VOL. 131 | NO. 89 | Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Startup Teams Announced for ‘Summer Of Acceleration’
By Andy Meek
Monday, May 2, marked Day One of Memphis’ first “summer of acceleration,” a joint program of seven startup accelerators running concurrently that have collectively drawn the participation of 18 startup teams and dozens of founders hailing from as far away as Slovenia and Israel.
Start Co. CEO Eric Mathews said the teams, investors, partners, mentors and venture founders will all be a part of “improved idea velocity” as a result of the new accelerator strategy. Groups behind the strategy include Start Co., ZeroTo510 and the EPIcenter organization.
“One of my key phrases is ‘density is destiny,’” Mathews said. “At the intersection of various verticals is innovation. When we create a large body of individual founders that are smart, it increases the collisions and idea velocity between them.”
Start Co. managing director Mara Lewis said more than 500 applications poured in, which ultimately were whittled down to the 18 chosen teams. This year’s startup teams are focused on a mix of apps, platforms and initiatives.
In the EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator, sponsored by FedEx Corp. and meant to help startups bring logistics products and technologies to market, the chosen teams include:
• NovoNav — Provides a personal navigation platform that solves the issue of “last 100-foot” navigation in areas that are not mapped.
• Roundabout Markets — Brings technology to the pawnbroker industry, creating a national marketplace for pawn shops that increases market exposure and streamlines product marketing and delivery.
• iShipdit — An Expedia-like platform for matching less-than-truckload shipments to unused space that exists on trucks.
• Magneto Innovations — 3D-printable magnetic sensors that can be created on demand and to user specifications for a variety of applications.
The teams in Seed Hatchery, which focuses on software and hardware as a service for enterprise customers, include:
• FitNexx – An interactive virtual reality platform. It’s meant to be used to encourage children to exercise through the use of simulated environments and fitness games.
• FrontDesk Connect – An alternative to the in-room hotel phone that adds a quick-connect capability to the guests’ mobile device at check-in.
• ProxBox – focused at first on the real estate market, it combines proximity sensors with a mobile app to guide potential home buyers through the home, giving them room-by-room details by standing near a ProxBox sensor.
There are two participating teams this year in Sky High, Memphis’ social impact accelerator focused on businesses that address challenges in the Memphis metro area. They are:
• PIE Link – Helps PTA groups maintain donor information, documents and best practices when students graduate and move on.
• One Step Initiative – A social enterprise that partners with universities and community colleges to expose, empower, and instill skills in underserved high school children via international exchange programs, technology and service models.
Two teams are also participating in the music industry innovation accelerator Start MMT. They include:
• EPKpage – A web platform that helps musicians create professional electronic press kits and helps venues vet musicians and their credentials.
• Memphis Media Technology – A platform that produces plug-ins and other audio engineering software solutions.
The teams in the women-led technology startup accelerator Upstart include:
• Coursicle – A course-scheduling software and notification service to help college students plan their schedules and get into the classes they need to graduate.
• Homey – A mobile app for gamified management of household chores. It organizes tasks by taking pictures of the mess and assigning the work to individual family members. Children complete chores and earn rewards that parents can buy through the app.
• RevvPay – Essentially turns the car into a wallet by using license plate recognition technology to initiate hands-free payment at places like fast food restaurants, parking garages, dry cleaners and other drive-thru locations.
Teams in the medical technology innovation accelerator ZeroTo510, founded by and housed at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, include:
• SOMAVAC — Creates solutions for the management of post-surgical fluid accumulation and the prevention of seroma, a condition that occurs after large-flap surgery where fluid accumulates in the dead space between tissue.
• FlexSpark — A wearable, electrical muscle stimulation device.
• Cast21 — This team has designed a lightweight, lattice-structure cast that’s breathable and waterproof, eliminating some of the disadvantages of traditional casts.
• RistCall — A wearable wrist monitor that replaces the traditional call button in hospitals and nursing care facilities.
The final accelerator is ImagineU, a collaboration of seven Memphis colleges and universities meant to help student teams bring business ideas to fruition. Teams haven’t been identified for it yet, because the 12 student participants chosen for the ImagineU pilot program don’t join as teams – they’ll form themselves into teams as it progresses and their venture ideas take shape.
About how the teams were picked, Lewis said the program looked for people that “obviously are working on an interesting idea – an idea we think we can add value to. We also look for people that have experience in the industry they’re working in, especially if it’s a B2B company.”
In addition to getting customized curriculum, the teams in each accelerator will get access to mentors, industry partners and investment capital, among other things. The joint program culminates Aug. 11 with a Demo Day at which the teams will pitch their ideas to investors.
Investment partners include Memphis-based venture capital fund Innova, along with MB Venture Partners, The JumpFund, and Wolf River Angels. Program partners include Launch Tennessee, the Chairman’s Circle of the Greater Memphis Chamber, Memphis Bioworks, Baker Donelson, American Airlines, IBM, Amazon, Paypal, Archer Malmo, Mosaik Solutions, The Marston Group and more.