(Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 11--From a company that 3D prints custom shoes to a software analytics provider that helps power utilities harness the data generated by smart grids, 11 startup companies will converge on Chattanooga this summer for GigTank 2014.
The 12-week accelerator by Co.Lab aims to launch viable, tech-oriented companies out of the annual program, which culminates in a day-long pitch to investors in July. The 11 teams receive $15,000 in seed money, free housing at UTC and free workspace, as well as mentoring throughout the accelerator.
And at the end of the program, each team has a chance to land more money from a variety of investors in early-stage businesses.
This year's crop of startups was weeded from an applicant pool of about 65 companies, Co.Lab executive director Mike Bradshaw said. And the quality of the selected teams gets better every year as GigTank, which started in 2012, builds its reputation as an accelerator, he added. This year, many teams already have proven concepts and customers.
The Co.Lab staff has upped their game to meet the level of this year's startups, he said.
"It's raised the bar for us," he said. "To deliver anything useful to these teams, we've got to gather all the weight we can out of the community and put it in front of those folks. So far it's working. The high quality teams attract the interest of some pretty accomplished mentors."
The 2014 program is focused on three tracks: 3D printing and manufacturing, healthcare and the smart grid. Tanner Carden, co-founder of Nestegg Bio, said his company spans both the healthcare and 3D printing arenas to make drug development easier and cheaper.
"We're using 3D printing to make a scaffold that can be used to create tissue samples, that can then be used to test drugs," he said. "The idea is that these products would come in before pre-clinical trials and be used to weed out possible failures outside of the FDA testing regimen, just to make better selections on what drugs would even be taken through to development."
Nestegg Bio is based in Huntsville, Ala., but Carden said he's excited to connect with investors and advisers in Chattanooga during GigTank.
"It's been really astounding the type of network they've put together," he said. "They've got an incredible network of not just investors, but mentors and people that I'd really like to talk to."
GigTank 2014 kicks off May 12, and will wrap up with Demo Day on July 29.
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