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August 07, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Chattanooga’s “Gig Tank” initiative holds “Demo Day” tomorrow

Chattanooga holds a celebration of its summer-long initiative to leverage the city’s unique “gigabit to the home” capability Thursday when the eight “Gig Tank” entrepreneurial teams present at “Demo Day.”

The teams will have completed a 13-week, intensive start-up accelerator boot camp prior to making pitches that day to an invitation-only audience and a nationally-recognized panel of judges. The event will be at the Read House.

The ideas that they will unveil cover everything from breakthrough technologies that tap big data to predict the spread of disease to those that build new interactivity into online experiences, use mobile technologies to improve emergency dispatching and better user interfaces for cloud-based collaboration.

In addition to the pitches to investors, “Demo Day” will culminate with the awarding of a $100,000 cash prize to the best investable start-up team and $50,000 cash for the best student concept hatched in the “Gig Tank.”

Judges include Jason Collins, Vice President of Technology and Innovation, Alcatel-Lucent; Paul Conley, Managing Director, Paladin Capital Group; Pascal Finette, Director of Open Innovation Group, Mozilla Corporation; Anuraj Goonetilleke, Vice President for Global Business Development and Strategy, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group; Deborah Magid, Director of Software Strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group; Colin Raney, Design Director, IDEO; Robyn Ready, Project Manager – Prize Operations, X PRIZE Foundation; Glenn Ricart, Chief Technology Officer, US Ignite; Sig Mosley, President of Imlay Investments and Chair of the Atlanta CEO Council; Jonathan Taplin, Director, Annenberg Innovation Lab; and Sharon Wong, Director of Business Incubation in the Emerging Technologies Group of Cisco Systems.

Ahead of “Demo Day,” we asked Charlie Brock, Executive Entrepreneur of the sponsoring CO.LAB, several questions. The questions and his answers follow.

1. Why is the “Gig Tank” initiative important to Chattanooga?

“Gig Tank” allowed us to organize an intensive summer accelerator program around an asset – high speed bandwidth – that is only available on a community-wide basis in Chattanooga. It helped us to recruit high quality entrepreneurs and students from around the country, as well as one international team, to work on their innovative ideas and businesses. It also facilitated relationships with companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Warner Brothers, Cisco and others who want to be involved with next generation technology and want to be supportive of cities that are looking forward.

2. What do you hope to see as a result?

We hope to see our graduating companies raise outside capital and become successful businesses. We hope that some of them, as well as the students, will stay in the area so they can continue to develop their ideas using our Gig capacity, as well as build on the incredible community and statewide support that they have received here. Certainly, we want to continue to develop the numerous relationships that have been formed through this program with companies such as those mentioned above, venture capital firms and the mentors (both local as well as virtual or guest mentors) for our teams. Perhaps most importantly, we hope the “Gig Tank” has helped position Chattanooga as a center for entrepreneurship and innovation as well as reinforcing our image as a place where people put agendas aside and work together to make positive things happen.

3. How has the initiative shaped your future thinking about the work of the CO.LAB?

It has reinforced my contention that CO.LAB has an opportunity to be one of the leading accelerators in the southeast. Given the assets of the Chattanooga region and Tennessee overall, I think we have a unique opportunity over the next three to five years to become a magnet for entrepreneurs. We need to continue to build our network of high quality mentors and capital sources across the state and region to make this happen.


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