Credit: Banyan team: TJ Weigel (left), Toni Gamayel (back) and Travis Station (right) courtesy of Amy Trumball
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Could you create a game-changing computer application if you had access to a blazing-fast internet connection? That was the challenge hurled to teams of entrepreneurs and students by Chattanooga — now known as the Gig City — as part of its GigTank accelerator program here. As the winner's of yesterday's GigTank Demo Day pitch-off showed, the answer is "yes."
The top prize of $100,000 for entrepreneurs was awarded to the Banyan team, which developed a cloud-based version control system to address the logistical and authorship challenges faced by researchers. Banyan will facilitate collaboration and information sharing in the $67 billion U.S. research industry and elsewhere.
Babel Sushi, the first crowd-sourcing language mobile app that translates conversations in near-real time, took top student honors and was awarded a $50,000 price.
In addition to the overall prize winners, the entrepreneur team at Iron Gaming took home a $10,000 Warner Brothers Digital Media Award. Their social gaming model will create a new gaming experience through live competitive events and interactive streaming content, the company said.
The 14-week accelerator program was co-hosted by two of Chattanooga's growing band of business development groups, accelerators and incubators, The Company Lab and Lamp Post Group. The program was held in partnership with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and EPB, the city's municipally-owned utility.
Chattanooga rebranded itself as the Gig City in 2010 when it completed the nation's first community-wide Fiber-to-the Home (FTTH) network capable of delivering Internet speeds of up to 1gigabit per second. That's up to 100 times faster than a typical home connection. The network, which was deployed by EPB, can be accessed by all 150,000 homes and businesses in EPB's 600-square-mile service area.
Google and Kansas City, which recently announced a joint initiative to wire that community for broadband access, are relatively late comers to the tech party and are not envisioning the universal access that Chattanooga provides.
The GigTank program was created to explore what entrepreneurs and students with access to world-leading Internet capabilities can build as well as showcase Chattanooga's fiber network and the city's growing role as a hotbed for high-tech entrepreneurship. The area is beginning to exude the entrepreneurial sizzle that was once the sole proprietorship of Silicon Valley.
"Being in Chattanooga today is like being in Silicon Valley in the late '80s and '90s," said Bill Wallace, a technology consultant with US Ignite, a public-private initiative to promote U.S. leadership in developing applications and services for ultrafast broadband and software-defined networks. "There's no better place to be right now if you're thinking about creating next-generation applications."