VOL. 129 | NO. 182 | Thursday, September 18, 2014
Care2Manage Draws on Local Startup Resources
By Andy Meek
Ela Emami’s startup Care2Manage is an example of how the startup ecosystem in Memphis is supposed to work, and what the fruits of that ecosystem’s labor can be.
Her venture is a service platform for families with an aging loved one that connects them to social workers and local elder care resources and organizes total health care needs. Rather than launch it by herself or try to go it alone in terms of things like raising cash, refining the business model or acquiring customers, she says the local startup resources she’s taken advantage of have helped her get going – and get going faster.
In August, she was one of the first graduates of Sky High, the newest accelerator from the local Start Co. program that focuses on social innovation. Start Co.’s accelerators are like 90-day entrepreneurship boot camps, in which participants get hands-on and mentor-driven lessons and practical instruction on all facets of launching a startup.
In years past, Emami also worked with Start Co. through the organization’s Launch University and 48 Hour Launch efforts, and she was the winner of the pitch contest at the first “Everywhere Else” startup conference in Memphis. Now, she has customers and is continuing to develop her venture’s technology, including building out more of the website.
She’s off and running, and it’s thanks in large part to local startup resources available to her and entrepreneurs like her.
“I went through Sky High, and that was awesome – I can’t hardly say enough good things about it,” Emami said. “The mentorship they provided and the relationships were amazing. I’m still working with two of my mentors, one very closely. I’d been researching my idea for a while, thinking about it and massaging it, but as far as the accelerator goes, I was able to do more in three months with them than I’d been able to in the whole year before that.
“When you have the seed of an idea and you’re constantly talking to people about it – I liken it to looking for the stud in the wall when you’re trying to hang a picture. You’re knocking on the wall to find it. That’s what this is like.”
For startups in Memphis, she goes on, it’s possible to find that stud in the wall on their own, but when a robust ecosystem of resources is available, why, she asks, wouldn’t you avail yourself of it?
At the moment, Start Co. is in the midst of a new push to help entrepreneurs like Emami after they’ve finished their work in an accelerator. Start Co. has set up a post-acceleration program that provides a way to keep working with entrepreneurs instead of wishing them well and releasing them completely into the wild after they’ve graduated.
That new program kicked off Sept. 5 at Start Co.’s Downtown Start Lab and includes Friday office hours with Memphis business leaders, as well as business development preparation sessions, workshops, lunch-and-learn events and investment strategy sessions.
“I have paying customers now, which is great, and our technology is still being developed but we can serve customers despite that,” Emami said. “Our mission is to help families with an aging loved one to navigate the health care system, because it’s so complex. One of the problems caregivers have is they’re overwhelmed and they don’t know who to ask or what to ask. Long-term, the plan is for us to keep doing this, just at a larger scale.”