Today is voting deadline for “Global Startup Battle” featuring 30 Day Photo Challenge

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is the deadline to vote for 30 Day Photo Challenge in the “Global Startup Battle” competition. To vote, go to

They came to “Startup Weekend Tri-Cities” to pitch two different ideas, but they ended-up teaming together, won the competition, and say they plan to fully develop their idea whether they win the “Global Startup Battle” or not.

The “they” is the four-person team that took the idea for an app called the 30 Day Photo Challenge and developed a robust “go to market” strategy. We were able to talk on Monday with three of the four – Vantha Chhoun and Chad Biggs of Jammin’ Butter and Will Chilcutt, an iOS Team Lead at Synaptian. All three are Johnson City-based. The fourth person – Brenden Fitzgerald of Asheville – was not available for the interview, but he was quoted in an Asheville Citizen-Times article last week at

How the four, who came to the event to pitch two different ideas, joined forces is one of the key takeaways from a Startup Weekend.

“I met Brenden at an Asheville Startup Weekend,” Chilcutt said. “We worked on my idea and won second place.”

With the upcoming Tri-Cities event, Chilcutt says that he convinced Fitzgerald to join him in pitching an idea in Johnson City. They settled on the 30 Day Photo Challenge and were selected on the opening Friday night to go forward and further develop the concept for the finals on Sunday. Chhoun and Biggs pitched a different idea that was also selected for the finals.

David Lawrence, Executive Director of AccelNow, the event sponsor, explained earlier that an important component of the Startup Weekend concept is to recruit people whose ideas were not selected to join your team. As luck would have it, neither the Chhoun-Biggs team nor the Fitzgerald-Chilcutt team was successful in recruiting other members, but they saw the complementary skills that they had and eventually decided to join forces.

Chhoun and Biggs operate Jammin’ Butter, an umbrella company for a half-dozen web sites focused on daily retail deals. Their expertise is business development and strategy. Chilcutt is a software/apps person, while Fitzgerald is in sales.

“We dissolved our idea and joined 30 Day,” Chhoun said.

Today, the team is committed to getting the app to market. It capitalizes on a larger social media trend involving individuals taking and sharing pictures. Instead of just randomly sharing photos, however, participants are part of a challenge or game. They get a word or phrase every day for 30 days and post a photo online that is their depiction of that day’s assignment as do others who are part of the challenge,

“I can see what others see,” Biggs explained, adding that an important part of the experience is the creativity that individuals apply to the photo choices they make and the “feeling of accomplishment” that they get.

“It’s another layer of interacting with your friends,” he said.

“The concept has been completely validated,” Chhoun added. “We need (financial) help to get it up and running in 90 days.”

Biggs described 30 Day Photo Challenge as a “cool idea, a big opportunity (that the team plans to) stick with regardless.”

As passionate as they are about the app, they were equally energized by the Startup Weekend experience, particularly the networking opportunities.

“I found Brenden in Asheville and Vantha and Chad in Johnson City,” Fitzgerald noted.




Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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