A Chattanooga-based startup company created by five University of Tennessee graduates has been accepted into YCombinator, regarded as the most prestigious technical program/incubator in the world. Called Ambition, the company was started in September 2012 by three UT College of Business graduates, Travis Truett, Jared Houghton and Brian Trautschold, and two UT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduates, Wes Kendall and Josh Marlow. The founders received their initial startup funding from the Lamp Post business incubator in Chattanooga.
Ambition’s core product allows employees of sales organizations to compete in a team-based weekly schedule. “Think fantasy football, but for sales organizations,” said company co-founder Kendall.
Ambition was also recently featured on popular news website TechCrunch, which focuses on information technology companies. TechCrunch’s profile describes Ambition as “a productivity tool masquerading as a game that replaces the spreadsheets, whiteboards, and even gongs used today. All sales organizations are looking for ways to increase accountability, motivation, and engagement of their staff. By gamifying sales, Ambition provides recognition, transparency, and competition while simultaneously encouraging collaboration and team cohesiveness.”
YCombinator provides two 3-month programs every year for startups, providing funding, connections, and mentorship. Many famous companies have gone through YCombinator's program, like reddit.com and dropbox.com. Other YCombinator companies have already had successful acquisitions, such as heroku.com's acquisition by SalesForce for $212 million. Ambition is the first company from Chattanooga to be accepted into YCombinator since its inception in 2005, and one of the first companies from Tennessee.
Businesses from all over the world compete to gain entry into the exclusive YCombinator program. Only 52 businesses, including Ambition, were accepted into the January-March 2014 program- the biggest class ever.
Kendall credits the University of Tennessee’s EECS program, and his Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Jian Huang, for the education and background he needed in order to try a startup company. Marlow, too, said that "the EECS program gave me a lot of opportunities and options that eventually led me into the startup world."
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