Author Archives: Katie Milligan

Memphis startups take trip to Silicon Valley

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(High Ground News) Eight Memphis startup companies are traveling to Silicon Valley this week to pitch their business plans and try to make connections within the high-tech haven.

The trip was organized by Start Co., a local nonprofit aimed at growing and supporting Memphis’ entrepreneurial community. The eight companies are all graduates of Start Co. accelerator programs, which serve as a first-stop for budding businesses and are designed to help potential entrepreneurs take the first actionable steps toward launching a business.

Start Co. CEO and founder Eric Mathews and president Andre Fowlkes are leading the visit. It is the organization’s third trip to Silicon Valley in 18 months and another effort to highlight the strengths of the Memphis entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Throughout the visit, Start Co. hopes to exchange best practices and lessons in failure with their peers as well as find new resources such as mentors, sponsors, partners and other providers for its programs and investment capital.

On Wednesday, Start Co. will host its own Demo Day at San Francisco seed fund and accelerator 500 Startups. The event will have a definitive Memphis twist, with local barbecue and libations served to attendees. It also will provide a forum for the eight accompanying businesses to pitch their ideas to investors representing brands such as PayPal, American Airlines and SoftLayer.

Read the full article at High Ground News

Start Co. hosts first women’s Startup Weekend

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(High Ground News) Aspiring female entrepreneurs got the chance to show off and develop their business ideas at the first-ever Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition hosted by Start Co.this past Friday through Sunday. Jennifer Krouse and Krouse & Co. won the competition, and the top three teams will have access to additional mentoring to take their ideas to the next level.

“The event was phenomenal. We had seven teams competing, it was very action-packed, and people from different backgrounds came out from all over the city,” says Al Pickett, Start Co. Vice President of Diversity. “We helped them uncover gaps in their business models and the pitfalls that could potentially hurt the business.”

New businesses ideas presented included food delivery via mobile app, a 21stcentury publishing company, a running/fitness app, and a business to help the homeless, among others.

View the full article at High Ground News

Recap of Memphis Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition

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Memphis was host to Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition this past weekend. During the event, a diverse mix of talent and ideas came together to build businesses in 52 hours. The weekend concluded Sunday evening when participants had the opportunity to showcase their teams and the progress they achieved over the weekend.

Here’s a snapshot of the businesses that emerged over the weekend:

Krouse & Co.

Founder: Jennifer Krouse

Business Concept: A publishing house that offers premium quality architect plans. The platform allows individuals to search through and purchase pre-designed architectural plans and sells the data to architects to provide insight on market demand.

Pasalu

Founder: Jamie Young

Business Concept: Tired of buying generic souvenirs from airports & gift shops? Pasalu is an app that allows travelers to locate unique souvenirs.

Pacem

Founder: Len Brower

Business Concept: This app helps you locate your friends during a race and provides notifications when you are gaining on them or they are catching up to you.

Our Children’s future

Founder: Destiny Yancey

Business Concept: This non-profit aims to help teens (and especially girls) receive non-traditional schooling and classes that emphasize STEM subjects. It’s founder, Destiny Yancey, is a high school senior who noticed the need for such programs among her peers.

One Day Now

Founder: Rachel Hammond

Business Concept: One Day Now is a socially conscious fashion brand that connects consumers with skilled artisans in impoverished communities.

5 Star Delivery

Founder: Dion Moffett

Business Concept: A web & mobile app that allows users to order food from any restaurant in their area and have it delivered with 5 star service.  No need to leave your home or order Domino’s delivery again.

Memphis Power App

Founder: Karen Feebles

Business Concept: This app connects diverse audiences to community events and stories in multiple languages.  The platform will serve as a bridge between different communities.

For pictures of the event, check out our Storify & Facebook album. Additionally, we want to give a big shout out to our event sponsors: GoEmerchant (a payment solutions provider with superior customer service), The Commercial Appeal (check out their story on Startup Weekend), Cowork Memphis (view their coworking memberships) and Rendezvous BBQ (delicious).

More than $385,000 secured by four Start Co. accelerator graduate startups

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2014 Upstart teams Cabsolutely and eDivv and Seed Hatchery team Pickle receive initial funding, final close announced for Sparkgap graduate Graph Story

Memphis, Tenn. (Nov. 11, 2014)Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network operating industry-specific accelerators each summer, today announced $387,000 in angel investments for two Upstart, one Seed Hatchery, and one Sparkgap accelerator graduate startups in Memphis. These investments continue the Start Co. tradition of bringing together talent, investors and ecosystem support for startup success and bring the total 2014 investment in Start Co. teams to more than $1.4 million.

“So far this year, seven teams received post accelerator funding, illustrating that the talent pool for startups here in Memphis is becoming more robust,” said Andre Fowlkes, President of Start Co. “Our focus is to grow investment in tandem so that we can help bring new, disruptive technologies to market, and look forward to providing support to these startups in growing their valuations and securing more follow on capital.”

Four Memphis startups that closed on funding recently are:

  • Cabsolutely ($75,000): Cabsolutely is a cloud-based dispatch platform for taxi cab companies, enabling them to compete with ridesharing applications. Co-founders Virag Reti and Andras Simon plan to use the funding for application development and launch with initial customers in January, as well as consumer facing marketing. The team entered into a partnership with Premier Transportation, Yellow and Checker Cab earlier this year to utilize its technology.
  • eDivv ($242,000): eDivv is an online marketplace for trading beauty products. Co-founders Casey Casterline and Jon Katz plan to use the funding for product development, marketing and scaling customer facing operations.
  • Graph Story ($50,000): In addition to the $250,000 funding in August, Graph Story, a graph database-as-a-service offering for small and medium businesses, has secured an additional $50,000 in funding, bringing its total investment to $300,000 since its founding. Graph Story is a graduate of Start Co.’s inaugural Sparkgap accelerator.
  • Pickle ($20,000): Pickle is a platform for brand engagement via user-generated selfies. Co-founders Evan Katz and Morgan Steffy raised additional funds to keep building out the public beta product.

All four businesses have taken advantage of the Start Co. post-acceleration program, which consists of Friday office hours with key Memphis business partners and the Start Co. team, business development preparation sessions, workshops, lunch-and-learns and investment strategy sessions that include insight on investor and term sheet development. Additionally, eDivv and Graph Story have recently been chosen for the 2014 class of Launch Tennessee’s “The TENN” virtual post-accelerator program, which began Oct. 23 and is comprised of the 10 best startup companies from Tennessee’s nine startup accelerators.

“Having mentor and investor participation from day one enables the founders to build their business models quickly and correctly,” said Eric Mathews, CEO and Founder of Start Co. “Both the teams and the investors benefit from the early engagement during our accelerator programs, which builds confidence for supplying further investment after Demo Day.”

Applications for the 2015 Upstart, Seed Hatchery and Sky High cohorts are opening mid-November. The accelerators will again run simultaneously through the summer in downtown Memphis beginning in May, which allows participants to interact with the downtown business community, including many mentors and partners from varying industry backgrounds. Entrepreneurs seeking to be a part of the 2015 accelerator programming can find details to apply at www.neverstop.co/accelerators.

 

About Start Co.

Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) Memphis-based venture development organization 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 is currently working with JumpStart, Inc. to advance Memphis’ economic growth through entrepreneurship. The organization is supported by partners including archer>malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group, Orion Federal Credit Union, Mosaik Solutions and Softlayer (an IBM company). More information can be found at neverstop.co.

Start Co. companies receive funding

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(Memphis Business Journal) Four alumni of Start Co.’s latest group of accelerators have received a total of $387,000 in angel investments to help grow their companies.

Cabsolutely and eDivv, which completed the Upstart accelerator, received $75,000 and $242,000, respectively. Cabsolutely is a cloud-based dispatch platform for taxi cab companies that allows customers to request a ride through a mobile app, while helping taxi companies improve passenger service with modern back-end technology.

The company will continue to develop its app and is expected to launch in January, and recently announced a partnership with Premier Transportation, Yellow and Checker Cab. All three companies will utilize its technology. eDivv, an online marketplace for trading beauty products, will use its funding for product development, marketing and scaling customer facing operations.

Graph Story, an alum of the Sparkgap accelerator, received $50,000 in capital. The company also received $250,000 funding in August. Graph Story uses data derived from graphs to compile information for small and medium-sized logistics companies.

Pickle, which graduated from Seed Hatchery, provides brand engagement through use of selfies generated by users. The company received $20,000 that will be used to develop its beta product.

Read the full article at Memphis Business Journal

Four Memphis startup companies receive more than $385,000 in funding

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) –Four start-up companies in Memphis received $387,000 in funding in order to continue moving forward.

Cabsolutely, eDivv, Graph Story and Pickle were the four startups and all participants of the Start Co. summer acceleration program.

The latest investment in companies adds to the more than $1.4 million total in 2014 this year.

President of Start Co., Andre Fowlkes, said in a press release to WMC Action News 5, “So far this year, seven teams received post acceleration funding, illustrating that the talent pool for startups here in Memphis is becoming robust.”

All four businesses have taken advantages of their post-acceleration program by visiting during Friday office hours, participating in business development sessions, workshops and networking sessions.

CEO and Founder of Start Co., Eric Mathews said in a press release, “Having mentor and investor participation from day one enables the founders to build their business models quickly and correctly. Both the teams and the investors benefit from the early engagement during our accelerator programs, which builds confidence for supplying further investment after Demo Day.”

View the full article at Action 5 News 

Start Co. Leaders Heading to Coasts

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(Memphis Daily) The leadership of Memphis’ Start Co. organization is fanning out to both coasts next week – looking to, among other things, exchange best practices and to spread a little taste of Memphis along the way.

Some of the group is heading to the San Francisco area for a “Demo Day”-type event at the 500 Startups organization. Meanwhile, Start Co. vice president of diversity Al Pickett will head to Washington on behalf of the Global Accelerator Network and the kickoff of the Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund, which awarded Start Co. $50,000 earlier this year.

The Start Co. contingent heading to the West Coast includes founder and CEO Eric Mathews and president Andre Fowlkes as well as the group’s community manager Hillary Quirk and its intern. They’ll be joined by eight teams from Start Co.’s acceleration programs – four teams that graduated from the Seed Hatchery accelerator, three of the Upstart accelerator teams and the startup Musistic, which graduated from the Start Co. program last year.

Read the full article at The Daily News

Women’s focused startup weekend coming to Memphis

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(High Ground News) Memphis will play host to Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition, Nov. 7 – 9. Startup Weekends, an international series of weekend events to spur entrepreneurship, are facilitated by UPGlobal. As a Women’s Edition event, Memphis’ Startup Weekend will focus on showcasing the talents of aspiring female entrepreneurs. Developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts – both men and women – are encouraged to come together to form ideas, build products and launch startups.

The event will begin Friday with a barbecue dinner sponsored by Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous and a brief conversation with Laurie Tucker, former vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx. Participants will then have the opportunity to present their company ideas in a round of open mic, one-minute pitches and inspire other to join their team. The rest of the weekend will be spent validating these ideas, building business models, developing products and preparing team presentations to pitch ideas to a panel of judges Sunday evening. Teams will also have access to professional assistance and mentors from a wide variety of skill sets, including legal, marketing and public relations.

View the full article at High Ground News

Women’s Focused Startup Weekend Coming to Memphis Nov. 7-9

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WHAT:

Memphis will play host to Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition, Nov. 7 – 9. Startup Weekends, an international series of weekend events to spur entrepreneurship, are facilitated by UPGlobal. As a Women’s Edition event, Memphis’ Startup Weekend will focus on showcasing the talents of aspiring female entrepreneurs. Developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts – both men and women – are encouraged to come together to form ideas, build products and launch startups.

The event will begin Friday with a barbecue dinner sponsored by Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous and a brief conversation with Laurie Tucker, former vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx. Participants will then have the opportunity to present their company ideas in a round of open mic, one-minute pitches and inspire other to join their team. The rest of the weekend will be spent validating these ideas, building business models, developing products and preparing team presentations to pitch ideas to a panel of judges Sunday evening. Teams will also have access to professional assistance and mentors from a wide variety of skill sets, including legal, marketing and public relations.

Memphis is one of only 20 cities hosting the special Women’s Edition event, selected because of its track record in supporting the growth of women-led startups, demonstrated in part by the Start Co. Upstart accelerator program. The event is being sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs, The Commercial Appeal, Cowork Memphis and goEmerchant.

To sign up for Memphis’ Startup Weekend, please visit www.neverstop.co/startupweekend.

WHEN/WHERE:

November 7 – 9, 2014

Start Co.

88 Union Ave., 2nd Floor

Memphis, TN 38103

 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) Memphis-based venture development organization 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 is currently working with JumpStart, Inc. to advance Memphis’ economic growth through entrepreneurship. The organization is supported by partners including archer>malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group, Orion Federal Credit Union, Mosaik Solutions and Softlayer (an IBM company).  More information can be found at neverstop.co.

For additional information please contact Liz Hamilton, archer>malmo for Start Co., at (901) 260-4168, lhamilton@archermalmo.com.

Selling for Social Ventures

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Tech startups aren’t the only ones who have to sell.  Social ventures spend a significant amount of time onboarding partners and resources to benefit their efforts. This is some insight into how to go about selling your socially impactful work.

Step 1: Clearly know and live your beliefs.

As Simon Sinek states: “The why is more important than the what.” If you don’t know how your program is different from other programs and if you don’t live out your beliefs, you won’t be able to articulate them with high fidelity to your future sponsors/partners.  As a result of your program’s culture and beliefs, some partners will be a good fit for your program’s cultures and beliefs. Some won’t.  That’s Okay.  All this is to say that what you believe and what your partners believe need to align.

Step 2: Understand Partner Motivations

Let’s flip it around. What are the motivations and desired outcomes that program sponsors have?  Here is what we have uncovered:

  1. a) Shared Beliefs/Altruism — They believe what you believe.
  2. b) Brand Equity/Association — They wish to associate their brand with aspects of your program to enhance their brand and position.
  3. c) Recruitment — Partners communicate to future employees their commitment to socially impactful initiatives, which is a selling point in recruiting new talent.
  4. d) Retention — Partner organizations are able to provide their employees the opportunity to participate in your work in building or supporting the future and betterment of its community.
  5. e) Continuing Education/Exposure to the future — Let’s face it, some jobs are not going to expose employees to diverse views, skills and knowledge. Through partnership, organizations are able to expose their employees to new ideas and opportunities to enhance their skill sets.
  6. f) Loss leader — Participation now will give partners early opportunities for relationship building which may prove valuable to a sponsor in the future.

Step 3: Getting to Yes

Part 1: Go to where your future sponsors are and get to know them as people. Travel to conferences; Attend their events and lunches; Look for informal opportunities where trusted relationships begin — opportunities where people can be who they really, truly are. Simultaneously, ask what they believe and explaining what you believe. Look for clues and hints about other motivations and desired outcomes and determine whether a more formal relationship is a good cultural fit.

Part 2a: Earn the right to ask. Don’t ask for the moon. Ask for something small, even as small as visiting your offices. If you successfully deliver on those items and they get to know your culture and beliefs, then look into partnering to a greater extent and building a trusting relationship where partners will want to support you more — you will earned the right to expand your relationship.

Part 2b: Don’t ask blindly. Tailor your asks to your partners, noting their motivations and desired outcomes.  Is mentoring important?  Do they want their employees engaged?  Do they need a more tangible economic return now or in the future or ever?

Part 3: Do what you say you’re going to do — fulfilling the original agreement. Deliver and report results openly and honestly and look to the future of the relationship.

Finally here are some practical tips/tactical items as part of the sell:

1) Take the first risk: Travel to meet people where they are and support their travel to you as needed for relationship building.  If possible, prove things out with your own money so that others can see the promise of your work. Once your work is prototyped, then you have earned the right to ask.

2) Be patient: It could take months, even years, to move from the first meeting to asking for more meaningful support. Build the relationship for alignment and it will be lasting.

3) Showing is better than telling: Whenever possible have your partners witness your work firsthand, whether that means inviting them to your space and events or bringing your results on trips so partners can see first hand how your beliefs manifest. It is expensive at times but witnessing your work is powerful.

4) Two ROIs: There is the Return on Investment and the Return on Involvement.  Focus on involvement.


Hillary Quirk is the Community Manager at Start Co.  Contact her at info@neverstop.co