A return to Co.Lab’s artistic roots is in the cards this year
Co.Lab’s Will This Float? business pitch competition returns next week for its fifth edition, this time primarily seeking promising ideas in music and entertainment, although other fields are also welcome. The event will be 6–10 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the expanding Chattanooga Choo Choo entertainment megaplex’s new Revelry Room.
There is a little bit of prize money and business services at stake for the honorees, and past winners—including SupplyHog, NODE (Variable, Inc.), RootsRated, Granola and Innovasan—have gone on to develop into full-fledged companies and draw serious investment capital. But if the pattern of the past four years holds, the evening will be a friendly gathering of Chattanooga’s startup tribe along with the overlapping music and entertainment tribe, and the tone will be more startup pep rally-reunion-cocktail party than shark tank.
“We wanted to highlight music and entertainment because there’s been a lot of development in that area,” said Allison Reedy, programs and events director for Co.Lab. “There’s a lot of growth in that sector in Chattanooga and there’s a lot of opportunity—now more than ever—for entrepreneurs, so we want to capitalize on that and help spur it along.”
“There’s a ton of activity in the music/entertainment sector in Chattanooga right now because the community demands it,” adds Stratton Tingle, executive director of SoundCorps, a new nonprofit established earlier this year to grow the music economy in the Chattanooga region, and one of this year’s Will This Float? judges. “On an economic level, I think we’ve seen both locals and visitors start to have a little more spending money as we’ve emerged from the recession. People want to use that extra money, even if it’s just a little bit, to enhance their lives. There are a lot of artists and industry professionals that are working really hard at meeting the demand.”
According to Co.Lab, judges will be particularly interested in ideas that involve streaming, 3-D projection, augmented reality and other technologies that would make good use of ultra high-speed networks. Eight to 10 presenters will be chosen to make three-minute pitches. Awards will be given in three categories—best overall, best music/entertainment idea and best general business idea. The overall winner will receive a cash prize, and all three winners will receive a package of business services to continue developing their ideas.
“We’re giving these artists a chance to identify themselves as entrepreneurs and see that they play a role in this new innovation economy,” said Reedy. “We think it takes all types of entrepreneurs to build a strong startup community—all different sectors, artists, creatives, tech, brick and mortar.”
For Co.Lab, this arts-themed Will This Float? is also a bit of a return to its roots. Co.Lab grew out of CreateHere, the nonprofit that aimed at broader economic and community revitalization but had its roots firmly planted in the arts and in the Main Street community. Co.Starters began as an entrepreneurship development program called SpringBoard at CreateHere.
“We originally focused that for artists,” said Reedy, who worked for CreateHere before it sunsetted (as planned) at the end of 2011 and Co.Lab was formed. “We realized this is something everyone one needs—there are a lot of people want to start businesses—so we grew it. We actually developed our own curriculum called Co.Starters.”
Reedy sees Will This Float? as creating connections between the music and entertainment community and the entrepreneurial community.
“I think tying those two communities together is the most exciting part for me,” she said. “It’s really cool to go back to our roots. It just feels right to do something that works with artists and helps them turn their work into a business and a sustainable way of life.”
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