Last month Sarah Evans, PR wonder girl and marketing director of Tracky – a startup in Las Vegas, wrote a piece entitled “14 reasons you should consider Las Vegas for your startup”
While Las Vegas is a wonderful place to visit, I’d like to counter with 12 reasons on why you should seriously consider Chattanooga for your startup business.
1) Easy of Connectivity: When it comes to networking and connecting with the right people there is no other place like Chattanooga. Forget six degrees of separation. We are talking one or two tops. It is very easy to make connections and meet the right people quickly in this town.
2) Cost of Living: Chattanooga has it all over other cities as far as cost of living. Compared to other cities with startup communities Chattanooga is a bargain. When I relocated here back in 2007 from South Florida our housing costs dropped 30% and our car insurance plummeted 50%.
3) Opportunity: You want ground floor? Come here and be a part of the founders club (or at least the 2nd generation of entrepreneurs). Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial scene is still young. We’re open to ideas.
4) Youth Energy: Chattanooga is oozing confidence and exuberance. You can’t throw a rock on Chattanooga’s Southside without hitting the office of company founded or run by a millennial. Nearby Covenant College is graduating a high number of entrepreneurs while Chattanooga State is revving it’s educational engine with their STEM high school initiative. I have no stats to back this up, but it surely feels like Chattanooga ranks high per capita when it comes to young entrepreneurs.
5) Location: You want amenities, but not the headaches that come with big city living? The Scenic City has you covered, and in more ways that you know. Situated near equi-distant from Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Knoxville, Chattanooga has a lot to offer. The terrain draws many an outdoor lover. We’re also the home of Lifekraze, the social network for active people who, by the way, was founded by some 20-something year graduates from Covenant College.
6) New South Attitude: Sure we’ve got Southern hospitality and charm, but the attitude of the new South is all about “can do” ingenuity. We don’t take no for an answer. If we need something that’s not available we just go and invent it. Local companies like Green Global Lighting, Variable Technologies, QuickCue and SupplyHog are blazing new trails that all started in Chattanooga.
7) The Gig: We’ve got it. In fact, we had it years before Kansas City thanks to EPB (our local power company) which laid fiber throughout the city to deploy the smart grid. Businesses benefit from the smart grid with more uptime. Power outages are averted in seconds as opposed to hours and days. Best of all, response times keep getting faster and faster. Because of EPB, Comcast and AT&T are turning Chattanooga into their test market to roll out new features. The city is one big beta test site. Competition breeds innovation which leads to better
8) The Company Lab: They’re hatching startups and providing incubation services like their life depended on it. And it does, because that’s all they do. Thanks in part to leadership from Sheldon Grizzle the Colab, as it is lovingly referred to, offers a collaborative environment for those with ideas. Entrepreneurs seeking knowledge typically find it at Colab. Those who don’t are at the very least pointed in the right direction. Their SpringBoard program has been licensed by other startup communities around the country. Recurring events like ‘Will This Float?’ and 48Hour Launch keep fanning the flames of entrepreneurialism and companies like SupplyHog and Variable Technologies were forged from their fire.
9) Money: I’m not talking oilwell gushers on every street corner, but there are angels, seed investors and venture capitalists in Chattanooga. The city is home to non-profit organizations like the Benwood Foundation and Lyndhurst Foundation that look favorably on new ventures. Lamp Post Group is a venture incubator that houses startups while providing resources in the form of services and capital in exchange for ownership.
10) The GigTank: An initiative created by the City of Chattanooga, The Company Lab, Benwood Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Lamp Post Group, EPB and other private groups – GigTank was organized as a platform to woo investors and inventors to the area by way of competition. Last year’s winner Banyan, a startup from Tampa, won $100,000 in prize money that was partially backed by Lucent Technologies. They spent months residing in Chattanooga during the competition. After grabbing the top prize, they returned home triumphantly. Yet something wasn’t quite right. Their people had developed a kinship with the city, and decided to move the company to Chattanooga. Here’s hoping they become a permanent fixture here.
11) Co-working Space: There are numerous places around town to work solo, collaborate with colleagues and strike up conversations with other entrepreneurs. The Camphouse is a thriving multi-purpose space disguised as a coffee house. Other great coffeehouses such as Greyfriars, Chattz, Stone Cup and Mean Mug offer wifi, comfortable seating and an atmosphere conducive to getting stuff done. The Company Lab (#8) is also a great place to collaborate, and there are three or four new co-working spaces in development around town.
12) Nightlife: Chattanooga’s nightlife is on the rise. Urban Spoon listed four local spots on their top bars around the country – more mentions than most major cities got. The music scene is heating up thanks in large part to Track 29. The Flaming Lips, Jack White, Dawes, Josh Ritter, Of Montreal have or are bringing their musical energy to town. Scenic City Roots is a monthly musical variety show aiming to revive the historic legacy of live musical radio production and showcase Chatttanooga’s rich musical history and culture.
Oh, and did I mention we’ve had a recent culinary explosion in town? These innovative folk are inventors and entrepreneurs just like you and I. Check out Easy Bistro, Taco Mamacita, Terminal Brewhouse, Brewhaus and MIlk & Honey to name a few. Entrepreneurship never tasted so good!
Don’t take my word for it though. Get on down here and experience Chattanooga for yourself. Let me know when you’re coming. Love to show you around the Scenic City. Personally, I like the phrase Chattanooga Whiskey uncovered as the quintessential description of Chattanooga: “The Dynamo of Dixie”.
This list just scratches the surface of all that is good and entrepreneurial here. Help me expand the list by adding your thoughts on what makes Chattanooga a great startup town in the comments below.
Special thanks to @SeanMPhipps for his contribution to #12