8 Companies to Watch

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Chattanooga has become a powerhouse of company creation and idea generation. Here are 8 Chattanooga companies that we’ll be watching shake up the scene in 2017. Innovation is happening. Take a look.

By Andrew Shaughnessy

EnerG3

While most of us love the eco-conscious aspect of clean energy, we tend to associate it with higher costs. Energy management company EnerG3 is changing that reputation by using the same technology to save customers money. The company’s work involves analyzing a building’s energy usage and waste, and developing a specific action plan for improving it through clean energy solutions.

Helping businesses save on utilities

Why it’s a Company to Watch //
The success of EnerG3 relies on its technical expertise – and between Oakridge National Lab and TVA, Chattanooga has an enormous talent pool in the field. “This work demands a thorough understanding of electrical loads, onsite production, and sustainability,” says CEO Dan LeVan. Employees analyze a building’s lighting, HVAC systems, and insulation, and use their findings to make recommendations for clean energy efficiency.

2016 in Review // Last year saw the company gaining its first international client in Canada and partnering with a New York asset management firm that is investing $50 million into EnerG3 clean energy projects. EnerG3 also partnered with global insurance company Munich RE to add protection for customers through performance warranty insurance policies. Together, the funding and performance insurance allowed the company to expand from industrial/commercial projects into municipality, education, and nonprofit work.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond //
The company has now completed over
100 projects and is growing quickly. Future plans include work with multinational organizations throughout North America, including parking lot management services, auto manufacturers, steel plants, and car dealerships – all who want their business to be more green (and more profitable). “Our target for 2017 is 10 times sales growth compared to 2016,” LeVan says.


Photo by Rich Smith




iPrint 3D

Dan Knoch started Motion View Software back in 1981 to help orthodontists diagnose and treat their patients faster, cheaper, and with more precision. Motion View’s latest development is spinoff company iPrint 3D, which builds and sells 3D printers for orthodontics. Using iPrint 3D technology, orthodontists can print 3D molds of teeth right in their offices and use these to make custom appliances like retainers.

Revolutionizing the way we correct teeth

Why it’s a Company to Watch // The company is revolutionizing orthodontic treatment just like same-day crowns revolutionized dental implants. Orthodontists can now use an in-house facial scanner to scan and diagnose patients and send the results to an in-house 3D printer to print 3D molds of teeth in minutes. Using iPrint 3D technology makes it cheaper for both the orthodontist and the patient, and the precision of 3D modeling can reduce treatment times by 25 to 40%.

2016 in Review  // Last year saw the company shipping printers for the first time. Twenty printers, which retail for nearly $25,000 each, have already shipped, and the company is fulfilling orders for around 40 more. “Our technology is now in 70% of U.S. universities that have an orthodontics program,” Knoch says. As demand has increased, iPrint 3D has also added staff – particularly machinists – and it’s still growing.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // The company aims to add 30 dealers this year. “Ideally, sales will go up to 720 printers for a revenue of about $10 million,” Knoch says. They’re also exploring how the company’s scanning technology might be used by the gaming industry (who could use it to put a virtual player in a game) and the retail industry (who could allow customers to virtually “try on clothes” before purchasing).


Photo by Rich Smith




AudiencePoint

With the daily flood of emails that fills every inbox, how do you make your message rise to the top? AudiencePoint CEO Andy Perez has an answer: learn how to harness time. Perez found that people are much more likely to open an email that is either at the top of their inbox or arrives while they are online. He also found that, given enough data, people are predictable. In response, he and his business partners built AudiencePoint, a program that automatically sends your email at the best time for each individual, according to that individual’s patterns of behavior.

Harnessing time and data to win customers

Why it’s a Company to Watch // AudiencePoint takes big data and makes it useable to marketers. Customer companies contribute to the ever-expanding data pool, which already includes about two billion email addresses. Any data point involving time becomes part of a pattern, allowing AudiencePoint to predict when a person is most likely to be online. “Our average email address has over 10,000 data points,” Perez says. “We’re organizing that information into something actionable.”

2016 in Review  // As of 2016, the company is profitable and growing at a quick clip. Among its customers are Fortune 100 companies, including one that has seen a 4% lift in online revenue since using the service. Toyota and GAP are currently both customers of AudiencePoint.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond //
In the year ahead, AudiencePoint is launching a new product, growing its team to include more developers and salespeople, and continuing to court potential clients. “Any industry that relies heavily on email marketing across multiple time zones is a big opportunity for us,” Perez says.


Photo by Rich Smith




Whiteboard

Back in 2010, Whiteboard was two guys designing websites at a kitchen table and dreaming big over cheap Hibachi. Since then, the digital agency has grown to 23 employees and carved out a name as one of the most dynamic companies in Chattanooga. Whiteboard Founders Taylor Jones and Eric Brown banded together over common values and a vision of what work could be. “We certainly are a for-profit that wants to be successful,” Jones says. “But we started by asking, ‘can we create an organization that contributes to the common good?’”

Taking a multidisciplinary approach to digital marketing

Why it’s a Company to Watch // A self-described “creative technology company,” Whiteboard offers a spectrum of digital marketing services – from strategy to content creation to design. The company’s multi-disciplinary approach hinges on its belief that a successful digital presence marries form (e.g., the look of a website) and function (e.g., the purpose of a website). With clients ranging from non-profits like Compassion International to local businesses like Southtree and Aegle Gear, Whiteboard approaches its craft holistically so that digital experiences are simultaneously effective, innovative, and meaningful.

2016 in Review  // The company moved into a new downtown office, grew gross sales by 80%, expanded its team by 50%, and introduced an employee profit-sharing plan. It also developed several digital products for clients, including an e-learning platform that allows facilitators to curate content to guide class discussions, and a mobile tool called Purposity (more on this below).

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // Purposity – which partners with social workers to curate area needs, and invites the community to meet those needs through Amazon – had its official Chattanooga launch last month. The hope is to develop similar products in the year ahead, as the company expands its portfolio of digital tools that advance the common good. Whiteboard also plans to become more of a resource for Chattanooga’s creative and entrepreneurial community through hosting events.


Photo by Casey Hyde




Aegle Gear

“Others win races, I save lives.” These words, stitched on the tags of Aegle Gear’s clothing, reflect the company’s roots. Co-founders George Brown and Uli Becker spent years working as executives in the sports apparel industry (both worked for Adidas, and Becker served as CEO of Reebok). Now they’re channeling that experience into designing uniforms for medical professionals. “We designed apparel so athletes could jump higher or run faster, but health care workers save lives and they’re basically wearing pajamas,” Brown says. “We knew we could do better.” So they did.

Reimagining uniforms for health care pros

Why it’s a Company to Watch // Aegle Gear approaches clothing technology and design like an athletic gear company, but tailors it specifically to the needs of health care professionals. Not only are Aegle Gear’s uniforms attractive, tough, and comfortable; they are also fluid-resistant and treated with antimicrobial technology that breaks down infectious germs. The goal is to reduce hospital-associated infections, make employees happier, and give hospitals a visibility boost through a branded look.

2016 in Review  // After self-funding the initial startup, Aegle Gear raised $750,000 from investors. Things have been rolling quickly ever since. In the latter months of 2016, Aegle Gear’s website went live, the company gained the ability to start shipping gear, and it made its first local sales. “Erlanger now has 330 nurses wearing our gear,” Brown says.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // The company chose Whiteboard to help step up its digital marketing game, and it hopes to showcase Aegle Gear at several major tradeshows. “This year is all about building awareness and selling the brand,” Brown says.


Photo by Grant Dotson




Reliance Partners

Reliance Partners was launched in 2009 as a partnership between CEO Andrew Ladebauche and some of the core founders of Access America Transport. The insurance brokerage company, which specializes in transportation and logistics insurance, serves clients in 44 states and has been recognized as one of the fastest growing insurance brokerages in the U.S. Inc. Magazine recently ranked Reliance at No. 729 in their list of America’s fastest-growing companies.

Introducing a new breed of insurance brokerage

Why it’s a Company to Watch // Reliance Partners brings a young, energetic startup culture to an old-school industry – a competitive advantage in an evolving market. “Reliance looks very different from your typical American insurance brokerage company,” says Reliance President and COO Chad Eichelberger. “We’ve got a lot of hungry, driven people.” Fortune, along with several other publications, recently recognized the company as one of the “Best Places to Work in America.”

2016 in Review  // Last year was all about growth. The past 18 months saw Reliance Partners grow from eight employees to a current headcount of 48 and continue to increase its revenue (the company has seen over 600% revenue growth over the past four years). “We’re really looking at expanding our footprint,” Ladebauche says. “We just opened an office in Birmingham, and we’ve got plans to expand into Chicago.”

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // The company expects to more than double its revenue this year and grow its Chattanooga office from its current 48 employees to 130 by the end of 2018. Over the next three years, it expects revenue growth of over 200%. “We’re excited about this industry as a whole,” Eichelberger adds. “The sky’s the limit.”




Collider

Let’s say your company needs a custom-built part. If you’re making millions of that part, your costs will stay low. But if you only need a few hundred, the mold-making process may become prohibitively expensive. Collider Founder and CEO Graham Bredemeyer has set out to solve that problem. His programmable machine combines 3D printing with traditional plastic casting to offer low-volume manufacturers a cheaper tooling option.

Carving a new path for small-scale manufacturers

Why it’s a Company to Watch // Collider’s machine is still in its early stages, but its potential to create parts for small-scale innovators is remarkable. Users can upload a part design, automatically turn it into a readable mold design, and 3D print it as a thin-walled mold. The machine injects a traditional manufacturing material into the mold, and the whole mold platform is removed and put in a hot water bath to dissolve the shell, leaving behind your custom part. Small-batch manufacturers get a high-quality part with relatively low cost for custom tooling–all in a completely automated system.

2016 in Review  // Last year was all about taking the technology from a prototype to the industrial machine it is today. Now Collider is able to receive part orders and produce parts on demand. “The manufacturing process is still in its infancy, which is why we’re not making machines and selling them to the manufacturing companies of the world yet,” says Bredemeyer.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // The year ahead is all about perfecting the technology through beta testing. The company will print parts for several different companies, study them in comparison with the company’s needs, and adjust the machine accordingly. “We want it to stay within our walls while it continues to mature, but we also want to begin generating revenue,” Bredemeyer says.


Photo by Rich Smith




Conversant Group

Conversant Group was founded in 2009 by IT entrepreneur John Anthony Smith, a college dropout who started his first company at 16. Early in his career, Smith discovered a client niche for an IT company in the legal realm. Now Conversant Group’s client base, mostly law firms, stretches from coast to coast. “Lawyers want their applications to work whether they are in Montreal or in India,” Smith says. “Our systems allow them to use digital workspaces securely – no matter where they are.”

Building tech infrastructures for legal pros

Why it’s a Company to Watch // The company’s array of tech support services is extraordinary. “Below any application is servers, software, security requirements, switching, routing, wiring, and more,” Smith says. “We do all of it.” EPB has been using the company’s infrastructure to deliver its customer support for years – yet few people know it. “We’re a hidden gem in Chattanooga,” Smith says.

2016 in Review  // The company continued its trend of 40% revenue growth. It also acquired its first international client in 2016 (Montreal) and added more leadership, a move it plans to continue in 2017 by onboarding more leadership in finance and accounting.

Outlook for 2017 and Beyond // This year, the company will launch its first initiative focused on delivering and configuring apps for document management and accounting. It’s also looking to gain more legal clients in Britain and France. “Our paradigm is different from most small businesses,” Smith says. “We’re fixers. We go where the opportunity is.”


Photo by Rich Smith

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