Source: PC Magazine | Rob Marvin | May 4, 2018
The Tennessee city’s burgeoning tech sector is built on a vibrant startup ecosystem and cheap, fast internet from its citywide gigabit fiber network.
In 2010, Chattanooga became the first US city to roll out a citywide gigabit network. In 2015, the city-owned fiber internet run by the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) reached 10-gigabit speeds. Chattanooga’s access to cheap, fast internet combined with a local government and economic push to develop smarter infrastructure has turned this picturesque midsize city on the southern edge of Tennessee into a fast-growing destination for tech companies and startups looking for an alternative to New York City and Silicon Valley.
Chattanooga’s Innovation District harbors a burgeoning ecosystem of tech companies and venture capital (VC) firms attracting entrepreneurs, investors, and workers to the city. While logistics and transportation startups are the most numerous, the region is also home to companies in the digital media, healthcare, and software development spaces.
At the same time, Chattanooga is experimenting with ways to use its fiber internet to make the city smarter. We spoke to startups, VC investors, and city government officials to break down Chattanooga’s transformation into a startup tech hub.
“Chattanooga allows us to appeal to a lot of the millennial workforce that’s defecting from Silicon Valley and New York and looking for a change of pace,” said Luke Marklin, CEO of Chattanooga-based Bellhops, a startup marketing itself as an “Uber for Moving.”
Bellhops has roughly 70 employees en route to a workforce of about 100, said Marklin, who previously served as a General Manager for the real Uber, overseeing much of the Southeast. Aside from its mountain backdrop and natural beauty, Marklin said Chattanooga offers a hospitable environment and an attractively low cost of living for new grads entering the workforce.
When Bellhops’ founders graduated college, it was seed investment from a firm call the Lamp Post Group that brought them to Chattanooga in 2013. The affordability, atmosphere, and low-cost gigabit internet is why they stayed.
“Small businesses and venture-backed startups need to consider where the best place is for them to build and grow a team. Chattanooga has some of the biggest headwind behind it outside of the standard tech hubs,” said Marklin, who joined the startup last year. “The affordability for starting a business here is great. The cost of living is better. I’ve lived in Nashville and Atlanta, and Chattanooga feels like splitting the difference.”
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