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February 15, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Entrepreneur Center Outlook | The Company Lab

The new "Sustainable Mobility Accelerator" draws on Chattanooga’s emergence as an innovation hub for logistics-related start-ups among other assets.

For The Company Lab (CO.LAB) in Chattanooga, mobility – and all associated with it including quantum computing – has become a primary focus.

The launch of the “Sustainable Mobility Accelerator” with gener8tor last month was the latest example of how the Southeast Tennessee entrepreneur center is leveraging work already underway in the community to attract high-tech start-ups to the city.

“I’m in awe of the overwhelming support from our community, industry partners, and researchers that has allowed us to pull together a substantial program to welcome start-ups from around the world to Chattanooga,” says Tasia Malakasis, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at CO.LAB. She was referring to the fact that the first cohort of the accelerator started one day short of a year after her organization announced last January 19 that it planned to host a multi-week program focused on mobility.

The accelerator draws on Chattanooga’s emergence as an innovation hub for logistics-related start-ups, the international recognition that is coming as a result of the work at the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), and the presence of the EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk, America’s first commercially available quantum network.

As previously reported in teknovation.biz, five start-ups – three from California and one each from Florida and the United Kingdom – comprise the inaugural cohort. They will present on the main programming day of the second annual “CO.MOBILITY Summit” that runs May 20-22 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

A second cohort of the “Sustainable Mobility Accelerator” will begin on August 1. Each selected start-up will receive a $20,000 investment on the terms of their current round with additional funding consideration at the conclusion of the program.

Malakasis, who is a serial entrepreneur, took the reins as the fifth CEO of CO.LAB in early July 2022, not that long after she and her husband relocated to Chattanooga. In this teknovation.biz article from July 10, 2022, Malakasis talked about the vibrancy of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and the walkability of the downtown area.

She obviously has a knack for connecting the dots and getting people to work together.

“Our success at CO.LAB depends on this community,” Malakasis says, emphasizing three critically important areas of access: capital, customers, and workforce. “Those are essential if we are going to make Chattanooga ‘sticky’ for the start-ups we attract.”

In terms of access to potential customers, she and her team are working with EPB, Volkswagen, Tennessee Valley Authority, and CUIP for pilot projects as well as their extended networks of customers and suppliers.

On the access to capital front, Malakasis says CO.LAB is launching a $1.5 million “Founder’s Fund” that will be focused on making follow-on investments in those participating in the cohorts of the “Sustainable Mobility Accelerator.”

Other priorities for 2024 include:

  • Exploration of what she describes as a “skills accelerator” focused on the all-important matter of digital equity. Offered in partnership with gener8tor, Malakasis describes it as a program for the individual, not a business. “It would be workforce development and digital equity.”
  • There will also be more emphasis placed on offering programs that serve the nine rural counties around Chattanooga. That effort could include a rural summit.

Malakasis adds that she has some additional programming under development, but she’s not yet ready to announce those plans.


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