VOL. 127 | NO. 30 | Tuesday, February 14, 2012
By Andy Meek
Eric Mathews, long at the center of a variety of tech ventures and entrepreneurship projects in the city, is taking the reins at EmergeMemphis.
Eric Mathews, center, new interim executive director of EmergeMemphis, is pictured with Andrew Seamons, past chairman of the EmergeMemphis board of directors, left, and Amy Howell, current board chair.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
The board of directors of EmergeMemphis, a business and tech incubator housed Downtown that focuses on high-growth startups and early stage companies, voted unanimously to appoint Mathews as the organization’s interim executive director. Mathews replaces Gwin Scott, who resigned in January.
A meet-and-greet hosted by the group’s board will happen Feb. 23 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Tennessee Room at EmergeMemphis, 516 Tennessee St. Wine and cheese will be served while guests have an opportunity to hear from Mathews, meet his team, meet some of the board members, get an update on building news and plans, and deliver well wishes to Scott.
The official search for a permanent executive director is still open. But board chair Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing, said Mathews’ appointment lets the organization continue its work uninterrupted.
The appointment also is a natural fit for Mathews, who has long been closely tied to many of the related programs that also have called the EmergeMemphis building their base of operations. And as interim executive director of EmergeMemphis, he’ll now strategize and manage resources across that platform of initiatives that now will be more closely linked.
They include LaunchYourCity Inc., which also is housed in the EmergeMemphis building. It’s a newly formed umbrella organization that will manage three signature programs for early stage entrepreneurs: LaunchMemphis, Seed Hatchery and Wolf River Angels.
“We have essentially four main operational areas we’ll be focusing on as a team,” Mathews said. “They are LaunchMemphis, which is kind of the sandbox for raw technology, raw talents. You have Seed Hatchery, which is an accelerator that puts six teams at a time through a boot camp. And the latest thing we’re building right now is Wolf River Angels, and on top of this whole platform is the Launch Your City umbrella.”
Howell said the choice of Mathews made sense not only because of his longtime involvement with entrepreneurship in the community, but that it also marks an opportunity for deeper collaboration across the related entities.
“Instead of confusing the business community with who is doing what, this allows us to work together to enhance and refine all the programs, as well as look at how we each fundraise so that we do not compete for funding in the future,” Howell said.
Mathews’ team at EmergeMemphis includes LaunchYourCity Inc. co-president Andre Fowlkes and Chief Brand Officer Elizabeth Lemmonds.
“The key things for me immediately are getting resources in the building,” Mathews said. “Fundraising is a big deal. And what’s great about this is the synergy now of working across multiple entities. This is an opportunity for us to get smarter and more strategic about how we utilize funds going forward.”
His first 90 days will be spent reviewing operational procedures, looking at adding more clients to the building as well as working on fundraising.
“Even as a state, not just as a community, we’re top 10 in the country for research and tech research, but at the bottom when it comes to commercialization,” Mathews said, in reply to his motivations around building entrepreneurship. “I just think that’s fundamentally wrong.”
Those are some of the things driving what he’ll be doing – and what others will be doing – inside EmergeMemphis.
Those others include the entrepreneurs behind the six companies now going through the second round of the Seed Hatchery mentorship-driven investor program. Recently announced by the organization, they are:
• CloudAptitude, which helps leverage data from social media updates.
• Friendsignia, which helps users get more value out of their social media connections, better knowing who they’re close to and who they’re not.
• IntoOutdoors, which sells surplus outdoor products at a major discount.
• KnoCo, which will provide interactive games and exercises for schools.
• Paytopia, which is a new e-payment system designed to lower transaction fees and other headaches related to online commerce.
• and Standardized Safety, a Web-based safety training and data management program.