New EmergeMemphis Head Brings Big Ambitions

By Andy Meek

CROTHERS

On his first day as the new president and CEO of EmergeMemphis, Carlton Crothers talked about a grand vision of “creating an innovation ecosystem” in Memphis.

Crothers is the new head of an organization formed in 2001 that serves as an incubator for high-growth companies. He comes to Emerge from Innovation Ecosystem Design in Dallas, with a long career of entrepreneurship-related endeavors behind him.

“The reason why I chose Emerge is I was able to get a good sense of the connection to the community and of the community wanting this to really happen,” Crothers said. “If your heart is not in something, it’s going to be very difficult to be successful. If I’m going to undertake a project, I want to minimize the risk, and I want to make sure the community I’m moving to really wants this to happen. Only then can great things happen. And I had a great experience when I met the (EmergeMemphis) board and with Phil (Trenary), who has been phenomenal.”

Former Pinnacle Airlines CEO Phil Trenary led the search to fill the role previously held by Eric Mathews, who recently left the post to focus on his leadership of the entity now known as Start Co. – formerly operating the brand of LaunchYourCity.

“We were fortunate to attract superior candidates from Memphis and across the nation,” Trenary said of the search. “Carlton’s leadership will have a positive impact on developing companies in the Mid-South that provide good jobs in the fields most important to the economic growth of our community and our nation.”

To fill the spot at Emerge, a search was conducted that included local and national candidates with the help of the National Business Incubation Association.

Crothers’ background includes what EmergeMemphis says is extensive experience with economic development, technology commercialization, incubating and accelerating start-ups, new business development, and marketing, among other things.

“My near-term goal is to address and work with our client companies here – to immediately get to know them and get to know their needs,” Crothers said. “Also, I’ll be working with the board and developing a strategic plan and a business model that supports collaboration with other entities and organizations, like the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.”

EmergeMemphis chairman Scott Fountain, who also is senior vice president and chief development officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., said the organization’s mission includes multiple components.

The Emerge organization is looking, for example, to provide services to members that positively impact their growth, accelerate the development of member companies, springboard high-tech education programs and recruit new companies and talent to Memphis, among other things.

Crothers now is a key player at the center of those efforts.

“And we were fortunate with the recruitment of Carlton that he rose to the top, head and shoulders, above the rest of the crowd,” Fountain said. “We are fortunate we got our first round draft pick.”

Emerge Memphis accomplishes its goal of helping high-growth start-ups and early stage companies become self-sustaining by providing several things. From Emerge’s renovated historic property Downtown that includes 35,000 square feet of tenant space, the organization aligns entrepreneurs with resources and mentors to help ensure their success.

Emerge today includes 37 participating companies at its Downtown presence, as well as FedEx’s Innovation Lab.