Tag Archives: event

Crews Center

By Cheryl Hayes

The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is “the hub of entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis.” It is a great resource for faculty and students  who what to develop innovative projects and idea. The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is also a helpful resource for anyone in the Memphis community who seeks assistance with their current or future startup ideas.

I had the opportunity on November 9th to visit the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. During my visit at the Center, I met with Mike Hoffmeyer. Mike is the director of the center and he is very knowledgeable in all things startup. I met Mike in the center’s conference room. While waiting for Mike to enter, I noticed a chart was posted on an easel in the far right corner of the room. On the chart was the business model for a startup company. I examined the chart to learn that it was the very same model Dr. Brown presented in JOUR 7100 class.

After about five minutes, Mike entered the conference room to meet with me about a startup idea. I explained to Mike some of the details of my team’s startup idea; for example, I informed Mike of my team’s problem and solution behind our startup idea. Next, we discussed the audience for the startup idea. I noticed that Mike was asking me questions based on the structure of the business model chart. He was quick to provide feedback regarding our customers and offered ideas we  should consider for our startup project.

After my meeting with Mike and just before leaving the center, I was given a tour of the facility and man I must say the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is an attractive space. It has a modern-day tech look. On the main floor was the entrance area, which leads into an atrium area that has information posted for visitors to peruse. Then there is Mike’s office and to the left of Mike’s office is a larger space in the corner where several people were gathered.

To the far east end of the atrium was the conference room to the right and one or two other rooms or offices to the left. At the entrance is a staircase that leads up to the collaboration area. This space is designed for individuals and groups to use to brainstorm. It has several tables, computers, printers, whiteboards for brainstorming and other equipment and supplies needed for group collaborations. Faculty and students can reserve the space at any time to work on their ideas or startups.

I learned a lot during my visit to the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. It is a great networking resource for myself as well as others who seek input, advice, or entrepreneurial training. Mike is a great listener and can offer great ideas. I encourage anyone interested in starting a business to visit this center.

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Speed Pitching Under Pressure

Be sure to check out Jennifer Sadler’s post on her experiences WINNING the speed pitch competition sponsored by Start.co this January!


After learning the fine art of a good pitch from Andrew Fowlkes, one of the leaders of StartCo, we jumped right in. As an aside, some of the information taught was to make sure to identify the problem, showcase it’s pain (how many people it affects, who, etc), and then tell about your solution. At the end, you were to make an ASK. An ASK is a statement of what you need. Do you need funding (which most projects require), mentorship (a valuable asset), programmers (for tech-related startups) and so on. 




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by Zach Losher


Near the end of March, I attended a lecture with a question and answer portion given by Steve Reich. He is one of the most prolific American composers of the past 50 years.

Going into the event I could not have imagined he would have anything to say that was relevant to our class, but he did. While a large portion of the event was focused on his career and creative process, he did have a lot to say about how technology has altered, and will continue to alter, the course of recorded music.

Steve Reich sort of revolutionized modern classical music in the 50s and 60s by incorporating prerecorded audio often involving field recordings and documentary sound, but he said in today’s digital age there could be hundreds of people just like him. According to Mr. Reich, the technology available today allows a person without classical musical training to achieve similar results as someone who has had that training. This is similar to the rise of citizen journalism and photography, as well as many other communicative art forms that historically require some amount of formal training. It is different in the music side of things, because in addition to the rise of more citizen forms of participation that has also been a gigantic influx in music recording technology. These new technologies give musicians and producers more ways than ever to work with one another.

While Steve Reich was talking about this , I thought of the gentleman who spoke to our class about his startup relating to translating the languages used by different audio recording programs. This was an aha moment for me, because it showed that this sort of entrepreneurial thought is needed everywhere. I know that has been stressed throughout the semester, but I was able to connect the dots in a real way.

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Just Pitch It

By:  Robin Spielberger

When I signed up for IDEAS Weekend hosted by the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis, I expected a scene of suit-wearing business mogul wannabes prepared to enter the proverbial dragon’s den and circling newcomers like hungry sharks.  What I found was something completely different.

IDEAS Weekend – Imagine, Develop, Engage, Assess, Startup – is a “high energy weekend full of fun, excitement, and intense competition,” said Mike Hoffmeyer, entrepreneur and Director of the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.

Barry Parks of StockBoy

Barry Parks of StockBoy

If you have never been to a “startup weekend” type of event, this is how it typically works:

On Friday evening, any participant with an idea has two minutes to pitch it to the audience.  After everyone has had a chance to pitch, each participant votes on which three ideas they believe to be the best.  Those three “winning” ideas are chosen as the projects for the weekend and participants form teams by choosing which idea most interests them.  The person that pitched the idea will become the team’s CEO.

Then, teams work through the weekend in order to build a rough business model and a functioning prototype product.  Finally, on Sunday evening the teams’ CEOs will present an investor pitch to the crowd and the winning team will be awarded the cash prize of $1000.

I hadn’t planned to pitch.  I was sitting comfortably near the back row with my group from Entrepreneurial Journalism – a graduate class at the University of Memphis – ready to watch other self-proclaimed entrepreneurs go up to pitch their startup ideas, when one of the organizers said to our group “If you have ANY idea you’re considering, pitch!  Why not?  It’s great practice.”

My mind immediately snapped to our class startup business, StockBoy, and I quickly tried to remember how much of our class pitch I had memorized.  I looked to my group, hoping they would say that I shouldn’t pitch.  Instead, I saw smiles of nervous excitement and nods of encouragement cross their faces.

“Any of you guys want to pitch it?” I asked, knowing the answer but hoping that someone else had a desire to stand in front of the growing crowd and unpreparedly stumble through a pitch that I had written weeks ago.  The smiles left their faces, their eye brows furrowed, eyes widened, and the nods turned to furious shakes signaling just how much they did not want to be the sacrificial lamb.

Heart pounding, I retrieved the original StockBoy pitch from my bag, crossed out phrases and drew arrows from paragraph to paragraph in order to show their new home.  I scribbled new copy in hopes of grabbing the audience’s attention more quickly and when finished, I look down at StockBoy‘s new 2 minute pitch.  “Great,” I thought.  I’ve just created a roadmap for myself to follow and reorganized something that I already had mostly memorized.

The Crowd at IDEAS Weekend. StockBoy in Back. Robin Practicing

The Crowd at IDEAS Weekend. StockBoy in Back. Robin Practicing

Other people began heading to the front of the large room to pitch their ideas.  Growing more nervous as the time passed, I started practicing under my breath. “Have you ever wandered aimlessly up and down aisles of the grocery store searching for soup, foraging for fish, or rummaging for….”

An hour later, I was in disbelief.  StockBoy had moved on to the top 3 ideas and people were interested in the mobile app that was going to change the way people buy groceries.  My team and I were still shocked as fellow entrepreneurs began to approach us, asking questions about our customer discovery, business plan, and app design.  We obliged them with answers as if they were real investors and began to realize that StockBoy was real.

Unfortunately, as graduate students with a full-time class load and work assistantships we were unable to participate in the entire IDEAS Weekend experience.  Our team graciously thanked the fellow participants for allowing us the opportunity to practice our pitch and for their encouragement.  We forfeited StockBoy‘s third place “victory” to the fourth place winner so that he would have the opportunity to gain a fantastic group of people, further develop his startup, and experience the magic that can come from real teamwork and support, just as we had in class.

My team, and IDEAS Weekend, jump-started StockBoy‘s final phase and helped us believe in each other. We left that night with the knowledge that our pitch wasn’t perfect but that we were on the right road.

The University of Memphis is extremely fortunate to have knowledgeable professionals like Mike Hoffmeyer, available and willing to share their insight as well as host free events such as IDEAS Weekend in order to encourage innovation and offer support to passionate faculty and student entrepreneurs as they turn their ideas into successful startup companies.

The Crews Center houses a world class technology lab with a co-working space for current and aspiring entrepreneurs, furnished offices for visiting mentors and investors, lab areas for prototype development, meeting rooms, a 3D printer, and more.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur in need of expert help, a current entrepreneur in need of resources, or a member of the Memphis community interested in supporting entrepreneurship, contact Mike Hoffmeyer by email or by phone at 901.678.1585.  You can also visit the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship on the web, follow them on Twitter, or friend them on Facebook.  For a list of upcoming events, please click here.

The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is located at 3618 Walker Avenue in Memphis, TN.

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Intellectual Property Fundamentals

by Ketevan Dolidze

I received an email from Tammy Alexander, Sr. Tech Transfer Associate, about an event put on by the FedEx Institute of Technology. The name of this event was “Lunch and Learn Workshop: Intellectual Property Fundamentals. What every researcher should know about protecting their inventions” and let me tell you, it was fabulous. Maybe just to me, simply because I absolutely love intellectual property law and actually wanted to practice in that exact field.

Not only do I enjoy this field, but also think that it is extremely relevant to what we have been doing in our class all semester long. We are finally ready to pitch our ideas, but what if someone else decides he likes that idea and steals it? What should a new startup, a new inventor, be aware of as he works on his invention?

Kevin Boggs began his discussion today with the most recent patent filed out of  the FedEx Institute of Technology on a tire polymer, invented by one of the university’s graduate students. The whole idea behind this invention is that it would make tires more shiny, which would help drivers be more safe and cautious.

When the student approached Boggs with his invention, the long process of getting everything in order to be reviewed by the university board began. There are numerous disclosure forms that must be submitted (one we looked at today was about five pages long-in tiny print and extremely extensive) by the inventor, along with four signatures from the inventor’s department chairs and Mr. Boggs’ office.

What is Intellectual Property? –It is property rights that are creation of the mind. Some examples include: patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. (we only discussed the first two, as they were more relevant to us).

A patent is a government-granted property right, which gives you a right to do the things you are doing. It is country specific and expires two years from filing.

Some patent requirements:

  • Novelty: Was the invention known about or published or used anywhere in the world? Only the US has a one year grace period for filing a patent.
  • Usefulness – does it have specific and credible utility?
  • Non-obvious  to a person who knows the field (“Skilled in the Art”). The most difficult to anticipate. Proxy questions: Is it creative, contrary to the existing literature?
  • Enabled – can someone use the invention based on the written description?

Maintaining Patentability:

  • Public disclosure can include: publication in open literature, poster session and abstracts, posting on the web, presentation to an open forum (thesis defense)…


What is Copyright: Also a government-granted right.

  • Excludes others from copying your words
  • Expires 70 years after the author’s death.
  • Granted on completion of work.

After conducting some research, the university found that in the 1980s there were 28,000 government-funded inventions just collecting dust on the shelves of all the agencies that funded those inventions. This made the University realize that not only does it have to oversee the filing process of a patent, but also check in with the funding agencies to ensure that the patent is on its way to getting approved (if everything goes well and if everything was filed properly).

I was also not aware of the fact that the University works closely with a large law firm that has numerous intellectual property attorneys with specific areas of expertise in certain technical or science areas. (which is AWESOME, for the inventor). Once the draft is written up by the attorney, and the patent application is filed, the invention can finally be marketed. The university does this, as well, by providing expos and participating in numerous programs, as well as contacting some potential financial sponsors and marketing agencies. During this whole process, the University works alongside the inventor to ensure everything is done properly. Patent approval can take up to four years and once it is approved and the university receives the money for the invention, it gets dispersed to all participating parties (based on the percentages all parties agreed on).

I really enjoyed attending this event because it has so much relevancy to what we are doing in our class or what we may be facing very soon! I think everyone should know a little about intellectual property, just to make sure their ideas and inventions are protected!





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Thinking Like An Entrepreneur

Managing three blogs at once is hard for this professor. Put this one on the wrong blog. Don’t have time to fix it for now, but be sure to read Barry Park’s event blog write up here.


Tiger Startup School: Crafting an Investor Pitch

by Aidan Galasso

I attended Tiger Startup School: Crafting an Investor Pitch at the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship on April 2 at the University of Memphis. Mike Hoffmeyer, the director of the Crews Center, gave the talk. He discussed the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching their business idea to investors and how to avoid them.

The first piece of advice Hoffmeyer offered was that “every word counts.” He cautioned against using too much text in the presentation. When possible, he suggested using just one line of text.

According to the entrepreneurial expert, the visual aids should be used to evoke emotion and to make the audience “feel the discomfort” that your product seeks to erase. “You can’t use words as a crutch,” he said.

Although he spends most of his time at the Crews Center advising Memphis students with an entrepreneurial dream, Hoffmeyer is also works at the FedEx Institute of Technology where they do research and instruction in commercialization, corporate research and entrepreneurship. He described entrepreneurship as “not an academic discipline but a way of thinking.”

The next stage of the pitch Hoffmeyer addressed was the market size. He counseled entrepreneurs to keep their use of numbers limited, advising them only to highlight key figures. Instead of overusing numbers, Hoffmeyer suggested being creative and sticking to the story to keep investors interested, as too many statistics could result in the audience tuning out.

The final piece of wisdom offered at this session of Tiger Startup School was to make the conclusion the strongest part of the presentation. This is the part investors are most likely remember and therefore an ideal ending is a phrase or thought that will make the presentation stick in the audience’s mind. The conclusion can help differentiate one business from all the others a potential investor has heard from that day.

Hoffmeyer offered a simple tip that many people remember from their high school days. “Tie it together like an essay,” he said, “Just be more concrete.”




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Another good post on social media strategy for entrepreneurs

Check out Robert Kohler’s blog post on the event led by University of Memphis journalism professor Darrin Devault. As he writes:

With the internet and social media, it never has been easier to call attention to your business. In times of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, Linkedin, and so on, there is a multitude of possibilities to reach a large audience, or to reach your specific target audience. Using these digital platforms enables you to get in touch and interact with your customers easily, to build your own network, and to communicate with your stakeholders continuously.

Nevertheless, as social media news feeds are more and more overfilled, their users often saturated with information. If you want to fully utilize the benefits of social media, you have to know how these platforms work and how people use them. Professional communication with your customers requires strategic action plans.


Be sure to check out the full post.

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Four Steps to a Smarter Social Media Strategy

by John Stevenson

I attended the “Social Media Strategies for Entrepreneurs” event at the Crews Center on March 25 — featuring University of Memphis journalism professor Darrin Devault. social media strategy

Devault gave those in attendance useful tips about how to leverage social media in startup endeavors. Below, I’ve summarized some of the takeaways from his presentation:

  1. Identify your audience. Do some research. Determine where your audience is. When are they online? Where are they accessing social media? Knowing this will allow you to better position your content and develop a voice that resonates with your followers.
  2. Inform your audience. People like pictures. Create visual content. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly emphasizing photos and videos in their respective “feeds” of posts. Take advantage of that. Make your product come to life.
    • Creating an editorial calendar can help you plan an even spread of content.
    • An infographic is a great way to turn large chunks of information into an easy-to-understand and attraction-grabbing visual.
    • Weekly recurring social media posts (i.e. #tbt, Throwback Thursday) can give your audience a reason to return to your page each week.
  3. Integrate your content. What platforms are best suited for your content? Assess as many of the social media platforms available to figure out which ones best align with your mission and content strategy.
  4. Engage your audience. Social media platforms allow you to talk with your audience. Take advantage of that opportunity. And realize that you don’t control the conversation. Constantly broadcasting self-promotions goes against the notion of the public conversation that many social media platforms allow. Develop relationships — there are humans behind those usernames and avatars, after all.

I consider myself somewhat versed with social media, but I learned several things from attending this event. The University of Memphis is fortunate to have free events such as this at the Crews Center and knowledgeable professionals who are willing to share their insight with entrepreneurial students.


social media strategy 2

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