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    Memphis org charged with creating 1,000 new entrepreneurs has its leader

    Michael Sheffield


    The Entrepreneurship-Powered Innovation Center has its first leader. EPIcenter was created through a partnership with several local organizations including the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis & Shelby County, Innova, Start Co., EmergeMemphis and the Crews Venture Lab with the goal of creating 1,000 new entrepreneurs and 500 new companies in the next 10 years.
    Leslie Lynn Smith, who most previously served as president and CEO of TechTown Detroit, will lead EPIcenter and will also join Bioworks as vice president.  During her five years with TechTown Detroit, which connects entrepreneurs in that city with resources, Smith brought in new partnership models and new programs. She was also previously director of business acceleration for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, where she oversaw a $300 million investment portfolio for the state.
    "At TechTown, with more than 40 collaborators working together in the ecosystem, Leslie has proven that the model of a central organization charged with connecting, catalyzing and then supplementing a community's entrepreneurial and business development assets can generate remarkable results," said Steve Bares, president of Bioworks. "That is the kind of model we will emulate at EPIcenter, where every idea and every entrepreneur has a resource to which EPIcenter can direct them for the help and support needed, whether that's investors, mentoring, networking, education or space."
    According to Bares, Smith was selected after a nationwide search, and she said she's looking forward to helping Memphis fill its potential when it comes to aiding startups.
    "Much like we had in Detroit when we began our entrepreneurial renaissance, Memphis has untapped opportunity, energy and a variety of successful programs," Smith said. "I'm particularly impressed with the level of private sector engagement in Memphis, and in the city's embrace of its existing category strengths as a foundation for growth. I could not turn down this opportunity to become a part of an organization that is accountable for building a national model for a successful integrated entrepreneurial ecosystem that has real community impact."