Launch MemphisAside from being a lot of fun, it turns out LaunchMemphis’ 2008 inaugural season was a huge financial success.  LaunchMemphis kicked off in May 2008 with a well-attended Tech Fuel event.  Things have only gone up since then, with several events having been hosted already, and many more on the horizon.

The best news, however, comes from a recently published LaunchMemphis financial report for 2008.  The program, since its inception, has taken $16k in investment capital and produced nearly $500k in economic impact, all right here in Memphis.

This success is attributed to a host of factors.  Among them is a very dedicated group of founders dedicated to the growth of Memphis’ entrepreneurial community. Eric Mathews, Dave Barger, Harry Brown, Sridhar Sunkara, Chris Allen, Anna Ivey, Gwin Scott, Douglas Scarboro, Marc Diaz, and Lori Turner have all dedicated immense time and effort into seeing this program accomplish all that it has.

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LaunchMemphis also owes a great deal of success to its sponsorship base which has consistently provided funding and resources that have helped maximize the programs potential.  FedEx Institute of Technology, Bosco’s Brewing Company, Memphis Regional Chamber, Center City Commission, Sun Microsystems, JumpBox, Cadre5, Flying Circle, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, Naked Lion Brewing Company, Starbucks Coffee, Domino’s Pizza, Neely’s Bar-B-Que, Innova, Mercury Technology Labs, Impact Memphis, Red Bull, Open Road Technologies, Small Business Chamber, Red Bull, LunaWeb, and Rendezvous BBQ, all played a crucial role in events over the past year.

Visit the 2009 schedule for upcoming LaunchMemphis events and links to more information.

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Does mainstreaming kill the effectiveness of grassroots campaigns?

At Memphis’ StartUp Weekend the idea of mainstreaming pickup sports is not the hope, desire or even mentioned in the business plan. Every group, from Market Research to Development, understands that ultimate frisbee players, along with other underground gamers, don’t desire to be popular or mainstream. They aren’t searching for superstardom or the fame found in the NBA or NFL.

Ultimate frisbee players love the game–the ease of quickly gathering equipment (a frisbee) and grabbing a group together to play. Symple. Easy as pie.

StartUp Weekend participants know the market and are continually sharing ideas from group to group creating the most effective and desirable user interface for the audience.

What’s the point of starting a business if no one will hear about it? That’s right–there is no point. To be successful, word must spead and buzz must be generated.

There comes a time when every start-up business venture must decide how they will choose to generate their buzz. Word of mouth? Direct marketing? Traditional advertising? It’s a vital choice every organization must make, and a dilemma that has not escaped the marketing team at StartUp Weekend.

It appears that for this particular venture-creating a social community for ultimate frisbee pickup game players to rate the skills of other players-grassroots is the way to go. The target market is eclectic, bot young and old, resistant to organization–traditional advertising most likely will not be the most effective. The word of a friend or teammate will go farther than the message of a billboard or commercial.

Developers at StartUp Weekend are working to create a social community where undergound gamers, specifically ultimate frisbee players, can unite to rate other players and learn how to improve their own games. At the core of the application development is Facebook.

The group of developers feel the ease of the Facebook template will be the most useful when creating a rating system for players to use. Players will connect through the social community and give ratings not only to other players, but also to venues, fields and locations. The ultimate goal is to create better games for ultimate frisbee players because they are connecting with players who have similar skill levels.

Along with the developers, the user experience group is working to design the ultimate user interface for the ultimate frisbee players. Focusing on their needs–which is being taken care of by the market research group–and keeping them in mind while designing will make the end result the most useful and effective it can be.

Walk by a table and see brains churning as they practically bubble over with ideas to lend to the brainstorming session. Sit at that table and listen to the group, whether it is PR/Marketing or User Experience, and see lightbulbs actually going off over thier heads. Ok, maybe they are no lightbulbs shining over heads, but there might as well be.

The 100 or so great minds gathered together at LaunchMemphisStartUp Weekend are excited (and busy!) developing a business plan for a grassroots campaign to generate interest in a new social network presence. This network is unique and “organized” around the idea of unorganization. Interested yet?

While names, logos, business models and developments are still being worked out, the overall concept is set: A community, based on the Facebook template, uniting pickup-game players and encouraging them to join this network to rate other players and venues.

Focusing on underground sports lacking standard rules, leagues or organizations (mainly ultimate frisbee), this social community will provide a platform for players to connect with others who are on the same level as them, as well as find ways to improve their own games. StartUp Weekend is in full swing in Memphis, and there’s still a full day left! Keep checking back to see how the concept progresses–just watch out for random lightbulbs overhead.

LunaWeb is excited to be a founding partner of LaunchMemphis, and is highly involved with StartUp Weekend by overseeing the new media aspect of the weekend. By blogging, Tweeting, taking photos and shooting video, as well as joining in on the brainstorming, LunaWeb is utilizing social media to ensure that anyone who wants to participate can follow the process online.