The city of Chattanooga, wired to deliver gigabit connectivity to any who want it, invited entrepreneurial teams to spend the summer brainstorming and developing apps capable of exploiting that bandwidth.
Chattanooga bills itself as the "Gig City" since it became the first in the nation to offer 1 Gbps service to any residence or business within its 60-square-mile service area, beginning late in 2010. (Google's Kansas City gigabit fiber project lit up last week.) I wrote about Chattanooga's gig initiative last month in Location, Location, and Fiber.
Chattanooga's power department, called EPB, proposed and justified laying all that fiber on the cost savings from evolving the electrical infrastructure into an advanced smart grid. Layering Internet connectivity service over the top came later; the project did not need to be cost-justified solely on the eventual payback from Internet or triple-play subscribers. The fiber started going in in 2008, and what was planned as a 10-year buildout was compressed to 3 years after the city received a $111 million smart-grid grant from the federal government.
Chattanooga endeavors to become a tech startup Mecca, and it is reaching out in multiple ways to get people aware of what its fiber has to offer. There's Geek Move, a program offering $11,250 in relocation assistance to 10 geeks who move to the city and buy a house. EPB is involved with the local entrepreneur, VC, and angel investor scene and works with The Lamp Post Group and CO.LAB, among other outfits encouraging local development. The fiber initiative partners with US Ignite and Mozilla Ignite, and Mozilla will sponsor Chattanooga Gigabit Hack Days there on September 15-16.
The outreach showcase, however, is the Gig Tank, a program that began in May and culminates next week. (I will be in Chattanooga for the Demo Day on Thursday.) Gig Tank has two tracks: 8 invited entrepreneur groups are building apps and competing for $100,000 in seed money; and 11 invited students are developing ideas and competing for a $50,000 prize and the chance to pitch their idea to a group of angels and VCs.
The entrepreneur groups are hosted at CO.LAB and are listed here. They include Banyan, a cloud-based version control system for collaborative researchers; HD Fantasy Sports, which uses live HD video to enhance social interaction in the fantasy-sports experience; and Vigia, which makes video-focused mobile apps for public safety professionals and dispatchers.
I got a taste of the ideas the student track was working on when I visited Chattanooga last month and spent some time at The Lamp Post Group. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they have come up with at Demo Day.
What would you do with gigabit connectivity? Please share your wild ideas in the comments below.