Chattanooga has become known for is its Innovation District, a catalytic mix of start-up businesses, business incubators and accelerators alongside innovation economy generators and amenities.
The National League of Cities reported earlier this year that Chattanooga is the first of its kind among mid-size cities to take steps to catalyze economic growth through clustering. StartUp Week Chattanooga plans to celebrate such entrepreneurship and innovation for the third consecutive year during October 3-7, 2016.
StartUp Week Chattanooga is a community celebration of Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial community. This multi-day experience will feature a number of community-led events that highlight Chattanooga’s growing startup scene and inspire entrepreneurial thinking. Participants include some of the most amazing startup founders, thought leaders, community supporters, investors, and technorati in town, all of whom make Chattanooga an incredible place to live, work and play. Organizers want to showcase the very best of Chattanooga- its can-do attitude, its innovative spirit and above all its people.
StartUp Week is entirely community-led, therefore any organization or individual is welcome to submit event proposals and were encouraged to do so online at startupweekcha.com from July 1-August 15. Last year’s StartUp Week boasted 120 events over the course of five days. Events were varied and included panels, workshops, speakers, networking opportunities, and parties. The only requirement for the event is that it is beneficial to the individuals who attend.
In previous years, events have been organized into three categories. This year, categories will expand in an effort to better organize the week and include an even broader scope of events. Categories include “Getting Started,” “Growth Mode,” and new for this year, a category about students will be added. It will give them information about how to become a successful entrepreneur and how to put all of their great ideas to good use. StartUp Week is a great opportunity for students to meet new organizations and share ideas. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to come ready to share and examine ideas, learning and growing with the evolving community around them.
In StartUp Week’s first year they had a little over 60 events, last year they doubled in size with a little over 120 events. This year the organization hopes to expand not only in number of events, but in attendance too. The last two years there has been a saturation of urban attendees, however, this year the organization is attempting to draw a more suburban audience, in hopes that it will bring new and different ideas to the events.
“In our third year, we are looking to increase the quality and attendance of our events as we continue to provide opportunities for members of the startup community to exchange ideas, learn and teach,” says Nichole Abruzzise, StartUp Week’s project manager.
There are two phases to startup week. Phase one is getting organizations or individuals to sign up for an event. Throughout the year the organization has held public information sessions and had office hours during their once-a-month event called Basecamp. Phase two of the process is the Startup Week committee putting all the events together and promoting the schedule to those of all career backgrounds.
Basecamp, which is held the first Tuesday of each month, provides participates a place where they can come together and work at Miller Plaza. From 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Basecamp has a BYOW (bring your own work) motto. This allows individuals to enjoy the benefits of co-working with others in the Innovation District. They offer ping pong games, or hammocks to enjoy during break-time. Milk and Honey offers complimentary breakfast at 10:00am and Community Pie offers a networking happy hour from 5:30pm-7:30 p.m. Each Basecamp hosts a special guest speaker at noon.
Each year, Startup Week opens the events with a kickoff speaker. Last year, Gary Vaynerchuk, owner of Vayner Media, one of the world’s hottest digital agencies gave a presentation. Vaynerchuk founded VaynerMedia in 2009 with his brother, AJ Vaynerchuk. VaynerMedia focuses on helping large brands tell their stories on social media. Today the company represents clients such as General Electric, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Pepsi-Co.
Allison Reedy, co-founder of StartUp Week Chattanooga, explained StartUp week by saying, “It’s the most energetic week of the year with events happening all day and all over the city.” Once the schedule is released, after the August 15th event deadline, attendees can visit the startup week website to create their personal agenda to ensure they don’t miss the events they want to attend.
“We want everyone to attend and to be involved,” says Reedy. “We have events for students, new and experienced entrepreneurs and even corporate workers. StartUp Week is also a great opportunity for those who are new to Chattanooga because it gives them a chance to become connected to others in the community. Also this year we want to reach out to suburban individuals to broaden the community-led creativity. Those are the ones who have the input on what is going on around Chattanooga and we want to know.”
The venues of the events are ultimately up to the hosts, but the planning committee is always willing to help. Some organizations will hold events in their own personal office space, which gives the community an opportunity to see what the company does and to tour the office space. Other event venues featured this year are the Edney Innovation Center, which made its grand opening during last year’s Startup Week, Miller Plaza, and more. The StartUp Week planning committee is hoping to expand this year’s events beyond downtown.
Photography courtesy of StartUp Week