Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle Announces Innovation Center to Create 1,000 Entrepreneurs in 10 Years

Release date: 3/19/2014

Memphis Bioworks selected to lead the Center

The Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle announced plans to create 1,000 entrepreneurs and 500 companies in 10 years. The Chairman’s Circle benchmarked Memphis with other successful communities and determined that achieving this next level of success requires a concerted effort to organize all the organizations that serve startups around a common strategy. This research resulted in the launch of the Memphis Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center (The EPIcenter), an organization that will serve as the single front door and single point of accountability for entrepreneurs in Memphis.

The Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle is a group of more than 100 business leaders who have committed to making Memphis great through five goals or “moon missions.” The creation of 1,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years is one of the key moon missions, each one a strategic vision for bringing about transformational change in Memphis.

The EPIcenter will assist any entrepreneur starting a business, but will focus on Memphis’ existing economic strengths: logistics and emerging technologies, healthcare and bioscience, as well as the information and software technology that enables those sectors. For these areas, the EPIcenter will work directly with companies through existing accelerator, capital and incubator programs, such as Emerge Memphis, Start Co., Memphis Bioworks, Innova and work in conjunction with the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) and the Brookings Regional Economic Development plan. The EPIcenter will launch new programs to support needs and partner with other entities to support companies outside of these areas and will build a program that will make Memphis a destination for logistics startups worldwide.

“Memphis’ startup sector has grown considerably over the last few years and the current accelerators and incubators are doing very successful work,” said J.R. Pitt Hyde, Founder of AutoZone and a Chairman’s Circle member. “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. The Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle is stepping up to transform Memphis into a destination for talent, companies and investment.”

“The EPIcenter will impact everyone in this region significantly because growing 500 scalable, high-growth companies in key sectors of Memphis’ economy will eventually produce at least 4,500 new jobs and have an economic impact of $600 million,” said David Waddell, President & CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Waddell & Associates, Inc. and Chair of the Chairman’s Circle entrepreneurship committee. “The purpose of the moon mission strategy is to propose and propel transformative initiatives. Nothing transforms a community more than talented and resourced entrepreneurs.  I have no doubt that a coordinated effort to nurture this high potential pool will produce our future public companies and the master entrepreneurs necessary to reinvigorate our economy and our economic confidence.”

“Memphis has a great legacy of entrepreneurship with FedEx, AutoZone, Holiday Inn, Schering Plough, Piggly Wiggly and many others,” said Dexter Muller, Interim President, Greater Memphis Chamber. “The EPIcenter will further this tradition by providing a clear path for entrepreneurs to get the assistance they need to become profitable companies.”

To lead the EPIcenter, The Chairman’s Circle has selected Memphis Bioworks Foundation based on its strong entrepreneurship results to date.  Since 2009, Bioworks, together with Innova, have supported nearly 200 entrepreneurs, formed 60 companies and managed $53 million in equity investments.  In 2013, 20 companies resided in Bioworks’ Business Incubator, and annual revenue from Bioworks Incubator and Innova portfolio companies totaled nearly $53 million.

“Bioworks and Innova are proud to step forward and own this responsibility,” said Steven Bares, PhD, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks. “By having partnered with virtually every organization focused on idea development, incubation, acceleration and commercialization in the region, we have a great sense of the region’s many innovative strengths and feel confident that there is enough business and development going on in our community to keep everyone busy for many years to come.”

The Chairman’s Circle will contribute funding to Bioworks to hire staff that will establish EPIcenter and to initiate the region’s first logistics accelerator and set the stage for a world-class logistics innovation cluster. A management and reporting system is also required. In addition, Bioworks will embark on a capital campaign to raise the additional funding for the next six months. The goal for launching the EPIcenter is in August of this year.

The EPIcenter’s OBJECTIVES

Lead The Ecosystem

Serve as the leading voice of the Memphis entrepreneurial sector and go-to entity for political, business, and community leaders

Attract Top Talent

Become a talent magnet nationally and locally for the education and inspiration of entrepreneurs and small business in the region

Become World-Class

Provide top-notch support services to the entrepreneurial and small business sectors focusing resources on high-performing companies with the potential to be gazelle companies

Increase Efficiency

Align resources and increase efficiency in the ecosystem by identifying shared assets, while leveraging each participant’s strengths.

Be Accountable

Provide accountability to the growth and vibrancy of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and contribute to the economic viability of the region in terms of jobs, investments, and increased wealth.


The Chairman’s Circle is a leadership body created to engage Memphis business leaders on a variety of issues that affect Memphis and the Mid-South. The group’s intention is to cause transformational change through leadership working closely with civic partners and public officials.  

The Greater Memphis Chamber is the lead economic development agency for Memphis/Shelby County, and is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 2,300 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals.


CONTACT:
Christina Meek
Greater Memphis Chamber
901-543-3504 (o)
901-517-6140 (c)
cmeek@memphischamber.com