New vision emerges, new horizons beckon

Here it is – my final “Startup Memphis” column for The Commercial Appeal and this site. I’ll continue to update the site this week, then I’m transitioning to a new role in a different industry…but still in Memphis.

It’s been a great ride and I’ve loved it.

Now for the last bit:

It’s time to start up, Memphis.

That’s how I opened this column when it debuted in 2011 and in the years since the local entrepreneurial ecosystem has done just that and undergone a remarkable transformation.

For example, when I began covering the local entrepreneurship community, one of the first places I visited was EmergeMemphis, a startup accelerator and incubator. The converted warehouse located Downtown at the corner of G.E. Patterson and Tennessee offered a co-working and supportive environment for a couple dozen fledgling companies and I was inspired by the creatives who were determined to launch startups out of the collaborative space.

Back then, the fourth floor was vacant and various projects were in developmental stages, including one proposed by an energetic band of young professionals for a mentoring and programming organization that would galvanize the Mid-South entrepreneurial ecosystem.

But in the years since, Emerge’s fourth floor has been transformed into occupied office space, its rooftop has been repurposed as an entertainment area and the fledgling entrepreneurial organization that was born as LaunchMemphis is now recognized across the nation as Start Co. and has graduated to a suite of offices in a high rise on Union.

And while Emerge remains committed to entrepreneurship, the organization is renewing its focus and refreshing its identity as a business and technology incubator with a new logo and a long-range strategy to help even more early stage companies reach scalability.

To introduce that mission and vision to the community, CEO Carlton Crothers and board members will host “Emerge 2020” from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday. This will be an opportunity to celebrate companies that have graduated from the space and promote the more than three dozen startups that are housed there now, while at the same time meeting some of the most dynamic and innovative talent Memphis has to offer and catching a glimpse of what the future holds for our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The party is free and open to all, but organizers need to get an idea of how many folks to expect so visit http://www.eventbrite.com/directory or give them a call at 901-312-7700 to add your name to the list.

The Emerge rebranding is but the latest example of innovative vision playing out across our entrepreneurial ecosystem, demonstrating the fluidity and adaptability necessary for any system to survive and thrive. And I’m convinced that many more opportunities to build up this community are on the horizon.

And while I’ll definitely keep watching for new developments, my tenure chronicling the community in this column and at www.startupmemphis.com is coming to a close.

I’ve been afforded an extraordinary platform and this has been the most rewarding experience in my journalistic career, but just like many of the startups I’ve written about in the past, the time has arrived for me to move to a different space.

New opportunities beckon and exciting challenges await. But while my time at The Commercial Appeal is ending, my passion for this community and my hope for its future are stronger than ever.

I appreciate everyone who made this possible and helped me out along the way. And the optimistic challenge offered in my first column holds just as true today:

It’s time to start up, Memphis. Let’s create something special.

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