It’s one of the most terrifying – and necessary – questions that an entrepreneur will face. Terrifying, because it comes after weeks, months, even years, of nurturing a concept and bringing it to life; the last thing you want to hear is that your creation is ugly. Or broken. Or wrong.

And necessary, because no one ever gets it right the first time. Once a team has created their initial product (often referred to as the MVP, minimum viable product), the most important thing to do is to get that product in the hands of early customers who are willing to provide feedback on the product. Where does it need work? What does it do right? Does the user interface make sense? Does the application unexpectedly crash?

Many of our GIGTANKers have reached this point in the program: The first real interaction with potential customers. The teams have to put themselves and their concepts out there. The founders must be humble enough to listen to feedback and criticism – even when it’s difficult to hear. And they have to be committed enough to solving the problem, while maintaining their resolve and ambition.

Four startups – HutGrip, WeCounsel, AirCart and TidBit – are either deploying their product into pilot customers’ facilities as we speak, or will be doing so in the next couple of weeks. Personally, I’m pumped and impressed to have so many teams already/almost in the pilot testing phase. And I’m hopeful that the other three teams will be there by the end of the summer. It’s much easier to get feedback from and close customers when you have a viable product. And if the teams need investment (by nature, most will), having an actual product to show is one less reason for investors NOT to invest.

I think it’s safe to say that spirits are high in Chattanooga right now. The teams are surrounded by mentors and connectors who are helping them get plugged into potential pilots around the region. They’re making great progress and by the end of the summer, I don’t expect to see any ugly babies.

Of course, you’ll have an opportunity to judge for yourself: all of our teams will pitch at Demo Day on August 6. If you’re interested in meeting these awesome entrepreneurs and seeing what they’ve accomplished this summer, be sure to request an invite here.
More updates to come – stay tuned!