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VOL. 129 | NO. 164 | Friday, August 22, 2014

Start Co. Graduates Newest Batch of Startups

By Andy Meek

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This week’s Start Co. Demo Day, which brought together more than 500 people involved in the local ecosystem including entrepreneurs, mentors and investors, saw teams presenting their startup ideas in the hopes of securing funding and taking their concepts to the next level.

But the continued growth of the accelerators that all feed into the Start Co. program, which culminated in Demo Day Thursday, also pointed to a truth that’s becoming harder to ignore: Memphis doesn’t lack for entrepreneurs who have ideas and a willingness to see them through.

This week’s Demo Day was the finale of an intensive 14-week startup training and mentorship program shepherding startups through all phases of starting a company. The event was sponsored by Launch Tennessee, the Downtown Memphis Commission, Softlayer and PayPal, and it attracted investors from Memphis as well as all the way from Singapore, in addition to representatives of local companies like FedEx, AutoZone and others.

After Demo Day, the startups can all also participate in Start Co.’s newest program developed for post-acceleration that will be held at the Start Co. Start Lab Downtown. It beings after Labor Day and consists of Friday office hours, as well as ongoing workshops that will help founders build the skills needed to succeed – so that, essentially, companies aren’t thrown out into the wild after the program.

By way of recapping the Demo Day participants, the startups all operated in one of four accelerators that focused on different themes. The Seed Hatchery cohort, for example, was focused on high-growth tech ventures, and those included:

  • Troopto, a group gifting platform for co-workers that’s partnered with the HR outsourcing firm HRO Partners. It’s already on-boarded many HR professionals at large corporate offices to beta test and has 200 early adopters signed up on the platform’s waiting list.
  • Phase is a mobile app that helps gamers set up gaming events by simplifying the process of picking a game, finding a time and notifying friends. It’s launched an app in the Google Play Store.
  • Pickle is a mobile app that challenges users to guess what the crowd is thinking and gather group opinions for every day decisions. It’s launched a campus rep marketing program, on-boarded a six person development team and already built a prototype.
  • Well Done is a point-of-sale software developer for the restaurant industry that currently has two customers in the Memphis area and has on-boarded two resellers that have signed up their first customers.
  • ORB is a producer of impact and bullet proof luggage. It has on-boarded a prototype partner, filed for a provisional patent and formed a materials partnership. Pre-sales also are underway.

In the Upstart cohort are women-led tech businesses that include:

  • Play-tag, a smart wearable ID tag and companion app focused on improving the safety and wellbeing of dogs and their owners. It has more than 1,000 active community members and a commitment from Hollywood Feed to offer Play-tag in all 50 of its stores upon roll out.
  • eDivv is an online marketplace for trading unused beauty products. It has more than 4,000 subscribers and has facilitated more than 16,000 beauty product trades among some 46,000 registered products.
  • Barter Sugar is an online bartering community that’s launched a private beta and has partnered with more than 10 universities and art organizations.
  • Cabsolutely, replaces dispatch software with modern mobile applications that connect travelers with professional cab drivers from multiple companies and offers an easy payment solution. They have a commitment from Premier Transportation Services to provide the application to Memphis-based cab drivers once the product has been successfully built out.

The Sparkgap cohort is focused on logistics technology businesses, and those included:

  • Graph Story, a service that offers fast, secure access to graph databasing using a software-as-a-service model. It recently closed its first angel round of $250,000. The company also joined Neo Technology’s Neo4j Partner program and launched a private beta with 250 users.
  • Extra Rail is a priceline website for the rail industry that helps rail car owners find unused railroad tracks for storage. They have commitments from five railroads to list properties with enough miles of track to store more than 1,000 rail cars.

The Sky High cohort is Start Co.’s newest and is focused on social innovation ventures. Its participants included:

  • CoreFire is an extracurricular program focused on helping students build motivation and other skills that involves students training to become members of a superhero team. It had 20,000 students participate in its programs within the last year.
  • The College Initiative is a nonprofit that provides low-income students with the tools and mentorship needed to successfully apply to and succeed in college. It’s in the process of expanding its program from 150 students to 500 students in the Memphis area this year, with eight high schools participating in Memphis.
  • FuelFilm is a nonprofit working to give filmmakers the resources and mentorship they need to tell their stories. It’s raised more than $40,000 in outside funding and already has supported the creation of 26 short films and five features, run more than 35 workshops, panels and events and is the first filmmaker resource center in the Southeast. They’re rolling out the second film accelerator in the U.S. next year.
  • Care2Manage is a service platform for families with an aging loved one that connects them to social workers, local elder care resources and organizes total healthcare needs. It’s raised $30,000 in cash to build out its platform.
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