With a slate of more than 80 events over five days, the 2021 edition of Startup Week includes some longstanding traditions as well as some new additions, and a mix of in-person and virtual offerings to allow for a persistent pandemic.
"I think of us as the stewards of Startup Week," said Lindsey Cox, who took the helm at nonprofit small-business booster CO.LAB in April. "It's a community-led, community- sourced event, and that will always be the same."
Annual mainstays will return during entrepreneurial showcase and networking week Oct. 18-22, including the Startup Awards, the Will This Float pitch competition and the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Idea Leap pitch competition.
"At the Will This Float annual pitch competition, we have 10 amazing teams and companies and ideas that will present at that event this year," Cox said. In addition, the TVFCU competition will award $50,000 in grants to winning teams, she said.
New offerings during Startup Week include a job fair and a focus on outdoor settings that will help keep people spaced out in a nod to the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are trying to push as many of these big events as possible outdoors," Cox said. "That has us really leveraging Waterhouse Pavilion and Coopers Alley and the stage at Miller Park."
Another new Startup Week event is a reverse pitch competition to help the city of Chattanooga find solutions to its ongoing challenge of recycling waste. City officials are eager to find ways to improve the city's recycling processes to make them more efficient and effective, including working with entrepreneurs for innovative solutions.
Last October, the 2020 edition of Startup Week was all online, but the CO.LAB team — which is almost entirely new this year — wanted to avoid that approach if at all possible, Cox said.
Startup Week signature events
See the full schedule at colab.co/startupweekcha
Monday, Oct. 18
Will This Float pitch competition: 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Waterhouse Pavilion
Tuesday, Oct. 19
Sustainability and Recycling pitch and pilot competition: Noon-1:30 p.m. at Waterhouse Pavilion
TVFCU Idea Leap pitch competition: 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Bessie Smith Cultural Center
Wednesday, Oct. 20
Job Fair: Noon-4 p.m. at Waterhouse Pavilion
Maker’s Marketplace: 5-7 p.m. at Waterhouse Pavilion
Thursday, Oct. 21
The Startup Social and Startup Awards: 6-9 p.m. at Finley Stadium
"We do have a handful of virtual events, and we tried to be flexible, but we didn't want to eliminate an event or push events to just virtual," she said.
In addition to pitch competitions and other signature events, the week includes a host of panels and more casual activities, from goat yoga and happy hours to one-on-one coaching for minority business owners. The events are free, though some require registration to manage capacity.
Begun in 2014, Chattanooga's Startup Week is designed to inspire and celebrate the success of small businesses. The CO.LAB team put out a broad call for events and pulled together a wide variety of community voices to build the agenda, Cox said.
"We recruited about 20 really diverse individuals, some had been involved in the past, but the vast majority had not," she said. "We wanted to tap into different networks so we could get a good diversity of events and expand the range."
Contact Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.