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VOL. 127 | NO. 249 | Friday, December 21, 2012

Business Leaders Needed for New Mentor Group

By Andy Meek

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Now that LaunchYourCity Inc. and its related programs like Seed Hatchery have gotten firmly off the ground and are wooing entrepreneurs and innovators who have ideas for high-growth startup companies to launch here, supporters now are turning to a new task.

To complement those efforts, an army of mentors is being pressed into service.

Memphis Venture Mentors, the newest platform from LaunchYourCity, is looking to assemble up to 100 business leaders to serve as mentors who’ll help recruit, train, connect and retain startups and their founders. Two professionals are leading the task – Al Pickett and Olivia Lomax – and applications from potential mentors are being taken now.

Mentors will be asked to make an annual contribution of at least $500. Once they’ve signed on, the mentors’ involvement will be customized based on their availability and interests.

“What we’re looking to do is have 100 business leaders, maybe serial entrepreneurs or business leaders with specific skills, to join our network to help our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Pickett said. “To basically give the entrepreneurs resources. Because the number of them we’re seeing now is going to grow tremendously with the new programs we’re launching.”

Once they’ve been chosen, the new mentors will be slotted into one of four categories.

A discovery-phase mentor will work with initial meetings and educating the startup founders on the startup process and business model canvas surrounding LaunchYourCity and its related efforts.

“We’re looking for a broad spectrum of people.”

–Olivia Lomax
Venture mentor coordinator, LaunchYourCity

Specialized mentors will be industry-specific or have a specific range of business skills – so, they could focus on technology, manufacturing, women, marketing or accounting.

Accelerator mentors will follow through with the founders from the discovery phase to the capital/angel funding phase or end of their venture.

And the fourth is angel mentors who will teach portfolio management and/or manage on the startup founder’s behalf to help run the emerging company when available.

“We’re looking for a broad spectrum of people,” Lomax said.

That broad spectrum of people will add to the bench strength of leaders supporting a broad spectrum of programming.

Pickett said he’s already been a mentor, for example, with the Seed Hatchery program for two years. Seed Hatchery is a 90-day entrepreneurial boot camp-style accelerator that’s preparing to launch its third season, and the early application deadline for it is coming soon.

The decision date for who has been approved for Seed Hatchery is Jan. 28, and the program will start Feb. 9.

Other related efforts include Upstart Memphis, a new group focused on fueling female-led innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s a LaunchYourCity initiative, and it’s already up and running.

A special edition “48 Hour Launch” in its honor was held earlier this month to support women who have innovative ideas and an entrepreneurial streak.

In February, startups and entrepreneurs from around the country will converge on Memphis for the “Everywhere Else Conference” hosted by Nibletz at The Peabody hotel. For all these reasons entrepreneurs have a lot of helping hands in Memphis.

And they’re about to get even more.

“What’s so exciting about all this is to see entrepreneurs betting on themselves,” Pickett said. “I’ve been in that territory. I know how difficult it is. Plugging them in with seasoned business professionals that can add to what they’re looking to do and accomplish with their business and hopefully create world-class products and services – that’s just awesome. And it’s being done right here in Memphis.

“We’re connecting teams, talent and time. And it’s fun to do.”

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