Author Archives: Andre Fowlkes

Indie Memphis Festival Introduces Innovation Track for 2012


Now in its 15th year, Indie Memphis is piloting a new and exciting concept: a festival of movies, music and innovation. On November 1-4 Memphis will feel a bit like Austin, as the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival introduces its new innovation track. We’re thrilled to be involved in the planning and activities, and proudly announce the lineup:

Innovation Conversations on Friday, November 2:

  • 9:30am Digital Revolution in Storytelling
    • Abigail Posner, Google head of strategic planning, agency development
    • David Lubars, Chair and Chief Creative Officer for BBDO
    • Eric Korsh, Digitas VP of brand content
  • 10am The Future is Here (Memphis innovation)
    • Elizabeth Ostric, ED of the MERI
    • Max Louwerse, Director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems at the FIT
    • Charleson Bell, BioNanovations
  • 12:30 Collaborate to Innovate
    • Brian Janz, University of Memphis
  • 12:45 Inclusive Innovation
    • Melanee Hannock, SVP marketing-interactive, St. Jude/ALSAC
    • Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code
    • Sherry Aaholm, EVP of Information Tech at FedEx
  • 3:00 Four Horsemen of Dominant Design
    • Rob Carter, CIO of FedEx
  • 3:15 What’s the Big Deal with Big Data?
    • John Daly, Chief Technology Officer, America’s Services, Microsoft

Film Screening on Friday, November 2:

  • 10:30am and 3:30 pm Indie Game: The Movie
  • 1:00pm Welcome to the Machine includes talkback with the filmmaker

48 Hour Hack on November 2-4

Startup Profile: Screwpulp


At first impression, Richard Billings seems average if not a little voguish, but his early-stage startup “Screwpulp” is undoubtedly of the most exciting new ideas in Memphis. The idea is to use social media to drive down publishing costs, allowing practically anyone to write a book and reach a wider audience.

The inspiration came to Richard when he started writing his own book. He quickly realized the publishing industry had high costs and low margins. Professional readers, editors, marketers, printers, and retailers all have to be paid and together eat up a lion’s share of the revenue. When all is said and done, the average writer takes home just 7% of the final sale. Even high profile authors only take home just 14%. Self-publishing is always an option but then the writer must do a tremendous amount of work and shoulder all the financial risk. Richard guessed that with current technology, there simply had to be a better way.

Enter Screwpulp. The name is a rare triple entendre referencing the screw press, pulp fiction, and an insouciant attitude towards the whole publishing industry. The platform combines social networking and crowdsourcing to virtually replace all levels of the publishing process. Here’s how it will work:

  1. An author writes a book and uploads it to Screwpulp. New releases will be free to download in the beginning, allowing a range of different people to engage with it.
  2. Freelance editors and cover designers can browse early drafts and can offer their services.
  3. User reviews and recommendations raise the profile of the best manuscripts, which are then sold as eBooks for a profit.

Not only would Screwpulp’s “social publishing” model lower entry barriers for aspiring writers, it would give avid readers a wealth of new literature to get engaged with. If this works, it could be the start of a whole new literary movement online.

Richard is a very intelligent entrepreneur with some very bright ideas, but even he acknowledges the value of using LaunchMemphis services to start his business. 48Hour Launch helped refine many of his ideas in a brief but intense weekend. The LaunchMemphis Toolkit helped him think through the nuts and bolts of running a business. He even met two members of his team at LaunchMemphis events.

If you are an entrepreneur with an idea, an early stage business, or even a later stage business looking to move forward, you owe it to yourself to get involved with LaunchMemphis!

Pitch ideas. Collaborate. Launch companies. 48 Hour Launch October 12-14!


Pitch ideas. Collaborate. Develop products. Launch companies.
Not your average, ordinary weekend.

During LaunchMemphis’ 48 Hour Launch entrepreneurs and diverse professionals converge to transform big ideas into solid business models, and build the companies of tomorrow.

Have an innovative idea and an entrepreneurial streak? You have two minutes on Friday night to pitch your concept and inspire the crowd. If successful you’ll get to publicly introduce your new company on Sunday evening.

More interested in applying your professional skills toward a goal that fuels economic development and elevates creative talent? Then vote for your favorite pitch, join a team and dive into development. Just like Fortune 500 organizations, startups need marketers, lawyers, accountants, graphic designers, developers, and UX specialists. In short, they need you.

On Sunday evening each proud albeit exhausted team will present its business to the community. The number of companies launched- and size of the celebration that ensues- depends largely on you. For every 20 attendees we create opportunity for another startup to be built. And the more entrepreneurs we recruit, the higher the chances of discovering bold, audacious ideas with high growth potential.

More than community engagement, this event fosters true community investment. Where else for only 48 hours and $40 can you:

  • Launch brand new tech-supported companies, contributing toward our local innovation economy and creating jobs;
  • Learn by doing, experiencing firsthand entrepreneurial principles that can be applied to any endeavor or work environment;
  • Connect with like-minded and talented professionals, developing your network;
  • Play an active role in Memphis’ entrepreneurial community, volunteering your current skills while learning new ones;
  • Eat and drink well, including all meals and copious amounts of coffee and Red Bull; and
  • Be a part of something this collaborative, creative and cool?!

So what are you waiting for? Register today for the one and only 48 Hour Launch, and get ready to spend your weekend doing something extraordinary- building both companies and community.

Big Things Ahead: The Startup Conference


We thought it was big when Nibletz, the digital media startup that serves as “the voice of startups everywhere else,” officially moved their HQ to Memphis as announced at our season launch party in August. But today Nibletz officially publicized details around their inaugural The Startup Conference to be held at The Peabody Hotel on February 10-12, 2013.

And it’s huge.

Huge for startup culture, for our own entrepreneurial ecosystem and for Memphis, as 1000+ entrepreneurs, angels, VCs and startup media outlets converge in our city for a conference that will feature over 30 panels, keynote addresses, roundtable and fireside chats geared towards the challenges that entrepreneurs, startups and even investors face outside Silicon Valley. The conference will also include three signature networking events as well as a three day startup exhibition featuring 100 startups from “everywhere else.” Startups from throughout the US, and as far away as Israel and Romania, have already committed to exhibit in the Startup Village.

Just how big are the speakers? Take a look at Nibletz’ video below for details. And then check out the website as Early Bird tickets of only $39 for attendees and $350 for startups in the Startup Village are available through October 31.

We’re proud to sponsor The Startup Conference, along with Baker Donelson, LaunchTennessee and Startup America. And we’ll see you at The Peabody in February!

The Power of Ignite


Ignite Memphis isn’t just a soapbox for innovation. People listen, and the impact of Ignite presentations can be far-reaching. Josh Spickler’s presentation on “Justice for a New Generation” helped put the national spotlight on the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office and continues to educate people about mass incarceration.

From :

Twenty PowerPoint slides and one attorney. 
Generally not a recipe for applause and national recognition.

But that’s exactly what happened after the Shelby County Public Defender’s office utilized the Ignite Memphis format to tell its story. 

Public defender Josh Spickler gave his presentation about “Justice for a New Generation” at the spring edition of Ignite Memphis 4. In five minutes and with just 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, Spickler outlined the plans of the Shelby County Public Defender’s office to close the “justice gap.”

The justice gap generally describes the inequites in our community that make it difficult for the poor to secure zealous legal counsel.  

Spickler’s presentation at Ignite Memphis won the People’s Choice award.  The Shelby County Public Defender’s office has also used the Ignite presentation before community groups to help illustrate issues of mass incarceration and advocate for comprehensive justice reform in Shelby County. See full article here

Are you ready to Ignite Memphis on October 25?


Englighten us, but make it quick.

presented by

MemphisConnect and LaunchMemphis partner again to bring you Ignite Memphis 5 on Thursday, October 25 at the Bioworks Conference  Center. So prepare for another evening of inspiration and entertainment! And yes, beer.

Have a topic you’re passionate about sharing, and up to the challenge of a 5 minute presentation with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds? Then submit it here by Friday, October 5 at 6pm. Selected topics will be announced on Thursday, October 11.

What sort of topics are we seeking? Prior Memphis presentations have run the gamut from (flower)bombing blight to why opera doesn’t suck, and from how James Bond killed the martini to human trafficking in Memphis. So whatever is on your mind is fair game, as long as your presentation is PG-13 or tamer.

If you’d prefer to sit back and watch, then tickets are on sale via EventBrite. Early Bird tickets are only $10 and available through October 18; regular tickets will be available online and at the door of the event for $15.

For a taste of what’s in store check out this People’s Choice winner from Ignite 4, Josh Spickler on The Justice Gap:

Fall '12 BOOSTcamp Report


LaunchMemphis proudly declares the Fall 2012 BOOSTcamp a success! A couple dozen local entrepreneurs attended and by the end of the day, everyone agreed it had been well worth their time.

BOOSTcamp Group

Andre Fowlkes instructing a group of entrepreneurs on business development.

For those unfamiliar with the program, BOOSTcamp is a one-day class designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs develop strong business models. Attendees sat down in group sessions to discuss business development, then received 1-on-1 consulting from local experts in Entrepreneurship, Marketing,  Law, or Accounting. BOOSTcamp’ers also spent the day working on a 2-minute “Elevator Pitch” and delivered it to the whole group before heading home.

It’s difficult to pin down the typical BOOSTcamp attendee. Varying greatly in how far along they are, you also never know what sort of idea you’ll hear about next. While other LaunchYourCity initiatives like Seed Hatchery and Zero-to-510 focus on entrepreneurs in technology or medicine, LaunchMemphis programming tends to draw an eclectic group with a wide range of business ideas.

Darlene Willis is one example. She has a new nail care product with high growth potential, but was unsure how to proceed with developing a business around it. Darlene came to BOOSTcamp not knowing what to expect, but left with a long list of specific things she needed to accomplish over the next few months. Her thoughts:

It was very informative. I got a chance to listen but ask a lot of questions too that had been in the back of my head. I gained so much insight about sound business principles, the legalities, the marketing… and if you should even be doing what you’re doing!

While the entrepreneurs certainly got a lot out it, the (volunteer) experts were similarly satisfied. Emily Brackstone, attorney at Baker Donelson, says she always feels inspired by the fresh new ideas encountered at these events.

If you’re an early-stage entrepreneur and missed out on this Fall’s BOOSTcamp, the next one will be held in Spring 2013. Can’t wait until then? Come to the LaunchPad during our Office Hours or attend any of our Fall Programming events and we’ll connect you to the resources you need!

10 Suggestions for Building a Startup Ecosystem


Thanks to Smart City Memphis for the opportunity to discuss entrepreneurship and innovation – and how they are vital to our community’s economic growth, job creation, vibrancy and talent retention – on their site. First up, a guest post by our founding CEO Eric Mathews on his top 10 suggestions for cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Note: We’re proud that Eric Matthews is contributing the following post.  Eric Mathews is founding CEO and co-president of LaunchYourCity, Inc., a nonprofit that works to empower entrepreneurial action, reduce barriers to success, and build Memphis as a venture city that elevates talent and high-growth startup companies. Eric is also interim Executive Director of EmergeMemphis, a general business and technology-based incubator in downtown Memphis.  He and his colleagues are engaged in some of the most important work being done to grow and expand the economy of the Memphis region.  Here’s Eric’s post:

While small business is vital to communities, the vast majority of new job creation comes from high growth entrepreneurship, and that is why those of us engaged in tandem with Startup America are focused on building the proper startup ecosystems in our respective communities.

After six years of hard work, other communities reached out asking us for suggestions to grow startup ecosystems.  Here I have distilled our ecosystem building effort down to 10 points for other communities to consider.

  1. 6 Leaders Guiding for 20 Years: Building a startup ecosystem transcends election cycles and flash-in-the-pan leaders.  Brad Feld stated it best: you need 6 leaders dedicated to 20 years of work.  Losing ecosystem leaders deflates all the momentum.  Find leaders that have a long road view of advancing your ecosystem that will not be retired in 20 years and ensure they are entrepreneurs at heart.  Give them resources and get out of their way.
  1. Role of Existing Businesses: Closing a first big sale is everything to a startup.  Instead of making it difficult for startups to get access, established firms should seek out local startups.  Work to get your business leaders to open their doors to startups and give them an honest look.
  1. Lift As You Climb Culture: Successful entrepreneurs need to reinvest as cultural norm.  In Memphis, we tell our founders that they must “lift as they climb.”  Entrepreneurship is learned through apprenticeship and the masters need to participate with time and money.
  1. Sense of Place:  Co-working spaces are startup rally points with intellectual benefits.  Better than coffee shops, an early stage startup benefits from a temporary desk, conference room, access to support resources, as well as peers who are also starting up — all co-located and cheap. Build one.
  1. More Than Capital:  We tell founders that money is the least valuable investment.  Collective intelligence, accountability, and mentorship are the most important investments we make.  Throwing money at entrepreneurs without engaged support is a waste.  Emphasize two ROIs: return on investment and return on involvement.
  1. Beyond Your Community: Worrying about getting local money “off the sidelines” misses the bigger picture that you need resources from all over for scale.  Expand your view beyond your region.  The resources to nourish startups need to arrive from local sources and those well beyond.
  1. Stop Startup Drain and Get Some Gains: Explorers used to travel oceans, climb mountains, and go to space.  Modern day explorers are entrepreneurs, who now travel to startup.  Your talent recruitment and retention strategy needs to start with entrepreneurs.  Raise awareness about opportunities for entrepreneurs in your city.  Civic leaders and others need to message internally and externally to retain and recruit startup founders.
  1. Solve Future Human Capital Shortfall Now: Employed individuals are reluctant to work at startups, because they perceive startups as unstable and they are unfamiliar with the rewards.  This is going to be a problem when your startups needs to add headcount in a hurry.  Be sure to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship in young minds and cultivate talent predisposed to working in your community’s industry specific startup sectors.
  1. Community Connectivity: In Memphis, about 75% of our ecosystem participants are not founders.  These participants are service providers, existing business owners, experts, mentors, investors, and more.  Broader participation is critical to value creation and idea velocity.  The bonus is these non-founders sharpen business skills and bring innovative thinking back to their day jobs.  Create outlets like meetups, camps, and parties where non-founders plug into the activity.
  1. Change Your Stories: On TV you find a local team won a big game.  A local startup gets a big investment and there isn’t coverage.  No wonder young people want to be pro sports players and not Bill Gates.  To change your culture, you need to change your stories.  Your community will be more likely to startup, if local role models are touted on TV and beyond.

Creating a sustainable startup ecosystem is a huge challenge.  In Memphis, our efforts are still in progress.  However, we are constantly working to scale these principles for change in our community while looking out for other best practices.  We are laying the foundations and building on top of it.

While SCM is gracious enough to let us post this in its entirety on our site, we encourage you to engage in the dialogue on their site around opportunities and challenges faced by Memphis and that shape our city’s future.

LaunchLounge is coming to the Cooper-Young Festival


The annual Cooper-Young Festival is celebrating its 25th year of highlighting the best of Memphis arts, culture, heritage and people. Hosted by the Cooper-Young Business Association, the festival is expected to bring over 120,000 attendees to our city’s largest historic district for art, crafts, music, food, nonprofits and family-friendly fun.

It’s a day that is all about creativity and community- and we’re proud to announce that for the first time we’ll be part of it!

Stop by Cortona Contemporary Italian for the LaunchLounge, where you can learn more about our events and programming, meet some of our entrepreneurs and their startup companies, buy one of our tees or polos and chill with a DJ (and the AC). Cortona will feature food and drink specials from 2:00-5:00pm.

Whether already part of our entrepreneurial community, or curious about how to get involved, we look forward to seeing you at the crossroads for the Cooper-Young Festival 2012!

special thanks to:





Announcing Fall 2012: Our Biggest Season of Entrepreneurship Yet


Wow- thanks to everyone who packed the house at Grawemeyer’s for our Season Announcement Party! We were thrilled by the turnout and energy, the connections made with our startups, our sponsors and partners who make our programming possible, and – of course – the chance to celebrate our biggest season yet, including a few surprise announcements!

Thanks again to season sponsor Baker Donelson, and fall programming sponsors Commercial Advisors, Duncan Williams, Inc., Loeb Properties, Mayor’s Office of Talent and Human Capital and Waddell & Associates.

Logistics details and RSVP links will be added shortly. But with no further ado… introducing our LaunchMemphis Fall 2012 Programming and Schedule:

The Launchpad
Office Hours: Tuesdays 9:00am-noon and Thursdays 2:00-5:00pm

Our co-working space in downtown Memphis, the Launchpad is available for free to early stage entrepreneurs ready to take their startups to the next level. So are our weekly Office Hours of one-to-one mentoring around key elements of business development.

Founders Toolkit Workshop NEW!
The Launchpad (suite 127 of EmergeMemphis) at 5:30pm
Business Canvas: August 21, October 2, November 27
Business Development: August 28, October 9, December 4
Marketing and Branding: September 4, October 16, December 18

Ready to convert your big idea into a solid business model? Those just beginning their entrepreneurial journey are encouraged to join us for this new three-part workshop series- it’s free, but you will have homework!

Tech Cocktails sponsored by Loeb Properties
September 12: Owen Brennan’s
October 10: The Brass Door
November 14: Alchemy
December 12: HOLIDAY PARTY (location TBD)

Join tech enthusiasts – including professionals, entrepreneurs, innovators and creators in addition to those who take theirs with a splash of code – for an evening of tech + cocktails + conversation. A $5 donation to LaunchMemphis gets you in the door, where you will enjoy happy hour specials on food and drinks. And great networking! Don’t forget to use #memtech.

Business BOOSTcamp
September 22 from 9:00am-4:30pm in The Launchpad

Join us for this day-long interactive course in entrepreneurship! Industry experts walk you through our model and process, then set up one-to-one Office Hours for personalized feedback relevant to launching, running and growing your business.

Who should attend? Entrepreneurs are encouraged! But this signature event is valuable for small business owners, non-profits, intrapreneurs expanding into a new product line, or anyone else looking for an effective problem-solving toolkit to apply entrepreneurial principles to any career or endeavor.

48 Hour Launch
October 12-14

Not your average, ordinary weekend. During 48 Hour Launch entrepreneurs, developers and diverse professionals converge to transform big ideas into solid business models and build the companies of tomorrow.

Have an innovative idea? You have two minutes on Friday evening to pitch your concept and inspire the crowd. More interested in applying your professional skills to a goal that fuels economic development and elevates creative talent? Then vote for your favorite pitch and dive into development. This is true community investment, and your skills are needed!

Ignite Memphis 5
Thursday, October 25 at Bioworks

Enlighten us, but make it quick! We partner with MemphisConnect for this evening of inspiration, education and entertainment. Got a topic you’re passionate about presenting, and up for the challenge of a 5 minute presentation with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds? Then we welcome your submissions! But no worries- you can also sit back and watch. Click here for prior Ignite Memphis presentations.

Global Entrepreneurship Week NEW!
November 12-16

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

During one week each November, GEW inspires communities through activities that connect entrepreneurs with game-changing ideas, to potential resources and collaborators- introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

We’re ready to put Memphis on the GEW map, and have packed the week with programming and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, mentors, local businesses and non-profits, and general supporters throughout the community. Times and locations to be announced soon (along with additional programming!).

Our theme is “Risk City,” as we work to mitigate risks faced by entrepreneurs, but also work to flip typical risk aversion. After all, it is only by taking great risks that true progress occurs.

  • Pitch Perfect (November 12): For those actively moving forward with their startups – like those involved with Office Hours, BOOSTcamp, 48 Hour Launch or the Launchpad – we will provide a panel of diverse experts to provide feedback on your latest pitch. Accompanying visuals like PowerPoint are encouraged.
  • In-Synk Business Book Review: Great by Choice by Jim Collins (November 13): Noted executive strategist brings a special GEW edition of his monthly Business Book Review to the Launchpad. And you don’t have to read the book!
  • Mentor Mixer(November 13): It takes a village to grow a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. We invite you to a casual cocktail event to learn more about the benefits of sharing your time, insights, experience and leadership with our founders and their startups.
  • High Octane Office Hours(November 14-15): Memphis area business leaders join us in the Launchpad for an exclusive, high-powered set of one-to-one Office Hours for high growth potential startup companies. Like Pitch Perfect, these sessions are for those actively moving forward through our platform and process.
  • Field Day Co-Working(November 16): Co-working facilitates collaboration and impromptu synergy- we hope your organization will bring a team to our inaugural GEW Field Day. The location is TBD but wifi will be available!
  • SpeedPitch(November 16): Similar to speed dating, LaunchMemphis introduces an event for those with fresh, bold ideas ready for some creative customer discovery. You get two minutes to pitch, then three minutes for feedback from business and community leaders. When the bell rings, you’re off to the next table!
  • Risk City Soiree(November 16): What better way to celebrate a successful Global Entrepreneurship Week than with a party?

December 9-11

Nibletz – the “voice of startups everywhere else” – just announced the move of their HQ to Memphis. But that’s not all: Nibletz and LaunchYourCity, Inc. premiere Pitchmas this December, a conference much like Disrupt and DEMO… but with a lower price point and greater focus on startups “everywhere else.” Additional details will be available starting September 1!