VOL. 128 | NO. 169 | Thursday, August 29, 2013
Four Memphis Startups Win Spots in ‘The TENN’
By Andy Meek
Memphis’ startup community continues collecting recognition beyond the city limits to go along with the steady attraction of new platforms, investments, mentors and programs for startups here.
Earlier this week, all four startups from Memphis that competed for a spot in The TENN – Tennessee’s first master accelerator program – made it through.
To do that, those four companies first participated in the state’s first-ever “Demo Day,” Aug. 27, organized by LaunchTN. The four companies from Memphis, which comprise almost half of the first batch of The TENN, are Mobilizer, Screwpulp, Health & Bliss and View Medical.
During this week’s Demo Day event, they joined 16 other companies, all of which were graduates from Tennessee’s nine startup accelerators. Those companies made pitches, vying for one of 10 spots in The TENN, sponsored by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
“The Memphis teams did a great job,” said LaunchTN CEO Charlie Brock. “They presented their opportunity, and the progress they’ve made clearly impressed the judges. I think it showed the sector-focused accelerators are beneficial.”
The next step for the Memphis companies will be to join the rest of The TENN on a statewide bus tour. They’ll meet with leaders of top corporations, angel investors and venture capitalists from across the state. During the master accelerator program, the companies also will fly to California and to the East Coast to network with investors.
According to LaunchTN, other benefits of the new accelerator include access to master mentors, investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout Tennessee.
The news about the four Memphis startups, meanwhile, comes the same month that Start Co., formerly LaunchYourCity Inc., essentially expanded its footprint from Memphis all the way to the West Coast.
Start Co. has opened an office in San Francisco that will be led by serial entrepreneur Mara Lewis. It will serve as a launch pad from which to “encourage technology talent and startup investors to look into Memphis to grow and prosper.”
Start Co. also has added a few new employees to support the enterprise in Memphis. And it has announced a partnership with JumpStart Inc., a nationally recognized nonprofit venture development organization.
That partnership will attempt to capture data related to creating and developing high-growth ventures, among other things. Mike Mozenter, president of JumpStart’s regional consulting arm, said the group chose to work with Start Co. because of its track record supporting high-growth tech startups in Memphis.
“Two and a half years ago, Start Co. (LaunchMemphis at the time) was having difficulty raising social, political and financial capital in the Memphis area,” Start Co. co-president Andre Fowlkes wrote in a recent open letter. “Actually, most of its support was coming from outside the region, from Nashville, with the exception of a few gracious sponsors here locally.
“A lot of progress has been made since we first began talking with JumpStart, and they have identified great efforts and programs to build on. These efforts come in the form of not just what Start Co. is building, but others in the region, such as Memphis Bioworks, EmergeMemphis, University of Memphis and much more. ... We have an opportunity to stop imagining and finally come together to begin.”