Robert Tercek’s take on Gig Tank and creating the future
I’m always looking for context. An implied “That’s an amazing widget/company/startup/ecosystem you got there, bro/sis,” can be sufficient framing for a tiny, 800-word window onto a big, complex reality, but a little context can go a long way to make you and me both say, “I get it.”
That’s what Robert Tercek did on the stage at Gig Tank Demo Day a couple of weeks ago. He created pioneering media products at MTV, Sony and OWN, has helped launch disruptive startup ventures and consults with companies who desperately need to “get it” before it gets them.
He’s also written a book—available in September—called “Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World.” Tercek says information exists in the same three states as water: solid (or ice), liquid and vapor. A book would be solid information, while information on the Internet flows like a liquid and mobile data means that information is all around us, like a gas.
“Inside every traditional product is frozen information, but what if you could melt that frozen information?” he asks.
His answer: not only is it possible, but it’s what’s driving the most successful products and companies. He gave a rapid-fire overview of the idea on the Demo Day stage at Girls Preparatory School, with examples far too numerous to mention. You can get a good idea of what he said from videos of similar talks on his web site, roberttercek.com.
Before he went on stage, we took a walk through the companies’ booths and he gave me his take on Chattanooga and some of the Gig Tank teams, which he had met the day before.
Turns out he’s bullish on our Gigabit Internet. He says cities around the world are trying to create a digital hub of some sort, but they’re not all going to make it because they don’t offer a technological reason for a company to be there. Chattanooga does.
“That’s what’s so exciting here—you’re having a digital ecology grow,” he said. “The gigabit network is what enables that ecology to grow. Think of the network like a coral reef and there’s a whole bunch of interesting life forms that are going to emerge and grow. Where I see other places in the world trying to artificially foster a digital ecosystem, they don’t have the coral reef, the thing that’s going to support the life. They have a very shallow ecosystem, but here I think you’ve got this great foundational base.”
He gave a “thumbs up” to three of the 12 Gig Tank teams.
First, the homegrown Adagio, which he found very compelling: “The idea is that you can remotely teach or learn a musical instrument in very high fidelity with video, and it uses the gigabit network. This is a great use of an ultra high-speed network, a software-defined network where you can allocate a certain amount of bandwidth dedicated to that specific application as needed.”
He also singled out Blufield, a software tool for beacons, a new retail technology that is being rolled out in retail stores around the country. Beacons allow retail stores to compete better with online retailers by letting them connect to on-site shoppers through their smart phones, potentially offering special pricing and tracking traffic patterns inside the store.
“Like many new internet-of-things technologies, there’s a lot of competing companies that have competing solutions,” he said. “What Blufield is trying to do is be the single app that provides personalized content. They’re trying to span all these competing standards and competing product offers and make one unified app. That’s going to be greatly needed by the end of the year.”
He loved Branch Technologies, which later that evening won the Investor’s Choice award.
“Branch Tech is 3-D printing for building shapes that couldn’t otherwise be constructed,” he said, pointing to gracefully curved and very sci fi-looking lattices that are designed to be finished with conventional building materials. It’s both futuristic and practical.
The company’s video shows how its 3-D printing works. Unlike the most familiar kind of 3-D printer, which is a boxy-looking thing that builds layers of material up from a flat base, Branch Tech uses a robot arm that literally extrudes plastic material in mid air, like a pen writing in space.
“I just love this,” he added. “Any time you see people transitioning from the digital world to the real world and back again, there’s a lot of room for fruitful creativity and exploration. This is a cool and exciting idea.”
Tercek praised all of the Gig Tank teams, saying, “Those who succeed...well, they’re going to shape the world, the reality the rest of us live in. And I think that’s the coolest thing you can do. It’s the highest and best use of your time on this planet.”
Rich Bailey is a professional writer, editor and (sometimes) PR consultant. He led a project to create Chattanooga’s first civic web site in 1995 before even owning a modem. Now he covers Chattanooga technology for The Pulse and blogs about it at CircleChattanooga.com. He splits his time between Chattanooga and Brooklyn.