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    Memphis Mayor is Building an 'Innovation Community'

    GUEST MENTOR Meg Crosby, co-founder of PeopleCap Advisors LLC, Memphis, Tenn.:


    Memphis is an authentic sprawling southern city with grit, character and loads of potential. Can startups be successful here? Absolutely! There are some key elements that make Memphis a great launchpad for startups: A tightly networked community, an entrepreneurial spirit and a concerted effort to build the infrastructure necessary to help startups succeed.

    Memphis is a city of close to one million people, but anyone who lives here will tell you it is a small town. The notion of six degrees of separation is reduced to two degrees in Memphis. For startups, this translates to easily accessible intellectual capital and resources. When my partners and I hung up our shingle last year and started our organizational consulting practice, PeopleCap Advisors, LLC, we did not have to look beyond our local network to find clients — including those outside of Memphis. We found the local network to be quite far-reaching, and, best of all, willing to help.

    See what our mentors have to say about whether startups can succeed anywhere in the U.S.

    Entrepreneurs have shaped Memphis’ history and culture. On a global scale FedEx , Autozone and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are world-class organizations that were founded either in Memphis or by Memphians and are headquartered here.  Memphis is home to several industries that are leaders in innovation from biosciences and medical devices to information technology and logistics. Recently, Memphis has also found itself at the forefront of social innovation with well-funded initiatives in education, healthcare delivery, economic development, green living and the arts.

    Perhaps most importantly, Memphis is actively working to build a strong innovation community that includes resources for funding, technical assistance and mentorship.  Organizations like Memphis’ LaunchYourCity Inc. are helping entrepreneurs to take real actionable steps in starting up at zero cost to them. Wolf River Angels, a small angel-investment fund seeks to match investors with startups not just for capital needs, but for valuable mentoring relationships as well.

    Memphis’ growing angel community includes other funds like Innova and MB Ventures. There are multiple organizations that offer guidance and resources like Memphis Bioworks (biosciences support), EmergeMemphis (IT Incubator) and UpStart Memphis (women startups). As a result, Memphis has attracted entrepreneurs from across the country to relocate here to start their businesses. Last year, at least six technology startups relocated to Memphis from places like the Research Triangle in North Carolina and Los Angeles.

    Even the city government has gotten into the action with the creation of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team. Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and staffed by bright minds from all over the country, the innovation team has put this top talent to work on solving some of the challenges of governing an urban city, including evaluating solutions for gun violence, economic development and the delivery of city services.

    Memphis is a city where people roll up their sleeves to help. I have no doubt that with the focus and energy we are collectively putting into innovation, we will continue to attract and retain new businesses, and Memphis will continue to enjoy its reputation as an entrepreneurial city well into the next century.