published Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Vaughn: Entrepreneurship week: Celebrating Chattanooga start-ups

By Roy Vaughn

Every year, people across the world recognize Global Entrepreneurship Week, a week-long celebration of entrepreneurship started by the Kauffman Foundation. We have a lot to celebrate this year, as it has been a great year for Chattanooga entrepreneurs.

Seven start-ups graduated in August from our nationally renowned GigTank accelerator program. We had the pleasure of meeting these teams in July as they pitched their businesses to our executive team. A few weeks later, some of these companies, as well as other Chattanooga start-ups, pitched to a large crowd at the first-ever statewide demo day, which was organized by Launch Tennessee.

At the statewide demo day, two Chattanooga companies, HATponics and HutGrip, were chosen for The TENN, Launch Tennessee's new master accelerator program. HATponics produces solar powered, scalable, self-contained and portable aquaponics farms in shipping containers. HutGrip is a cloud-based software that lets manufacturers better control, manage and optimize their production processes. HutGrip graduated from the 2013 GigTank program while HATponics is a graduate of Chattanooga's startup accelerator, CO.LAB.

In September, I had the chance to meet the founders of these local start-ups during The TENN Roadshow, which stopped at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee during a week-long bus tour that put The TENN entrepreneurs in front of senior executives at several of Tennessee's largest companies.

BlueCross recognizes the need to give back and participate in the local startup community. As a large organization, we have resources and knowledge we can share with companies like HATponics, HutGrip and others. We were happy to participate because we at BCBS recognize the importance of supporting innovation for current and future entrepreneurs. We have to foster the growth of these individuals and celebrate all the entrepreneurial efforts happening in our own backyard. This week is a perfect way to do just that.

More than 115 countries, 24,000 organizations and 7 million people participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week events. Tennessee led the country in 2012 for the number of events. Our great state has many great events occurring to make 2013 bigger and better. Right here in Chattanooga, we have the pitch competition "Will This Float?" hosted by CO.LAB. There's also a SBIR/STTR workshop at UTC that helps provide resources for entrepreneurs looking to take their technology to market.

I'm excited to see what events are held in Chattanooga and across the state as Tennessee participates in Global Entrepreneurship Week. BlueCross plans to continue its involvement in the local startup scene. By interacting with our local startups, we're exposing ourselves to new ideas and helping to grow Tennessee's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Roy Vaughn is the Vice President, Corporate Communications at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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