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    Inventors pitch their ideas to investors

    James Dowd - The Commercial Appeal -

    Standing before a Memphis audience of more than 100 innovators and investors on Thursday, AutoZone founder Joseph R. "Pitt" Hyde III pointed to the city's world-renowned medical community as a fertile foundation for new generations of thinkers.

    And a new program here is putting one in touch with the other.

    Hyde offered opening remarks at the ZeroTo510 Investor Day program, which was held at the Memphis Bioworks conference center and featured company pitches from founders of six medical device startups. The event was a graduation day of sorts for the companies, which had been under development in the inaugural medical device accelerator program with a goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for their products.

    "I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and I have seen the benefits of entrepreneurship. I applaud ZeroTo510," Hyde said. "We're trying to do what we can to create a city that will attract knowledgeable workers of the future and no industry will attract more than the bio/pharma industry. This will encourage future entrepreneurship in this sector, in Memphis and throughout Tennessee."

    ZeroTo510, which focuses on biomedical device research and manufacturing, was developed by leaders at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and Innova and is affiliated with the Greater Memphis Accelerator Consortium. The 90-day initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, provided educational, financial and professional investments in six startups with the expectation of sizable returns.

    To participate – and receive the $50,000 in seed funding guaranteed to each startup – the companies either had to be based in Memphis or the entrepreneurs behind the ventures had to agree to relocate here.

    Upon completion of the program, the inventors – several with prototypes – pitched their ideas before investors in hopes of securing additional capital. And while there were no promises that investors would bite, ZeroTo510 organizers were optimistic.

    "This model has worked well in the IT world with programs like Seed Hatchery that get early or idea stage companies ready for investment pitches," said Allan Daisley, ZeroTo510 program director. "To grow entrepreneurship in Memphis, this is the space to do it in, working with the concept of building a better launch craft. When these entrepreneurs finish the program, they're ready to take their products to market."

    To prove they were ready, each of the six presenters offered projections of what their companies offered, what stage they were in and how much additional funding they needed. The medical device startups participating were BioNanovations, EcoSurg, HandMinder, Nanophtalmics, Restore Medical Solutions and Urova Medical.

    The presentations received positive reviews from Steve Bares, Bioworks president and executive director.

    "There are some really cool things going on here," Bares said. "The level of innovation is astounding and inspiring."

    So much so, in fact, that a sophomore season of the program is being planned for next year.

    "This is a promising group of teams and we have high hopes that they'll make lots of money and stay here to create jobs in Memphis," Daisley said. "The success of this program is a testament to Memphis and the support people show for these endeavors. We're definitely doing it again."