Takeaways from Founders Dinner with Meg Crosby


Memphis nativMeg1e Meg Crosby joined the Start Co. teams for their weekly founder’s dinner on Monday night, August 1st. Meg talked about her career and how her first job out of college was working at the Brooks Museum in midtown Memphis. Longing to be in New York, she moved there to be a party planner, but then her desire to do something more meaningful lead her to running an undergraduate recruiting program called Credit Suisse, which is ultimately how she found her way into the investment banking business. In 2000, around the time when the Silicon Valley culture was booming, Meg became the President of a 40 person startup called Applied Semantics that was founded by 2 guys who went to California Tech in Los Angeles. Their main product was the famous AdSense, which was acquired by Google in 2003 when the technology giant only had roughly 1,000 employees. Meg was then hired as the first HR Generalist at Google and worked for them until she moved back to Memphis in 2006. She says that her passion is the city of Memphis, and making it live up to the greatest potential it has. She has been an amazing supporter of the startup and innovation culture that is constantly reoccuring through the city of Memphis. Meg is now a founding partner of PeopleCap Advisors and a co-owner of The Brass Door with her husband, which is an Irish pub located in downtown Memphis. Coming from someone who has the drive and passion to do more for the city of Memphis, here are some key takeaways from Meg Crosby.

Spend more time on the “people lense”:

Meg makes a point that there are 3 separate lenses that a CEO looks through regarding their business: the Financial lense, the Service lense, and the People lense, which is the one most often overlooked. She says that creating relationships with the people you work with everyday is the most important thing you can do, as most leaders don’t put enough time or energy towards developing trust. You want to know how to motivate and grow your co-workers because their knowledge is always of high value to you.

Recognize that being a founder is a team sport:

Meg believes that the relationship between a founder and a co-founder is crucial; it’s basically considered a marriage. It’s important for the leaders of the company to establish values early on that will lay a great foundation for future employees because once you on board them they are exposed to that critical core of values that you both display in your company. Know how your team makes decisions and consider what’s important to weigh when making decisions, for these are the values that your future employees will abide by when they making decisions for your business. She recommends to record anything that acts as significant so your entire team has a record of the decisions that are being made.

Have important conversations when things are going well:

There is a lack of stress when things are going well, it’s that simple. Meg harps on the fact that when you make decisions when things are bad, your judgement is too cloudy. Having a trusting and honest relationships with your co-workers will make this process a lot easier.

Don’t hire right away:

A message to the startups: Once you receive the money that you have been waiting for be very methodical in your hiring. It is important to focus on your values. Take a deep breath first. Meg says that instead of interviewing 10 different candidates and choosing the best one, you should instead have 3 or 4 interviews with your most qualified candidate in order to get to know them on a personal level to evaluate if they embody your same values. She says, “you can’t take too much time to make these critical hires.”

“If you complain about something long enough, it becomes your job to fix it” -Meg Crosby.

Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and a Summer Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

Start MMT Accelerator Team EPKpage Secures Partnership with Sound Exchange


Memphis, TN: 7/1/16: EPKpage, the web-app for musicians, is pleased to announce a partnership with SoundExchange to offer electronic press kits (EPKs) for hundreds of thousands of artists. SoundExchange, the largest royalty collection agency in the U.S. for internet and satellite radio, has recognized the need to help artists book more gigs. This is the first major partnership for the Memphis, Tennessee-based startup.

EPKpage was invented to help musicians look professional online in order to book more gigs. The tool is clean and simple, allowing artists to create an EPK in five minutes or less, without any coding or technical knowledge. Each kit allows artists to upload their photos, videos, biography, booking contact, and all the important information that venues and talent buyers need in one place.

EPKpage screenshot“Since I upgraded to Pro+ in May, EPKpage has been a fast solution to a usually complicated problem: providing a simple, seamless way for my artists to create an EPK without a tutorial,” says Tyler Key, CEO of Rawlings Management. “So far, I have seen six shows and two festivals booked since I had my bands start using it.”

Learning how to create a press kit and developing one is a daunting task that can take days or even weeks. Hiring designers can be expensive and the artist won’t have as much control over the final kit. EPKpage puts the power back in the hands of the independent musicians because within minutes they can create a press kit by simply uploading their content and clicking save.

“EPKpage was created to provide a better solution for the independent artist,” says Jack Simon, CEO of EPKpage and independent musician. “We believe in helping artists save time and focus on their music by providing a simple way for them to manage their electronic press kit.”

The startup is receiving guidance from startup incubator, Start Co., as part of the 2016 Summer of Acceleration. A joint partnership between three venture development organizations – Start Co., EPIcenter and ZeroTo510 – the Summer of Acceleration is a rigorous 100-day program packed with startup curriculum, mentoring by industry experts and networking events to help entrepreneurs grow and develop their business. EPKpage will be pitching their business to potential investors and the Mid-South startup community on ‘Demo Day’, the culmination of the Summer of Acceleration, held this year on August 11th at the Halloran Centre on Main Street.

“We are excited to see how EPKpage is streamlining the way musicians display their credentials and how venues source talent,” says Andre Fowlkes, President of Start Co. “This partnership with SoundExchange creates a strong distribution channel to customers and a model that can be scaled. We look forward to seeing EPKpage’s growth as they continue to test the market and prepare for larger market entry.”

For more information about EPKpage, please visit http://www.epkpage.com.

About EPKpage:

Founded in Memphis, Tennessee, EPKpage was invented to help musicians look professional online in order to book more gigs. The tool is clean and simplistic, allowing artists to create an Electronic Press Kit(EPK) within five minutes or less, without any coding or technical knowledge. Each kit allows artists to upload their photos, videos, biography, booking contact, and all the important information that venues and talent buyers need in one place.

Mike Bruns on Leadership and Community: Three Key Takeaways


image15-56Mike Bruns, the founder and president of Comtrak Logistics, a national transportation and logistics company that’s headquarters are located in Memphis, TN visited the Start Co. lab last night to speak to the founders about his story and the importance of leadership and community. His company, Comtrak Logistics provides trucking services including full truckload, intermodal, depot and logistics services and operates in terminals across the country. His company was named one of the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies, as well as Business of the Year by the Memphis Business Journal.

Mike Bruns has an intriguing quality that was immediately displayed in his presence when he walked into the Start Co. lab. It was his genuine care for community. He believes in worthy causes and people that are passionate about solving a specific problem. Mr. Bruns has worked with multiple non-profit and profit organizations within the Memphis community, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Memphis Board of Visitors, Church Health Center, WKNO, Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Society of Entrepreneurs, and Youth Villages (where he helped them raise $20 million in private contributions that allowed them to triple in size). Not only does Mr. Bruns believe in the true power of community, but he also stresses the importance of the leadership that drives the development of that communal space. “Anything can happen with a good and respected leader,” he says. A good leader never demands respect because they understand they have to earn it from their team. Here are three ways that Mr. Bruns detailed of how to be a good leader:

Don’t try to change anyone on your team.

You can never change a person because they are who they are. “Get out some sand paper, but forget the chainsaw,” Mr. Bruns said. Recognition is highly underutilized though very important when trying to build a community. A good leader recognizes the different pieces of the puzzle and has the ability to put them together into a system that works. Identify your team’s separate talents and assemble them in a way that allows them to learn and do great things for the company. Don’t try to change people to fit your needs, but instead find the person that has the talent to fulfill that need. “Part of leadership is looking at various people and picking them out and making your home runs.”P1170085

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.

You don’t always have to be 100% sure of yourself. The reason being, if there is no failure than there will never be change, and change is what sparks progression. Mr. Bruns confidently admitted to the founders that he was never the smartest guy in the room, but because he surrounded himself with intelligent and driven people he was able to learn a significant amount by doing.

Make the home runs

“If you do only what you’re supposed to do then you break even, but if you go above and beyond then you hit a home run because it’s a surprise.” Do more than the bare minimum. Do more than the minimum. Do more than what is expected. Mr. Bruns heavily stressed that good leaders lead by doing, therefore if you aren’t doing anything and value propositions aren’t in place then nothing will be achieved. Empowerment is key, but it’s a learning process. No one will do anything exactly the way you do, but once progress is being made without you then recognize that you have empowered the people that surround you.

~               ~               ~

Everyday Mr. Bruns takes 2 ½ hours to make rounds at his office to establish and secure the community that he has built within his team. He takes time to look, see, listen, and observe. So it was no surprise that at the end of the session he stood up and shook every Start Co. founder’s hand that was present as they introduced themselves and thanked him. He left the founders with a quote that resonated with them, based on the silence that filled the room when he spoke, “Never get too big to forget where you came from.” As the founders continue through the Start Co. 90 day accelerator program with 43 days left, Mike Bruns was the perfect speaker to have at the halfway point to remind them that good leadership and community establishment is as important as anything to the success of your company.

Lindsay Gess is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

A Typical Week in the Start Co. Lab


0e20472Anyone 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 lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

5 Key Takeaways from Founders Dinner with David Hoffman


AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPdAAAAJDlhMmE4MzMxLWEyNTItNDMzOC1iOTg4LTRlNGZlNzhkMGUyZAOn Monday, June 13th, Next Big Sound Cofounder and Head of Product David Hoffman came to talk to our accelerator teams at our weekly Founders Dinner. Next Big Sound is the leading provider of online music analytics and insights, tracking hundreds of thousands of artists around the world. They analyze the popularity of artists, comparing them to a benchmark set by artists of a similar level of recognition. They then use this to predict how they will perform and answer their root question, “How does a band become famous?” Based in New York City, Next Big Sound was launched in 2009 and acquired in the summer of 2015 by Pandora. It was named the most innovative company in the music industry and one of the top 50 most innovative companies overall by Fast Company. Here are some key takeaways from David’s talk with our founders.

  1. People make the idea work, not the other way around

A common theme among successful startup investors is that they invest in people. Great ideas are a dime a dozen, but people who are capable and driven enough to turn those ideas into a reality are a rarity. When David and his cofounders showed up to the TechStars accelerator in 2009, they had just decided to completely scrap their original idea that got them into the program in the first place. They were afraid the program leaders would boot them out of the program, but instead they said, “We invest in people, not ideas.” A once in a generation idea is great, but every founder must know that if they aren’t fully committed to the process and driven to action then they won’t be successful. On the other hand, those who possess these qualities can achieve success, even if their original idea falls flat.

  1. Find a problem to solve, and go solve it

When the Next Big Sound founders were first starting their business they wanted to answer one question: how does a band become famous? It took them a while, but every time their idea failed they went back to that original question, and eventually began to uncover the answer. They saw that the music industry was progressing to the online space and designed software to track online listeners and compile it in a database that record labels could use to easily evaluate talent. They found an area in which the industry was lacking and they came up with a solution. Your startup must solve a real, measurable problem in order to find success.

  1. Choose your team carefully

David counseled the same caution in picking team members as Brad Silver did a few weeks ago in his Founders Dinner talk. “Hire slow, fire fast.” If you don’t follow this policy you can end up with a couple of bad eggs infecting your company’s culture, as Next Big Sound experienced. They learned from their mistakes, however, and are now more cautious when hiring. They also feature a constantly evolving company culture handbook that allows for employee P1160751input and suggestions.

  1. Know when to pivot

Another echo of Mr. Silver’s talk, David stressed that you must be willing to completely change your business if it isn’t working. He described the first idea he and his cofounders had as “fantasy football for music”. Not surprisingly, this failed, but they quickly realized their mistake and were willing to switch paths. They had to go through this recycling process multiple times until they found out what worked. If your idea isn’t working, let it go.

  1. Failure is a part of the process

“You’re going to try a lot of things and they’re not going to work, and that’s okay. As long as you’re persistent and stick with what you believe in, something great will happen.” When starting a business, you must be accepting of failure. In order to find out what works, you first have to find out what doesn’t work. Take every failure as a learning opportunity. The Next Big Sound founders were dedicated to the music industry and making an impact within it, and they didn’t let their failures sway them from their true passion. You must be willing to evolve while also sticking with your foundational values and beliefs. It’s a difficult, yet necessary balance to maintain.

Grant Hechinger is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. He can be reached at grant.hechinger@neverstop.co.