Friday, August 29, 2014 · 4:03 a.m.

Hundreds attend Will This Float? business pitch event

Roots Rated takes home top prize in competition

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Hundreds of people came to the fourth floor of The Public Library. (Photo: Staff)

Roots Rated, an online recreation guide created by independently owned specialty outdoor retailers, took home the top prize in Thursday's Will This Float? competition. 

Co-founder of the business Fynn Glover won the If I Had $100,000 to Invest Award and a chance to pitch to 500 Startups, an accelerator program in Silicon Valley, for a spot in their program and up to $250,000 in investment capital. 

The annual business pitch competition, hosted by The Company Lab, allowed 20 presenters three minutes each to present entrepreneurial ideas. 

"Will This Float? has been getting better every year," Enoch Elwell with The Company Lab said via email Thursday night. "It's always an exciting experience to be surrounded by smart people with big ideas, and tonight was full of them." 

The event coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week, and Charlie Brock, executive entrepreneur of The Company Lab, told Nooga.com earlier this week that Chattanooga is continuing to cement its reputation as an innovative place where startups can blossom.

"We are getting such a fantastic entrepreneurial ecosystem in this town," he said. "So many aspects have really started coming together in the last couple of years," such as capital resources and engaged mentors. 

The competition, which drew hundreds to the fourth floor of the The Public Library, featured an entrepreneur from as far away as South Carolina. Others from outside the city's center came from places such as Nashville, Atlanta and Etowah, Tenn.

Elwell said that the regional draw was a distinction in this year's event. 

The competition's youngest innovators were Tyner High School students.  

The students, Colby McCurty and Deosha King, pitched their idea, Grab N Go, and drew praise from judge Shelley Provost with Lamp Post Group.

The girls' venture aims to provide office supplies to high school and college students via vending machine. 

Local businesses Chattanooga Whiskey Company, Pure Sodaworks and Fork & Pie Bar catered the event, which drew a lively crowd. Leaders had to close down the bar at one point so that attendees would listen to the pitches. 

Pure Sodaworks' team served its first locally bottled product at the event. 

Attendees had the opportunity to engage in the event via Twitter. Anyone who used the Twitter hashtag #wtfcha had their message projected on the wall. 

Elwell said that Chattanooga's startup scene is growing stronger every month. 

"I'm excited to see where these promising startup ideas might end up in a few months and have high hopes that our community will help them on their way to success," he said. 

About Roots Rated 
After becoming discouraged with the lack of information online about recreational activities, local resident Fynn Glover partnered with Rock/Creek leaders to create a tool that guides users to the best outdoor experiences across the country.

Searching Google for “best hiking” or “best trail run” produced an overwhelming number of results, some of which were unreliable.

The fourth floor 

The fourth floor of the downtown library is a new space that aims to be a "public laboratory and educational facility" where library leaders focus on "information, design, technology and the applied arts."

Click here for more information. 

And after interviewing 1,000 people about roadblocks to getting outdoors, Glover; Dawson Wheeler, co-owner of Rock/Creek; and Mark McKnight, Rock/Creek marketing director, founded Roots Rated this year.

Roots Rated users can find the top five to 10 best outdoor activities ranked by industry experts in each city.

Other winners 
After the presentations, attendees got the chance to vote via text for a variety of awards. 

Spottlife, which is an application to simplify and aggregate social media, won the I Will Tell My Friends About This Award.

Spottlife co-founders, Brandon Mihai and Scott Gammenthaler, created the app to solve a problem they saw in their own lives. They joined with The Company Lab to flesh out their business plan, and last week, Mihai said he hoped the competition would help get the word out about their product.

"Will This Float? was an awesome experience and a great way to get our name out there in the Chattanooga community," Gammenthaler said via email. "We got a lot of positive feedback, and we met some very important people. We couldn't have asked for anything better."

The Farmhouse, which is a collective farm that is maintained remotely by a Web application, won best presentation.

"Why can't you have a garden and maintain it via your iPhone?" Anthony Cain said during his presentation.

Farmhouse also won the honor for having the greatest social and environmental impact.

The Over My Head Award went to Cloud Lounge, which is a cloud-based platform that stores, shares and streams data to multiple devices and users. 

Roots Rated also won the Best Local Appeal Award.

Disclaimer: Nooga.com is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group, but editorial decisions for this publication are made independently of the Lamp Post Group. 

Updated @ 9:47 a.m. on 11/16/12 for clarity.

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