Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gig City and the Geek Hunt


It's been a big news day today for the Gig City and its Geek Hunt. Chattanooga was dubbed the Gig City soon after EPB brought ultra-high speed internet, the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, to all businesses and consumers in the area. Gig City is also the name of an organization that, along with its partners, is seeking to fuel Chattanooga's tech community, startup community, and bring fresh innovation to town. They explain on their website, 
"At 20-200 times the maximum speed available in other communities, the Gig opens the door to unimagined ways to learn, play and conduct business. So Chattanooga is hosting a series of competitions through the summer of 2012 for students and entrepreneurs to launch future uses of this amazing speed. At stake in these competitions is up to $300,000 in cash prizes and seed investment capital.The largest award will bring $100,000 to the entrepreneurial team with the most viable business plan built during a 14-week business accelerator in the Gig Tank. A $50,000 cash prize will be awarded to the winning student idea launched in the Gig Tank right alongside startup entrepreneurs." 
Another aspect of these initiatives is the international Geek Hunt, the mission of which is to find top talent to compete for the Gig Tank prizes: 
"This summer we have invited the smartest and most creative entrepreneurs and students to join the Gig Tank. Part start-up accelerator, part think tank with one mission: imagine the future of the internet when bandwidth is no longer a barrier."
The Geek Hunt has finally culminated, with 11 individuals who will brainstorm and collaborate to create new concepts for ways Chattanooga's fiber optic network can be used. Nooga.com reported today on the 11 "geeks," who are predominantly from the Southeast, although Brazil, Australia, and New Jersey are also represented. The process the "geeks" use to develop their ideas during their time in the Gig City is one of weekly collaboration with local business and tech experts. 
"Every week on Wednesday, the students pitch ideas to mentors and judges. Each week, the winner of that pitch contest gets to start building a team that will help implement the idea. The hope is that these ideas turn into viable businesses. Having fresh, talented minds in Chattanooga is already a win."

Why is broadband internet revolutionizing Chattanooga and fueling such a well-funded search for talent and ideas? It's simple-- broadband of any kind saves small businesses money and helps them get off the ground. As noted by the Internet Innovation Alliance in April 2012, the Kaufman foundation found that "new firms create approximately three million jobs each year, and have created 40 million new jobs since 1980. Broadband is lowering the cost and barriers to entry for starting a new business, and access to this powerful resource provides entrepreneurs innovative tools, new networks and business opportunities." Kaufman also found that the top 10 areas that small businesses save in by paying for broadband include accounting, printing, telephone services, web development, use of mobile apps to increase efficient time management, logo design, overhead for office space as compared to telecommuting, incorporation of the business, newspaper subscriptions, and travel costs as compared to teleconferencing. Imagine what you can accomplish with broadband that is so much faster than the average connection!

The geeks have been imagining big so far-- According to Mozilla Ignite, some of the ideas the "geeks" have come up with so far include power consumption apps that track and compare energy usage in the area with data from the Smart Grid system, a live real-time 3D traffic map using data from local traffic sensors, a remote crowd-sourcing app that creates a virtual forum for students to interact with mentors to solve real-life problems, and an app that would allow greater "citizen engagement in city/regional planning by allowing residents to simulate the consequences of decisions & budget allocation in various areas."

Global Green Lighting's unique approach to using cloud computing, the Smart Grid, and LED technology to change the way streetlights are used and serviced has already been put to work, an idea that was completely separate from the Gig City and Geek Hunt initiatives. With one idea in motion and many more about to pour out of the Gig City "geek tank," Chattanooga has a lot to look forward, both in terms of jobs and quality of life. It's a great time to live and work in the Gig City.