draining, switch from network to network.

That’s why many startups have taken to creating social network aggregation tools. Spottlife is one of those tools with a different twist.

Using the Spottlife mobile app users can aggregate all of their social content into one app. They can also use the app to post to all or one social network at a time. These features certainly aren’t new, we’ve been using tools like Hootsuite for that part, for a long while.  Where Spottlife differs in it’s clean and fairly intuitive UI. It also provides you with aggregated updates of not just your variety of social networks but based on what’s trending and popular with your friends.

For instance today the most popular topics are probably the Inauguration, the Super Bowl and Martin Luther King day. Spottlife with show you the most popular topics and a number indicating how many of your friends are talking about this topic. Users also have the ability to filter out certain topics that might not pertain to them.

Brandon Mihai and Scott Gammenthaler are the cofounders of the Chattanooga startup. Mihai tells us in an interview that he has put his studies on hold from Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, to focus on Spottlife. Gammenthaler is pulling double duty, serving as the CEO of Spottlife and preparing for college graduation in the spring.  The startup is incubating at co.lab in Chattanooga.

Check out our interview with Mihai below.

Read More…

Interview With Chattanooga Feel Good Startup LifeKraze

While we were in Chattanooga Tennessee two weeks ago covering Gig Tank we got to meet some of the guys behind LifeKraze. LifeKraze is a social community built around encouraging other community members to reach their accomplishments. Whether you’re climbing mountains, preparing for a marathon, training for the Olympics or learning to eat right, with the support of the LifeKraze community you get the encouragement you need to do anything.

LifeKraz also has a rewards component where community members can encourage community members to reach their goals and accomplishments by giving them points for real world rewards for active lifestyle products or you can convert those points into charitable donations.

We got a chance to interview the LifeKraze team. Check out the interview below:

Read More…

Chattanooga Startup: Nudge Gamifies Workplace & Daily Wellness INTERVIEW

While we were in Chattanooga covering their big GigTank Demo Day we ran into Mac Gambill the co-founder of Chattanooga startup Nudge.  We were fascinated by the idea of a workplace wellness app, essentially gamifying employee wellness.

Employee wellness can be costly for employers and employees. An unhealthy workforce can lead to employee absenteeism, low employee morale, a rise in health insurance premiums and more. Employee wellness affects the employees themselves, the employer and the other employees in any office. Spending 8-12 hours a day with sick people, down people or just people not well, isn’t any fun and pinches on the budget.

Employees with fulltime jobs that don’t work at a plush Silicon Valley or New York City office with iPad docks on exercise bikes, often times find themselves behind the desk for hours on end. Cutting back on coffee or deciding to forego that chocolate bar or lose that M&M jar on a desk, may help improve your wellness.

In fact Matt S. who participated in the nudge beta said he lost 13 lbs and was able to cut out caffeine (not just coffee) completely. Imagine how life would be if you could cut out caffeine completely.

But nudge isn’t about just workplace wellness, it’s your personal cheerleader throughout your day.  Nudge isn’t about changing your lifestyle a lot or a completely new exercise regimen it’s about highlighting the things you’re doing well, rewarding you for doing good things for your body and your wellness and sharing them with friends and co-workers.

We got a chance to follow-up with Gambill in the interview below.

Read More…

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.


Check out more GigTank coverage here

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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:


More Gig Tank Demo Day coverage here

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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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