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VOL. 128 | NO. 247 | Thursday, December 19, 2013

Start Co. Joins Global Accelerator Network

By Andy Meek

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Start Co., the Memphis-based venture development group focused on grooming startup companies and their founders, is itself about to do some starting anew.

Start Co. is now a member of the Global Accelerator Network, which includes dozens of top startup accelerators from around the world and was created as part of the White House Startup America Initiative. Start Co.’s membership will benefit entrepreneurs who participate in the venture’s three local accelerators: Upstart, which is focused on women-led startups; Seed Hatchery, focused on information technology startups; and Sparkgap, a new soon-to-launch logistics-focused accelerator.

Global Accelerator Network executive director Patrick Riley said his group has been impressed with Start Co.’s programs and management over the past year, and that Start Co.’s programs “embody the values, ethos and high quality” of the global network. The group spans six continents, 63 cities and more than 50 accelerators.

“There is no doubt this is just the beginning of what will be a thriving startup community in Memphis,” Riley said.

MATHEWS

“There are definite benefits for us. There’s (more than 50) accelerators they’ve accepted into their membership.”

–Eric Mathews
Start Co. founder and CEO

Start Co. founder and CEO Eric Mathews said benefits that Start Co. and its programs get by being part of the global network include enhancing Start Co.’s current practices and building off of the vision and expertise of the Global Accelerator Network to help local entrepreneurs become the business leaders of tomorrow.

“There are definite benefits for us,” Mathews said. “There’s (more than 50) accelerators they’ve accepted into their membership pools to kind of set a standard for excellence, as far as accelerators go. Originally stepping into this, there were a couple of areas we thought were powerful. We wanted to be able to enhance the recruitment and marketing efforts for our programs, and this helps us get that reach.

“Moving beyond that, we get benefits as far as technical assistance. There are things like meetups for managers of accelerators, and these are some of the top accelerators in the world. There’s also access to their mentor and investor network. And that’s important for a city like Memphis. When we have something like maybe a consumer electronics high-growth potential startup that’s maybe not a perfect fit, we still want to be able to enable our entrepreneurs to move ahead and get the support they need.”

Speaking of those local programs, the three local accelerators work this way: They each provide $15,000 to startup founders along with mentorship and other benefits to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses. Sparkgap is the newest of the three and launching next year, and it will focus on logistics innovations and work with logistics partners locally.

A benefit of Sparkgap is that the 115-day program will provide logistics tech founders not only with early-stage funding and mentorship from local industry figures, but they’ll get to test their ideas in, according to Start Co., “the real-life laboratory of America’s logistics capital.”

The typical schedule for Start Co.’s accelerators is several months of intense hands-on mentoring and shepherding of the ventures culminating in Demo Days, at which the startup founders make pitches to investors for follow-on funding and hopefully sow the seeds of future growth. The most recent Demo Day was Upstart’s in October.

Next year, Start Co. will do something a little different schedule-wise and run each of the three accelerators simultaneously. They’ll all start May 1, with Demo Days for each program happening on a target date of Aug. 21.

The application period for each of the three accelerators is now open, and entrepreneurs who want to be part of any of the 2014 cohorts can find more details at www.neverstop.co/gan, where they also can apply.

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