Photo Gallery

2019 Spirit of Innovation Awards

Two very different companies took home Spirit of Innovation awards on Wednesday night after judges couldn't choose between the two contenders.

FreightWaves and Chattanooga Whiskey are both shaking things up in their industries and in the community where they were born, said Dan Gilmore, Spirit of Innovation Award committee chairman for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

"They both exemplify the true spirit of innovation this award recognizes and celebrates," he said.

some text
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller speaks after being named a Spirit of Innovation award winner during the annual awards ceremony at The Signal on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. FreightWaves, along with Chattanooga Whiskey, were named the winners.

In accepting the award, FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller used a colorful expletive to challenge the notion that Chattanooga doesn't have the technical workforce to build and sustain a fast-growing technology company. FreightWaves' proprietary technology platform, SONAR, gives users insights into freight markets through timely data analyt­ics.

"There is enough talent in this community," said Fuller, who launched the company in 2016. "It's an honor to be based in Chattanooga. We're going to stay in this community for the next couple of decades."

Tim Piersant, founder and CEO of Chattanooga Whiskey, thanked the city that helped launch the upstart spirits business in 2011 — and toppled Prohibition-era distilling restrictions in the process.

some text
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga Whiskey founder and CEO Tim Piersant speaks after being named a Spirit of Innovation award winner during the annual awards ceremony at The Signal on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Chattanooga Whiskey, along with FreightWaves, were named the winners.

"Chattanooga Whiskey was truly built by the community. It exemplifies the power of what a community can do in so many ways," Piersant said. "One hundred percent of the dollars that built Chattanooga Whiskey came from Chattanooga."

There was another tie when the time came to give the Early Innovator award, presented by the Chattanooga Technology Council. EIR Systems' electronic prescription platform uses blockchain technology to allow health care providers to track prescriptions in a secure, easy-to-use web interface.

The other winner, eLab Repairs, specializes in installing and repairing digital fabrication equipment. The company developed eLab Rx, a plug-in device and subscription service that enables owners of digital fabrication equipment to diagnose and repair their own equipment.

The awards

Spirit of Innovation Award
* Chattanooga Whiskey
* FreightWaves

ChaTech Early Innovators Award
* EIR Systems
* eLAB Repairs

Educator Innovator Award
* 4D Collaborative, Shannon Seigle, STEM School

The Education Innovator Award was presented by Chattanooga 2.0 to 4D Collaborative, implemented by Shannon Seigle at the STEM School. 4D Collaborative involves student-created virtual experiences that require students to show content mastery through coding and 3D design.

"These are ideas that have originated in our region and have the potential to inspire people and drive change," said event host and CO.LAB CEO Marcus Shaw.

Contact Mary Fortune at or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.