By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Yesterday was a holiday for most folks, but it was move-in time for this year’s “GIGTANK” teams that will be calling Chattanooga home for the next 10 weeks.
Since May 5, the 14 teams have been working independently to get prepared for the immersive process that starts today, according to Alex Lavidge, the former Knoxvillian who is 2015 “GIGTANK” Director.
The preparatory work included taking online courses through Udemy; preparing self-assessment scorecards using Venture 360, a toll developed by the Angel Capital Group; and completing an EXO Quotient that assesses where they need to focus during the accelerator.
On the day we visited recently, Lavidge and Mike Bradshaw, CO.LAB Executive Director, were working with the lead mentors in preparation for today’s full-scale launch. The lead mentors and others recruited to provide content specific advice are a key part of the “GIGTANK” experience.
This year’s approach also reflects the evolution in Bradshaw’s thinking as well as the addition of Lavidge to the team.
“There’s not one size that fits all start-ups,” Lavidge says. “We can’t say everyone has to do the same thing.”
That philosophy is one of the principles that is driving this year’s “GIGTANK,” including the classification of teams as resident or ambassador. Eight teams will be in Chattanooga for the full 10 weeks; six will be ambassadors, coming for certain activities, but being mentored for much of the time at an accelerator that is partnering with the “GIGTANK” team.
An example of this approach are the two teams coming from the Knoxville/Oak Ridge region. Evolvr, which is also participating in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s (KEC) “MediaWorks” accelerator, is in the ambassador category. Global Security Information Analysts, better known as GSIA, will be in Chattanooga the full time.
Lavidge says that KEC will be identifying mentors to work with Evolvr. The same approach is being undertaken in Huntsville where Rocket Hatch is mentoring two Ambassador teams.
“It’s a big cultural shift,” Lavidge says of this approach, but he notes that it is also “an evolution that is happening in the Southeast.” The approach truly leverages the strengths of a growing regional accelerator network which is also providing flexibility for entrepreneurs who would be challenged to participate in a 10-week or longer residential program.
The 14 teams will be unveiled July 28 at the “GIGTANK Demo Day” in Chattanooga. It is always a special event, and there is no reason to think the tradition will not continue in about 10 weeks.