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VOL. 132 | NO. 161 | Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Local Startup Ecosystem In Focus At Seminar

By Andy Meek

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During an interview with Bloomberg TV anchor Emily Chang earlier this month, former U.S. chief technology officer during the Obama administration Megan Smith gave a shout-out to Memphis’ startup ecosystem.

She singled out Building Box, a startup with a vision to support education by helping children learn through developing STEM classrooms within easily portable shipping containers. The Building Box team was part of this year’s local Sky High startup accelerator, which has a specific focus on social innovation via education technology and is part of the Start Co. family of accelerators.

“The Memphis team, one of my favorites was people had taken a container – you know those containers on the container ships? – put STEM work stuff in there, put it down by the Mississippi (River) near a playground, and young people were in learning coding and tech and Internet of Things inside this place,” Smith said. “It was fabulous. Wonderful entrepreneurs around the country.”

The Building Box startup she gave props to was among 16 that participated last week in Demo Day, the annual culminating event of Start Co.’s “Summer of Acceleration.” More than 400 business leaders, including entrepreneurs, mentors and investors, attended this year’s Demo Day, at which each founder had three minutes to pitch their businesses in the hopes of winning follow-on funding.

Two teams scored six-figure funding awards.

Scott Vogel

Jessica Buffington

Andre Fowlkes

Susan Akil Ewing

Taking a step back, what it all continues to underscore is that Memphis has a vibrant startup scene – one where founders are increasingly flocking here to launch new ventures and tap into resources that exist here like mentors and funding.

A discussion of that scene – of the startups, the programs and everything else that makes it thrive – is on tap this week as part of The Daily News’ regular seminar series. This one, “Newsmakers: Startups,” is a seminar sponsored by Orion Federal Credit Union and will be held Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave. The seminar will include a keynote by Scott Vogel, a serial entrepreneur in Memphis who’s also executive director of Regional One Health’s Center for Innovation.

The Center of Innovation is an attempt by the hospital to use a kind of startup approach to develop from within the hospital an enterprise that comes up with innovative ways to address challenges intrinsic to the health care industry – such as its regulatory boundaries, technology limitations and more.

Also part of the seminar will be a panel of thought leaders that include Jessica Buffington, CEO and co-founder of FrontDoor; Start Co. president Andre Fowlkes; and marketing strategist Susan Akil Ewing. The panelists will be available for a Q&A session with the audience, and a wine-and-cheese reception will follow.

Visit www.memphisdailynews.com and click on the “Seminars + Events” tab on the right for more details and to register.

The Daily News hosts seven seminars like this one each year that address current topics. The seminars provide a platform so the Memphis business community can learn more about and address these important issues in the community.

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