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VOL. 127 | NO. 234 | Friday, November 30, 2012

Entrepreneurial Efforts Multiply Locally

By Andy Meek

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The building blocks keep snapping into place for what’s becoming a solid foundation for Memphis’ entrepreneurial and startup communities.

A trio of efforts either in the works or soon to come ideally will funnel more startup ideas into the pipeline and connect the entrepreneurs and innovators behind them with the mentors, cash, peer groups, training and lots more they might need to thrive.

Those initiatives include Seed Hatchery, which has opened the application period for what will be the third cohort of the mentor-driven, boot camp-style business accelerator. Applications are being accepted through Jan. 9 for startup founders who think they have an idea for a high-growth business concept.

The six teams chosen for the 90-day program will each get $15,000 in seed capital, hands-on instruction and coaching from seasoned mentors who are experienced entrepreneurs and proven business leaders and help with refining their concepts over the course of the boot camp.

Seed Hatchery helps its participating companies do things like perform customer discovery, form operations, prototype a product, develop a marketing strategy and perfect an investor pitch – the latter being one of the most important tasks. At the end of the boot camp, the entrepreneurs will participate in an actual “investor day” program, during which they’ll pitch themselves and their ideas to investors in the hopes of taking their company to the next level.

Some key dates:

The early application deadline for the program is Dec. 23. The application deadline is Jan. 9.

Interviews will take place from Jan. 1 through Jan. 25, and the decision date for who has been approved for the program is Jan. 28. The program will start Feb. 9.

Meanwhile, two startup mentors – Olivia Lomax and Al Pickett – are working on putting together something called Memphis Venture Mentors.

“They’re working to get 100 mentors from Memphis who will commit to different types of mentoring opportunities,” said Elizabeth Lemmonds, chief brand officer at LaunchYourCity in Memphis. “And they’re looking to put them to work in different ways. So, some might be more early-stage mentors but not industry specific. And one unique thing about this is this will serve all of our platforms, including Seed Hatchery and LaunchMemphis.”

That pool of mentor talent could be put to use in a variety of areas, including by helping out with office hours and leading workshops among other things as part of the LaunchYourCity, Seed Hatchery and LaunchMemphis related efforts.

Finally, Lemmonds herself is leading the kickoff of a new group focused on fueling female-led innovation and entrepreneurship.

It’s a LaunchYourCity initiative called Upstart Memphis, and a website for it is live – www.upstartmemphis.com.

“There are a lot of women who have responded enthusiastically about this who aren’t necessarily small-business owners or entrepreneurs, but they still could be mentors,” Lemmonds said.

The focus of the effort is something Lemmonds has become passionate about, and she readily cites statistics that show women make up a big chunk of the general population but only a small amount of the population of startup founders.

“I think there’s a chance for us to approach this whole issue in a fresh way,” she said.

As part of the new Upstart Memphis initiative, there will be a special edition “48 Hour Launch” happening Dec. 7 through Dec. 9 for women who have an innovative idea and an entrepreneurial streak.

Participants will have two minutes on the evening of Dec. 7 to pitch their concept to the assembled crowd. If successful, they’ll get to publicly introduce their new company on the evening of Dec. 9.

Also welcome are women with different skill sets, since startups also need marketers, lawyers, accountants and the like. Men can participate on that side as well, even though the effort is especially geared toward kick-starting more women-owned businesses.

More details of the event, which will be held at the EmergeMemphis building at 516 Tennessee St. Downtown, are available at: http://48hourwomensedition.eventbrite.com.

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