Memphis Startup Scene and Chicago's 1871

I recently read an article in the Memphis Business Journal titled "Hard Times for Startups." After reading about the lack of investors, not enough mentors as well as questionable business plans, I must say I had mixed emotions. On one hand, since I knew several of the owners, I felt really bad about the failure rate of the local startups but was also gratified that my technology startup, Interactive Solutions (ISI) is still going strong almost 18 years later. It made me stop and think: why us? How have we survived all these years and so many others haven't?


After thinking about it a little further, I recognized one key ingredient that has been part of ISI's DNA since day one that can be summarized in one word: ENERGY. Since day one, ISI has always operated at a very busy, energetic pace- all day everyday. It's who we are. On a recent trip to Chicago, I noticed that same trait at a place called 1871 which is a business incubator specifically designed for high tech/digital startups. Paid for by public and private funding, over 200 startups work within a co-working space that gives them access to investors, advisors, networking events and fellow entrepreneurs to connect with. My son and I were there to visit one of his friends and arrived a little after 5:30. As soon as we got off the elevator I could feel it! I thought the business day had just started with dozens of people everywhere busily working on their laptops, brainstorming on Smart Boards, etc.


The difference between 1871 in Chicago and Seed Hatchery in Memphis isn't just that 1871 is a year-round, 24/7 space as opposed to a 90 day opportunity. It's also the energy in Chicago. Much like Memphis, Chicago hasn't been seen as a tech startup hub. But with the success of companies like Groupon and Grubhub, cooperation between city officials and local investors and the drive of a new generation of tech savvy Chicagoans, Chicago is bootstrapping its way to becoming the next Silicon Valley. Ultimately, if Memphis wants to see similar success, it is going to take the energy and the cooperation of the whole city to drive that change. There is no reason that Memphis can't have similar success if we provide new resources (co-working spaces, public/private funding, business mentors, networking opportunities) to foster startup culture and continue to drive innovation in our city.

Posted by Jay Myers at 5:15 PM