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Memphis entrepreneurship plans surge, as Bioworks Foundation ends run.

Venture Nashville Connections

By Milt Capps Updated 30 Sept. 2021

Published July 7, 2021


THREE NEW MEMPHIS entrepreneurship initiatives are seeking traction, close-on-the-heels of pioneer Memphis Bioworks Foundation closing its doors.

Memphis Bioworks formally ceased its nonprofit operations in June, after a long drawdown period.

The foundation launched in 2001 with the backing of J.R. "Pitt" Hyde III, who is the entrepreneurial founder and former chairman, CEO and director of AutoZone(NYSE:AZP), as well as a major philanthropist, Grizzlies owner and Memphis advocate.

The foundation's former President and CFO, Brandon Wellford, this week told VNC, "Memphis Bioworks liquidated its real estate holdings and has transferred some of its programs to Epicenter Memphis and made other entities and programs independent from Bioworks. We did not make a formal announcement [of closure] since many of the Bioworks initiatives are continuing to exist" in various forms.

NATURALLY, the batons of Memphis entrepreneurship are being carried forward by others -- many of them allies of long standing.

For example, three Memphis groups now await word regarding whether or not their respective grant applications will earn federal funding via the 2021 Build To Scaleprogram of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (USDOC).




NONPROFIT Progeny Startups Inc. (dba Progeny Place) seeks EDA grant funding for its initiative: "ProGeny TechTronic Incubator/Accelerator (PTIA): Driving Inclusive Tech Incubator/Accelerator for Minorities & Women." Progeny Startups' CEO is Rhonnie Brewer, a Los Angeles native who came to Memphis nearly 15 years ago, said she hit upon the Progeny idea while exploring CoStarters training. Brewer's LinkedIn is here. The Progeny initiative is designed to provide entrepreneurial and occupational skills training for the Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth workers. Its focus is on advancing development of talented workers for jobs in Efforts will span entrepreneurship education for refinement of business ideas and values, start-up, operation, and financing. Participating trainees may be provided opportunities to execute business simulations or qualify for on-site internships. The applicant seeks roughly $1.1MM in total federal and matching funds, with other funding during a 3-year span taking the total to about $1.4MM. Progeny's partners in the grant proposal include ResCare Workforce Services , Chattanooga-based StartSpark (Launch Chattanooga, Hal Bowling), OZB Capital (led by Founder Nita Black), Shelby County Schools, Lemoyne-Owen College and others. A summary of the Progeny proposal is here(PDF).