Unprecedented Community Collaboration Recruits Businesses to Memphis

More than 50 startup founders and students will grow their businesses through seven accelerators in joint partnership

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Apr. 19, 2016) – For the first time, EPIcenter, Start Co. and ZeroTo510 are today announcing a partnership of six industry-specific startup accelerators and one student accelerator that will host more than 20 technology-based teams from around the world and 12 students from seven universities in Memphis this summer. The joint accelerator program will kick off on May 2 and is operated by EPIcenter, hub of the greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement, and Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network. The 100-day-long “Summer of Acceleration” will culminate in the region’s largest Demo Day on Aug. 11 at the Halloran Center in Downtown Memphis.

Teams that participate in any of the seven accelerators will collectively experience the rigorous entrepreneurial startup programming curriculum, have access to potential customers, mentors, and industry partners, and be able to network with investment capital groups. All teams will also spend time focused on industry- and sector-specific curriculum activities in each individual accelerator cohort.

“We’re not aware of another market executing this kind of entrepreneurial collaboration, especially through student and industry-specific accelerators – industries in which our region has a competitive advantage,” said Leslie Smith, President of EPIcenter. “Having more than 50 founders of startups coming to Memphis to participate in these accelerators this summer puts Memphis on the map as a vibrant destination in which to start and grow a business.”

Applications for the accelerators were due in March, and participating teams will be announced May 2. The seven partner accelerator programs include:

  • EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator was created to help startups bring innovative logistics products and technologies to market and is sponsored by FedEx.
  • ImagineU is a first-of-its-kind collaboration of seven Memphis colleges and universities to provide a true startup acceleration experience to help their student teams bring business ideas to fruition. ImagineU is developed and sponsored by Christian Brothers University, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, University of Memphis, Visible Music College, Memphis College of Art, Rhodes College and community partner The College Initiative, and it is housed at the University of Memphis Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.
  • Seed Hatchery was Memphis’ first accelerator and focuses on software and hardware as a service for enterprise customers. Seed Hatchery is one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network.
  • Sky High: is a social impact program to build innovative business models to address challenges in the Memphis metro area.
  • Start MMT was founded in conjunction with Hall of Fame Songwriter David Porter and is one of the first music industry innovation accelerators to operate in the world. They will be holding their inaugural cohort this year.
  • Upstart is one of the top ten women-led technology startup accelerators in the world and one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network.
  • ZeroTo510, founded by and housed at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, has been named one of the top 25 accelerator programs in the country by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for two years running. ZeroTo510 focuses on medical technology innovation that takes advantage of the FDA’s 510k regulatory pathway.

EPIcenter is the convening agent of the collaboration, and, for the first time, all seven accelerators will be supported by Start Co.’s core accelerator programming. This core accelerator programming will take place among all accelerators at Start Co., and the partnering accelerator operator will handle the industry-specific programming.  Logistics expertise will be coordinated and provided by EPIcenter for its innovation accelerator. Start Co. will provide B2B IT and social innovation expertise, as well as customized support for female founders, for its Seed Hatchery, Sky High, and Upstart accelerator cohorts.  The Consortium MMT will provide music-industry specific programming for the Start MMT program.  Memphis Bioworks will provide medical device expertise for the ZeroTo510 cohort. While ImagineU does not have a specific sector focus, students will be matched with subject matter experts and mentors based on the focus of their business.

“With the increased density of teams, investors, partners, and mentors, startup founders will experience dramatically improved idea velocity and enhanced value creation.  The individual accelerator programs would find it hard to attain this in isolation,” said Eric Mathews, founder and CEO of Start Co. “All the participants will reap the benefits that occur with the increased creative collisions with teams from varied industry verticals, as well as the assembled technology and creative community in the area.”

Both Start Co. and EPIcenter have the experience and expertise to deliver world-class startup support. EPIcenter, led by Leslie Smith, formerly CEO of TechTown in Detroit, Mich., is supporting the rapid increase of local entrepreneurial activity and serves a common voice for change in the Memphis community.  Start Co. is one of the most experienced venture development organizations in the Southeast, having operated 11 accelerator cohorts and co-built another four accelerator programs within the last five years.

Investment partners include Innova, a Memphis-based venture capital fund that is leading the co-investment into the accelerator teams participating in ZeroTo510, Seed Hatchery, Upstart, and EPIcenter Logistics, as well as MB Venture Partners, The JumpFund, and Wolf River Angels. Program partners include Launch Tennessee, the Chairman’s Circle of the Greater Memphis Chamber, Memphis Bioworks, Baker Donelson, American Airlines, IBM, Amazon, Paypal, Archer Malmo, Mosaik Solutions, The Marston Group, Waller, and many more.

About EPIcenter:

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

About Start Co.:

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

About ZeroTo510:

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



Naomi Bata
Archer Malmo for Start Co.

Jessica Taveau
Memphis Bioworks for EPIcenter and ZeroTo510