VOL. 130 | NO. 158 | Friday, August 14, 2015
Demo Day Brings Together Start Co., ZeroTo510 Entrepreneurs
By Madeline Faber
The entrepreneurial ecosystem was more abundant than ever at Demo Day 2015, where Start Co. and ZeroTo510 worked in conjunction for the first time to present graduates of their business accelerator programs to investors and community leaders.
"For us, we wanted to highlight the strength of our community as a whole," said Eric Mathews, Start Co. CEO, of the partnership. "It's hard to find a great time when you're trying to attract investors from all over the country. If we separated our programs, they'd have to end up picking one or the other, and that's not really good for us as a community either.
“Bringing it all together gives it an efficiency, not only for our community but also the broader regional networks of all the investors that have flown in here and the partners."
Demo Day, held Thursday, Aug. 13, is the culmination of a summer of intensive business boot camp for 10 startup teams across Start Co.'s business accelerators – Seed Hatchery, Upstart and Sky High – and the four teams in ZeroTo510, a medical device accelerator operated by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
More than 200 attendees were present to hear the teams present business plans and progress updates on developing networks, launching products and securing partnerships. Startup teams were given five minutes to present their pitches.
"They immediately wanted to help each other," said Allan Daisley, president of ZeroTo510 and director of entrepreneurship and sustainability at Memphis Bioworks. "Your first kind of reflex when you're in a cohort is, ‘We've got to all compete because if they get investment, I don't, or I have to get investment so they don't.’ But they just took to each other, and it was really all a team effort. That really stood out."
Both groups recently received high accolades; Start Co. was granted membership in the Global Accelerator Network, and ZeroTo510 was named one of the top 15 accelerators in the U.S. by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Both are integral parts of EPIcenter, an initiative of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle founded last year with the intent to create 100 companies in Memphis over the next 10 years.
The startup teams varied in the realization of their companies. Seed Hatchery member DivorceSecure launched its software this month and already has 16 attorney clients in Memphis and Boston. The software company put forth an ask of $325,000, with $20,000 already committed to go toward growing the online platform.
Other businesses are still in the process of getting the launch off the ground. MyCollegeSTREAM, a member of Start Co.’s Sky High cohort, is seeking $300,000 to ensure that the social media-based college search application is used in 75 high schools per semester in its first year. The team has launched its beta version and already has 33 commitments from Memphis schools.
MyCollegeSTREAM co-founder and chief technology officer Bryant Warren said the 14 weeks spent with Start Co. completely transformed the company’s business model from a nonprofit to a for-profit enterprise, with a selling point to high school administrators rather than college recruiters.
"If we connect kids with the opportunity, it's going to make Memphis better for years to come," Bryant said.
Based on the connections made at this year's Demo Day, Start Co. and ZeroTo510 teams will continue to raise funding, and the businesses will announce the total capital raised sometime this fall. Start Co. members are invited to participate in post-acceleration programs to further receive support for their businesses as they scale.
The Seed Hatchery cohort is made up of those seeking funding for business-to-business software and hardware solutions, including:
• LendMed, a software system to track the lending of surgical devices and medication among area hospitals.
• DivorceSecure, a TurboTax-style wizard designed to simplify the divorce process for attorneys and their clients.
• Ncrease, a marketing automation tool that provides real-time insights about customers' social behaviors and brand interaction.
• Preteckt, a solution that predicts commercial vehicle breakdowns based on 200 data points.
The Upstart group is made up of women-led tech startups, including:
• CareCurrent, a matchmaking software to schedule appropriate caregivers with senior care agencies.
• MLS My Nest, an online real estate service that matches home sellers with agents in their area that will sell their home for a flat fee of $1,500 instead of a percentage.
• 6Figure, an online shop that curates outfits for women in professional fields.
The Sky High cohort is focused on social innovation ventures, including:
• CodeCrew, a team that provides computer science training to underserved communities and hosts the Grizzlies Code Camp.
• MyCollegeSTREAM, a web app that helps high school guidance counselors engage students in the college search process by compiling all of a college's social media content into one platform.
• Capital C, a trade school for adults looking to transition in full-time coding careers.
Memphis Bioworks' ZeroTo510 program enables individuals with ideas for medical devices to gain approval for commercial deployment through the FDA's 510(k) process. Four teams graduated this year, including:
• SweetBio, uses medical-grade honey as one of the ingredients for membranes for tissue regeneration to be used in oral surgeries.
• LineGard Med, a device that protects and preserves patients' IV sites and central lines.
• GlucosAlarm, a device that rests in the toilet and measures glucose in diabetic patients' urine.
• Inspire Living, a portable health monitor that enables anyone to conduct an automated respiratory and rapid vitals health exam on a child.