$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.


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:


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.


Tennessee Prepares For Accelerator Week

Tennessee startups, Gigtank, Zeroto510,autoXLR8R, demo day, startups, accleratorsLast year August was Demo Day month in Tennessee. During the month of August (on consecutive Thursdays no less), Chattanooga’s GigTank, Memphis’ Zeroto510, and Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundry all held their demo days. The month of August was a true testament to the strong commitment to startups and entrepreneurship that exists across Tennessee.

We were fortunate enough to attend all 3 accelerator demo days and a variety of startup events that went along with those programs.

This year, Tennessee has condensed it all into one week, sans the Jumpstart Foundry demo day which is on August 22nd.

The week kicks off in Chattanooga, Tennessee today with some pre-events surrounding GigTank’s demo day on Tuesday. On Demo Day, the current class of startups who spent their summer in the GigTank will show off their work. The startup accelerator, now in it’s second year, gets it’s name from being the first accelerator on citywide gigabit ethernet.

The gigabit ethernet, and big entrepreneurial ideas, are why Bob Metcalfe, the creator of ethernet, is the keynote speaker for the GigTank’s big day.

Wednesday the festivities move about 150 miles northwest to tiny Spring Hill, TN. Spring Hill is home to a major GM plant and, this year, the Southern Middle Tennessee Entrepreneur Center’s autoXLR8R. autoXLR8R focused on technologies applicable to the automotive industry, and as per usual the companies will graduate with a demo day.

Finally we head to Memphis where ZeroTo510 will hold their second demo day on Thursday. ZeroTo510 is the first cohort-based medical device accelerator.

Stay tuned to Nibletz all week long for coverage of demo day week in Tennessee and then again August 22 for Jumpstart Foundry’s demo day.

Don’t forget everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference is also in Tennessee, in February!


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



Bob Metcalfe, Inventor Of The Ethernet, To Keynote Chattanooga’s GigTank Demo Day

Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet, 3Com, Chattanooga starutp, GigTankWe weren’t kidding yesterday when we said that Chattanooga was a happening place for startups and tech. Yesterday we reported that Chattanooga was the 7th city to add the Kauffman Foundation’s new, 1 Million Cups, weekly morning networking and startup events.

Today, Chattanooga news comes to us by way of our friends at SouthernAlpha. It was announced earlier this week that Bob Metcalfe, would be the keynote speaker for Chattanooga accelerator, GigTank’s, Demo Day on August 6th. The GigTank Demo Day kicks off a month of Demo Days for Tennessee accelerators. GigTank, JumpStart Foundry (Nashville) and the ZeroTo510 accelerator (Memphis) all graduated on consecutive weeks in August.

For those of you that don’t know, Bob Metcalfe was the person who invented ethernet. For those of you not familiar with ethernet (man I’m feeling old here), it’s the “cat 5 cord” that plugs into your computer when you “hardline” yes we are well aware that there are actually computer users out there that have never been “plugged into” the internet.

Ethernet was created 40 years ago and recently celebrated it’s 40th anniversary at an event in Mountain View California.

It’s only fitting that the inventor of ethernet keynote the GigTank’s demo day. GigTank is an accelerator that was built on top of Chattanooga’s 1gb ethernet. Despite what some may believe, Chattanooga was the first city with 1gb ethernet to residents and businesses, a year before Kansas City turned the light on.

I am looking forward to being in Chattanooga … [for] GIGTANK Demo Day,” Metcalfe said in an email. “Are we not all engaged in gigafying the Internet?”

Metcalfe created ethernet as part of the infamous Xerox PARC lab (Paolo Alto Research Center), this is the same facility where the Xerox technology that was allegedly stolen by both Apple and Microsoft, was created. That story was chronicled in the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.

In 1979 Metcalfe founded 3Com which eventually purchased US Robotics, the world’s leading manufacturer of external and internal modems. US Robotics is also the company that created the first Palm Pilots, although the 3Com brand took the Palm project over after buying US Robotics.

Metcalfe now serves as the Professor of Innovation at University of Texas, Austin.

You can check out the great startups in the GigTank and Bob Metcalfe at GigTank Demo Day, here’s a link to request an invite.

Speaking of Tennessee here are the first 20 startups selected for the Startup Village at Southland.

Chattanooga’s GigTank Extends Application Deadline


Last year’s GigTank winner Banyan, relocated permanently to Chattanooga from Florida. (photo: NMI 2012)

If you’ve been a nibletz for a while, then you acutely aware of the fact that Kansas City is not the first gigabit city, Chattanooga Tennessee is. With that, Chattanooga hosted their first GigTank accelerator last year. 

The GigTank accelerator functioned with two tracks,students and entrepreneurs. The idea behind it was to accelerate companies that would use Chattanooga’s extremely fast internet as a conduit for their business.

This year, the cohort based program will run from May 13-August 16th. There’s a sliding scale for seed money, based on the number of founders. There’s also a pool of $150,000 of guaranteed follow on funding.

Here are the rest of the details:

·         Access to Chattanooga’s “living lab” – The city’s 170,000 businesses and homes are connected to one another by a $300 million, one-gigabit fiber infrastructure, and GigTank participants will have this access at their fingertips.

·         Access to a “tool kit” of unparalleled technology – Participants to the program don’t need to start from scratch. Every participant will have the opportunity to take advantage of GigTank’s “toolkit,” which ranges from existing prototypes in need of startups to enabling technologies that can be combined to create new concepts. More information about the “toolkit” can be found here. http://www.thegigcity.com/gigtank/toolkit/

·         Workspace: All participants will share workspace in the heart of downtown Chattanooga.

·         Mentors: GigTank is driven by mentors to help accelerate the process of bringing products to market. This year, participants will have access to industry experts from hundreds of companies around the world.

·         Demo Day: Startups will present on Demo Day to crowd of strategic corporations, VCs, angel investors, mentors and media. In 2012, Demo Day had over 500 in attendance. Top performing teams will be taken on a cross-country investment tour as well including Silicon Valley and New York City.

·         Funding: Accepted two person teams receive $10,000, plus another $5,000 if there are three or four founders. Individual specialists receive a $3,000 stipend for the whole summer. Teams can get access to additional prototyping capital from Alcatel Lucent, depending on the focus of the concept. These decisions are made independently by Alcatel Lucent. Promising concepts earn access to a pool of follow-on investment capital up to $150,000 per team.

For more information or to apply, interested entrepreneurs and teams can visit this site.

 We’re on a sneaker strapped nationwide startup road trip, can you help?

Startup Demo Day Month In Tennessee The Good, The Bad, The NSFW


August is just about over and “Demo Day Month” in the great state of Tennessee concluded last Thursday at JumpStart Foundry’s Demo Day in Nashville. It was a month that Vice President Gore should be proud of afterall nothing says innovation like inventing the internet.

Overall it was an impressive month for innovators in Tennessee. Tennessee has nine regional accelerators and groups like Launch Tennessee are paramount in keeping the statewide ecosystem flourishing and the accelerator leaders connected with each other.

“Demo Day Month” kicked off in Chattanooga Tennessee with the graduation of the GigTank. The GigTank was in its first year and actually included two simultaneous classes; entrepreneurs and students. The entrepreneurs group accelerated at Colab in downtown Chattanooga while the students accelerated at the Lamp Post Group’s offices. The classes came together on Thursday August 9th to show off their startups.

Out of all three demo days Chattanooga had the most pizzazz. They really did a great job of setting up a bunch of entrepreneurial networking events on Wednesday evening all over town. Thursday’s Demo Day event was one to be reckoned with, professional lighting, big signage, and a simulcast on the local PBS channel all helped set the stage for some great demos.

To top that off, unlike the other two demo days, Chattanooga’s GigTank featured a $100,000 cash prize for the top voted startup in the entrepreneur class (Banyan) and a $50,000 prize for the top student startup (Babel Sushi).

Chattanooga merged traditional southern hospitality with blazing fast internet. The blazing fast internet was the reason it was called “GigTank”. Chattanooga was the first city in the United States to offer 1 GB ethernet to the home and office within a 600 square mile area.

The bad: We found out late Wednesday night that the startups would actually pitch in front of the judges first thing Thursday morning and again on Thursday afternoon in front of the people. We went around in circles about it and I even spent some time with Colab Director Shelddon Grizzle, who had come up with the idea for the double pitching. Regardless of the reasoning I didn’t like it and once I knew it was happening it detracted from my view of the actual presentations.

The other downside to GigTank is that we saw a lot of slides, a lot of presentations and a lot of business plans. Unfortunately we didn’t see nearly enough working demo products. Also most of the startups said they would build scale organically and virally over the next year and make money in year two. This isn’t a practical path to scale in a market outside Silicon Valley or New York. I felt that go to market strategies needed improvement.

The NSFW: Check out this story about the first startup that presented at GigTank.

The following week we moved on to Memphis Tennessee and the Zeroto510 accelerator Demo Day. Zeroto510 is a cohort based accelerator based on medical devices. It’s a joint venture between Memphis Bioworks and Seed Hatchery.

The ZeroTo510 Demo Day was very academic in nature and top-notch professional. You could tell that all of the startups had worked extremely hard on their presentations. One of the biggest challenges that ZeroTo510 startups overcame was actually “dumbing” their presentations down so that the public and investors without medical backgrounds could understand. Luckily all of the startups were able to do that.

The startups that we really liked at ZeroTo510 Demo Day were Bionanovations and Restore Medical.

Restore Medical offers a new system for cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments. Their system is vital as we head into Obama Care in 2014 because it helps reduce cost, but more importantly it’s more effective in the sterilization process which will drive down hospital born infection numbers. This couldn’t come at a better time. In 2014 hospitals will need to publicize and keep down their hospital born infection numbers in order to get reimbursement on the millions of extra patients that will be seeking hospital care.

One of the biggest moments at ZeroTo510’s Demo Day was when onstage Restore Medical co-founder Shawn Flynn revealed on stage that they already had a $3.75 million dollar purchase order pending their 510k approval from the FDA.

BioNanovations is the first pre-culture bacterial infection diagnosis platform. There were some shocking facts about hospitals in co-founder and CEO Charleson Bell’s presentation that echo why we like this startup so much and why it will also be crucial going into 2014.

There was no NSFW in the Zeroto510 Demo Day however the bad was definitely Urova Medical. This wet behind the ears team of entrepreneurs had great technology and did a fair job of presenting they just didn’t have the same vigor that the rest of the startups had. They immediately left Memphis to go back home and it appeared that the young student founders of Urova simply participated in the program to get $50,000 for “summer camp”. Just calling it like I see it.

Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundry has had some practice at this. They’re definitely the veteran accelerator out of the bunch and it shows. Co-Founder and Managing Director Marcus Whitney is a serial entrepreneur himself. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day at JumpStart Foundry he is also a co-founder and the CTO of startup MoonToast a social media/network management platform with a top shelf list of clients.

The theme about Whitney was echoed over and over again throughout Jumpstart’s Demo Day, and that is he’s a pull no punches take no crap kind of guy. In fact, together with Solidus Partner and Jumpstart Foundry co-founder Vic Gatto, they ran such a tight program that three startups called it quits before demo day.

The venue for the Jumpstart Foundry demo day was great, it was open, and they did a great job with lighting and ambience. The presentations showed that the startups had been working hard on refining their message for the public and potential investors. All of the presenters did a great job of talking more and relying on slides less. When slides went up on the screen they were very graphic and very easy to understand.

The entire class had great presentations. Whitney and Baker Donelson Emerging Technologies Lead Chris Sloan (also a mentor at JSF) both agreed that the most improved startup was PhotoRankr. Sloan and Whitney both commented that if any startup in this years JSF class showed what an accelerator does it was PhotoRankr.

PhotoRankr definitely topped our list of favorites at the JumpStart Foundry Demo Day. We also really liked The Skillery and their off-line workshops platform that empowers small business owners to teach classes on subjects they actually know and love.

We can’t report on JSF Demo Day without mentioning EverMind either. EverMind is a consumer monitoring system for the elderly. It works as easily as installing a “Clapper” you simply take the plug-in modules to your elderly loved ones home and hook them up to the coffee maker, television, lamp, toaster or other small electronics and it monitors their daily routine. When your loved one deviates from the routine you’re notified and you can check on them. The system gives them independence and piece of mind. It helps that it was also founded by a group of folks from Griffin Technologies, a Nashville company that makes some of the most widely known iPhone, iPad and Android accessories.

As for the NSFW, it wasn’t really NSFW it was more just ugly. The startup we liked the least at JSF was by a landslide KiWi, first off there are hundreds of other short form video services out there, can anyone say SocialCam. But the thing that drove us to even point this out was that at the end of the micromachine-man-esque presentation the founder of Kiwi actually said he would look for term sheets in Nashville for 30 days and then go somewhere else. Seemed like an F-U to the hard work that Whitney, Gatto and the entire crew at Jumpstart Foundry Demo Day put on.

It was also great that folks from Memphis like Biowork’s Allan Daisley and a>m ventures Patrick Woods were right there with us at all three demo days to support Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville as parts of a whole “Tennessee”, the Nashville guys.. not so much.


More Demo Day Coverage Here

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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.


Visit the SimCenter website here

More Chattanoga coverage on nibletz.com here

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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

Here’s more of our GigTank coverage

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