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VOL. 129 | NO. 177 | Thursday, September 11, 2014

Start Co. Post-Acceleration Efforts Help Startups

By Andy Meek

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Graduation from a Start Co. startup accelerator and making a pitch to investors at the organization’s “Demo Day” is no longer the last stage to cross before entrepreneurs head out into the wild to sink or swim.

The entrepreneurship organization has now set up a post-acceleration program, and as part of that program graduating cohort members can participate in workshops and teaching sessions to help them build out the next phase of their business plans and better align themselves for follow-on funding rounds. That new program is specifically designed for founders to build the skills they need to succeed after “Demo Day,” which marks the end of Start Co.’s accelerator programs and sees entrepreneurs make their pitch for funding to carry their ventures to the next level.

The new program, which kicked off Sept. 5 at Start Co.’s Downtown Start Lab, aims to help founders who recently graduated from one of Start Co.’s four accelerator programs – Seed Hatchery, Upstart, Sky High and SparkGap.

Friday office hours with Memphis business leaders are part of the program, as well as business development preparation sessions, workshops, lunch-and-learn events and investment strategy sessions.

“We’re kind of a 'find a problem, fix a problem' organization and are all about how to sustain startups as they grow to new heights.”

–Eric Mathews
Start Co. founder and CEO

Start Co. founder and CEO Eric Mathews said it’s all part of a stepping stone for new startup founders as they transition from running a startup to operating a viable, growing business.

Prior to establishing the new post-acceleration efforts, Mathews said Start Co. had been thinking about such a thing last year and about what it might look like.

“We knew we needed to develop a process to move our startups to business success,” he said. “We’re kind of a 'find a problem, fix a problem' organization and are all about how to sustain startups as they grow to new heights.”

The organization, he said, also recognized that ongoing education and support, access to capital and a pool of mentors and resources also help determine post-acceleration success. “Demo Day,” in other words, is now a beginning, not the end.

As part of the new effort, graduating teams each have their own designated workspaces at the Start Lab and will be expected to deliver weekly status updates. The new post-acceleration programming also helps teams with things like planning investor meetings, securing introductions and other necessary tasks after investor meetings.

In other Start Co. news, meanwhile, the Start Co. organization has been awarded $50,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund, a competition between 800 applicants that saw 50 of them receive funds.

As part of receiving the $50,000 cash prize, accelerators like Start Co. will commit to quarterly reporting for one year. They’ll be required to report metrics such as jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained, among other information.

Start Co. also is hosting a women’s edition of Startup Weekend Sept. 12-14 at its office, with that weekend series focused on showcasing the talents of aspiring female startup founders. Beyond that, Start Co. will host special office hours Sept. 26 and Oct. 29, focused on customer discovery on the first date and social innovation for the second.

Those special office hours will take place at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, at 3030 Poplar Ave.

Then in October, applications for Start Co.’s 2015 accelerator programming will open. All four accelerators, as they did this year, will run simultaneously through the summer in Downtown Memphis, which affords participants an opportunity to interact with the Downtown business community as well as mentors and partners.

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