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VOL. 133 | NO. 120 | Friday, June 15, 2018

Startups Dive Into 2018 Summer of Acceleration

By Michael Waddell

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Now in their fourth year as partners on the Summer of Acceleration entrepreneurial program, EPIcenter, Start Co. and Memphis Bioworks Foundation are helping to foster success for promising startup companies across different industries.

This summer, 12 startups are going through the 100-day intensive, hands-on educational program that helps to speed the development of high-tech, high-growth businesses. Four prominent regional industries are targeted: home services, medical device, supply chain and logistics, and agriculture technology and innovation.

“Really, this summer is about finalizing their prototype and having a development plan that is fundable by investors,” said Chris West, president of Bioworks’ medical device accelerator, ZeroTo510.

The ZeroTo510 cohort for summer 2018 included Bob Jahani, from left, Ingrid Helgestad, Nick Lester, Wallace Puckett, Rachel Russell, Jeff Chininis, Idicula Mathew and Joe Cantatore. (Submitted/ZeroTo510)

Over the past few years, the Summer of Acceleration has helped to grow the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We’ve created a tight-knit community of partners and entrepreneurs and made the process for these startups a lot easier when gaining access to networks, customers, capital and other people they need on their team, generally creating a vibrancy and density of activities and behaviors,” said Leslie Smith, president and CEO of EPIcenter, which serves as a hub of all the entrepreneurial resources in Memphis.

The result has been building a stronger, more collaborative community and increasing access to more resources.

“We’ve grown a really interesting ecosystem where people in medical device interact with people from home services, for example, just cross-pollinating and sharing great insights,” said Start Co. Director of Acceleration Ryan Ramkhelawan.

During the Summer of Acceleration, Start Co. manages the curriculum, which dives into building a business model, discovering customers and developing a sales pipeline.

“We really have the insights on the ecosystem in general and also have the partnerships to help get great exposure for entrepreneurs,” Ramkhelawan said. “We also have the opportunity to help them dig into the finances and the business strategy.”

Each accelerator partner provides its cohort of startup businesses with industry-specific programming and connections to mentors and potential customers.

“We had hundreds of applicants come in from all over the country and different parts of the world,” Ramkhelawan said. “We’re getting entrepreneurs who are relocating here for the accelerators and staying here, and then they’re continuing to help new entrepreneurs move forward. We’re building an ecosystem from the ground up.”

All teams are located at Start Co.’s space Downtown throughout the summer.

Seed investments in the participating companies come from ServiceMaster and Innova Memphis, an early-stage venture capital firm founded by Bioworks that is focused on funding high-growth companies in the bioscience, technology and ag innovation fields.

“I think the program has evolved as we’ve learned more about the challenges that exist in Memphis,” Smith said. “We’ve definitely shifted more attention to development of early-stage capital and we’ve spent some making sure that we have better regulatory and FDA support for the medical device companies.”

EPIcenter connects accelerator companies to community-wide resources, including a growing angel investor community and executives-in-residence who support represented industries.

Bioworks’ ZeroTo510 accelerator?? specializes in commercializing medical devices that take advantage of the FDA’s 510(k) regulatory pathway.

“Our job is to help medical device inventors build a plan to get their product approved by the FDA and launch into the marketplace,” West said. “After receiving more than 60 applications from a medical device standpoint, we’re excited about the four companies with us this summer.”

Over the next couple of months, the accelerator will work with Spiritum, Dark Horse Technologies, Hera Health Solutions and Fairway Biomed.

This is the seventh Summer of Acceleration for ZeroTo510, which has funded 30 companies in that time.

“We realized that we could do a lot better together than we could separately,” West said. “I believe Memphis can be and should be the Silicon Valley of medical devices because of the vast ecosystem here. The more entrepreneurs are around other entrepreneurs – to share best practices, to share failures, to push each other – the better we all do.”

Previous Summer of Acceleration success stories include Lineus Medical, which has created a controlled separation in an IV line so that harmful forces will not pull out IV catheters.

“They’ve submitted their product for review with the FDA, and if goes as planned, they’ll be in the marketplace this summer,” West said. “We have several other companies that plan to file this summer and hopefully will make it into the marketplace.”

Start Co. and ServiceMaster’s Launch Delta Home Services accelerator support tech-based startups working to disrupt or replace existing home service technologies. Working in the areas of internet of things (IoT) and smart home data, customer service platforms, platforms for delivering service and the home services supply chain, this year’s participants are Pest Pulse, Please Assist Me, ServiceBot, SecondKeys, LawnTap and eCINCHal.

These companies are able to work out of a dedicated space called the Ground Floor at ServiceMaster’s headquarters in Downtown Memphis.

Other companies participating this year’s Summer of Acceleration include Doyenne360 and Truckish.

A fourth program partner, AgLaunch, operates a year-long, phased acceleration program that supports the growth of agricultural technology and innovation startups. The joint initiative of Memphis Bioworks and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture does not offer concentrated programming in the summer. Instead, AgLaunch365 follows the growing seasons of the Mid-South region and leverages its strong regional farmer network to test and validate new technologies.

Female business founders in all accelerators can also sign up to participate in Start Co.’s parallel Upstart track, which provides complementary networking and mentorship opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

The 2018 Summer of Acceleration will culminate with Demo Day on Aug. 16 when the companies will present their fine-tuned concepts with the hopes of securing a round of seed funding.

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