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Memphis Technology Foundation Aims To Boost Local Tech Industry

Nonprofit hopes to be a resource for local software developers, web designers, and others in the tech world.

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Memphis may be miles away from the tech mecca of Silicon Valley, but the technology industry is taking off here. And a new foundation is looking to help boost tech jobs in Memphis.

The Memphis Technology Foundation (MTF) is hoping to be a resource to local software developers, web designers, internet marketing firms, makers, and others involved in the tech industry.

Brian Swanson, one of the co-chairs of the organization, said the Memphis Technology Foundation was started by people who were already running groups and events related to the city's technology and information industry, which, according to the Greater Memphis Chamber, employs about 6,000 Memphians.

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"We decided to start the tech foundation because we saw a recurring need in the tech community, where people were wanting to start user groups [and] tech-related events and didn't necessarily have the know-how to implement those types of things," Swanson said. "That was our initial goal."

Fund-raising is a big part of running events, and finding sponsorship is difficult when there isn't an entity or the group isn't registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Companies are more likely to donate money when a tax deduction is possible, Swanson said.

To help combat that, MTF is currently in the process of acquiring 501(c)(3) status, which will allow the organization to secure funds without each individual group having to apply for the status.

"One thing that we know we're very good at is providing membership, sponsorship, [as well as] helping find locations, content, and speakers for user groups. That's our primary focus for the short term," Swanson said. "Our long term is to reach out to some of the other groups in town that are doing awesome things and see how we can help them do it better or do it more often."

According to co-chair Joe Ferguson, there is "cross-pollination" of tech groups within the foundation; board members are involved with groups like HACKmemphis and the Midsouth Makers, among others. There isn't just one event or thing the foundation is involved in, and that's what separates it from other technology-based organizations, he said.

"MTF wants to be the resource for other organizations for whatever they could possibly need," Ferguson said. "Long term, we want to do whatever it takes to facilitate more awesome tech things in Memphis."

For its first hurrah, the organization is sponsoring TechCamp Memphis, an annual one-day conference that welcomes designers, developers, and marketing professionals. The event is being held on November 1st at Southwest Tennessee Community College's Macon campus.

"TechCamp is probably one of the bigger events that happens in the Memphis tech community, so it's an important event for us to get involved in and help ensure the success of it," Swanson said.

The three-year-old event might not have happened this year due to the death of Dave Barger, who was involved in GEEKmemphis, the group that organizes TechCamp. He was also involved in many technology-based groups around the city, including LaunchMemphis, before his passing in June.

"All the board members were personal friends with [Barger]," Swanson said. "We just wanted to make sure through helping with organizing, planning, executing it — also with sponsorship — to ensure the event did occur in his memory."


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