Teamwork is secret to ZeroTo510 strong start
The Commercial Appeal
Jun 17, 2012
By James Dowd
Now that the inaugural medical device accelerator ZeroTo510 is in full swing -- innovators fronting six startups are meeting daily with mentors and trainers with the goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for their products -- program directors credit the relatively smooth start thus far to their intentional decision to reach across the entrepreneurial aisle.
To ensure ZeroTo510's success in its first year, coordinators sought the advice and expertise of their counterparts at Seed Hatchery, a technology-based startup accelerator now in its second year and housed at EmergeMemphis.
Enlisting local entrepreneurs to help establish a solid foundation from which to launch the program offers twofold benefits, organizers contend, with the Memphis entrepreneurial ecosystem being strengthened in the process.
"The Seed Hatchery model can be adapted to fit any number of accelerators to reach entrepreneurs early in the process and position them for success," said Elizabeth Lemmonds, chief brand officer for LaunchYourCity. "It's a deliberate, proactive move to increase the number of companies and jobs here and will lead to creative retention."
To help foster collaboration, ZeroTo510 leaders regularly exchange ideas with Seed Hatchery coordinators and base many of their offerings on the established model.
That includes requiring participants to develop strong pitches for their products, undergo intensive training to prepare their companies for public launches and connecting the entrepreneurs with seasoned business professionals who monitor their progress.
"We decided to make Seed Hatchery part of our program in that we took the best practices from the tech world and applied those efficiency models to our accelerator," said Allan Daisley, director of innovation and sustainability initiatives for Memphis Bioworks Foundation. "We work well with them because we have a single overarching focus to generate critical growth in the area by creating more jobs. That ultimately increases the tax base and makes Memphis a place people want to come."
Added Eric Mathews, interim executive director of business accelerator EmergeMemphis and a Seed Hatchery founder, "It's hard to create value in a vacuum. From the start, we decided to step back and swallow our egos and focus on creative exchanges. It's not about one startup program competing with another. It's about making an impact faster."
It's all part of what Daisley and Mathews call "co-opetition."
To achieve that, Mathews and members from his teams at EmergeMemphis and Seed Hatchery, along with local business executives, have been mentoring and training participants in the ZeroTo510 program. Mathews serves on the ZeroTo510 board, and he regularly attends training and product pitch sessions at the Bioworks site.
Similarly, leaders at Bioworks serve as Seed Hatchery mentors and make regular appearances at the accelerator's EmergeMemphis headquarters for professional and social gatherings.
There are also numerous social and networking activities to encourage participants to interact with one another and share their creative processes.
"There's cross-mentoring and constant collaboration with each iteration of these accelerators to see what works well and what we can do to make things even better," Daisley said. "We have separate boards and operations from Seed Hatchery, but parallel objectives."
Once the ZeroTo510 program wraps up its first season in a few weeks, participants will engage in a forum akin to Seed Hatchery's "Investor Day" that offers startup founders the opportunity to pitch their companies before a group of financiers in the hope of securing additional funding.
And organizers are optimistic about moving forward.
"We hear a lot about brain drain in Memphis, but this is creating brain gain," Mathews said. "The new explorers of the world are entrepreneurs, and we're proving that we have a sustainable community that will support them."