Chattanooga becoming a growing place for business

Chattanooga becoming a growing place for business

March 27th, 2015 by Mitra Malek in FYI - 2015

Matt McLellend with Kenco Management Services looks at items made with a 3D printer during a luncheon hosted by the Chattanooga Technology Council at the Business Development Center in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Big and small business builders alike can take a stab at building a company in Chattanooga and find the support they need to do it.

The hub, especially for tech-inclined entrepreneurs: The Company Lab. Co.Lab's accelerator programs, particularly GigTank, most recently have launched Feetz, 3-D Ops and GridCure, to name a few. Go back more than a year, and Will This Float gave a push to Granola, SupplyHog, RootRated and Variable.

Co.Lab and its related development program Co.Starters offer first-stage practical help for aspiring entrepreneurs to figure out how to turn their idea into a business -- or that they shouldn't start it at all. Then the nonprofit organization offers the solid footing that helps startup founders find their way: mentorship, experts and technical help. All of that leaves room for possibility.

Jeff Hubrig makes a pitch for Innovasan Corporation during the Will This Float event at the library.

Jeff Hubrig makes a pitch for Innovasan Corporation...

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Connect with resources

* Launch Chattanooga: launchchattanooga.org
* Co.Lab: colab.co
* Co.Starters: costarters.co

"Nobody really knows what's going to happen: the killer app, for example. Nobody saw Twitter coming, Facebook coming," says Co.Lab Executive Director Mike Bradshaw. "Unless you can get thousands of restless innovative geniuses to pursue what most would think are outlandish solutions, innovation isn't going to happen."

On a smaller scale, the one-person business perhaps, Launch Chattanooga provides resources and has adopted Co.Starters' business development program.

After lift-off, startups can spend up to three years developing -- getting help with business necessities like accounting, for example -- at Chattanooga's business incubator. The INCubator is one of the country's largest both in square footage and the number of companies it helps. It doesn't cater exclusively to budding tech outfits, but nearly half of its roughly 70 startups are tech-related.

When it comes to funding, venture capital firms such as Chattanooga Renaissance Fund and The Jump Fund have put money into local startups. SwiftWing Ventures launched onto the seed-money scene last year, founded by Woople CEO Paul Cummings, former CBL executive John Foy and Wealth Preservation Advisors president Todd Phillips.

Spartan Ventures has helped startups on the technical end (My Manny's website, for example). And the Lamp Post Group, which Access America founders created, does it all -- from back-office help to funding -- for a portfolio of about a dozen startups: Bellhops, Fancy Rhino, PriceWaiter. Speaking of Bellhops, the tech-enabled national moving company locked down more than $6 million in venture capital from the East and West coasts in 2014.

And for yet others, Chattanooga offers fertile soil to do it on your own. Temperate, the eco-clothing line, has done just that. Founder Ongeleigh Underwood in 2014 launched the brand, whose clothes are made entirely in Chattanooga. Granola is another local line, founded by brothers Kelsey and Connor Scott. Their backpacks and climbing chalk bags are all sewn in town and can be found throughout the country. Luwazo launched in Chattanooga, and its outdoor goods are made in the USA.

All that startup verve can now tie into, or at least rely on, the newly established Innovation District, like a central-nervous system. Co.Lab is scheduled to move into the downtown location, the Edney Building, this spring. Spearheaded by the Enterprise Center, one of the city's nonprofit partners, the Innovation District was the brainchild of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, though cities elsewhere in the nation (Boston, for one) already boast their own.

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at mmalek@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.