Chattanooga Startup Event Leverages Gig-Speed Internet

Products that the 14 teams are building speak to a question at the heart of GigTank, the event that's bringing them to Gig City: If you had a Gig, what would you do with it?

by Mitra Malek, Chattanooga Times / May 12, 2015
Chattanooga, Tenn. Flickr/Brent Moore

(TNS) -- Startups from across the country and as far as England will be in Chattanooga, Tenn., this summer, innovating on big data, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and more.

Products that the 14 teams are building speak to a question at the heart of GigTank, the event that's bringing them to Gig City: If you had a Gig, what would you do with it?

"We went back to the roots: What are applications that leverage Gigabit speed or would need it to scale?" said Mike Bradshaw, executive director of Co.Lab, which runs GigTank.

Indeed, when GigTank launched in 2012, all of the nation didn't have the Gig-speed Internet that Chattanooga's EPB had. That has changed with the impending rollout of Google Fiber and Comcast's announcement it plans to bring Internet speeds of 2 gigabits per second to U.S. cities, including Chattanooga.

"That significantly de-risks startup ventures in the space," Bradshaw said.

GigTank leaders selected the teams after a very targeted search. Scouting included conversations with accelerators, investors, corporate partners, local stakeholders and angel networks, said Alex Lavidge, director of GigTank 2015. Lavidge also made a trip to the country's Northeast and two to California to recruit companies.

"There was a very conscious effort that the teams we brought in were in line with what all the involved parties were interested in," Lavidge said. Many of GigTank's teams are developing products that complement each other, he said.

Some of the companies this year are well beyond initial funding, which has not been the case in past GigTanks. For example, Engajer already has raised $1 million, Lavidge said. "They want to take it to the next level. We're not focused on the typical seed-stage capital this year."

Also different this year, GigTank has partnered with big corporations and organizations including Alcatel-Lucent, EPB, HomeServe USA, Kenco, Mozilla, Verizon Wireless, UPS Connect and US Ignite. Partners have agreed to make their market access and industry expertise available to the startups.

Only one Chattanooga startup made the cut this year: Adagio. Founder Jonathan Susman won Co.Lab's 48 Hour Launch last year with a pitch for his startup, which describes itself as a mobile application that brings a sound-recording studio to any device using Web technologies and the cloud.

Also, Branch Technology plans to relocate from Huntsville, Ala., to Chattanooga, Bradshaw said.

The GigTank-UTC Fellowship Team also is participating this year.

GigTank has launched several notable startups, among them GridCure and Feetz.

GridCure advanced to 500 Startups, a seed-fund and accelerator program based in Silicon Valley.

Feetz recently secured $1.25 million from Khosla Ventures and was a finalist in the South by Southwest SXSW accelerator competition in Austin, Texas, in March.

This year's program started May 4 and lasts through Aug. 14. Participants get free housing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, May 25 to July 31.

©2015 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.