Entrepreneurs, great company, good drinks and (real) goldfish: Will This Float? 2012 was an event to remember!

Hosted by CO.LAB, Will This Float? drew a crowd of 400+ to Chattanooga Public Library’s 4th Floor on Thursday evening. The fast-paced pitch night celebrated Chattanooga’s diverse entrepreneurial spirit, showcasing a cross-section of the region’s best and brightest innovators. The Will This Float? hashtag #wtfCHA was trending all evening on the Twitter feed and on the giant aquarium projection by Full Media.

Eighteen finalists were allotted three minutes in the limelight as they pitched unique startup concepts and out-of-the-box business ideas. Between potential investors and collaborators, business professionals, interested Chattanoogans and – in keeping with our theme – a few goldfish, the event was (quite literally) packed to the gills.

THE WINNERS

Pitches covered a range of industries – from technology to social entrepreneurship, from the great outdoors to art and design. The crowd participated in voting via smart phone, resulting in the following winners:

  • SpottLifepitched by Brandon Mihai and Scott Gammenthaler, won the crowd favorite for voting categories “I’ll use this tomorrow” and “I’ll tell my friends about this!” for their app that simplifies social networking.
  • The Farmhouse – a collective vertical farm maintained remotely by web app – was pitched by Anthony Cain and voted both the “Best presentation” and “Biggest social/environmental impact.”
  • Cloud Lounge, pitched by Nirav Patel, received the smart guy A little over my head” award, for a cloud storage idea that easily shares and streams data to multiple devices and users.
  • RootsRated‘s pitch by Fynn Glover for an online recreation guide curated by outdoor retailers, won the “Best Local Appeal” as well as the grand prize of “If I had $100,000, I’d invest in this startup!”

As the overall winner, RootsRated earned the opportunity to pitch to 500 Startups, a west coast accelerator and sponsor, for a chance at a $250,000 investment. Additional prizes included a NODE from previous Will This Float? winner Variable Technologies, as well as swag from L2 Boards, Chattanooga Whiskey and the Sports Barn.

Other killer ideas made waves in the “Shark Tank” pitch evening, including WeCounsel, an online video platform that connects therapists to their clients and colleagues, and Sophister, which issues low interest private student loans by harnessing alumni networks and providing sustainable investment opportunities.

As we finish out a slew of events for Global Entrepreneurship Week in our state, reports are that Will This Float? was the best attended event in Tennessee. This is especially noteworthy as Tennessee led the country in number of events held for Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Will This Float? was another milestone event for entrepreneurs in Chattanooga,” said Charlie Brock, CO.LAB Executive Entrepreneur. “The ability to work with the folks at the Library and support we received from our sponsors, the record number of applications and attendees is overwhelming. This is a great temperature check for healthy ecosystem we are building here for startups.”

THE PARTNERS

This year’s Will This Float? was especially buzz-worthy thanks to amazing collaboration with CO.LAB’s partners. The 4th Floor of the Downtown Library hosted the pitches in their newly opened creative space. Sound Force set the tone of the evening with incredible staging, lighting, and sound. Full Media demoed their interactive Twitter aquarium projection, while Fork & Pie Bar served up an array of culinary treats. Chattanooga Whiskey blended with Pure Sodaworks‘ first-ever run of bottled sodas to create top-notch cocktails.

The event also showcased a wide range of sponsors, from creative partners AREA203 Digital, Delegator, Full Media and Pale Dot Voyage, to corporate partners Baker Donelson, BCBS Community Trust, Chambliss Startup Group, Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough and Sandler Training. Newly launched event website Chattanooga Now also provided promotion for the event.

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