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VOL. 128 | NO. 13 | Friday, January 18, 2013

Construction Nears for Crews Ventures Lab

By Andy Meek

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Construction is about to get under way on the University of Memphis’ Crews Ventures Lab, a business startup facilitator and incubator that will expand the possibilities available to the school’s entrepreneurially minded students.

Lab manager Trish Kalbas-Schmidt said work on the facility will begin next month, with an anticipated completion by August. That’s around the time the lab will officially launch, providing a place for the university’s student talent to thrive and for startups to get built.

The dedicated space the lab is getting will be in the renovated former Mason’s Lodge at Walker Avenue and Patterson Street. Once the transformation is done, the lab will offer flex office space, offices for investors and mentors, lab areas for prototype development, advanced technological systems and more. And the upstairs will include a co-working space.

“We’re also going to do a startup summit this spring semester, in March,” Kalbas-Schmidt said. “It will be a one-day event for students to come and get a really good baseline training on being an entrepreneur. And then we’ll be starting our mentoring program in the second part of the semester, as well.”

Kalbas-Schmidt was hired in August as the lab’s manager. She has 10 years of marketing and community relations experience, in addition to a background in business development.

The lab’s team also includes Dr. Kevin Boggs, assistant vice president of technology transfer at the university.

Construction is set to begin in February on the University of Memphis’ Crews Ventures Lab, a business startup facilitator and incubator.

The lab’s creation comes at a time when the startup and entrepreneurship culture in Memphis is especially robust and perhaps even at an inflection point.

The lab itself is being positioned as something that will be able to enhance student experiences and will support faculty research. More broadly, it will join a culmination of outside efforts along the same lines, including other accelerators, incubators and mentors in town.

Beyond the university campus, Memphis is preparing to welcome the first “Everywhere Else Conference” being hosted for the startup community by online site Nibletz. It will be held at The Peabody hotel Feb. 10-12 and will bring together nearly 2,000 entrepreneurs, investors, startup founders, designers, developers and startup resources, according to Nibletz.

Black Girls Code is a program founded in Silicon Valley that aims to introduce programming, technology and coding to young girls of color. It’s starting a Memphis chapter as part of a growth spurt around the country. Also next month, the 2013 cohort of Seed Hatchery is set to begin.

Seed Hatchery is a 90-day boot camp-style startup accelerator “looking for bold ideas and founders.” As part of the program, participating entrepreneurs are seeded with cash and over the course of several weeks work with mentors to refine their startup concepts and business plan, among other things.

And Seed Hatchery culminates in an “investor day,” when participants make formal pitches to investors for funding in hopes of taking their venture to the next level.

Meanwhile, programs and services under development for the Crews Ventures Lab’s startups include an annual Triumph Bank Creativity and Innovation Boot Camp, free legal and accounting advisers, access to a network of entrepreneurs and investors, and a prototype shop.

The annual innovation boot camp was made possible by a five-year gift from Triumph Bank. That initiative will be held at the lab, with workshop training led by Dr. Greg Boller and Dr. Brian Janz, both faculty members of the university’s Fogelman College of Business and Economics.

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