published Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Chattanooga startups jump into 'Gig Tank'

Andrew Abumoussa, left, speaks to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as the senator meets with GIg Tank teams Wednesday at CO.LAB. in downtown Chattanooga.
Andrew Abumoussa, left, speaks to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as the senator meets with GIg Tank teams Wednesday at CO.LAB. in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by Dan Henry.
GIG TANK TEAMS

• Ariagora helps independent musicians connect directly with fans in new and profitable ways.

• BioStash is an efficient system for collaborative research. By providing a modern user interface and integrating productivity tools, BioStash plans to remove information roadblocks for today's researchers.

• Corpora uses Twitter status updates and other public data to determine the health of social media users by geography, providing insights into the spread of illness and quantifying the effect of previously elusive factors on public health.

• HD Fantasy Football uses live HD video to personalize and increase social interaction in the fantasy football experience.

• Iron Gamer is building a new social gaming experience through live competitive events and interactive streaming content.

• Silver Communities facilitates remote medical services for the elderly and provides other social and health-related software.

• ThruView produces video-focused mobile apps for public safety professionals and dispatchers, enhancing the benefits of emergency services for the public.

• TourRaiser is a marketplace for music artists and venues powered by votes from music fans.

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More than 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars after Chattanooga started its high-speed Internet initiative, the city is moving towards the dream of becoming a tech start-up Mecca.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who championed high-speed Internet service as Chattanooga's mayor from 2001 to 2005, said Wednesday the city is seeing the first of many fruits from its long-term investment.

Eight new companies from around the globe relocated to Chattanooga for a summer-long competition to develop the best use of the city's unrivaled gigabit-per-second Internet connection speeds.

"The publicity, the awareness that Chattanooga is a place that's friendly to talented entrepreneurs, you never know what opportunities that will create down the road," Corker said after meeting with the "Gig Tank" teams.. "I think the best is yet to come."

Years ago, young entrepreneurs would get an education in the Chattanooga area then leave with their expertise, Corker said.

But that's changed. Two Gig Tank teams are from Chattanooga,

"Thing's like this Gig City really turn that around," he said. "These things turn up in ways you can never imagine."

But the Scenic City still has a long way to go before it could be the next Silicon Valley, according to local entrepreneurship leaders. Chattanooga is headed down that path, but has yet to fully realize what it means to be an entrepreneur city.

Local investors can be difficult to come by. When they do connect with start-ups, they can be particularly risk-avers.

"There's not a strong acceptance of risk and failure here," said Sheldon Grizzle, founder of Gig Tank host and business accelerator CO.LAB. "The more people that get exposed to it, it's going to continue to increase the acceptance."

CO.LAB's work helping people develop their businesses continues through the Gig City competition and will keep going after the competition ends in 70 days. Grizzle hopes he'll also be able to continue with another Gig-Tank-like competition next year, but that could be dependent on investors.

"They need to see it's a good enough program to put more money in," he said. "We hope there's a round two, but it's not a given at this point."

Sharyn Moreland hopes to see the programs continue. The director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Chattanooga expects some of the competition's teams would make great candidates for her program,

"It's wonderful because it's just really exciting and stirs up a lot of creative juices," she said. "It's a way to help us really take advantage of that."

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