The idea is audacious, innovative and perhaps a little crazy, but if it works, brilliant.
A coalition of Memphis leaders propose to recruit 1,000 entrepreneurs to launch 500 new startups in Memphis over the next decade.
Sounds great, but how?
First off, provide them with support and resources and opportunities to take chances. Next, hold them accountable to the mission of developing solid companies staffed by energetic creatives who will ignite this city with a belief that anything is possible.
That mindset fueled historic entrepreneurship in Memphis and it’s the premise and the promise of the Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center or EPIcenter. The initiative was developed by local business, civic, education and nonprofit leaders under the auspices of the Chairman’s Circle at the Greater Memphis Chamber and launched to sizable fanfare last week.
If this plan flourishes the way its organizers hope — itself a high-growth-potential startup, if you will, one that’s scalable and sustainable — more than 4,500 jobs will be created by mostly tech, medical device, and logistics firms resulting in an economic impact topping a half-billion dollars.
So what’s the process?
In short form, more than 100 Chairman’s Circle leaders, including executives from AutoZone and FedEx, selected the Memphis Bioworks Foundation to be the entry point for entrepreneurship in this city. Bioworks will operate as the coordinating agent for entrepreneurial access in this city, collaborating with other organizations to schedule programming, foster mentoring opportunities and direct this influx of creatives to funding sources and make them aware of the variety of entrepreneurship resources available here.
While this coordinated concept is new, the nuts and bolts of this plan have been in place for years. This will just make it simpler for folks with great ideas to look to a single agency that will in turn guide them to the appropriate starting point. And for Steve Bares, who is a driving supporter of this effort and director of Bioworks, the goal of recruiting 1,000 entrepreneurs, launching 500 companies and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity will actually be accomplished in as few as seven years.
That means by 2021, Memphis will be a dramatically different city with an explosive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
For skeptics, consider this.
Since 2009, more than 950 entrepreneurs participated in programming and/or received some level of support from Bioworks, EmergeMemphis and Start Co., three of the city’s top startup accelerators and incubators. From those participants, 181 startups were launched, 532 jobs were created and equity funding from private and angel investors surpassed $50 million, positioning Memphis as one of the region’s emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Building on that foundation, innovative thinkers today are promoting a blueprint for a thriving Memphis of tomorrow. The EPIcenter is the front door and we must make sure that it opens frequently and ushers in a new era of entrepreneurial achievement.