Gig Tank event reflects Chattanooga’s vibrant energy

Authored By Chloé Morrison

Hundreds of people converged upon the Read House Thursday to witness the Gig Tank’s Demo Day, and-as one contest participant put it- the event was a reflection of Chattanooga itself.

“They have done a good job of it being a big event but it still feeling relatively small,” said Anthony Guglielmo, who pitched his company, Vigia, Thursday morning. “That’s the feeling of Chattanooga all encompassed in the event. It’s big enough to get the job done, but not overwhelming.”

Months of brainstorming, mentoring and gig-hype cumulated in a daylong event Thursday, when hundreds of entrepreneurs and business people from across the state and beyond gathered to see which teams would win the Gig Prize.

In addition to local media, several national media outlets covered the event, J. Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing and communication for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

The chamber hosted a reporter from The Economist on Monday, who gathered information before the event, Marston said.

And leaders also coordinated with ReadWriteWeb, Shark Branding, BusinessNewsDaily, CIO magazine, Gigabit Nation, Develop in the Cloud and Nibletz.com, Marston said.

Gig Tank is a competition that brought college students and entrepreneurs to Chattanooga to create businesses and find applications for the city’s high-speed Internet.

The worldwide search for the college students was dubbed the Geek Hunt.

After the hunt, the geeks joined the entrepreneurs in the competition.

A $100,000 cash prize and investment capital went to the team of entrepreneurs with the most viable business idea on Demo Day.

Other ideas pitched in entrepreneur-track competition

Ariagora helps independent musicians connect directly with fans. 
Corpora is a real-time intelligent agent that uses Twitter status updates and other public data to model the health of individuals by geography, providing insights into the spread of illnesses.
-HD Fantasy Sports is building the next-generation fantasy football game. Their live HD video technology aims to personalize, socialize and enhance users’ experiences. 
Silver Communities Argentab provides elder care facilities with tools for accurate record-keeping and on-the-job training.
Tikk.it is a digital ticketing platform that enables bands and musicians to sell tickets directly to fans through a website plug-in, cutting back on fees and strengthening the connection between fans and artists.
Vigia produces video-focused mobile apps for public safety professionals and dispatchers, enhancing the benefits of emergency services for the public.

The geeks had a choice of going for the $100,000 prize-which had stiffer criteria-or for a $50,000 prize that organizers gave to the best idea to come from a student.

The prizes
The biggest prize of $100,000 went to the entrepreneur team Banyan, a cloud-based control system for collaborative research. The product aims to make it easier for researchers at universities nationwide to share information.

“It’s a version control and collaboration application for researchers,” Banyan developer Toni Gamayel said. ”Basically, what we do is help researchers share their data with other researchers, as well as connect major universities and allow them to share their data.”

The team is from Florida, and immediately after the event, Banyan designer TJ Weigel said the business would be based in Tampa.

That’s relevant because the ideas pitched, at least partially, relied on Chattanooga’s 1-gig Internet speed.

But Weigel’s partner said in another post-event interview that a decision about where to base the business hasn’t been made.

And, no matter what, both said they would be back in Chattanooga, continuing to cultivate the relationships built here.

Babel Sushi, a real-time, free translation app, earned the $50,000 student prize.  

Nicole Newman, Dartmouth College, and Cintia Kotsubo, who attends a school in Brazil but is doing an exchange program at Tennessee Tech University, were the only females to pitch Thursday. During their presentation, they had technical difficulties.

Initially, Kotsubo’s microphone didn’t work. And once that was corrected, the audio in the presentation seemed to not play as planned.

In front of nearly 500 people, Kotsubo and Newman overcame the technical problems, made the crowd laugh and earned the judges’ respect.

“It was very nerve-racking, but I think the fact that we overcame the technical difficulties really helped us,” Newman said.

The judges congratulated the women on being the only females to pitch, and one said the fact that they are both engineers made it that much better.

“At first, there weren’t even any female judges,” Newman said. “So, to have them get three more [women] and us get so much support for being females was really great.”

Kotsubo said she and Newman can either use the money they won to start a business or just to have. She wasn’t sure yet what she would do with it. 

The only Chattanooga team, Iron Gamer, won the $10,000 digital media award.

Iron Gamer is building a new social gaming experience through live competitive events and interactive streaming content.

Aaron Welch and Darwyn Siplin of Iron Gamer are bringing their business to downtown Chattanooga by participating in Project: PopUp.

One of the judges, Colin Ramey from IDEO, said he loved that Banyan had already tested the product in the market.
He also complimented Chattanooga and the Gig Tank event.

“It was extremely well put together,” he said. “Everybody was extremely nice. It was sort of a symbol of all the hospitality that exists in the city.”

Disclaimer: Nooga.com is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group, a local business that helped organize the Gig Tank, but editorial decisions for this publication are made independent of the Lamp Post Group.