At the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's 12th annual Spirit of Innovation Awards, leaders recognized two local businesses—Sherman + Reilly Inc. and Variable Technologies—and announced the city's second Gig Tank competition.
"[The first] Gig Tank's success really demonstrates what Chattanooga can do," Jack Studer with Lamp Post Group said at the event. "Today, we'd like to officially announce Gig Tank 2013. It should come as no surprise—we're going to do it bigger and better."
Leaders designed the Gig Tank competition to inspire next-generation Internet apps and businesses. They got about 150 applications from students and entrepreneurs who wanted to participate in the 100-day business accelerator and mentorship program.
Local leaders then invited eight teams of entrepreneurs and 11 students to spend three months in Chattanooga last summer, and they developed ideas to pitch at the end of the program for a chance to win thousands in prize money.
In last summer's event, the biggest prize of $100,000 went to the entrepreneur team Banyan, a cloud-based control system for collaborative research. The product aims to make it easier for researchers at universities nationwide to share information.
Leaders announced Tuesday that the Banyan team will soon move back to Chattanooga to make it their company's home.
Spirit of Innovation winners
Sherman + Reilly Inc.—manufacturer of power line installation and maintenance equipment—took home the top award Tuesday at the event.
The company, which has been around since 1927, won because of its cutting-edge work in creating the Safe Zone Cab System, which increases the safety of power line operators.
Almost 750 area business leaders attended the event, which honored eight local companies for developing innovative products, services and ways of doing business in the Chattanooga region.
In addition to Sherman + Reilly, leaders recognized American Bicycle Group, Motion View Software LLC and Woople LLC as finalists for the 2012 Spirit of Innovation Award.
“The importance of innovation is nothing new,” Ron Harr, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber, said. “From being the first to bottle Coca-Cola to inventing the tow truck, Chattanoogans have created whole new industries through their groundbreaking products and business practices. And we continue to see the evolution of innovation in our companies today."
Ronna-Renee Jackson, executive director of the Chattanooga Technology Council, gave the Early Innovator Award to Variable Technologies, which also won last year's Will This Float? competition and has recently received national attention and funding.
Dr. George Yu, founder of Variable Technologies, also won February's local Will This Float? contest with the development of NODE, which drew attention from TechCrunch earlier this month.
NODE is a project aimed at helping smartphone users "explore the fun and power of sensors,” according to Engadget, a Web magazine that covers gadgets and consumer electronics and has featured Yu’s project.
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