The GigTank teams have come to CO.LAB from across the country and around the globe. And a few came from just down the street.
Iron Gamer, a Chattanooga-based team, is building a startup that will organize computer gaming events and control the infrastructure behind those events. Teammates Aaron Welch, Darwyn Siplin and Zoe Embler first learned about the GigTank after Welch participated in 48Hour Launch with his other startup business, Quickcue LLC.
Ultimately, the self-proclaimed “nerds” hope to take their idea to the national level, but they’re starting locally.
“Our goal for the summer is to pilot a program and reach out to local gaming and LAN centers,” Siplin said. “We want to spread out across the Tennessee area and host miniature tournaments at those sites, boost their revenues and get them on board.”
LAN gaming centers, businesses that connect multiple computers for gaming purposes, are struggling to remain profitable due to the culture of gaming. Customers pay a nominal fee to play games for hours at a time, limiting turnover.
“These centers have a few local players that show up daily, but they haven’t figured out how to take 10 people and turn it into 100,” Siplin said.
Iron Gamer aims to reinvent the culture by developing a tournament structure that will connect large groups of gamers at LAN centers across the country. Ideally, participating centers will host events two to three times a week. Winners of local tournaments will compete on a regional and national level, with the potential to win big cash prizes and SWAG from sponsors.
The team currently is working to construct Chattanooga’s only LAN center, called Iron Labs, on Chestnut Street. The space should be completed by Demo Day. “We decided to build something in Chattanooga that would provide proof of concept and help us connect with the community at the same time,” Embler said.
The team has decided to do most of the construction themselves. Hours of manual labor combined with developing a startup has resulted in some long hours, Embler said. At 19, the UTC student is GigTank’s youngest entrepreneur and will return to school in the fall, adding another layer of responsibilities to her already-full days.
But Embler said she’ll find a way to make it work, not only because she’s passionate about Iron Gamer, but because she has something to prove.
“There’s a stigma in the field that females don’t play video games. Guys can like video games publicly, but women can’t,” Embler said. “I want to change that. Women actually make up about 45 percent of gamers – they are hugely underrepresented in the industry.”
The teammates said they believe GigTank will provide the platform necessary to make Iron Gamer a reality.
“It’s giving us access to other minds, and that’s what helps mold you,” Siplin said. “I’m glad we made the decision not to bootstrap it. This environment is going to open up doors for us.”