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Seeds of Success

New firm walks start-ups through early stages of development.

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This Friday marks the beginning of Launch Memphis' fourth annual 48Hour Launch, a weekend-long event where Memphians pitch ideas for company start-ups. But this time around, there's an added bonus for one 48Hour Launch participant.

The Seed Hatchery, a new early-stage investment firm, will choose one group to enter its start-up "boot camp," where it will receive funding and mentorship for 90 days.

In addition, the Seed Hatchery is accepting applications from start-ups not involved with the 48Hour Launch.

With a group of successful business leaders and entrepreneurs on hand, the Seed Hatchery matches start-ups with mentors. Each start-up will have access to roughly $15,000 in capital for 90 days. In return for these investments, the Seed Hatchery and the mentorship teams will collectively own 10 percent of each start-up's common stock.

While the Seed Hatchery accepts all manner of ideas, the group acknowledges that its level of funding lends itself to technology-based start-ups, such as companies that design web-based or smart phone applications. Seed Hatchery co-founder Eric Mathews said the firm is looking to invest in promising groups of Memphians who have powerful ideas and few resources.

"The most important selection criterion is the team itself," Mathews said. "A lot of the questions are designed to get the team thinking and help us evaluate where they'll go together."

A team doesn't need to have a detailed business plan to apply for Seed Hatchery funding, said Mathews. In some cases, a very simple concept can be a great match, as long as it has the potential to expand into something sustainable.

"The idea changes and morphs over time anyway," Mathews said. "This way, they can start with a simple idea, and we'll help them refine that and get it into what we think is a much better position for moving forward."

The deadline for applying to the Seed Hatchery's first 90-day program is February 11th. In June, participants will present their business models in a public launch, where they'll be able to pitch to potential investors for more funding.

"We're going to fund around 10 start-ups this year," Mathews said. "In my opinion, that's fantastic, because that's 10 start-ups that probably wouldn't have gotten started otherwise."

Visit seedhatchery.com to submit an application.

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