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Each year, select Start Co. teams are invited to San Francisco to meet with potential investors, mentors and network with founders in the Bay Area. This year, six teams made the trek to the West Coast to attend the Evolving E Summit, meet with investors from ventures like Growth X and meet founders at incubators like Runway. In “Week in Review”, we recapped the top learnings from the trip.
From our meetings with West Coast investors to our tours of different incubators to hearing various speakers speak at the Evolving E Summit, there were a lot of trends that the experts were talking about and unique insights shared. Here’s our take on the biggest takeaways from this year’s trip to SF:
As mentioned in our “Week in Review” post, one of the highlights of the trip was the 2016 Evolving E Summit hosted by GGV Capital, located at the Terra Gallery in the South Beach area of the city. The Summit featured multiple talks throughout the day with a handful of talented and experienced entrepreneurs. The first discussion talked about using technology to surprise and delight customers. We heard from the SVP of North America at Ebay, the VP of digital product at Sephora, the CEO of BigCommerce, and the CEO of Tile, along with the coordinator and managing partner at GGV Capital, Jeff Richards.
We heard tips on how to scale new brands and go global from a panel of experts including the Global VP of Ecommerce at Diageo; the CEO of Eloquii; the Founder and CEO of Teespring; and the Head of Asia for Shopbop & East Dane. They talked about how to remain respectful to the brand and customer needs once the global market is reached. It’s also important to know what the client wants, especially when it comes to technology because it is always about the current client and customer experience, which is something Start Co. startups learn from the very beginning in the phase of customer discovery.
The final talk of the Summit was about social media and how it’s becoming the storefront to scale and market your business. We heard from the Head of Business Development of Pinterest, the President of North America of Musical.ly, the Co-founder and CEO of Darby Smart, and the VP of marketplace operations at Poshmark. They stressed the fact that new users come from organic platforms, which is a valuable asset when starting your own company. It’s important to do content discovery to create your own organic platform as a part of satisfying customer experience.
Some key trends we learned at the Summit include:
Building SAS platforms: Statistical Analysis Systems that deal with advanced analytics, multivariate analyses, business intelligence, data management, and predictive analytics are becoming more popular and what people are focusing on basing their platforms on. “We provide a platform to allow certain communities within Pinterest to coordinate and organize content, which was the biggest thing we had to do to expand internationally.”-Pinterest
The Use of Simple and Straightforward Language: Use language to get your point across and let the customer know exactly what the message is. Embrace smarter ways to use the human language. “There’s the capability to get positive feedback in a community. There’s a ton of discovery that happens on the platform” -Musical.ly
Customer Experience: Everyone should be obsessed with their customer’s needs. You’re never finished with customer discovery. “Client experience is queen.” -Sephora
Causation vs. Correlation: Correlation doesn’t imply Causation. -Pinterest
Organic Growth vs. Paid Growth: You want to grow your business organically and create an organic platform. Respect your brand and customer needs once your platform goes global. “We were founded for the community. A big reason Darby isn’t named after me is because the brand represents everyone in the community. I’m incredibly protective of our brand and our presence in it and how we credit people who have roles there and how we’re building aspiring talent.” -Darby Smart
Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Each year, select Start Co. teams are invited to San Francisco to meet with potential investors, mentors and network with founders in the Bay Area. This year, six teams made the trek to the West Coast to attend the Evolving E Summit, meet with investors from ventures like Growth X and meet founders at incubators like Runway. In this blog post, we’ll recap the top activities of each day to give an inside look into founders’ experience. In “Key Learnings”, we’ll recap the top overall learnings from the trip.
Sunday, October 9th: Four of our 2016 Summer of Acceleration graduate teams — Homey, Soundways, FitNexx, and ProxBox — landed in San Francisco ready for a week of constant networking, meetings, and office hours. They were joined by two of our alumni teams, FrontDoor and CodeCrew, as well as one of our current AgLaunch teams, Skycision, throughout the week for office hours, meetups, and events.
Monday, October 10: In the afternoon, the teams had office hours at the Market Bar in the Ferry Building with a handful of West Coast investors. The teams had time to talk with investors from e.Ventures, Growth X, MergerTech, Keen.io, TechCode, SendGrid, Twilio, and Early Growth Financial Services, only to name a few. Building relationships, creating partnerships, and acquiring insight from major corporations that remain intimate with Start Co. is what our startups are constantly exposed to, even on the West Coast.
Tuesday, October 11th: That morning the Start Co. team toured the Runway Incubator located in the Mission District of San Francisco. The large co-working space holds up to 90 startups and currently holds 70. The Incubator gives each startup a working space along with access to the open co-working spaces, kitchens, event area, and even their zen room. There are two conference rooms for startups to converse with some privacy, and one is shaped like a giant igloo! The incubator is a large space that is cunning with an edgy taste. It is definitely inspiration for Start Co. and was a pleasure to explore.
Wednesday, October 12th: Wednesday was by far the busiest day. We first attended the 2016 Evolving E Summit hosted by GGV Capital that was located at the Terra Gallery in the South Beach area of the city. The Summit featured multiple talks throughout the day with a handful of talented and experienced entrepreneurs, and we’ll give more details into our insights from the Summit in our next post, “Key Learnings.”
Later we visited the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center located in-between the Financial Center and the South Beach area in San Francisco. The center is an open, non-profit space that acts as a resource to many entrepreneurs and provides them with mentors, training, and networking. The building is tall and made of glass amongst other skyscrapers. The interior features a co-working and networking room with tables, chairs, and tv screens. The other side of the building holds an event room with a massive screen, a small stage, and chairs. They also have a broadcasting room that is kept to the side, filled with live cameras and a screen that takes up an entire wall. Resources that the Nasdaq Center provides for its community are tips on how to deliver a lean and persuasive pitch, how to create an effective presentation, overcome a fear of public speaking, learn how to negotiate deal terms, prepare your business to be media-ready, and how to get your small business ready for a big challenge.
That night, our final night of the trip, Start Co. held a mixer for our startups, partners, and investors at the restaurant at Aventine Taverna in the Financial District of San Francisco. We invited West Coast Angels, Investors, Partners, Founders, and VC’s to mingle and network with the startup teams, Homey, ProxBox, Soundways, and Fitnexx, as well as some of our alumni teams, FrontDoor and CodeCrew. The night was a success with much constructive conversation throughout the night. We occupied the entire bottom floor of the restaurant, and it was a networking madhouse. It was the perfect way to end a successful week on the West Coast.
Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at email@example.com
10 Reasons to party in the CLOUD at the Memphis Public Library:
The Memphis Library Foundation is hosting their annual event, Party in the CLOUD, in their teen room on Saturday, November 5th at 7pm! Here are the 10 reasons why you should definitely make an appearance:
1). Get lost in virtual reality games!
2). Join a photo shoot in the video lab!
3). Paint your own wine or beer glasses!
4). Dance & Groove to the awesome DJ!
5). Play old-school video games!
6). Watch 3D printing in the makerspace!
7). Sip on craft beer and wine!
8). Enjoy tastings from local restaurants!
9). Hang out with Ralph Cahoun in the audio lab!
10). Watch SEC football on the big screen!
They will have door prizes and more! Get your tickets here! Tickets are $50 per person until October 28th, then they go up to $65 per person after that date! If you are interested in purchasing more than one ticket contact Shelley Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to donate to the Memphis Library Foundation, click here.
Hope to see you all there!
AgLaunch Virtual Pitch Competition
We’re opening up the opportunity for any ag entrepreneur to upload a pitch video and win some cash! All pitches will be reviewed by the experts at Ag Innovation Development Group and our accelerator partners at Start Co.
Winner of the pitch competition will receive $1,000. Second place gets $500. Both will have an opportunity for an extended pitch and feedback session with a panel of investors, farmers, corporates, and entrepreneurs.
Generally follow content outlined in Start Co.’s template
Do your best in under 5 minutes (if you are over you will be disqualified).
Relate to in-field agriculture, agricultural supply chain, food safety & integrity, livestock production, dairy production, or food supply chain.
Be submitted by 6pm EST on October 27th, 2016.
What You Have to Do:
Upload your video on the F6S application page.
Fill out the short associated application.
There is no cost to you.
Winners will be announced by November 1st, 2016.
We look forward to hearing about your innovation! Contact Rebekah Veldhuizen if you have any questions.
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
Memphis native 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 email@example.com
On the evening of Monday, July 18th, Jay Myers, the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions Inc. (ISI), visited the Start Co. Lounge to speak to our Accelerator teams at our weekly Founders Dinner. Interactive Solutions integrates the latest components and software into customized systems that connect organizations to their workers and to the world. They deliver solutions in corporate communications, distance learning, telemedicine, digital signage and more. Inc. has named ISI to its 500|5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies seven times. We were honored to have such an accomplished entrepreneur on site to share his wisdom. Here are some key takeaways from Mr. Myers’ talk:
Mr. Myers has faced an unbelievable number of challenges on his path to building a successful company. At one point his brother passed away unexpectedly. Less than a year later, he discovered his accountant had embezzled $250,000 from him. Then, within a single month in 2007, he had two friends die, lost employees that accounted for 80% of his sales revenue, and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of these experiences left him emotionally distraught, but he learned that if he didn’t allow that negativity to seep into his business, he could use them as growth points. When he had a negative response to that adversity, his business suffered. But when he had a positive response and chose to overcome that adversity no matter how difficult, it resulted in substantial growth. The year following the fraud incident ISI doubled in size, all because of how Myers chose to deal with the challenge. “It’s gonna come at you, you just have to be able to deal with it.” He’s discovered that that ability, more than anything else, is what separates success from failure.
Hire the Right People
A common theme at our Founders Dinners, but Mr. Myers stresses something different: think outside the box when defining who the right employee for your company is. At the time when ISI experienced that exodus of employees, every company in the tech industry hired older employees with years of experience in the field. But when Myers looked at the tech industry, he saw a rapidly growing field that older generations wouldn’t be able to keep up with. He saw the future, and knew he couldn’t be stuck in the past. So he bucked industry standards and hired a bunch of millennials, choosing to focus on energy, determination, and a desire to join a cause rather than simple experience. Then he trained those employees, building what he calls an “employee farm system”. Other tech companies thought he was crazy…until he more than doubled the size of his business – from $11 million to $25 million – in the middle of the Recession.
Community Involvement is Rewarding in More than One Way
Community involvement is often weaved into the very fabric of an entrepreneur’s company; after all, ideas for startups usually come from a problem the founder witnessed in their own community. But once you’ve reached success with your project, it’s never a bad idea to give back to your community in other ways, such as through service or donations. These actions can even reward you with more than a full heart and clear conscience. Mr. Myers is a living testament to this. He’s heavily involved in the Memphis community, and told us that through one connection made within seconds of beginning involvement in a certain service project, he secured a deal that he estimates has netted him at least $15 million. We’re not trying you to encourage you to do good for the wrong reasons, but we won’t judge you either.
Grant Hechinger is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
“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.
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.
On Monday evening, July 11th, Chef Phillip Ashley Rix, founder of Phillip Ashley Chocolates came as our guest speaker for our weekly Founders Dinner accelerator meeting. The now notorious Chef started out working in sales positions for corporations such as FedEx, UPS and Apple. He flourished in sales because he enjoyed working with people, it was where he found a niche. However, he sensed early on that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and had an “itch” throughout his corporate career. He decided to take a three year period to focus on himself; he ended up starting his own company and getting his “PhD” and became a master chocolatier. He “learned the rules so he could break them” and differentiated his chocolate company as much as possible, and ultimately created a luxury brand. We were glad to have Mr. Rix in the office to share some of his experiences in building his company.
Although he is a small business, Rix built his company on many of the same building blocks that startups do. Many chocolate shops don’t consider themselves B2B, but Rix found a niche in the market after working for corporations. There, he realized that there was dysfunction in the way corporations handled corporate gifting; meanwhile the rest of their company functions were very much structured. His solution was to work closely with his clients through retainer programs for a more efficient and structured schedule for gifting chocolates. This move ultimately shifted his company into a partially B2B category.
Today, Philip Ashley Chocolates has small storefront locations in cities such as L.A., New York City, and Miami. To name just a few of his many other crowning achievements: he was the official chocolate provider for the 2016 Grammy Awards and the 2016 Oscars Salute, and was also named the “Real Life Willy Wonka” by Forbes. To gain such a status, Mr. Rix said he surrounded himself with the right people, the “top” people, and his network became a major “door opener and deal closer” in the early stages of his company.
One of the greatest things the accomplished Chef has learned is “people gravitate towards good stories”, so he made telling stories a major part of his company. Part of being a luxury brand is paying close attention to detail, which is why the company puts in a lot of time and effort to carefully and creatively naming each piece of chocolate, choosing which types of chocolates to use, and focusing on the presentation of the chocolates. “We tell stories that taste like chocolate” said the Chef. A prime example is the ‘Taste of Memphis’ box, which the chef says tells the story of the Bluff City in 12 unique flavors. Attention to detail and appealing to customers through stories is a major component in differentiating his brand from the rest of the major players in the chocolate industry.
Elegant, But Simple
To close, Rix emphasized that he patterns his business much like a tech and medical device company. He closely evaluates scalability, investment offers and branding. Through the years he has found it important to stick true to your brand as well as your vision and the model you’re trying to follow. Lastly, he advised that the most complicated part of the process is to be simple in piecing together your business’ brand and product. “Try to make everything elegant, but simple so your product can easily connect to people.” Achieving that to the level Mr. Rix has is difficult, but a good goal to aim for nonetheless.
Alec Marshman is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Mike 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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org