Innovate Mississippi, Chamber search for tech innovators and business with creative ideas

Published 10:36 am Friday, March 18, 2022

It’s on! Innovate Mississippi, along with 11-regional partners, announces the launch of the first-ever statewide startup accelerator, CoBuilders: A Partnership-Driven Accelerator powered by Microsoft TechSpark.

CoBuilders is a 12-week initiative organized by Innovate Mississippi and powered by Microsoft.  Supported by local organizations like the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, The Small Business Development Center and the University of Mississippi, CoBuilders’ goal is to stimulate entrepreneurial development.

Microsoft TechSpark Manager J.J. Townsend said, “We’re honored to partner with Innovate Mississippi, as this collaboration will bring tools, access, and resources to our entrepreneurial ecosystem – generating value and stimulating innovation throughout the state of Mississippi.”

Startup founders across the state can register for startup pitch competitions in regions across Mississippi as part of the CoBuilders initiative. Right now, competitions are open for registration in Clarksdale, The Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Oxford/Lafayette County, Starkville, and Vicksburg.

“This is going after the startups that are in the innovation and technology space,” said Economic Development Foundation Vice President Allen Kurr. “They’re looking for companies with high growth potential and who need some mentorship when it comes to scaling an idea into a prototype or from a prototype into a true marketing plan.”

Winners from regional competitions will be invited to join the CoBuilders Accelerator and receive funding and support to help develop their startup idea. And when it comes to ideas, there are no hard limits.

“We never know what an idea can turn into,” said Kurr. “Somebody might think, ‘I just have a new music platform’ or ‘I have a new kitchen process that is a little more different or a little more unique.’ They might not view themselves as a scalable business but the idea could be scalable.”

“I know a lot of companies will be vying for the cash and assistance that this accelerator provides, but they have to start with an application through a regional partner – and those deadlines are approaching soon,“ said Tony Jeff, president & CEO of Innovate Mississippi. He continued, “Regional partners are an important part of this process and every company will receive value from day-one with local, hands-on support and mentorship.”

Three startups from each regional event will be invited to enter the 21-startup statewide cohort and receive a minimum $7,000 grant and other prizes. After the cohort, founders will pitch their company during “Pitch Day” to an audience of investors, mentors and service providers – and will receive on-going support as well as opportunities for early-stage capital through the Mississippi Seed Fund, The Mississippi Angel Investor Network, and other capital resources.

The Chamber VP said Oxford’s “Pitch Day” will be different from other locations. Other regions will require full pitches, whereas Oxford will conduct an interview-style process. Officials will vet applications and schedule interviews with the applicants. The local teams will determine through this process which team is best suited for the program.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” said Kurr. “We’re always trying to provide different resources and new angles for people to receive.”

Deadlines to register for a regional pitch competition are approaching so the time to apply is now! Go to www.cobuilders.ms/apply/ to submit your application. Contact Tony Jeff at tjeff@innovate.ms or 601-960-3610 for more details or visit us at www.cobuilders.ms.

Want to get involved as a mentor or sponsor? Innovative Mississippi and the Chamber of Commerce are seeking help to make this initiative a success. 

If you’re a professional in finance, product, marketing or other startup processes, please reach out to Tasha Bibb at tbibb@innovate.ms to discuss being a mentor in the program. If you’d like to join CoBuilders as a sponsor, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Janet Parker at jparker@innovate.ms  to discuss it. For more information on Innovate Mississippi, visit www.innovate.ms to learn more.