Startup talent is coming to Chattanooga to offer critique, help

Startup talent is coming to Chattanooga to offer critique, help

August 26th, 2014 by Mitra Malek in Business Around the Region

Samantha Bautista shakes Joda Thongnopnua's, the director of communications a WayPaver, hand while being recognized for winning the design contest for WayPaver during the PowerIt Up awards ceremony at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

A critique is coming, one that spans Chattanooga's startups and the investors, accelerators and incubators that help them along.

The authors will be 10 people from around the nation who have "contributed something innovative to their field," according to WayPaver, the recruitment arm of Chattanooga venture capital firm Lamp Post Group.

They also will ideally be "people who spend their days thinking of startups and technology," said Joda Thongnopnua, WayPaver's communications director.

In looser terms, they will be 10 people "doing cool stuff, who wouldn't have otherwise come here," he said.

The application deadline to be considered for the "Innovation Delegation" is Sept. 15.

Those chosen will head to Gig City, Oct. 6-10. WayPaver will pay for their flights, put them up in hotels and cover their daily expenses. So far, WayPaver has about 30 applications. It hopes to wind up with at least 100.

In a nutshell, the selected 10 will spend the week talking shop with startups, venture incubators, accelerators, community leaders and investors. Then the touring talent will analyze what they see and hear to present it to the startup community and local leaders.

"They're bringing fresh perspectives to Chattanooga," Thongnopnua said.

The goal, and it's one that's most certainly been talked about before, is to make Chattanooga the tech hub of the Southeast.

"What is the infrastructure we need to compete in the major leagues?" he said. And what else does the city need to keep smart and enterprising people launching companies here?

"We're in that in-between space," Thongnopnua said. Gig City has had, and still has, a good number of successful tech startups, but "how do you scale up that talent without forcing all of those companies to move to Silicon Valley?" Thongnopnua said.

The Innovation Delegation, WayPaver hopes, will help answer that.

Potential delegates can apply at Nominations for delegates are also being accepted.

Innovation Delegation takes place during the same timeframe as Startup Week Chattanooga, an event that showcases the city's startup community in ways that entrepreneurs can learn from each other.

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at or 423-757-6406.