New Propel Accelerator Open for Applications

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The application for the new Propel Accelerator is now open!

Propel is a 12-week minority business accelerator run by the partnership of Start Co. and The City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance. It focuses on the enhancement of business models through hands-on programming, mentor opportunities, technical resources and more with an objective to further enhance capacity with existing minority companies. There is a stringent criteria for companies that apply, as we are looking for the following:

 2 or more full-time employees
 At least $400,000 in annual revenues
 Established for more than 3 years

Learn more about the expected outcome and review the timeline of the accelerator at this link.

Apply here.

News Release on Partnerships and Initiatives

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STRICKLAND HIGHLIGHTS PARTNERSHIPS TO STRENGTHEN SMALL, MINORITY, AND WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES

Sept. 28, 2016 — Mayor Jim Strickland today highlighted a handful of partnerships and initiatives that are integral to his administration’s goal of assisting small, minority, and women-owned businesses in Memphis.

“My administration absolutely means business when it comes to small, minority, and women-owned businesses,” Mayor Strickland said. “The initiatives we’re highlighting today show that we’re putting action behind those priorities.”

The four highlighted initiatives are:

The “Start Up In Day” website, smartstartmem.com. Made possible by a grant from the Small Business Administration, this online “one-stop shop” seeks to streamline the process for citizens to establish and legally form a business, thus enabling them to get off the ground quicker. This website is the result of a partnership among the City of Memphis, EPIcenter, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Shelby County Clerk’s Office, and the Memphis & Shelby County Office of Planning and Development.


Propel, a minority business accelerator partnership with Start Co. Propel seeks to help existing businesses by strengthening their business models, the delivery of their business models, and their access and engagement of customers in particular contracts with governments and other corporations. Visit memphistn.gov for more information.


The Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, an initiative of the National League of Cities, PolicyLink and the Urban Land Institute. Through this fellowship, Memphis leaders will get a rare opportunity to learn more about how to increase economic development tax breaks and incentives for small, minority, and women-owned businesses.


The signing of a Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM) with the Small Business Administration. This formal partnership will increase opportunities within the city for the common goal of expanding small business development.


Said Joann Massey, the city’s Director of Business Diversity and Compliance: “These great partnerships demonstrate how our team, through the Office of Business Diversity & Compliance, is being very intentional about leveraging resources to try and make it easier to do business with the City of Memphis under Mayor Strickland’s administration.”

Link to copy of News Release: final_wemeanbusiness

Start MMT Accelerator Team EPKpage Secures Partnership with Sound Exchange

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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.

Start Co. Expands Hub for Entrepreneurial Activity in Memphis’ Downtown Core

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Expanded offices triples initial footprint and increases density of creative workers in downtown Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 20, 2016) – Start Co., the Memphis-based venture development organization, today announced its expansion to the sixth floor of 88 Union Ave., increasing its current footprint by 50 percent to more than 13,000 square feet. The additional 4,500 square feet on the sixth floor will house Start Co. operations and offices for staff and more seasoned startups, allotting the Start Lab significantly more space on the second floor for growing accelerator operations. Additionally, high speed fiber will also be installed throughout the offices to deliver the fastest download speeds possible, a critical factor for teams who are leveraging technology platforms, resources and in some cases, building businesses online.

“This expansion gives the Memphis entrepreneurial community even more options and resources that are needed during the critical phases of acceleration. It also increases the density of entrepreneurial activity and creativity in the Downtown Core,” said Eric Mathews, Founder and CEO of Start Co. “In addition, the expansion will give more founders the opportunity to work at the Start Lab post-acceleration, giving them a longer runway before taking off on their own.”

The space on the second and sixth floors will give startups such as Code Crew, Preteckt and Graph Story dedicated co-working facilities so they can focus resources on moving from product launch to product success to business success before making a commitment to a long-term commercial lease.

Over the last two years at 88 Union, Start Co. has increased programming and support for startups. The hub of activity, community meeting and educational space called The Start Lab is serving as the headquarters for the Summer of Acceleration which kicked off on May 2 with joint programming for 18 accelerator teams from Start Co., Start MMT, ZeroTo510 and EPIcenter. There the startups receive business development and strategy workshops, educational seminars, trainings, networking, office hours and more. Additionally, the space contains break out areas including conference rooms, a digital living room, other meeting spaces, and an outdoor patio for events and networking opportunities.

“This expansion speaks to our commitment to cultivating entrepreneurship in Memphis,” said Andre Fowlkes, president of Start Co. “It’s a big upfront investment with increased operating expenditures incurred at Start Co., but the impact of this investment extends far beyond the Start Lab – startup teams will be patronizing local restaurants for lunches and dinners, paying for parking, buying from local businesses, signing residential leases in the area – pouring millions of dollars into the Downtown Core.”

In addition to the core program supplied during the Summer of Acceleration, other activities that the accelerator teams participate in include weekly Friday office hours with business leaders and corporate partners. The teams will also be involved in industry events including the 36/86 Conference and a VIP networking event at the Levitt Shell during a concert. The program culminates on August 11 with Demo Day at the Halloran Center, when the startup teams pitch their business to potential investors, customers, and the entrepreneurial community.

Start Co.’s growth adds to an already strong technology-based business footprint at 88 Union Center. Lokion Interactive maintains four floors in the building and RocketFuel has an entire floor as well. Nearly two hundred technology and creative professionals work across 40,000 square feet of the building.

“We believe that ‘Density is Destiny.’ 88 Union Center is becoming more and more of a vertical technology campus,” said Mathews. “With the growth of Archer Malmo, Creative Works, Lokion, Y&R, and many other firms the density of creative workers within one block of 88 Union is driving the idea velocity necessary to enhance the grow our innovation economy.”

Eric Mathews conceived the design of the expanded space. Tony Fields and Jeff Witt of Belz Architecture + Construction served as general contractor and architect, respectively. The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc., and many local, regional, and national partners, sponsors, funders and donors contributed funds for the Start Lab expansion.

Summer of Acceleration Launches in Memphis with 18 Teams Across Seven Accelerators

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More than 50 startup founders and students will build businesses in downtown core

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 2, 2016) – EPIcenter, hub of the greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement, and Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network, together with ZeroTo510, have today announced the teams that will participate in this year’s groundbreaking ‘Summer of Acceleration.’ This will be the first time in the region that six industry-specific startup accelerators and one student accelerator will journey together through rigorous entrepreneurial startup programming led by the region’s top accelerator experts to grow and develop their business.

The teams, listed with their respective accelerator, hail from around the world and include a diverse mix of apps, platforms and initiatives:
EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator, sponsored by FedEx, was created to help startups bring innovative logistics products and technologies to market. It is comprised of the following teams:
o NovoNav — Provides a personal navigation platform that solves the issue of “Last 100-foot” navigation in areas that are not mapped.
o Roundabout Markets — Brings technology to the pawnbroker industry to create a national marketplace for pawn shops, increasing market exposure and streamlining product marketing and delivery.
o iShipdit — Expedia-like platform for matching less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments to unused space that exists on trucks every day.
o Magneto Innovations — 3D-printable magnetic sensors that can be created on demand and to user specifications for a variety of applications.

Seed Hatchery, Memphis’ first accelerator, is one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network and focuses on software and hardware as a service for enterprise customers. Its cohort this year includes:
o FitNexx – An interactive virtual reality platform that encourages children to exercise through the use of simulated environments and fitness games.
o FrontDesk Connect – Unveils an alternative solution to the in-room hotel phone by adding a quick connect capability to the guests’ own mobile device at check-in.
o ProxBox – Tailored initially for the real estate market, ProxBox combines proximity sensors with a mobile app to guide potential home buyers through the home in a self-paced manner. Potential buyers receive details room by room by standing near a ProxBox sensor.

Sky High, a social impact accelerator to build innovative business models to address challenges in the Memphis metro area, is comprised of the following teams:
o PIE Link – Combines Salesforce and Dropbox into one program, solving the painful problem that PTA associations have with maintaining record donors, documents, and best practices when there is turnover, i.e. when students (and their parents) graduate.
o One Step Initiative – A social enterprise that partners with universities and community colleges to expose, empower, and instill skills in underserved high school kids via international exchange programs, technology, and service models that make them desired higher education students.

Start MMT, one of the world’s first music industry innovation accelerators, was founded in conjunction with Hall of Fame Songwriter David Porter. Its inaugural cohort includes:
o EPKpage – A web-based platform that makes it easy for musicians to create professional electronic press kits and for venues to effectively vet musicians and their credentials.
o Memphis Media Technology – A technology platform that produces plug-ins and other software solutions in the audio engineering space.

Upstart, one of the top ten women-led technology startup accelerators in the world, is comprised of the following teams:
o Coursicle – A course scheduling software and notification service to help college students easily plan their schedules and get into the classes they need to graduate.
o Homey – A mobile app for gamified management of household chores that organizes tasks by taking pictures of the mess and assigning the work to individual family members. Kids complete chores and earn rewards that parents can buy through the app.
o RevvPay – Turns your car into a wallet using license plate recognition technology to initiate hands free payment at fast food restaurants, parking garages, dry cleaners and other drive-thru locations.

ZeroTo510, founded by and housed at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, has been named one of the top 25 accelerator programs in the country by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for two years in a row. ZeroTo510 focuses on medical technology innovation that takes advantage of the FDA’s 510k regulatory pathway; its teams include:
o 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.
o FlexSpark — A wearable electrical muscle stimulation device used to supplement anticoagulants in DVT prevention. By stimulating the muscles in a way that causes muscle contractions, FlexSpark also decreases the rate of muscle atrophy that occurs in this patient demographic, that often has limited mobility.
o Cast21 — Cast21 has designed a lightweight, lattice-structure cast that is breathable and waterproof, eliminating some of the disadvantaged of traditional casts. Its design also allows for the integration of electronic therapies to decrease healing time.
o RistCall — A wearable wrist monitor that replaces the traditional call button in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Provides patients with an easily accessible communication device and integrates into a shared dashboard for nurses and administrators.

ImagineU, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of seven Memphis colleges and universities (Christian Brothers University, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, University of Memphis, Visible Music College, Memphis College of Art and Rhodes College), helps students bring business ideas to fruition. ImagineU is housed at the University of Memphis Crews Center for Entrepreneurship and partnered with The College Initiative. Due to the nature of the program, teams have yet to form, though specific student participants have been selected.

“Teams are joining us from as far away as Slovenia and Israel but also hail from Illinois, Pennsylvania and our metro area,” said Eric Mathews, CEO and founder of Start Co. “We look forward to hosting the teams at the Start Co. Lab and are honored that the partner accelerators have trusted us to provide their core accelerator programming.”

In addition to the customized curriculum, each team will have access to potential customers, mentors, industry partners and investment capital groups. Teams will also spend much of their time focused on industry- and sector-specific activities within their respective accelerator cohort.

“Beyond the core programming, our accelerator operators, like ZeroTo510, have deep expertise in industries that are specific to and strong in Memphis,” said Leslie Smith, president of EPIcenter. “We’re confident this model — co-locating the companies at Start Co. for expert core curricula, and allowing each accelerator operator to focus on providing world-class, sector-specific engagement — will create a culture and experience that our participants can’t get anywhere else.”

The newly chosen accelerator teams are also participating in this year’s Start Q events, hosted by Start Co., EPIcenter, ZeroTo510, and Emerge Memphis, from May 11-13, during the Memphis in May International Festival World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest. The Summer of Acceleration will culminate on Aug. 11 with Demo Day, the startups’ opportunity pitch their startup ideas to investors, share their insights with the greater entrepreneurial community and network with community leaders.

Investment partners include Innova, a Memphis-based venture capital fund that is leading the co-investment into the accelerator teams participating in ZeroTo510, Seed Hatchery, Upstart, and EPIcenter Logistics, as well as 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, Waller, and many more.

About EPIcenter:
EPIcenter is the hub of the Greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement. With its network of partners, EPIcenter is the enabler of unified strategies to increase support to new and existing entrepreneurs for business growth. Serving as the broader voice of the partner network and a single point of accountability, EPIcenter measures and celebrates the impact of entrepreneurial support to create a just, inclusive, and growing economy that accrues to all Memphians. More information is at epimemphis.com.

About Start Co.:
Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) venture development organization based in Memphis, Tennessee, that relentlessly builds founders and companies, promoting entrepreneurship for everyone with a focus on digital startups. Start Co. is a member of the Global Accelerator Network and aims to advance Memphis’ economic growth through entrepreneurship. The organization is supported by partners including American Airlines, Archer Malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group, Mosaik Solutions and Softlayer (an IBM company). More information can be found at neverstop.co.

About ZeroTo510:
ZeroTo510 is unique among accelerator programs in that it focuses on medical devices, leveraging the regional strengths of the Memphis area. The goal of the three-month, mentor-driven program is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing. ZeroTo510 has been named as one of the top 25 business accelerators in the United States by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for the past two years and is operated by Memphis Bioworks Foundation. More information is at zeroto510.com.

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