Entrepreneurship Week Encourages Idea Generation


This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, which runs through the weekend, is remarkable not only for all the local events it has included, but also for the fact that several features will be ongoing.

“Entrepreneur Office Hours,” introduced Wednesday as The Catfish Tank (a twist on TV’s “The Shark Tank”), gave entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas and companies to a panel of professional investors. It will continue as a monthly event, according to its sponsor, the Memphis-based early-stage venture-capital firm Innova.

“We know there’s a fairly significant flow of early-stage ideas out there, but with one event, you can’t hit them all,” said Charlie Crawford, Innova senior analyst.

He noted that this week’s inaugural event could only accommodate about a third of the people who wanted to make a pitch there. The monthly events will also be in a panel format, so that each entrepreneur can benefit from the advice given to the others, Crawford said.

Three Course Conversation

Thursday, noon-1:30 p.m.
Networking lunch featuring seasoned local entrepreneurs Mike Bruns (Comtrak Logistics) and Bill West (The West Clinic)
Registration required: visit http://3courseconversation.eventbrite.com

On Thursday, the Society of Entrepreneurs and LaunchMemphis will host the “Three Course Conversations” event.

This lunch event gives novice entrepreneurs an opportunity to network with and to get advice from seasoned, successful Memphis entrepreneurs. They include Mike Bruns, the founder of Comtrak Logistics who turned his start-up idea into a multimillion-dollar business, and Ben Bryant, who grew SCB Computer Technology to a $125-million company and now works with students at University of Memphis’ FedEx Institute of Technology.

The event, from noon to 1:30 p.m., will feature three courses with different community members representing a “course” at different tables. Registration is required and can be done at www.3courseconversation.eventbrite.com/.

Global Entrepreneurship Week also was an opportunity to re-start “Memphis Tech Coffee,” a weekly meeting of technofiles, entrepreneurs, programmers and digital enthusiasts. The group meets Tuesdays for conversation and networking, and is sponsored by LaunchMemphis, a group dedicated to growing the city’s entrepreneurial community.

This is the third year for Global Entrepreneurship Week, started by the Kauffman Foundation as a way to inspire entrepreneurial people to generate new ideas and to seek better ways of bringing those ideas into fruition. It is literally global in scope, with participants in more than 100 countries ranging from the United Kingdom (where the prime minister and uber-entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson are supporters) to Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Brazil.

GEW enjoys the support of President Barack Obama, and is being celebrated across this country and across Tennessee with various events.

Instead of one main sponsor for local events, Innova, LaunchMemphis, Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC law firm, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs, and others have come together to put on events as a cohesive effort under the GEW banner. This year’s events have ranged from a conference on using the web and other technology, to a networking event that brought together novice entrepreneurs with Memphians who’ve succeeded in starting businesses.

These organizations welcome this week’s opportunity to shine the spotlight on the entrepreneurial community, and the fact they are in business to support business start-ups year-round.

“It’s stuff we are doing every day, so it’s helpful that we’re taking a week to concentrate on things entrepreneurial,” said Gwin Scott, president of EmergeMemphis, the general business and technology-based incubator that’s sponsoring several events. “We want it to be Global Entrepreneurship Week 52 weeks a year.”

He hopes that as a result of the GEW events and surrounding publicity, more entrepreneurs and potential investors will take advantage of the resources offered by EmergeMemphis, Innova and others in the Memphis entrepreneurial community.

“I hope others will come out of the woodwork, and that we get to see some positive deal flow,” said Scott, referring both to people with start-up ideas as well as investors. “We’d like to continue to build our entrepreneurial community.”

In Memphis, Global Entrepreneurship Week began with Saturday’s BarCamp, an all-day conference on using the Web and other technology/media. The 100-plus attendees voted on the topics they wanted, which included how not to be boring when using social media and how to build mobile apps.

On Tuesday Butler Snow – whose corporate-law specialties include capital formation – s sponsored panel discussions on investment criteria, business plans and other basics related to capital funding, whether it’s venture capital or an angel investor.

“It was definitely a deeper dive” into these topic areas, Scott said.