The first 10 days of GIGTANK 2013 have been exhilarating! We have an incredible group of 36 founders and specialists in Chattanooga for the entire summer working on launching businesses. Most of these teams are working in the “Internet of Things” arena in various industries such as health care, retail, education, finance and manufacturing technology. And with teams and individuals coming from all over the world, this is an incredibly diverse and talented crew.

Over the last few weeks we have been asked many times, “What are the differences between GIGTANK 2012 and 2013?” While this list isn’t exhaustive, it covers some of the key differences…

Similarities between 2012 and 2013:

  • We have a brilliant group of entrepreneurs attempting to launch new companies in Chattanooga over the course of the summer.
  • We also have 13 specialists, most of which are students from some of the top schools around the U.S.
  • We have a gig piped into The Company Lab on Main Street…needless to say, connectivity isn’t really an issue for us (thank you EPB!).
  • We have awesome housing at UTC. I can’t believe how nice the student apartments at UTC are and this continues to be a significant differentiator for GIGTANK when compared to other programs.
  • Our teams are led by lead mentors who have broad experience starting, scaling and managing businesses.
  • We have guest speakers coming throughout the summer. Last year, we had an amazing group of people come visit and provide anecdotes to the entrepreneurs. So far this year, we’ve already had Paul Singh (most active VC in the world at 500 Startups!) come meet with the teams, and in June we’ll have Meg Hourihan, co-founder of Blogger, coming through as well. We are also carving out plenty of time with our friends at Alcatel Lucent, Cisco, IBM, Mozilla and more.

Although last year was a great inaugural program, we decided to shake up the program a bit. Here are some key differences in 2013:

  • In 2012, GIGTANK’s theme was “What do you do with a gig?” Well, when it’s ubiquitous you can do a lot! The challenge for building businesses around it is that it’s not yet ubiquitous. And when we are trying to help entrepreneurs launch companies that can generate revenue immediately, it is important to recognize that the businesses can’t be just about high-speed access. So we’ve pivoted a little bit to focus more on the Internet of Things than just “pure speed.” We are not too far from a time when everything in our homes and businesses (and the rest of the world!) are literally connected to the cloud. As that day approaches, bandwidth needs will continue to grow. And it doesn’t matter whether these devices are connected via wireless or wired. What matters is that Chattanooga currently has one of the most advanced community-wide fiber networks that can help serve as the backhaul for all these connected devices.
  • Last year, Alcatel Lucent provided a $100,000 grant to the top startup team. Warner Brothers also contributed $25,000 to the top digital media team. Lamp Post Group, a Chattanooga venture capital incubator, provided $50,000 to the top student team. This year, there is no official contest/competition. This was a very intentional decision. We believe that collaboration is so important in the early days of standing up a company. Though GIGTANK 2012 was a successful inaugural program, we noticed that the teams, students and even mentors wanted to collaborate with one another. But the funny thing about contests is that they crush the collaborative spirit. “I want to help you, but I’m afraid it will help you win and I’ll lose.” To get a successful business off the ground, the team needs to be hyper-competitive anyway…so why should we introduce even more competition into the environment? So far, it looks like this was a great decision because the level of collaboration has been significantly higher just in the first week than it ever was in 2012.
  • To supplement the “loss” of the $175,000 prizes from 2012, we approached the investment community. Instead of a guaranteed prize, each team has the opportunity to earn up to $100,000 in investment. That means there is WAY more capital on the table this year than last year!
  • Because of the competitive structure of 2012, we had entrepreneurs who applied with great ideas! But this also meant that they were starting almost from scratch on day one. Only two of the teams came in with any kind of demo or prototype. That made it so difficult for the founders to have a product that they could begin generating revenue with by the end of the program. This year, we were more focused on finding teams who were closer to beta testing and piloting their products/services so that we could introduce them to potential customers during the summer. Of the seven teams this year, only two of them do not have any demo/prototype yet. Hopefully this leads to a higher percentage of customers by the end of the program.
  • One other HUGE difference is that we have the startups and specialists collaborating rather than participating in parallel tracks. Both groups are working out of the same space. Yes, it’s a bit cozy at The Company Lab, but the energy is magical and we believe it will have ripple effects that we can’t even fathom today.
  • We also have a sweet new office setup thanks to Smart Furniture and Turnstone!
  • Stay tuned for a BIG announcement about Demo Day, which will be on August 6th.

As you can see, there is much to be excited about and we have a lot of work that needs to be done! If you’re interested in plugging in with GIGTANK in some way (mentor, investor, customer of a team, sponsor of Demo Day, etc), please email Allie O’Connell at allie@thegigtank.com. Also, please make sure to follow us on twitter at @GIGTANK.