published Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Chattanooga's GigTank 2013 in the works

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    Aaron Welch, chief executive officer for Iron Gamer, delivers his pitch to the crowd and the judges during the GigTank Demo Day in August.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Calling Chattanooga's first GigTank competition "a grand slam," backers of the broadband-based business contest are organizing a replay.

GigTank 2013 is in the works, said Charlie Brock, executive director of The Co.Lab.

"We're trying to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem," he said at the Spirit of Innovation Award luncheon Tuesday. "Chattanooga can be right at the top."

Brock said that Tampa, Fla.-based startup Banyan, which won the first GigTank competition this summer, is moving to Chattanooga in two weeks.

"They benefited from the bandwidth provided by the EPB fiber network," he said. "The CEO said, 'It has taken us weeks ... to accomplish what we could do in days in Chattanooga.'"

Brock said Banyan, which offers a cloud-based collaborative research system, has raised $450,000 in funding, including investments from the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund and Silicon Valley investors.

Jack Studer, a founding partner at The Lamp Post Group, said GigTank 2013 will be bigger and better with details coming in the next several weeks.

"This program on the tech scene nationally quickly catapulted Chattanooga and got us a level of legitimacy," he said.

In this year's GigTank contest, 150 applications from entrepreneurs and students were received. Eight teams and 11 students came to the city and worked on their ideas and built business plans, Brock said.

Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, told the 750 people at the luncheon that Chattanooga should become a center for electrical smart grid technology, such as that developed by EPB.

All the vendors in the industry could come to Chattanooga and learn how to build smart grids, he said.

Taplin cited a map of Silicon Valley and its array of startups and innovative companies.

With what's happening in Chattanooga, there's no reason this region couldn't do something similar on a smaller basis, he said.

"There's absolutely no reason that this place can't be a similar, maybe smaller, but at least regional center of innovation," Taplin said.

In the end, the Chattanooga area could become the world's leader in energy technology in the smart grid and in information technology and broadband infrastructure, he said.

Ron Harr, the Chamber's chief executive, said Chattanooga is "at the center of so many things" and he cited the city's spirit of brain power.

"Innovation requires a certain type of vision," he said. "Our best days are ahead."

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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