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August 06, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Hundreds start day at “Gig Tank Demo Day”

GigTank-teknoHundreds of people convened at the Chattanooga Theatre Center on Tuesday morning for an almost all-day event celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in the community as well as graduation of seven teams from the nationally-recognized “Gig Tank.”

Now in its second year, “Gig Tank” is the result of Chattanooga being home to the most automated smart grid in the country combined with the nation’s first gigabit network.

“Gig Tank” is billed as “the only living fiber network, enabling next-generation businesses to go to market today.”

During a morning panel, four Chattanoogans discussed efforts to capitalize on Chattanooga’s growing reputation as an entrepreneurial and technology hotspot.

“Over 20 years, we have grown into this community that everyone is looking at,” said Shelley Prevost, Partner in Lamp Post Group, emphasizing the importance of retaining homegrown talent as well as recruiting business leaders from elsewhere.

The “Gig Tank” is one of the answers to  the dual talent challenge. Team members came from other countries – Bulgaria, the Cayman Islands, and India – as well as other U.S. states – Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey. There are also several companies founded by Chattanoogans.

To emphasize the importance of the Chattanooga effort, there was even a visiting start-up from Kansas City that is involved in a separate initiative called “Mozilla Ignite.” Funded by Mozilla and the National Science Foundation, the effort involves 22 teams developing applications for gigabit networks.

“We are working on a scheduling mechanism to share software over the gig in the same manner we check out books from a library,” David LaCrone told the audience. He is a principal in a start-up named the Software Lending Library and also serves as a Digital Branch Manager with the Kansas City Library.

In many respects, the company’s technology approach could disrupt the existing hardware models that involve software installed on a traditional laptop or desktop.

“Local computer resources are no longer a problem,” LaCrone said in describing the company’s product.

Another speaker was Bill Wallace, Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Ignite, a not-for-profit launched in 2012 with a mission to jumpstart the creation of 60 apps taking advantage of the gig.

“We are a matchmaker, a clearing house,” he said. “We try to bring communities that need these applications together with developers that need communities (as test beds).”

Wallace praised the “long-term view” that Chattanooga has taken.