Chattanooga Startup Week goes online, takes on COVID-19 pandemic topics

Chattanooga’s annual Startup Week will be entirely online this year, and feature a variety of

Chattanooga’s annual Startup Week will be entirely online this year, and feature a variety of pandemic-specific business topics prompted by the evolving, enduring coronavirus crisis.

“We saw more of an influx of events around pivoting or stories of resilience, and I think that really kind of speaks for what everyone has gone through — especially those in the business community,” said Tim Moore, program manager at CO.LAB, the nonprofit business booster that organizes Startup Week each year.

The Startup Week agenda Oct. 19-23 includes more than 80 sessions anchored by tried-and-true recognition and competition events, including the Spirit of Innovation awards from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. The week also includes the ‘Will This Float?’ pitch competition, which this year features Black business founders, and the Startup Awards, which recognize fledgling businesses in six categories.

The challenges of engaging an online audience are significant, and the loss of elbow-to-elbow networking events will change the character of the week, but organizers are working hard to make the online version of Startup Week memorable and effective, Moore said.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / CO.LAB CEO Marcus Shaw speaks during the ‘Will This Float? Female Founders Edition’ competition at Miller Plaza in 2019. Startup Week will move online this year, and feature several sessions specific to the challenges of weathering the pandemic.

“We’re managing in a virtual environment, so we’re communicating thoughtfully and constantly with attendees,” Moore said. “People are used to traveling to a conference in another city and being there two or three days and you’re very much there and very engaged.” he said.

The Spirit of Innovation awards, which recognize local companies launching innovative products, practices or processes that give them a competitive edge in the marketplace, will feature keynote speaker Arlan Hamilton.

Hamilton is an investor and the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital. In May 2020, she released her first book, “It’s About Damn Time,” about her unconventional and mission-driven journey into entrepreneurship and venture capital.

Begun in 2014, Chattanooga’s Startup Week is designed to inspire and celebrate the success of small businesses.

For entrepreneurs, one of Chattanooga’s biggest advantages is relatively low costs for starting a business.

The online financial website SmartAsset analyzed 80 major U.S. cities for the costs of office space, labor, utilities, filing fees and legal and accounting fees. For the fifth consecutive year in 2019, Chattanooga boasted the lowest cost of any city in the country.

Contact Mary Fortune at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @maryfortune.

Startup Week

To register for the event and view the full schedule, visit colab.co/startupweekcha.

Highlights from the agenda:

Monday, Oct. 19

Will This Float? The Black Founders edition — noon

Pivot During a Pandemic — 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 20

VaynerX’s The Sasha Group is in Chattanooga to Help You — 11 a.m.

TVFCU’s Virtual Idea Leap Grant Pitch Night — 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 21

The State of the Hemp Industry 2020 — 4 p.m.

Spirit of Innovation Awards — 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 22

Latinx Businesses Navigating 2020 — 10 a.m.

Startup Awards — 4 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 23

Amplify Pitch Competition — 10 a.m.

Gig City Innovation Challenge — 1:30 p.m.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Horse Away founder Paige Shackelford, center, stands with 3-year-old Lyle, a Gypsy Vanner horse, before pitching her company during the ‘Will This Float? Female Founders Edition’ competition at Miller Plaza in 2019. Startup Week will move online this year, and feature several sessions specific to the challenges of weathering the pandemic.

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