September 24 2012

GigTank Summer Recap

Hello, everyone, this is Cintia from the student Gig Tank.

I spent last summer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helping develop new ideas on applications for the 1-gigabit-per-second, ultra-high-speed Internet that is available there.

Chattanooga is a very special city. It is the first city in the whole country to have ultra-high-speed Internet available for all residents. This is actually making Chattanooga stand out in the crowd. It is starting to attract new residents, business opportunities, entrepreneurs, and needs, along with progress. In addition to that, there is another thing that makes Chattanooga unique: the passion from its residents. The Gig Tank came from both of these special features combined. The need for new business opportunities and a will to make the city go forward was the fuse needed for it to start.

During the summer, we came a long way. We started by doing research and finding out how much we could do with the Internet. Then, groups started to form. New ideas were also pitched every week, and we started to see them evolving. Week after week, we were thinking not only about the idea itself, but also from a business standpoint. What makes it different? What can be changed? What is new? How can we make money with it? And even with the Internet being one of (if not the most) up-to-date means of communication, we found that it is really hard to keep up with the latest technologies and coming up with something totally unique.

On top of that, we had to present it in a way people could understand. By the end of the week, it was not only about the idea itself, it was about how well we could impress people with it, how make people like it and get confident about it. It was really easy to feel lost and confused on what path to take and what direction to go. And the fact that in the beginning we could pitch about anything in the world made things even more broad and disconcerting.

The environment was really good for new ideas. Collaboration was incentivized, but at the same time, competition made the pitches go forward and improved day after day. Sometimes, public speaking can be scary, even for people who are used to it. For those who are used to speaking about things that they are proficient in (knowledge that was learned and mastered along the years), experiencing new thoughts and different kinds of information can be a hurdle. The fact that we had to present our ideas and be asked about them every week was a good way to practice for Demo Day, and it helped to overcome this barrier. Also, presenting weekly about something that you do not know about forces you to get enough knowledge to understand at least the basics of that particular subject. As the program was coming to its end, it was easy to notice that every reachable thing was provided for us to be creative: hardware, environment, housing, a good cup of coffee … which makes sense in the end. If you do not have to worry about essential things, you have more time to spend brainstorming and having new ideas.

The last week was the most stressful and the most memorable at the same time. Every single detail could turn out to be a major problem, the difference between making a good or a bad presentation. We practiced, practiced, and practiced. And even with planning and specifying everything, some details are just out of our control.

Demo Day was an expected event and yet a big surprise. Things did not come out as we planned, especially in our presentation, but it turned out to be a good thing. Demo Day attracted VCs, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and reporters to a unique experience: to turn their eyes to the South, see Chattanooga growing, and be part of it. I was really happy that those people in the audience wanted to participate, to know, and to do whatever they thought would be helpful to keep Chattanooga evolving. With all the obstacles and difficulties, by the end of the summer, it was a program from Chattanooga and to Chattanooga.

I hope new editions can become better and that people from all over the country can join and get to know Chattanooga in its hunt for entrepreneurship and development.