Chattanooga's 48-hour launch propels business ideas

Chattanooga's 48-hour launch propels business ideas

November 14th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in News

The audience listens to presentations at the demo night for 48Hour Launch Chattanooga, where hopeful entrepreneurs gave pitches for their business idea Sunday night at Track 29.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


• The Un-Foundation: Micro-grant foundation

• Slawsa: A local combination of slaw and salsa

• Job Ninja: A student-focused jobs website

Source: The Company Lab

Chattanooga's 48-hour launch propelled moneymaking ideas from concept to creation over the weekend, culminating in two dozen pitches at downtown's Track 29 venue as a crowd of more than 100 tweeted their approval.

Dreamers, developers and local investors spent two sleepless nights hammering out the next big thing, borrowing ideas and talent from each other as the sun rose and set.

Bullpens of 20-somethings toiled in shifts at the offices of CreateHere on Main Street, the eerie white glow of their laptops providing most of the light in the whiteboard-lined rooms.

It wasn't only a race against time, it was a coffee- and beer-fueled rush to beat the team at the next table for a shot at $10,000 in cash and business services.

"There's nothing like an idea and beer to energize you," said City Councilman Andraé McGary, whose wardrobe evolved from a pressed suit on day one to a white sweatshirt at Sunday's final presentation.

McGary's concept of an online open-budget app received a helping hand from local programmers, designers and social media experts, who coded his project into existence overnight.

In fact, free labor is one of the main draws for the event, where geeks come to play at the character- and resume-building experience.

"It's contagious," McGary said of his group's persistent enthusiasm.

But the real test of an idea's potential to make money is whether it interests customers or draws investors, who showed up in droves.

Successful entrepreneurs lined up to play "sharks" in an mid-weekend "shark tank" investor pitch, shooting feedback at willing victims.

The sharks and the sleep deprivation led to dropouts as a few concepts became unworkable, while other entrepreneurs changed direction completely.

Game developer Hoyt Jolley changed his product on Saturday from a Sim City-type video game to a decision-making simulation that he plans to market to municipalities for planning purposes.

Bijan Dhanani's "Awesome Foundation" transformed overnight from a fuzzy idea about micro-grants to a legitimate foundation with more than $36,000 in funding and a dozen trustees under its new name, the Un-Foundation.

The ideas evolved so quickly that after Jeremy Dooley introduced his Chatype font, McGary used it in his presentation a few minutes later.

Even the event's location changed at the last minute, when city fire officials gave a thumbs down to the original site at BaseCamp Chattanooga, said Enoch Elwell, tech guru at event-sponsor The Company Lab.

"We were pretty much on the street looking for a place to stay," Elwell said. "It's been a community effort in every way."