Author Archives: Andre Fowlkes

Curious about crowdfunding? Join Early Shares for a FREE event on August 6


LaunchMemphis and Memphis Bioworks host Early Shares, a crowdfunding company based in Miami, on Monday, August 6. Early Shares founder and CEO Maurice Lopes will discuss crowdfunding, the JOBS Act, SEC regulations and more at this FREE event held at Bioworks.

As a bonus, you might see presentations from a few of our brightest startups! And of course a bit of networking. Click here to RSVP.

EarlyShares 24/24 Nationwide Crowdfunding Education Event – Memphis

Do you need funding for your business? Are you looking to invest in the next big thing?Join on Monday, August 6th at the Memphis Bioworks Conference Center to learn about Equity Based Crowdfunding, the new revolutionary way to fund small businesses. Our complimentary event, presented in partnership with LaunchMemphis and   Memphis BioWorks, will feature prominent speakers, Q&A sessions, a showcase for local startups, as well as hors d’oeuvres and networking in an informal setting.Learn more and register at:
1200 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1410
Miami, FL 33132
(786) 565-3344

Suggestions for Making Your Investor Pitch from Eric Mathews


Here are our suggestions on how you structure your pitch to investors.  Regardless of what stage your business is at, if you can answer these questions clearly, you will convince others that your startup is ready for them to join, whether it is as an investor or as a team member.  Mind you that some of these questions may not be fully answerable at the earliest stages of the start, in which case you should state “I haven’t worked out [fill in the blank]. . . and that’s where I need you and your expertise and support.”

This is a solid outline for your pitch, and a great way to structure your slide deck for investors.  Slide labels are highlighted in orange to help with drafting your presentation (yes… some of them are obvious).

  • What is the company and its core value?
    • This will be your Title slide, where you provide a Company Overview
    • What is the name of the company?   It is not real unless it has a name.
    • State concisely the core value proposition or the unique benefit the company will provide to address the customer need.
  • What’s the problem that you seek to solve?
    • This will be your Problem slide, where you will explain your Market Opportunity
    • State the big, important problem that the company is going to solve
    • State concisely and clearly why this situation exists and persists 
  • How big is the problem?
    • This will be your Problem slide cont’d., where you will describe your Market Size
    • Assert the size of the opportunity you have identified 
    • Define the scope of the opportunity
  • What is your solution?
    • This will be your Solution slide(s)
    • State concretely what you will build that solves the problem.
    • If you have demonstration (video is best) then use it here.
    • Showing is better than telling.
  • What are the benefits or value that your solution provides? 
    • This will be your Benefits slide OR your Solution slide cont’d.
    • State clearly and quantify to the extent possible the 3 to 5 key benefits
  • Who else provides a solution and why is yours better?
    • This will be your Competition slide, where you discuss your Competitive Advantage
    • State clearly and concisely how your solution is better than what everyone does in the industry, including the status quo.
    • Do your homework on the competition and don’t misrepresent their strengths or their weaknesses.
  • How will you get your solution to the market?
    • This will be your Go-To-Market slide, where you explain your Market Strategy
    • Focus on articulating the non-obvious, potentially disruptive elements of your strategy
    • What are the critical hurdles that the company faces and how will the company address them to get the sale?
  • If you can get your solution to the market, how will you make money?
    • This will be your Business slide, where you clearly lay out your Business Model
    • How do you make money?
    • Explain the pricing, the costs, and why this company will be especially profitable.
    • Make sure you know the key assumptions underlying your planned success.  Be prepared to defend them.
    • Be ready to articulate the sensitivity of your business to variations in your assumptions.
  • Assuming you can get it to market and make money, how much will you make?
    • This will be your Financials slide, where you provide Financial Projections
    • What is your financial projection for the company?
    • What are the two to four key metrics that will drive revenues, expenses and growth?
    • Convey that you really understand the economics and evolution of a growing a dynamic company
    • Don’t put a cliché graph on this slide with steady growth.
  • Who is building the startup?
    • This will be your Team slide
    • Founders with key and relevant accomplishments listed
    • Who is advising the team?
    • What gives this team an edge?
  • What achievements or progress has been made to date by the team?
    • This will be your Progress slide
    • What are the meaningful achievements already attained by the team to date?
    • Where is the wow?  That is what has the team knocked out of the park as far as milestones, strategic partners, contracts, traction etc.
  • What will be needed to succeed and how will you and others measure progress?
    •  This will be your Ask slide, where you will explain your Operating Plan for the funds you are raising
    • What are the capital requirements for the company?
    • Map the funding against your key milestones.
    • Tie the milestones to the key metrics in your financial projections
  • Why you?  Why now?
    • This will be your Final Slide, where you give a Summary – usually with contact information
    • Solidify the core value proposition of your company in words that are memorable and unique to your company.
    • If someone were to give a short summary the company, these are the words you want used – the opportunity and the solution
*This article is based on a Toolkit section written by Eric Mathews

Prepare for launch. Season announcement party August 15!


Our fall 2012 season of entrepreneurship is so good, it deserves a party!

Join LaunchMemphis on Wednesday, August 15 for our fall lineup (including a few BIG surprises!), celebration of Memphis entrepreneurship and innovation, hors d’oeuvres and specialty cocktails from Chef Michael Patrick, DJ Justin Baker, door prizes, our new swag and demos from local startups. And say hi to Nibletz, the “voice of startups everywhere else,” who will be in town to cover the event!

Tickets cost $10 and are available online via EventBrite; tickets will also be sold at the door. Proceeds benefit LaunchMemphis, a registered 501(c)(3) that provides programming and resources for early stage entrepreneurs and fuels an entrepreneurial community.

Thanks to season sponsor Baker Donelson, event sponsors Loeb Properties, Memphis Flyer and Grawemeyer’s, and startup demo sponsors Choomogo, I Want Local Food, Screwpulp, Street Savvy Unlimited, StiQRd and A Style Junkie.

Creating a Name for Your Startup


Can’t think of a good name for your new business? Following these steps could give you the inspiration you need!


1. Before you do anything else, you may want to research the names of companies you’ll be competing against. This will give you an idea of where you can position yourself. If similar competitors are named Zongo, Twaddle, and Kibblitz, will you be try to emulate that or go against the grain with something more old-fashioned and professional? Either way could be good depending on your product and your market.

2. Brainstorm names by yourself, on your own time. If you’re having trouble creating a list of names, make a second list of words that could be used to form the name. Think of things that have to do with your industry or product. Look for rhymes and synonyms. Seeing all these words in front of you may jog your creativity.

3. Once you have a list of names, discuss them with a co-worker or friend. Talk about what you want the name to convey and make a decision. If you can’t decide or don’t like any of the options, continue brainstorming.

4. Seek lots of feedback on your choice of name, especially with your target customer group. Try not to rely on friends and family here… they might be too considerate to give you the truth.



– If you are creating your start-up with other people, do NOT brainstorm in a group setting. Have everyone think of names on their own time, then arrange a group meeting to discuss everyone’s best ideas and make a decision. You’ll save a lot of time and get better results.

– Do NOT crowdsource. A few people spending a lot of time thinking about it will most assuredly yield better results than a lot of people spending a little time.

NEVER settle for a mediocre name, unless it is only a temporary placeholder. Just make sure you get a better one before you pitch to investors or begin selling to customers.

July In-Synk Book Review: Eric Ries' The Lean Startup


Executive coach Michael Synk of In-Synk hosts a monthly book review with a twist: you don’t have to read the book! Instead Michael walks through Synk Notes (if you’ve been in high school you understand the reference) and discussion around key texts in the business world. On Friday, July 13 he covers Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup, a seminal work for entrepreneurs and foundational to our own principles.

Michael’s summary of the book:

It’s a treatise that takes “Lean” management philosophy and techniques and translates them into both start up companies and starting up a new product. Great case studies, and great steps to follow if you are starting anything new. It will challenge what you know and what we read in the papers. Success comes from more than a great idea and luck.

Those connected to LaunchMemphis even get a discounted ticket of only $20. For additional details on this and future events visit the In-Synk website.

Trolley Tour Partners: LaunchMemphis & Memphis Music Foundation


LaunchMemphis and the Memphis Music Foundation have teamed up before to bring you Memphis Music Launch, a twist on our 48 Hour Launch during which artists and industry members pitch music concepts and over a weekend convert them into written, performed, and recorded singles. And now we’ve teaming up for a decidedly more social purpose: a Trolley Tour party!

On Friday, June 29 from 6-8pm at the Music Foundation (431 South Main) we all raised a glass along with some of Memphis’ leading innovators and creators. In addition to great local music, participants had excellent opportunities to learn more about our local tech startup scene and how to  join our efforts of fueling the jobs of tomorrow.

We see a distinct connection between our efforts and those of the Music Foundation. We both work with visionaries and disrupters, the sort of creative talent we must attract, retain, and support in order to make Memphis a City of Choice. As we provide resources, programming, and mentorship to early stage entrepreneurs in our Launchpad, the MMF empowers musicians to be successful in the business elements of the industry through their Music Resource Center.

And with a thriving ecosystem in place, both high growth potential entrepreneurship and the music industry have the power to transform communities. Like ours.

Speaking of making Memphis a City of Choice, there were two other events taking place on June 29:

  • The Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and Leadership Memphis presented Idea Lounge at Leadership Memphis (363 South Main). Participants provided an idea for making Memphis a better city and were then poured a drink. Ideas were collected, posted, and tweeted to facilitate collaboration- and action.
  • The Leadership Academy and Memphis College of Art hosted a Summer Experience reception at MCA’s Nesin Graduate School (477 South Main). The Academy’s annual Summer Experience initiative invites graduate students, recent college graduates and other young talent in Memphis for the summer to meet peers, network with business and community leaders and fall in love with Memphis.

Igniting Change in Memphis


LaunchYourCity, Inc. co-president Andre Fowlkes presents the second in a series of guest posts for the Harvard Kennedy Business School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. LYC has had the opportunity to work closely with the Ash Center around their Project on Social Innovation and Stephen Goldsmith’s The Power of Social Innovation. You can read Andre’s full post here.

LaunchYourCity understands the significant challenges that come with efforts to create the jobs of tomorrow. Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of efforts to develop early stage startup companies—including severe Memphis entrenchment, high aversion to risk and new ideas, prescribed funding, and the curse of professionals who assume that they know what’s best for communities. Further, LYC believes in many of the principles highlighted in the book “The Power of Social Innovation” by Stephen Goldsmith, and acquired from a relationship with Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Yet LaunchYourCity knew, dating back several years ago, that it would have to build momentum in the community in order to disrupt but at the same time create reform. One vital component of the LYC business model was to create a “Vortex” of Social Change. Only by aligning the right service providers with the right “market makers”–those who can provide the resources or the demand needed—would real transformation start to take place…

LaunchYourCity’s Vortex of Social Change has been in the developing process for 18 months. It has been gaining momentum slowly but steadily. Already the tool has helped shed light on how to better access and collaborate with local and state governments, quasi-government agencies focused on entrepreneurship, nonprofits and foundations investing in this space, private companies offering mentorship and dollars, advocacy and communications organizations with the capacity to reach the masses, and so many more.

By building this model, LYC has been able to better gauge status and where the gaps are.  For example, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of entrepreneurs served and in the accelerators that groom them, but the “market makers” are hedging in their provision of resources. Many are waiting for more results—a not unexpected mitigation strategy reflecting their aversion to risk…

In order to achieve our mission of creating more high growth enterprises, we must push harder into the unknown. As a first step, creating the Vortex of Social Change for Memphis showed us that a key point of intervention was the need for more national support to better rally local resources to their optimal capacity.

Proudly introducing… A Recap of 48 Hour Launch


We hosted 48 Hour Launch this past weekend and must say, “WOW.” The event is all about innovation and community building- and this edition was particularly remarkable on both of those fronts. Over 20 concepts were pitched on Friday evening, which we have on credible authority surpassed a recent launch weekend in Chicago. This certainly says a great deal about Memphis’ entrepreneurial spirit!

Dozens of participants cast their votes for their four favorite pitches, then divided into teams. And thus were born Happy Potty, Lost Petcast, Screwpulp and Yadoog!

Happy Potty is an app of crowdsourced ratings of public restrooms. Users determine if a bathroom gets a Happy Potty or a Crappy Potty. This could become a road trip must-have!

Lost Petcast is in simplest terms an Amber Alert for pets. Users can report a lost, found, or spotted pet on the website. Worthy of note: Lost Petcast was already cash-flow positive by Sunday evening!

Screwpulp is a self-publishing website for authors and readers, with an important twist: initial copies of books are downloaded in return for mandatory reviews and social media buzz rather than cash.

Yadoog is a photo sharing app that reimagines the way you tell your story. Capture and share up to 24 photos, tagged with associated emotions, presenting a visual narrative of the ups and downs of your day.

We tapped a keg and DJ Justin Baker was on hand Friday night, but these teams were ready to hit the ground and by 11pm had already filled whiteboards and plastered post-it notes all over their breakout rooms. We’re thrilled to add that Kyle Sandler of Nibletz was in the house covering pitches and progress, and providing valuable feedback.

By Saturday at noon when the teams made their first group report, @HappyPotty and @Screwpulp already had Twitter profiles up and running. Screwpulp and Lost Petcast had logos and were working on additional design efforts and wireframes. Lost Petcast and Yadoog visited the Memphis Farmers Market for some valuable in-person customer feedback. Happy Potty was tweeting for feedback while developing a proof of concept for their  iPhone app.

It takes a village to start a company, and we want to take a moment to commend those who voluntarily spent their weekend doing customer discovery, writing code, building websites, testing revenue models, researching competitors, and pulling together a five minute investor pitch. We hope that Saturday’s demo with Sam Pike and Endurance Krav Maga provided a bit of respite if not levity to an otherwise intense day…

By Sunday teams were tweeting, feverishly completing prototypes, testing websites and polishing presentations. And then at 6pm… it magically came together and four new Memphis startups were launched.

Well, perhaps not so magically.

The overnight success is an urban legend. Behind what might appear to be serendipity or sudden fame is months if not years of hard work, passion, sacrifice and force of will. But 48 Hour Launch proves that you can seriously kickstart an innovative concept, if using solid entrepreneurial principles and if you have the right team in place collaborating and committed to the cause.

This is why we do what we do. We’ll be working with these teams further around business development, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for Happy Potty, Lost Petcast, Screwpulp and Yadoog!

Many thanks to Sarah Bleau and My Fox Memphis for their two-part feature on 48 Hour Launch! Check it out:

My Day with Ted Howard, guest post by Taylor Fitzgerald


St. George’s Independent School rising senior Taylor Fitzgerald spent a week interning with LaunchYourCity. It was a privilege to have her involved, and we’d like to share her story below:

My Day with Ted Howard

One day of my internship at LaunchYourCity, Inc. this spring, I was fortunate enough to spend the day around Ted Howard, a leader in cooperative business models to change communities. He is the Founder and Executive Director of The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland and also a Steven A. Minter Fellow.

This was exciting because before this experience, I had not heard of the developments taking place in Cleveland, Ohio. Basically, they wanted to make major improvements to the city, so they took a chance and duplicated the very successful business structure set up in Mondragon, Spain. In Cleveland, this took the form of the Evergreen Cooperative — a new type business model focusing on cooperation rather than strict capitalism. It’s a new way of thinking about your community and business.

One startling statistic he pointed out is that the top 400 wealthiest people in America own more wealth than over half the nation combined. They saw this gap in Cleveland and identified cooperative business models as means to change this statistic locally. To do this, they needed to not only create jobs for those who needed to work but also make them co-owners of the business to help the employees create personal wealth.

In Cleveland, they first created the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, and it is a huge success. What is really interesting about this is that while a normal laundry worker might normally receive minimum wage, the laundry workers in Cleveland earn $15 hourly wages plus healthcare and other benefits. Another interesting fact about the Laundry is that they many times hire ex-inmates. They find people who may have made bad choices in their life and give them another chance at a new start.

The big innovation though is that all the employees have the choice and vote to decide on the direction of the business. That’s the cooperative way. Because they are owners of the business they work in, the employees decide how to make changes and even whether or not to hire a new employee. When times get tough at the business and they need to reduce labor costs, the employee-owners would likely reduce all hours of all employees as opposed to laying off employees. In this way the community is stronger because unemployment is lower; the employees can base the decision on the market conditions and what the business can afford.

Ted Howard said the program is still a work in progress, and they are growing and adapting like any new enterprise. Just like the other start-up business, they have big plans for the future. They presently have 2 other cooperative businesses and are looking to add 2 more soon. By creating new jobs, enabling employees to be owners, and teaching everyone to be more aware of the relationship between community and business, the Evergreen Cooperative is working to make Cleveland a better place. This is something that we should do in Memphis, TN.

— by Taylor Fitzgerald

48 Hour Launch on June 8-10


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

During 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, these 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 greater Memphis 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, expanding 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 spend your weekend doing something extraordinary- building both companies and community.