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VOL. 128 | NO. 136 | Monday, July 15, 2013

Start Co. Adds Women’s, Logistics Accelerators

By Andy Meek

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Two new startup accelerators are joining the Memphis entrepreneurial scene, both targeting different kinds of company founders.

One is focused on women-led tech startups. The other will focus on company founders who want to build startups focused on the logistics industry.

FOWLKES

A variety of accelerators already exist in Memphis that provide support to founders who want to do things like create tech and medical device companies. And because logistics is the biggest industry in Memphis where companies like FedEx call home, Start Co. co-president Andre Fowlkes said it was an industry ripe for new startup entrants.

Start Co. is a nonprofit that sits at the hub of Memphis’ startup ecosystem, hosting events and programs like the new accelerators.

“We’ve got a wealth of knowledge here, an optimum location, so we said, ‘Let’s try this and see what happens,’” Fowlkes said.

He said the effort would look to attract developers, programmers, software engineers and the like who’re interested in building ventures that do things like improve on problems in the logistics supply chain. The logistics accelerator probably won’t launch until next year, but once it’s up and running it will unfold like Start Co.’s similar programs.

There will be a short-term period where founders go through a program of mentorship, training and hands-on experience. They’ll also get seed funding.

Part of what will shape the program is a logistics hackathon being planned for this fall that’s being spearheaded by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and Start Co. It was at first going to be held this month, but organizers needed a little more time to put it together.

The idea is for developers and logistics professionals to come together for a weekend of competitive designing and coding. They’ll tackle logistics challenges faced by large companies like FedEx and will have the opportunity to work with application programmer interfaces to develop logistics solutions.

“We didn’t want to do the accelerator without having data from the hackathon,” Fowlkes said. “During the hackathon, we’ll put some big problems up on a board and see what happens out of that. Coming out of it, we’ll know some core areas that would be viable for startup companies. Things like predictive analytics for the supply chain, mobile applications – that was the original premise for the hackathon, to help guide us for the accelerator.”

Meanwhile, Upstart Memphis is the new female founder-focused accelerator program hosted by Start Co.

“We’ve got a wealth of knowledge here, an optimum location, so we said, ‘Let’s try this and see what happens.’”

– Andre Fowlkes
Co-president, Start Co.

Upstart will be a 90-day mentor-driven accelerator that seeds a group of female company founders with cash, mentors to help them shape their ideas and ultimately a chance to pitch investors later this year for funding to take their companies to the next level.

Four teams are going through the first Upstart round, and each is getting $15,000. At the end of the program, the four teams will pitch to investors at Upstart’s Demo Day showcase Oct. 17.

The program kicked off Thursday, July 11, with a reception at the Crescent Club and the presentation of checks to the teams.

The four teams cover a range of industries. Leni Stoeva, for example, is CEO of The Memphis DigiArtcade, an interactive virtual museum working to preserve and network digital media and new media artwork.

Kelli Meade is CEO of GemPhones, a brand of high-fashion earphones. Zakkiyah Daniels is the CEO of Stylecrook, a fashion retail marketplace, and Audrey Jones and Demarcus Bowser have co-founded Punch, a customer appreciation phone application for retail stores that captures purchase history and important consumer information.

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