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Four Startups Innovate the Memphis Logistics Industry

The following is a feature from the previous issue of Memphis Crossroads MagazineClick here to view the full issue.
 

Here in the thriving logistics hub of Memphis, a new innovation accelerator program sponsored by FedEx aims to foster fresh ideas and emerging talent, promising an even brighter future for the industry as a whole.
 
As part of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle’s “1,000 Entrepreneurs” Moon Mission – a resolve to create 1,000 entrepreneurs and 500 new companies in the Mid-South by 2024 – the EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator launched Aug. 17 with four promising startups. During the course of the 14-week program, the founders of the fledgling companies hoped to fine tune their business models and ultimately catch the attention of new investors and prospective customers.
 
“This is a perfect place for innovation to be born around the logistics space,” said Leslie Lynn Smith, president of EPIcenter, which coordinates community resources to grow entrepreneurship in the region. “And what we’re trying to do through our partnerships across the community and our sponsorship from FedEx is really start to lean into some of those leading-edge changes that will shift the landscape around the logistics field. I think an accelerator is a really good way to pull out some of those emerging ideas.”
 
EPIcenter – which stands for Entrepreneurship-Powered Innovation Center – is a collaborative initiative that draws on input from partners such as the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, Memphis Bioworks, Emerge Memphis, Start Co., the Mid-South Minority Business Council and others to build a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem in the city. This year marks the debut of the Logistics Innovation Accelerator, which Smith says is initially slated to be an annual occurrence during the next three years.
 
In March, the announcement of the cohort-based program drew more than 24 nationwide applicants, which teams of business leaders and investors then narrowed down to the current four “high-potential companies with a high likelihood of success,” as Smith describes them.
 
Memphis-based venture capital firm Innova gave each of the participating teams $25,000 in initial seed capital, after which the cohort immersed itself in an intensive schedule that includes classroom activities, hands-on exercises – such as practice business pitches and customer discovery research – coaching from mentors and site visits to key logistics centers in Memphis. All this preparation geared up to a Nov. 19 Demo Day, during which the individual participants presented their business propositions to an audience of investors and industry influencers.
 
Smith said the program wouldn’t be possible without the passionate backing of FedEx Vice President of Global Trade Services Richard Smith.

“Richard Smith is not only a key supporter of this accelerator, but he was also one of the earliest visionaries around the creation of this moon mission, which gave him a broader context to the EPIcenter mission in its entirety,” Leslie Lynn Smith said.
 
The four participating startup founders all say they’re extremely grateful for the generosity of FedEx and the mentors who are helping them reach their goals.

The diverse group of entrepreneurs, each with a distinctive idea for making a positive impact on the logistics industry, includes the following businesses:
 
L7
Created by native Memphian Chris Cantrell, L7 is an online marketplace for consumer-to-consumer shipping solutions.
 
“It’s directly involving the LTL (less than truckload) shipping industry but trying to tie that mode of transportation to millions of consumers across the country,” Cantrell said. “LTL is primarily a B2B method of transporting goods and I think, speaking from an outsider’s view, it’s a shame that people can’t use this service. It’s so effective and relatively affordable that we should find a way to put consumer goods on these LTL trucks.”
 
Cantrell, who describes Memphis as “a library of logistics knowledge,” said he’s found every aspect of the accelerator program to be beneficial to the development of his business plan, and he’s particularly enjoyed interacting with the rest of the cohort.
 
“We have a lot of back and forth. We usually stay after our sessions every afternoon and work out problems with each other and for each other,” he said.
 
Thaddeus Medical Systems
Former Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Steve Scully, of Rochester, Minn., has invented a temperature-controlled device for shipping biomedical samples.
 
“I saw a very specific need for better solutions to prevent pre-analytical errors in clinical pathology with regards to shipping temperature-sensitive biomedical samples,” Scully said. “There’s a way to improve what’s currently going on to make it more easy and cost-effective for doctors and medical staff.”
 
So far, the accelerator has had a significant impact on his company’s evolution.
 
“The program has been wonderful,” he said. “It might change our go-to-market strategy because we’ve come across new customer segments and industries that might also have a more pressing need for this device.”
 
iHomeDelivery
Live Love Earn Labs founder Ashley Adewuyi of Washington has developed a secure smart mailbox for home-delivered packages, including an accompanying app that notifies the recipient of delivery. A former 10-year Navy intelligence officer, Adewuyi got her inspiration for the product while receiving packages during her time in the service.
 
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have something to help me know my packages were safe and secure when I got home?’ That’s the whole point of ordering something online – you want it convenient, you want it based on your schedule,” she said.
 
Joining the accelerator cohort was a no-brainer, she said.
 
“With all the expertise that’s in Memphis, I knew that coming down here and working in this logistics ecosystem could really take our project to the next level of becoming a full-fledged company.”
 
OneClickShip
Co-founders Vijay Harrell of San Francisco and Corey Myers of Cincinnati are creating a one-stop-shop website to connect small U.S. businesses to global buyers and simplify the export process.
 
“All the export documentation tools out there are either outdated, really expensive or just not easy to use,” Harrell said. “They still use a lot of trade legalese, and small businesses don’t understand that.”
 
Besides streamlining the export documentation process, Harrell and Meyers are building a network of small, independent freight forwarders to handle the logistics.
 
Harrell said he couldn’t be more excited about the knowledge he’s gained since joining the Logistics Innovation Accelerator.
 
“Having access to the logistical talent and resources that the EPIcenter Logistics Accelerator provides is an unparalleled experience,” he said. “What would take us probably 12 months to accomplish, we’re now going to be able to do in three months.”
 
The program also has inspired him to make a major business decision.
 
“We came into this thinking we were going to build this company in San Francisco, and that has changed,” Harrell said. “We’re committed to building this company in Memphis now. We’re staying.”

Story by: Erinn Figg
Photo by: Troy Glasgow


Posted: 2/9/2016 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Accelerator, Chairman's, Circle, Entrepreneurship, EPIcenter, FedEx, Leslie, Logistics, Lynn, Richard, Smith



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THE M BLOG
The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 (cmeek@memphischamber.com) or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (jfish@memphischamber.com).

 

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