The Company Lab (CO.LAB), a local startup accelerator and entrepreneurial support organization, plays a significant role in helping the Scenic City become the ‘Smart City,’ – especially when it comes to freight, electric vehicles and organization technology.  

CO.LAB works closely with colleges, local government and industry partners to guide development efforts which are instrumental in coordinating efforts to support innovation and collaboration.  

CO.LAB focuses on five pillars that are critical to the success of scalable business ventures: access to capital, talent, programs, connections and voice. They offer several resources and programs including CO.Starters, KIVA loans, Wayfinding, and Office Hours, connecting entrepreneurs with experienced professionals to receive free and insightful advice on business-related topics. 

Kirk Burton, Chief Operations Officer, CO.LAB, has a crucial role in supporting the organization’s growth and building new offerings to support scalable companies in the sustainable mobility space. Burton has a passion for technology innovation, startups and helping local government connect with small businesses to create future technologies.

In an interview with TREND, Burton highlights the importance of collaboration between government organizations, startups, and academia, and how CO.LAB helps to facilitate those connections. Burton also discusses CO.LAB’s CO.MOBILITY Summit, which aims to highlight the latest advancements in sustainable mobility and smart city innovations.  

Kirk Burton, Chief Operations Officer, CO.LAB

TREND: How has CO.LAB helped Chattanooga transform into a Smart City, particularly in areas like freight and organization technology and electric vehicles?  

In addition to the support we provide to founders, CO.LAB supports local government, academia, and industry efforts to collaborate and guide projects and development efforts. CO.LAB is a member of the Chattanooga Smart City Collaborative and works closely with partners at EPB, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Tennessee Valley Authority and the City of Chattanooga. 

During Startup Week 2020, CO.LAB coordinated with EPB and TVA to sponsor a nationwide innovation challenge for high school and university teams focused on improving public awareness of electric vehicle benefits. We also support our program partners to find local companies that can deliver solutions, create jobs, and build a smarter, cleaner, more sustainable place to live and work. 

TREND: How important is it for government organizations and startups to work together in the sustainable mobility space? How does CO.LAB help those connections?  

There are three critical players in any innovation space: government, industry and academia. This triple helix innovation model emphasizes the importance of collaboration and communication among the three players and recognizes that innovation is a complex and dynamic process that requires input and support from all three sectors.  

Each participant plays a specific role. Government supplies funding, creates policies and regulations, and sets the overall direction for innovation in a society or region. Industry develops and commercializes innovative technologies, products, and services based on research and development from academia and government. Lastly, academia conducts research and development, educates and trains the next generation of innovators and gives knowledge through publications and collaborations. 

Christine Stanford, Operations and Grants Coordinator, CO.LAB.

TREND: Can you share any details about the upcoming accelerator program, including the application process and what types of startups you’re looking for? 

More details about the actual application will be available at the CO.MOBILITY Summit here in Chattanooga – from May 9 to 11. 

We will be recruiting late-stage tech startups (those who already have revenue) who can gain the most from the expertise, connections, and market knowledge available in Chattanooga. The accelerator won’t focus on a specific technology or industry vertically; rather, we will seek companies working in multiple areas including electric vehicles and infrastructure, urban planning and smart traffic solutions. 

TREND: What inspired the creation of the CO.MOBILITY Summit, and what can attendees expect from this year’s event? 

CO.LAB Employees Chat in Offices.

Our CO.MOBILITY Summit was born from a renewed focus on supporting scalable technology startups that are creating the future. Chattanooga is at the center of the sustainable mobility revolution with more people connected to logistics per capita than any other city in America. We also have the world’s fastest internet (25 gigabits), a focus on smart city technology, and the only commercially available quantum network.  

The Summit will showcase all that Chattanooga has to offer in an interactive three-day event headlined by Steve Case (CEO and Chairman of America Online). It’s going to be great and will give those lucky enough to attend a unique opportunity to learn about the latest advancements in electric and autonomous vehicles, Smart City innovations, freight technology, and quantum tech. There will be opportunities to network at sponsored happy hours, hear industry leaders give TEDx-style talks, and even take part in a quantum boot camp.  

In addition to a ride-and-drive event to introduce attendees to electric vehicles, we will also have a raffle to win an e-bike. 

To learn more about CO.LAB and its programs, visit here 

To learn more about CO.LAB’s CO.MOBILITY Summit, visit here 

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