When you think of start-up companies coming together to present to investors you probably wouldn't imagine that such an event would take place at a 6th-12th grade school. Nor would you think that it would take place in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But July 29th's GigTank at Girls Preparatory proves that expectations don't always conform to reality.
As a school with a beautiful campus and modern facilities, Girls Prep is a logical place to hold just about an event. But the question still remains: why Chattanooga? As it turns out, Tennessee's fourth largest city is home to arguably the fastest widely available internet in the country. Armed with one gigabit fiber-optic internet (thus the name GigTank) across the city for only $70 a month, Chattanooga is, in a way, a glimpse into the future.
"Fastest internet in the world," says Daniel Millbank, IT Director at Girls Prep. "The problem is nobody knows what to do with such speed so that's the point of GigTank. Companies around the world come to Chatanooga to test their products here. The internet here is what it's going to be like across the country in three or four years."
And although Girls Prep didn't bring these start-ups to campus on their own (that was Chattanooga start-up support company Co.Lab), they still had a lot to gain from the event. "It's important for Chattanooga to see our school's connection to the community. You can't really see the school from the road, and how awesome it is. But when you get on campus it's a site that you'll remember," said Millbank.
The event hosted a number of companies with exciting technological ideas. There were presenters from companies that specialize in health care, 3D printing, and smart grids (a modernized electrical grid). But not only were the presenters fantastic, but so was GigTank's turnout.
"It was open to the public," said Millbank. "The expectation was three to five hundred. We said okay, we can handle probably six hundred. But we got over seven hundred. The mayors were here. Both the city mayor and the county mayor."
Overall, Millbank and Girls Prep are very proud of the event they were able to put on. "It shows that during the summer a school can be used for much more. The school is not closed, and it can be a resource for the community."