After skipping a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum, organized by the Mclean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi, took place virtually this April, featuring participants from the Mississippi entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Innovate Mississippi was proud to sponsor and participate in the event, which was also made possible by the Mississippi Development Authority.
The Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum’s talks began by centering on the efforts by colleges and universities in Mississippi to promote and incubate entrepreneurial activity in the Magnolia State. Allyson Best of the University of Mississippi moderated the first discussion of the day, which featured Dr. Almesha Campbell of Jackson State University, Jeremy Clay of Mississippi State University and Dr. Jim Petell from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. These panelists discussed several initiatives that have flourished in the past year, especially around STEM innovations and startup companies. The XLerator Network, for instance, is an initiative that both JSU and UM are engaged in that taps biomedical innovations and helps “transfer” them to the marketplace by incubating commercial endeavors.
In subsequent talks, Janice Karcher introduced ERDCWERX. This innovation hub connects the federal government (and specifically the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, or ERDC) to engineering-focused small businesses with innovations that might interest the Army and other federal government offices. That talk was followed by a discussion by student entrepreneurs who told of their experiences starting companies using resources at Delta State University, Millsaps College, UM and Alcorn State University.
The Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum served as the announcement venue for two different sets of awards. The Mississippi Development Authority announced Virtual QUAD (V-QUAD) winners, ten companies who will participate in a 10-week accelerator starting this week. The program, funded through an EPIC prize from the U.S. Department of Energy, offers some startup funds and awards to projects that show promise during the accelerator.
After V-QUAD, Tasha Bibb of Innovate Mississippi announced the winners of the NextUP Student Pitch Competition. Nine student companies from five different Mississippi universities competed virtually for cash prizes, with the awards going to Hickman Farms (1st Place), Studio 27:4 (2nd Place) and Argo Creations (3rd place).
After the award announcements, the discussion turned to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mississippi. Dr. Marty Brock of the Mississippi University for Women moderated a talk that included Innovate Mississippi CEO Tony Jeff, Sharon Nichols from the Mississippi Small Business Development Center and Vickie Roberts-Ratliff about the variety of resources available to entrepreneurs in the state.
Innovate Mississippi was proud to be a part of this convening, which ended with a message from Mayor George Flaggs of Vicksburg, welcoming the Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum to Vickburg—and, hopefully, back to an in-person event—for 2022. For more on the Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum, visit its website hosted by the University of Mississippi. You can also still register for access to the recordings of the 2021 MEF event.