By Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 48 hours to build and pitch a business? Sounds impossible right? Not in Chattanooga, where the seventh annual "48Hour Launch contest" kicked off Friday night. In the past, the program helped launch startup "Quickcue", a restaurant reservation app that was ultimately sold to Open Table for $11.5 million.
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
Seven budding entrepreneurs hope to turn their business ideas from concept to creation this weekend with the help of dozens of volunteer programmers, web designers, lawyers and business consultants.
The seventh annual 48Hour Launch kicked off Friday night with the promise of cash prizes, foreign travel and vital business connections to those picked to have the best business plan by Sunday night's pitch night.
On the 5th floor of the Edney Building at the hub of Chattanooga's Innovation District, teams quickly formed Friday night to develop ideas ranging from a virtual reality device for participants to be emerged in a foreign language culture to a multimedia system for middle- and high-school students to generate music and lighting effects from their dance movements.
Others are developing plans this weekend to use autonomous drones to streamline how defective utility lines are identified and corrected or they will be working on a desk module that will provide touch-screen systems making it easier for students and teachers to use compared to traditional computer tablets.
The ideas are all from local entrepreneurs picked by Co.Lab and the Mozilla Foundation for this year's 48Launch under the theme of the Internet of all things.
The connectivity offered by the internet allows any device to be remotely monitored, controlled and even repaired from most anywhere in the world.
The advantages of connectivity are also very personal, at least during the weekend of business building inside the Edney Building.
"We really use an open source approach and encourage people to move about between the different teams, because we've found that interaction helps all of the groups to grow and learn from one another," said Tia Capps, communications director at the Co.Lab, who introduced each of the entrepreneurs Friday night.
With a 6 p.m. Sunday deadline for each team to develop and pitch their prospective businesses to judges and investors, mentors working with the startup groups said there is no time to waste.
"There's not time to sit and wait to be asked to dance," said Dan Gilmore, a Chattanooga attorney who is mentoring a new business known as Digital Windows. "You've got to get in there and hit the ground running with only 48 hours, and there are some great people and resources here to make that happen."
Gilmore, who has participated in several of the 48Hour launches since they began in Chattanooga in 2009, said he enjoys the enthusiasm and passion of those trying to turn their ideas into viable businesses.
"I just enjoy being around the creative community and being a part of Chattanooga's efforts to build an entrepreneurial economy," Gilmore said.
This year's 48Hour Launch has attracted both the assistance and a chance for a London trip from the Mozilla Foundation, which works to promote tech startups and to help develop businesses using Chattanooga's ultra-fast 1 gigabit-per-second and faster internet speeds.
The 48Launch programs in the past have helped launch such businesses as Quickcue, a restaurant reservation app that was ultimately sold to the San Francisco-based Open Table for $11.5 million, and the Society of Work, which Kelly Fitzgerald has expanded into two floors of open office space for startup businesses in the Edney Building.
"It seems like an improbable thing to build a business in 48 hours, and it doesn't always work out, at least as originally planned," said Mike Bradshaw, executive director for Co.Lab. "But the relationships and contacts that are built during these weekends almost always help in other ways and to foster new business opportunities."
Dustin Hysinger participated in the 2014 version of 48Hour Launch and spent the entire weekend at Co.Lab's former offices on Main Street, even sleeping on the floor one night. His business didn't prove successful, but his mentor was so impressed by his skills that Hysinger later landed a job as a graphic designer at the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"These events allow you to be a part of something bigger than just yourself by helping, at least in some small way, to build the businesses of the future," he said.