GIG TANK ASKS
• Mira - $500,000
• HutGrip - $500,000
• FwdHealth - $400,000
• Sisasa - $500,000
• Tidbit - $300,000
• Sensevery - unspecified
• WeCounsel - unspecified
Source: Gig Tank Demo Day
Tony Lettich walked into Gig Tank's Demo Day ready to invest as much as $250,000.
And he walked out impressed.
"It looks to me like they've taken it a step up," said the managing director at The Angel Roundtable, which invests in early stage companies in the Southeast. "My impression is that most of the teams here are on the level of the winners last year."
One by one, teams from the second year of Co.Lab's business accelerator took the stage Tuesday at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre and tried to convince Lettich - and the almost 100 other investors like him - to pony up the money.
Sisasa, a mobile banking application aimed at young people, asked for $500,000. Tidbit, an application that allows users to create and share corporate training, asked for $300,000. Hut Grip, a cloud-based system to monitor manufacturing processes, asked for $500,000.
But unlike last year's Demo Day, this year the presentations didn't end with a winner and an oversized check. Instead, the young entrepreneurs gathered in tight circles and one-on-one discussions with investors in the lobby after the pitches.
Lettich said the startups would need to go through a screening process with The Angel Roundtable before he commits any money. He thought the daylong event was one of the strongest in the Southeast, but he added that there's a different standard in larger markets.
"You have a different tier in Boston or Silicon Valley," he said. "But I think this would fit in and not be overshadowed there."
The Gig Tank aims to foster startups that use Chattanooga's gigabit-per-second Internet speed, and a slew of tech-world big wigs attended Tuesday's event. Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, gave a 45-minute on-stage interview and discussed the challenges The Scenic City faces as local leaders try to ramp up entrepreneurial efforts in the first U.S. city to boast communitywide Gig speed, which is nearly 200 times faster than most broadband service.
"You'll find the people being innovated upon do not take it well," Metcalfe said. "They're the status quo. They're in position, they're powerful and they fight like mad. And mostly the status quo is right. Most new ideas are bad ideas. But if you have an idea, you have to be a weed you have to grow despite the status quo, and if you're right, eventually you'll win."
At least one of the Gig Tank startups, FwdHealth, is ready for that long-term fight, communications director Max Rava said. He's moving from Washington, D.C. to Chattanooga in order to grow the FwdHealth, an app that aggregates other wellness apps into one interface and provides workforce fitness data to employers, insurers and physicians. The app went live Tuesday morning.
"We're all in," he said. "We're committed. This is just the first stage."
And FwdHealth isn't the only startup looking to keep operations in Chattanooga. WeCounsel, an online platform that allows virtual counseling sessions, was founded by Chattanoogans and the team plans to stay local. Hut Grip founder Bogdana Rakova is from Bulgaria, but will to stay in Chattanooga until her visa runs out, and hopes to keep the Scenic City as the home of the company's U.S. headquarters in the future.
Much of Tuesday's event was dedicated to looking at the potential of Chattanooga's gigabit-per-second Internet and reviewing what the city has done so far. During a 20-minute performance, a dancer in the Chattanooga Public Library and a dancer across town in the Theatre Centre performed and interacted with each other via a live video stream made possible by the gig. Organizers pointed out that similar techniques could be used to allow doctors to work remotely.
Bill Wallace, CEO at U.S. Ignite, a non-profit kickstarted by a White House initiative that focuses on ultra-high speed broadband applications, said Chattanooga is well-positioned to grow from the gig.
"I think you're running circles around Silicon Valley in the level of collaboration I see here in Chattanooga," he said, adding later, "You've taken the long-term view."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6525.