Entrepreneurial Success Accelerates the Creative Class in Memphis

As you read this blog entry, deep in the heart of the Memphis Bioworks offices, five “companies to be” are deep in preparations to take the next step toward commercialization and ultimately, they hope, business success. 

The five companies have very different products – a device that uses bionanotechnology for rapid diagnosis of bacterial infection, an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional foam patient positioners used in surgeries, a surgical device to more effectively treat corneal abrasions through the use of nanotechnology, a minimally invasive treatment to address feminine stress urinary incontinence, and a modular surgical tray and method for the reprocessing of sterile surgical instruments. 

While they have different products in the development stage, they share a recent background and experience, and a spirit of creativity and discovery.  All five of the companies participated in the nation’s first-ever medical device accelerator called ZeroTo510, a program launched and operated by Memphis Bioworks Foundation as an initiative of the Greater Memphis Accelerator Consortium, a Startup Tennessee affiliate program funded by the State of Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commission.

When this cohort accelerator program began in May of this year, the goal was that up to three of six participating entrepreneurial teams, selected through an international application process, would begin the program with a medical device business concept and emerge from the 12-week program ready for additional funding.  National models had indicated that even one success should be considered a victory for ZeroTo510.  But, an interesting thing happened during the 12 weeks.  Because the participants shared similar goals – achieving the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing as critical to their go-to-market strategy – and because they found themselves in a community deep with medical device experience and mentors, a unique learning and developing environment grew.  Experts taught valuable lessons, best practices passed seamlessly across desks, and the entrepreneurs learned from each other within a highly creative environment, pushed each other and celebrated in each other’s milestones.

If you look at measures of success for cohort accelerator programs in the biosciences across the country, you will see just how extraordinary an advancement rate of five out of six is.  Four of these five have been awarded continuing funding of $100,000 through ZeroTo510.  It is a very impressive next step.  As Jan Bouten, a partner at pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor Innova (advisor and contributor to ZeroTo510) explained, “For each of these companies, this next phase in their development is a major accomplishment, but the vast stretch of the road to success still lies ahead.  We expect each of the four companies receiving the additional $100,000 investment to use that money to further prove a concept or reach a level where they are ready to really begin building a business.  That is the ultimate measure of success – a viable business with employees and a strong future, growing in Memphis and making a lasting impact.”

The kind of success Jan describes will only serve to strengthen Memphis’ position as a center of excellence in the medical device sector.

Most impressive, and something an accelerator program in any business category across the country would envy, is that one company from ZeroTo510, Restore Medical Solutions, advanced  immediately to a full round (Series A) of venture capital funding.  These entrepreneurs who moved from Atlanta to Memphis to participate in the program, and their modular surgical tray and method for the reprocessing of sterile surgical instruments, were seen as ready to advance by not only the ZeroTo510 team, but by an impressive roster of experienced investors as well.

Memphis has a long heritage in medical device corporate success and entrepreneurial drive and creativity. 

The success of ZeroTo510 will only make that heritage stronger.  National visibility for Memphis and Tennessee as a community that can and does invest in, develop and grow new bioscience business will pay dividends long into the future.  Dividends in terms of jobs, economic vitality and an entrepreneurial spirit that says to young scientists – a strategic segment of the creative class Memphis seeks to attract – “This is the place to be.  This is where I can be a success.”

 

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