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VOL. 128 | NO. 146 | Monday, July 29, 2013

Upstart Memphis Begins Hatching Women-Led Startups

By Andy Meek

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The fourth floor of Playhouse on the Square’s facility at 66 S. Cooper St. is a bustling hub of entrepreneurial activity.

Part of that is the result of it being the new home of Start Co., which in recent days also launched the inaugural season of Upstart Memphis, a 90-day mentor-driven accelerator for women-led tech startups.

Left to right: Kelli Meade, Zakkiyah Daniels, Lena Stoeva and Audrey Jones

Four teams are there now, working on things like the details of the business plans they’ve put together for startups that run the gamut from fashion to art to a smartphone application.

The first teams to go through Upstart, for which they’re getting mentorship and three months of startup support in addition to the cash, include Kids 360 from co-founders Audrey Jones and Demarcus Bowser.

It’s an app that will help parents keep track of their children by, for example, keeping them in contact with childcare providers.

Jones is a single working mom, and she said often it’s up to her son to get where he needs to go on his own. Through the app, the idea is for constant tracking, so that parents not only always know where their children are but that predictive analytics might come into play down the line.

In the future, it might be possible for the app to alert a parent when their child ought to be at a certain place based on past location data.

“The peace of mind this could bring is priceless,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, Zakkiyah Daniels is the founder of Stylecrook, a fashion retail marketplace that will have social, search and limited-time purchase integration. Hers is a venture that will be a Web and mobile platform that includes flash sales and is born partly out of her love of shopping.

Jones has been in the city only a few weeks. After having found out about the accelerator, she sent an email expressing her interest and applied.

Leni Stoeva is the founder of DigiArtCade, an interactive virtual museum “dedicated to preserving and networking digital media and new media artworks,” according to Start Co.

“Memphis is a great place for the arts,” Stoeva said, adding that she’s especially keen on connecting emerging artists with buyers.

Kelli Meade is the founder of GemPhones, a venture that’s come out with a brand of “high-fashion earphones” that could be described as jewelry mixed with earpieces and a plug.

Her creations work for a variety of different kinds of devices, and she has the fashions in several different styles. Demonstrating the product, it looks like a necklace that has earpieces at the ends.

The teams each got $15,000 to get their ventures up and running. At the end of the program, they’ll all present the concept behind their companies to investors at a “Demo Day” showcase Oct. 17.

They’ll be pitching in the hopes of follow-on funding and a chance to take their ideas to the next level.

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