Top startups: Jonathan Susman wins 48Hour Launch with Adagio mobile app

photo Jonathan Susman presents his startup, Adagio, at Company Lab's 48Hour Public Demo Night on Sunday at Church on Main. Susman's startup, which received first place, pushes to give teachers and students an innovative way to teach and learn music.

THE WINNERSFIRST: Adagio, Jonathan Susman: An online mixing application that allows music educators and students to collaborate remotely. Based on code developed by the UTC Computer Science Department, this engaging software revolutionizes the way instructors manage curriculum and offers a new mechanism for improving student performance and compositional skills. Using Adagio, music students at every level of expertise can connect with instructors online, access curriculum, record practice sessions, receive instructor feedback and share their performances via social networks. To bring this resource to local musicians, Adagio is partnering with the Chattanooga Public Library and Barger Elementary School to establish a creative music lab on the second floor of the downtown library, which will serve as a testing ground and demo site for the application.SECOND: AccessU, Jean-Marie Lawrence: A nonprofit that connects high school juniors and seniors with physical disabilities to colleges that are best able to meet their needs. The startup venture will focus on the whole student, taking into account the individual's academic, social and physical needs, Lawrence said. Access-U makes information about relevant post-secondary education resources more readily available to students with physical disabilities, allowing them to search for the best options more conveniently.THIRD: 36 University, Kendall Shipley: A research-based ACT prep provider that helps students translate success in the classroom to success on the test. The company offers a full ACT training program online, using short, infographic-oriented videos to teach ACT- specific curriculum. Designed to be accessible to students from all backgrounds and geographies, the program is available online at for only $10 a month.OTHER PARTICIPANTSEduity, Greg Laudeman: An open social learning platform that connects individuals with organizations that need capable employees.Evcite, Trey Joyners: Application and website tools for teachers and students that prepare them for the future Common Core standards and assessments.U.S. Code Corps, Lisa Richardson: A hacker school and co-working community dedicated to empowering unemployed veterans by teaching them computer knowledge and skills to become self-sufficient, while addressing homelessness and other dibilitating issues.Internchips, Tekelia Kelly: A website and database designed to connect high school students with business leaders in order to funnel talented students into career-oriented internships and fill jobs with local talent.EdQ, Lakweshia Ewing: An interactive app designed to serve as a one-stop shop for all things educational in the Hamilton County area.Source: The Company Lab

photo Kendall Shipley responds to questions from judges about his startup, 36 University, at Co. Lab's 48Hour Public Demo Night on Sunday. Shipley's startup aims to better prepare students for the ACT through motion videos and quizzes. He won third place.

Jonathan Susman, brain behind Adagio, a mobile application positioned to turn music education on its head, was taker of first place at this year's 48Hour Launch, the weekend-long startup incubator hosted by The Company Lab.

Jean-Marie Lawrence came in second with AccessU, a mobile application to assist high school students with disabilities in scouting out and finding colleges and universities that are most accessible to them.

Kendall Shipley came in third with 36 University, an online ACT preparation program that helps high school students better prepare for the college admissions test by telling them what to expect, how to expect it and how often it will probably appear.

"This has been an amazing experience," Susman said. "I'm ecstatic. I'm too excited to even talk."

"There was no doubt in my mind he was going to win," said Bijan Dhanani, Susman's mentor over the weekend and a past 48Hour Launch winner himself.

First place fetched a handsome price package including $2,000 cash, 500 Amazon Web Service credits and a boatload of technical, branding, marketing and legal counseling services, compliments of area firms.

But the winnings are not limited to what's gained at the end, said Shipley.

"The exposure that we got here, we wouldn't have gotten that otherwise" he said.

Echoing the award of simply participating was Lawrence.

"It was well worth the lack of sleep," she said. "We've come so far in two days. Leaps and bounds."

Gig city on a hill

Mike Bradshaw, executive director of The Company Lab, said he wasn't sure he still had it in him to do these weekend-long launches.

But there's maybe more reason now than ever to be re-energized about Chattanooga's presence in the startup community.

At this year's 48Hour Launch, a firm from Atlanta came up to participate. That's Atlanta, with a metro population of nearly 5.5 million and a plethora of small business incubators. And still, Chattanooga fished one of the Big Peach's own away.

"Isn't it beautiful?" said Bradshaw.

Size is part of the reason he believes Chattanooga is in some cases a more attractive location for startups.

"Being a smaller city actually provides, in some cases, better opportunities, because you have a better chance to get noticed," he said.

Chattanooga itself has managed to get noticed along the way, too.

Over the 48Hour Launch weekend, Antonio Montoya, founder of Rocket Hatch, a Huntsville, Ala. startup incubator, hung out at Co.Lab and watched the wheels turn, as he seeks to get ideas and inspiration to take home and implement.

Montoya said Friday night that the sense of community manifested at Co.Lab's 48Hour Launch was the thing that struck him most.

"Everyone wants to talk about having a cool space," he said, "and yes this is very cool. But it's this sense of community that you see here. That's what it's really all about."

Rocket Hatch is in his mind a young incubator positioned in a city strategic to Chattanooga.

"You have Nashville, Chattanooga and Huntsville: that's a nice little triangle," said Montoya.

Back to work

For Montoya and Bradshaw it's an exciting time to be in the startup world, as the Internet increasingly lends entrepreneurs the chance to form a serious, profitable business.

And it's exciting for thos entrepreneurs, who like Susman, Lawrence and Shipley, are grasping that potential and using it.

But all the talk about such opportunities and the adrenaline from the weekend's competition must carry over into this week - and weeks and months going forward - if it's to really mean anything, for the incubators and the startups alike.

"I know I've got to take some time off this week, but it's not going to be tomorrow," said Tia Capps, Co.Lab's communications director, Sunday night. "Tomorrow, I have to jump right back in and work on another deadline. Maybe Friday I'll take off."

photo Jean-Marie Lawrence speaks about her startup, AccessU, at Co.Lab's 48Hour Public Demo Night on Sunday. AccessU aims to give disabled students more access on college campuses. She won second place.

Lawrence meanwhile is taking AccessU to prospective clients and rounding up support this week. She met with potential clients as early as Monday - less than 24 hours after Sunday night's closing ceremony.

Shipley on Sunday said this week he is "going to download everything I've learned" and start implenting all the tips, tricks and advice he picked up during 48Hour Launch.

Susman was cautioned during his final pitch to judges that with an idea like his, in a music education market currently without anything like it, he better get to work quick capitalizing on Adagio.

No problem, he said. He wants very soon to take the application all over the country. Which means there's a lot of work to do.

"Right now, .5 percent of the work has been done," said his weekend mentor Dhanani on Sunday.

Susman, Lawrence and Shipley were all aware of that Sunday night, despite operating on only a few hours' sleep. They all reflected what Susman said when asked what he'd be doing come Monday morning.

"I'm going back to work," he said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.

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