Chattanooga, TN - Tech Transformation

The last couple of years have been very kind to our city.  Not too far in the past, we were a broken city that was on the brink of collapse.  Extremely polluted, dangerous, and losing population at a rapid rate, Chattanooga was in need of a makeover.  Little did we know that a makeover would be a huge understatement of improvements to come. Fast forward 35 years, and Chattanooga has undergone a massive transformation to become one of the most cutting edge and beautiful cities in the United States.

One part of the amazing transformation has been Chattanooga’s deployment of a 600 square mile fiber optic grid. This grid provides every Chattanoogan with access to blazing fast 1000Mbps fiberoptic bandwidth, and 40,000 people are taking advantage of the service at various levels (EPB offers 30, 50, 100, and 1000mpbs).  The timeline below shows the years of hard work that made this smart grid possible.

After years of hard work, Chattanooga had a special moment.  A moment that seemed to be a milestone of entrepreneurially epic proportions.

Thursday, August 9th, was a big day for Chattanooga, TN.

The Gig Tank

On August 9th, Chattanooga was on display in front of the world for the first Gig Tank Demo Day.

The Gig Tank was a bold project put together in typical Chattanooga fashion; that is private sector, government, education, non-profit, and other civic sectors working together to collectively do something big.  Part startup accelerator, part think tank, part contest, the Gig Tank brought students and entrepreneurs from around the world to Chattanooga to spend a summer working on next generation gigabit applications.

After a year’s worth of planning and nail biting, the Demo Day culmination of the Gig Tank came together beautifully. In front of a packed house of 470 attendees, a variety of crazy-awesome ideas were pitched in front of venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, media, and multi-national companies.  One look at the sponsors and list of judges made one feel that this was NOT the typical Chattanooga event. Likewise, one look at the last year's worth of momentum makes one feel that this will become typical Chattanooga activity.

The top prize went to team Banyan - a cloud based version control system for collaborative research. Think Github, but for researchers.  They scored $100,000 to put towards their business.

Two other prizes were awarded - the $50,000 student prize to Babel Sushi, a real-time translation application, and the $10,000 Warner Brothers Digital Media prize to Iron Gamer, a new social gaming company.

As put by Demo Day judge Glenn Ricart, everyone was a winner at this event.  The teams received mentorship from top southeastern entrepreneurs, and investment.  The audience, made up largely of VC’s from around the country, saw cutting edge ideas and technologies put on full display.  Chattanooga might be the biggest winner of all, as nearly everyone based here has a genuine feeling of, “We will be the next Silicon Valley”.

That sentiment was proliferated around the country in a big way.

Resources:

Press coverage about the event and Chattanooga’s Gig network can be found here.

Photos of the event can be found here.

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