Hundreds turned out Tuesday to hear what was behind the startups of The Company Lab's summer accelerator program, GigTank, and what it will take to move them forward.
Demo Day, at Chattanooga's Girls Preparatory School, was a showcase in innovation from teams across the nation, along with a couple from other countries.
Branch Technology, which recently moved its operations from Alabama to Chattanooga, won the "Investor's Choice Award." Wisconsin startup Paradrop won the "People's Choice Award."
Demo Day and its awards are the zenith of GigTank, but many of the startups' greatest accomplishments during the program's eight weeks occurred before the event. Among them, according to Co.Lab:
* bluField received an investment of an undisclosed amount from Bohan Advertising.
* Paradrop got a $150,000 federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.
* Performatix Innovations closed a deal with Kenco.
* PlanIT Impact closed a deal with Kansas City.
This year's GigTank, the program's fourth, focused on partnerships with big corporations and organizations including Alcatel-Lucent, Kenco, Mozilla, Verizon Wireless and UPS Connect, to help the startups better leverage resources.
Also, unlike past years, only one startup in the program — out of 14 — was from Chattanooga: Adiago. And some, including Engajer, of Menlo Park, Calif., were far beyond initial funding.
Branch Technology, which brought the world's largest freestanding 3-D printer to Chattanooga, wooed the crowd with its robotic arm capable of building large-scale digital pre-fabrication of exterior walls.
The company expects to be profitable in one year to 18 months, with $6.4 million of annual revenue projected, CEO Platt Boyd said.
Paradrop, the other winner, is creating technology for smarter routers.
Gig Tank started in late May and wraps this week. All participants received free housing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Co.Lab, a nonprofit organization that receives some government funding, provides dozens of resources - from its floor space to mentors - to the startups.
This year, Co.Lab brought on Alex Lavidge, formerly of Chattanooga's Variable, to head the program. Lavidge recruited many of the teams. Lavidge and Co.Lab's director Mike Bradshaw, had originally intended to have about half a dozen startups go through GigTank, but the pool was so good, they ended up taking on more, they said earlier in program.
All of the startups are looking for funding, from just $85,000 (Matter Cafe, which is in its pilot phase) to $3 million (Engajer, which already has raised $1.5 million and has major corporate clients).
The startups this year tackled improving water efficiency (The Ark Labs), music education (Adiago), non-linear video and analytics (Engajer) and interconnected beacon networks (bluField), among other subjects.
Digital "media futurist" Robert Tercek, a former Sony and MTV executive who was the keynote speaker at the Tuesday night GigTank presentation, gave a nod to Chattanooga, commenting on the mural outside Woople's offices in the North Shore that pays homage to innovators such as Nikola Tesla and Steve Jobs.
"I'm right at home," said Tercek, who lives in California. "It's not Gig City. It's Geek City."
Contact Mitra Malek at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.