Chamber and local partners create new “EPIcenter” for entrepreneurs

Via Memphis Business Journal:

If a plan developed by the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle comes to fruition, the entrepreneurial community in the city will get a lot more crowded in the next few years.

The chamber, along with multiple organizations including the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis & Shelby County, Innova, Start Co., EmergeMemphis and the Crews Venture Lab, are launching the Memphis Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center, an organization that has the goal of creating 1,000 new entrepreneurs and 500 new companies in the next 10 years. The organization will be led by Steve Bares, president and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

The EPIcenter, as it will be known, will assist any entrepreneur starting a business, but will emphasize the city’s economic strengths, including logistics and emerging technologies, healthcare and bioscience.

Multiple member companies of the chamber will have various levels of involvement with the EPIcenter. Richard Smith, managing director of Life Sciences & Specialty Services/US International, Global Trade Services, for FedEx Express, who will represent FedEx, said he plans to take the plan to FedEx’s corporate leadership to gauge the company’s level of involvement. However, having firsthand experience with entrepreneurship, through his father Fred Smith’s founding of FedEx Corp., Smith is looking forward to seeing what companies develop. However, he acknowledges the startup community has been fractured for a few years.

“I see how difficult it can be to deal with Memphis’ fragmented entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Smith said. “This will accelerate and help entrepreneurs navigate the system, and it also creates a strong front door for funding.

J.R. Pitt Hyde, founder of AutoZone, who is also a member of the Chairman’s circle, said the growth of the entrepreneurial sector in the city needs to continue.

“In order for Memphis to get to the next level where startups can move beyond the startup phase requires leadership and support from the business community,” Hyde said. “The Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle is stepping up to transform Memphis into a destination for talent, companies and investment.”

Startup Memphis: Memphis to be EPIcenter of entrepreneurship

Via The Commercial Appeal:

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.