We’ve Got It: The Spirit of Innovation

By Amanda Ellis

“You have to innovate because so many problems exist, but most people think about them the same way everyone else does,” says Jared Houghton, Ambition co-founder. “So you have to think about cracking this nut in a way that it’s never before been cracked.”

Houghton’s company received the Chattanooga Chamber’s 2015 Spirit of Innovation Award, a community-based honor designed to foster cutting-edge business solutions.                                                                               

The thought leaders who run Ambition, Learning Blade and RootsRated embody the creative spirit it takes to win in a field crowded with competitors.

Established in 2001, the Spirit of Innovation Award is a collaboration between the Chattanooga Chamber and descendants of John Kruesi, who immigrated to America in the 1800s and worked with inventor Thomas Edison. Kruesi designed the first phonograph in 1877 and served as principal mechanic on countless other patented innovations, including the incandescent light bulb.

John’s son Paul settled in Chattanooga, founded the American Lava Company in 1902 and served as president of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

Ambition - Check out this video to learn more about Ambition. 

Life is too short for work to feel small.

That’s why a team of seasoned entrepreneurs and elite engineers launched Ambition, a performance management platform combining cutting-edge gamification, analytics and reporting automation to score user performance in real time.

It’s like Fantasy Football for sales, marketing and customer service professionals. Ambition fuels employee engagement and productivity and inspires people to reach daily performance benchmarks. With accolades from the Harvard Business Review and other respected business publications, Ambition also supports the broader economic development goals of our community by attracting topnotch tech talent to Chattanooga, the firm’s home base.

Learning Blade - Check out this video to learn more about Learning Blade. 

Education and workforce development professionals have taught us the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math − STEM. Experts project that STEM employment opportunity will grow 17 percent in the U.S. during the next two years, a significantly higher rate than many other professions.

To attract more students in STEM careers, Chattanooga-based Thinking Media created Learning Blade, a web-based STEM curriculum focused on increasing interest in careers like medicine, advanced manufacturing, biomedical engineering and more.

“We’re inspiring kids. We want to inspire the next generation of Americans who will keep our country on the cutting edge,” says Joshua Sneideman, Learning Blade Vice President.

In a game-based format, students build an orphanage or rehabilitate an injured dolphin – missions that solve real-world STEM problems and show how STEM careers work. In two years, more than 20 states have discovered the power of Learning Blade and Tennessee has adopted the curriculum for middle schoolers statewide.

RootsRated - Check out this video to learn more about RootsRated. 

With most information powering outdoor recreation tied up in guidebooks or word of mouth, RootsRated helps outdoor, travel and tourism brands engage their customers by putting content online via a dominant platform. These retailers and their networks of local experts handpick outdoor experiences organized by geography and sport.

“To me, being innovative means that you have a commitment to not blinking,” says Fynn Glover, RootsRated Founder and CEO.

And RootsRated certainly isn’t − as the fastest growing consumer-facing media platform in the outdoor industry, RootsRated connects people and brands to give consumers the inspirational content they want and to help marketers engage targeted audiences at scale.

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The Chattanooga Technology Council’s Early Innovator Award, presented alongside the Chamber’s Spirit of Innovation Award, honors emerging technology-based companies (less than $50,000 in revenue) that have produced a groundbreaking prototype product or beta stage software application representing potential for a significant competitive advantage.

Early Innovator Award Honorees

The Ark is a smart device powered by artificial intelligence software to monitor the flow of water. It learns normal behavior and can then alert the owner to deviations from the norm. The device is expected to help alleviate the $5 billion in national annual water damage claims.

Branch Technology combines 3D-printing, industrial robotics and conventional building materials to enable new construction types. Branch produces hybrid 3D-printed building components that can take on any shape with a structure similar to that of natural cellular materials, like a tree branch or dragonfly wing.

Feetz, a digital cobbler, creates custom shoes based on advanced 3D-printing technology and sustainable manufacturing processes.