By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
CO.LAB’s Mike Bradshaw is a visionary who sees seeds that he helped plant in 2012 reaching full bloom as early as next year’s “GIGTANK.”
“The time has really come when Chattanooga will be a living lab for other cities that want to test ways to best use ultra-high speed networks,” he says, noting that was not necessarily the case in 2012 when the “GIGTANK” accelerator was launched.
Bradshaw described the business model for companies planning investments in gigabit applications just two years ago as “more iffy.” Now, he says emphatically, “It’s no longer if but when. It has become an unstoppable force.”
We caught-up recently with CO.LAB’s Executive Director to talk about plans for the now completed “Start-up Week Chattanooga” and gain his post-event assessment more than a month after the annual “GIGTANK Demo Day” had been held.
As always, Bradshaw did not fail to captivate us with his thoughts and plans which he quickly characterized as “very preliminary” and subject to CO.LAB’s Board of Directors approval.
He clearly was still pumped-up from the success of the additive manufacturing/3D printing track in this year’s “GIGTANK.” Two of the start-ups in that cohort have established locations in Chattanooga and a third is actively exploring the opportunity.
“That’s a ratio we’ve never achieved before,” Bradshaw notes. The two are Feetz, a company making custom-fit footwear; and 3DOps, a 3D manufacturer of medical devices for pre-operation planning.
The success of this year’s additive manufacturing track, coupled with CO.LAB’s 2013 “Maker Day,” has Bradshaw thinking about a larger scale, permanent facility that would showcase technologies for manufacturers interested in 3D printing.
He says such a facility would provide educational programming about additive manufacturing as well as serve as a testing facility for small and medium-sized manufacturers.
“It’s not just a few printers,” Bradshaw says in describing his vision. “It would be a big deal.”
How much a difference just 24 months makes.
When EPB rolled-out the city-wide gigabit network and CO.LAB launched the inaugural “GIGTANK” in 2012, Bradshaw says the demand for ultra-high speed networks was still unknown.
One question that some asked was simply this: “What happens if plain old networks are good enough?”
That’s not the case now. “Things have changed,” Bradshaw declares, citing efforts nationally by Google and AT&T to deploy gigabit networks. The need has been validated, and those interested has grown significantly.
“We have a lot more people to talk to now,” Bradshaw says. “There’s a solid value proposition.”
That changing dynamic and the leadership required to keep Chattanooga in the center of the discussion are topics that we expect to see play through plans for the 2015 “GIGTANK.”