Anyone who is familiar with Start Co. understands that it runs accelerator programs for startups with a goal to stimulate the Memphis community with technology and innovation jobs. Then there are the people who simply ask, “So what does Start Co. actually do?” People either know what we do or they have no idea who we are. I was one of those clueless people when I decided to intern for Start Co. this summer of 2016. The only word I could associate with Start Co. was “startups” because as an undergrad student at Rhodes College studying English I was never exposed to the village that it takes to grow startups and grow communities. I thought, why not see how the startup world functions and gain some perspective? This would afford me the opportunity to acquire some knowledge about the business world and make connections with people who have intriguing ideas. While Start Co. has definitely presented me with all of these insights; I have also caught a glimpse of the Start Co. world that many people don’t see. This is what makes us a unique team.
My first week working with Start Co. was the week of Memphis in May’s BBQ festival. Start Co. has been participating in the festival for the past 3 years and hosts a tent to bring Investors, Sponsors, Mentors and other entrepreneurs outside of Memphis to enjoy the Memphis culture, or even experience it for the first time. This gives the startups a chance to make connections and network in an environment outside of the lab. The entire week was consumed with planning, walking, lifting— along with a lot of sweat, alcohol, good conversations, many connections, and all around enthusiasm. The event was only two days and I kept being told that it was an “unordinary” week compared to how the rest of the summer would go. However, now after working with Start Co. for a month I have to disagree. The event was the perfect introduction as to exactly how the rest of my summer experience at Start Co. would continue.
I soon learned that the “normal” schedule of Start Co. was anything but “normal” as it changes all of the time with different objectives each day. We’re always focused on the day-to-day usual programming, coordinating, organizing schedules and planning sessions. However, the next day our main goal might concentrate on driving all around Memphis to gather furniture for our 6th floor expansion. This is what makes the working environment of Start Co. one-of-a-kind. I watch pitch practice every Tuesday and Thursday to witness the team’s pitches get stronger every week. I also do inventory weekly to make sure the office has everything it needs to function properly. I sit in on office hours to go through the team’s business development and model canvases, but I also email them to remind them of when the next session begins. I spectate many of the sessions that take place in the lab such as customer discovery, interview preparation, talent development complex, social media training, content creation, brand strategy canvas, etc., but I also have the privilege of managing the Start Co. Instagram and Facebook page. The Start Co. schedule never stops producing intense energy.
Working in the lab that’s located in downtown Memphis on Main St. has exposed me to more of the Memphis community than I have seen in my past three years of being a Rhodes College student living in Midtown Memphis. I have sat in on numerous meetings around the city such as the City Council, members of St. Mary’s school, members of the Assisi Foundation, and many business partners of Start Co., such as Archer Malmo and Baker Donelson right around the corner. I have been inside the Memphis Federal Building, seen the Mississippi River from the rooftop of the Madison, played Werewolves with my co-workers and experienced my first concert at the Levitt Shell theatre. I have stepped inside the Orpheum and Halloran Theatre downtown, experienced Memphis in May for the first time, visited Nashville for the first time, and have had the opportunity to meet a number of people inside and outside of Memphis that have taught me more than just how to make coffee and use a fax machine. Between the core programming that Start Co. offers to its startups and the outside networking events that are constantly occurring throughout different locations within the city of Memphis, a day at Start Co. is never boring. Constantly surrounded by inspiring, interesting and driven people that are trying to solve a problem that they are passionate about is what makes this company far from insipid and makes the Start Co.’s motto of “Never Stop” nothing but accurate.
Lindsay Gess is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org