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VOL. 123 | NO. 153 | Wednesday, August 6, 2008

LaunchMemphis To Become Nonprofit Org.

By Rosalind Guy

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A local organization formed to bring together entrepreneurial-minded individuals in the community has experienced such a show of interest that organizers are taking the next step in formalizing it.

Eric Mathews, one of the co-founders of LaunchMemphis, said he and the others are in the process of filing papers to make it an official nonprofit organization.

Mathews co-founded Launch Memphis with local attorney Harry Brown.

Like the people it seeks to help, LaunchMemphis started out as an idea, became a prototype and now, Mathews said, it’s time to make it more tangible.

“We kind of did a rapid prototyping of LaunchMemphis this past spring,” Mathews said. “So now that it’s been a success, we’ve got to take the prototype and make it a product.”

The success began the last weekend in May with the group’s Start-Up Weekend event. More than 100 people showed up to develop a company.

The result? A Facebook Web application, http://spynnr.com, where people interested in the game ultimate frisbee can find out more, play or buy related merchandise.

Ultimate is a game believed to have been around since the 1960s and is played by two teams of seven players on a 64-meter playing field. Players score by passing a Frisbee to a receiver in the end zone.

In addition to that business, several other solid business ideas were formulated during the weekend event in May.

That is more than any of the organizers expected from the 54-hour event, Mathews said.

Since then, participants who by essence of participating become part owners of the company have been meeting to hash out all the details of the business.

“We had to settle out who owns what in regard to the company,” Mathews said. “And that has been a process of notifying all Start-up Weekend participants, formally as well as by sending out some e-mails.”

The Start-up Weekend reunion is Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at EmergeMemphis in the Mercury Launch Pad. There will be a product launch presentation at the meeting, not only for the Spynnr business but also for one of the other businesses that emerged from the previous event.

“It’s another idea that came out of Start-up Weekend; we’re going to have a beta launch of that on Aug. 7 as well,” Mathews added. “It’s a unique tool for collaborating around entrepreneurial ideas.”

Fall schedule at a glance

LaunchMemphis already has a number of events planned for the fall season.

The highlight of its “Fall 2008 Season of Entrepreneurship” will be a visit from former Memphian Sarah Lacy.

Lacy is a tech entrepreneurship reporter for Business Week and Yahoo’s Tech Ticker. She also recently wrote a book, “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0,” which she will be discussing.

The stop in Memphis is part of a national book tour for Lacy.

Lacy will be at EmergeMemphis Sept. 18 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The other big event planned for the fall season is the Memphis BarCamp, which will be held in November. Called the “un-conference,” the event is designed to let participants determine the content of the program.

“The people who show up make presentations themselves; they decide what gets presented, within a specified topic area,” Mathews said. “They sign up for slots for what they want to hear or what they want to present.”

A number of workshops also will be offered during the BarCamp.

The open format event is something that’s being held around the country. One was held last year in Nashville.

“This fits in with what LaunchMemphis should be about,” Mathews said, “bringing in new experiences and dynamic experiences to support the entrepreneurial community.”

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