Memphis gets a look over from Down Under

Yesterday afternoon I had the chance to chat with Laura Faulconer, who was in Memphis on a too-brief trip to check out the ZeroTo510 program at Memphis Bioworks (a big thanks to Ralph Berry of Sullivan Branding and the Bioworks folks for inviting me to join the conversation).

The reason Faulconer was in Memphis was to meet with Bioworks leaders and learn more about the ZeroTo510 program for a report she’s compiling on entrepreneurial incubators/accelerators (she’s completed 130 of the study’s projected 200 pages and she plans to finish it up by the end of this month – good luck, Laura!) and to hear her tell it, there’s a lot of to be excited about here.

“Memphis was at the top of my list of places to visit and it was the first place I reached out to because of the ZeroTo510 program. There is nothing out there like it in the world,” Faulconer said. “I was interested in coming here to see what lessons they’d learned along the way and how they’ve contributed to the community. I did lots of research and this definitely was the program I knew I had to see.”

Originally from Virginia, Faulconer moved to Melbourne, Australia, about a year ago to head up the marketing/business development department at the Small Technologies Cluster. The STC is an incubator of sorts, though there are no term limits for tenants and it doesn’t offer mentoring programs (a segment of entrepreneurial programs that she’d like to see replicated in Australia). It’s more of a community setting, with 25 companies located in a two-story building in Scoresby, a suburb of Melbourne. There are about 400 folks employed at the various companies and while there’s a strong sense of community there, Faulconer would like to see the incubator boost productivity and generate stronger, more sustainable companies.

By studing the ZeroTo510 program, which will enter its second season in 2013, Faulconer expects to include some best practices in her report and describe how this medical device program fosters advanced entrepreneurship by working with startup leaders to get their companies ready for FDA approval within about 90 days. The intense boot-camp-style training and rigorous mentoring aspects of the initiative could be successfully adapted for use in accelerators in Australia.

Although Melbourne has about four times the population of the Memphis metro area, Faulconer said the two cities are similar in that both must work overtime to attract and retain entrepreneurial talent. Memphis is making strides in that area, though, and models of entrepreneurial engagement and startup execution here may be implemented across the globe one day soon.

At the very least, folks elsewhere are paying attention.

And that’s worth noting and celebrating.

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