VOL. 129 | NO. 52 | Monday, March 17, 2014
Start Co. Moves Back Downtown
By Andy Meek
With a new home, new programming and expanded leadership, among other things, this summer finds the Start Co. entrepreneurship organization in the midst of one of the more consequential periods in its history.
Start Co. hosted an open house Friday, March 14, by way of heralding its new home at 88 Union Ave. The organization’s relocation away from Midtown brings it back Downtown, where it originated, and also gives it much-needed additional space and resources.
Its new 4,200-square-foot office space, for example, includes a co-working area, five meeting rooms and community space with a kitchen and lounge area.
The new, expanded digs will help accommodate growth at the umbrella entity that includes startup accelerators and related programming. That growth includes new programming, new accelerators and new additions to the personnel side of the organization.
Start Co. recently brought Memphis businessman Scott Vogel on board as vice president of civic entrepreneurship, and Al Pickett has been promoted to vice president of diversity. Vogel’s responsibilities will include managing Start Co.’s newest startup accelerator, called SkyHigh, which will be focused on social innovation.
Vogel, who will serve as an entrepreneur-in-residence, will help Start Co. build public-private partnerships, help facilitate relationships with local and national universities and social groups, and focus on business development.
The SkyHigh accelerator is taking applications from startup teams through April 15.
New Start Co. vice president of civic entrepreneurship “Scott (Vogel) brings serial entrepreneurial, social and nonprofit experience to the team.”
Founder and CEO, Start Co.
“Scott brings serial entrepreneurial, social and nonprofit experience to the team,” said Start Co. founder and CEO Eric Mathews.
Meanwhile, Pickett, in his new role, will help grow and lead Start Co.’s minority and women inclusion efforts, conduct community outreach and operate a weekly founder development program called Launch University. He’ll also continue to lead Start Co.’s mentoring platform.
The move back Downtown comes amid what Start Co. is calling this year’s “Summer of Acceleration,” with 24 startup teams and 75 entrepreneurs using the new Downtown space daily starting May 1 to build their businesses and interact with other Downtown businesses and organizations.
The new presence Downtown will bring a variety of tangible benefits to Start Co. and its participants. Within walking distance of 88 Union Ave. are several Start Co. partner organizations, including archer-malmo and the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, which should make for easier access to resources and mentors for entrepreneurs.
Start Co. also is in the midst of building partnerships with several Downtown shops and restaurants to offer discounts for entrepreneurs in its accelerators. The point of those discounts is to encourage them to patronize and network among local businesses.
At the same time, Start Co. will be working more closely with Downtown entities, including the Downtown Memphis Commission and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mathews said having Start Co.’s home Downtown will allow his organization to leverage Downtown’s “solid creative class” to attract more entrepreneurs and accelerator participants.
In other Start Co. news, the organization is preparing to roll out two levels of membership.
A so-called entrepreneurship level is designed for entrepreneurs interested in using the co-working space and Start Co. resources during the week, and it includes free admission into events such as 48-Hour Launch and Ignite Memphis, among other workshops and events.
An “intrapreneurship” level, meanwhile, will be for business professionals.