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VOL. 127 | NO. 151 | Friday, August 3, 2012

Lemmonds Keeps Startups On Track at LaunchYourCity

By Andy Meek

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Entrepreneurship is as much about storytelling as it is product creation and company-building. The latest widgets, the hottest startups, the most game-changing ideas – they don’t sell themselves.


That’s the part about entrepreneurship that Elizabeth Lemmonds loves best. As chief brand officer for LaunchYourCity, her day job involves a blend of helping local startups when it comes to communications and marketing, as well as helping to brand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Memphis and take it to the next level.

LaunchYourCity is the umbrella organization comprised of three signature programs for early stage entrepreneurs: LaunchMemphis, Seed Hatchery and Wolf River Angels.

They are the components of a support network that’s coming together and is able to work with entrepreneurs at any stage of development.

And those efforts already are paying dividends.

The second year of the Seed Hatchery boot camp for startups just ended – another 90-day trial by fire that seeds six teams with cash, mentorship and a launch pad for their creation. Lemmonds was among the many people spending what often were long days and late nights at the EmergeMemphis building, making sure the teams had what they needed.

Meanwhile, her tweets and Facebook posts keep Memphians abreast of “tech cocktails” and other networking events, guest appearances by entrepreneurs on the national level and much more.

In March, a few members of the leadership ranks of New York-based tech company Boxee came to Memphis for a rooftop party at the Emerge building.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, after the party, tweeted “Had an amazing time at Memphis. We fell in love with the city and the people.”

It’s the kind of thing that makes Lemmonds swoon.

“What I do every day is really communications, marketing and branding – and branding is so much bigger than a name or a logo or getting some press that has to do with our reputation,” Lemmonds said. “It involves audience development through having an active presence in social media. It involves trying to work on some dynamic programming. I have always said I feel part of my job involves trying to brand entrepreneurship in Memphis, as well.

“We’re all proud of the city’s heritage – with things like FedEx and Holiday Inn – but we’re now really on the brink of creating an entirely new era in entrepreneurship in Memphis based around tech, and in order to really put Memphis on the map, it’s about shaping that piece of the city’s narrative.”

“We’re very nimble, and we have a find-a-problem, fix-a-problem kind of attitude. What we love to be able to do is get people to our programs so they can get into the incubators like Emerge.”

–Elizabeth Lemmonds

What she’s an especially big fan of are “disruptors” – people with an innovative idea for a product or business that will shake things up.

What’s part of the status quo today, she likes to point out, might easily have been on the fringe yesterday. Even if it’s someone with a business plan that’s sketched out on little more than the back of a napkin, she and the rest of the brainpower inside Emerge and working under LaunchYourCity can – and want to – work with them.

“My actual role involves things like what you would expect with marketing, communications, PR and social media and Web updates,” Lemmonds said. “But the bigger message is to get the word out about Memphis entrepreneurship. And of course about our own platform.

“We’re very nimble, and we have a find-a-problem, fix-a-problem kind of attitude. What we love to be able to do is get people to our programs so they can get into the incubators like Emerge.”

Lemmonds is a few months away from finishing her first year on the job, and a fruitful year it’s been. In addition to the party attended by the folks from Boxee, there have been visits from the “think tank road trip” initiative called Trep Trip and by Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of the widely used publishing platform WordPress.

The fall 2012 season of LaunchMemphis will be heralded with a party Aug. 15 at Grawemeyer’s Downtown.

“I think the fact we offer what we do and do it at little to no cost for the community – I think that’s pretty remarkable,” Lemmonds said. “In my mind, my job has always involved a message and connecting people. Between that and my love for the disruptors, this is the perfect place to be.”

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