Author Archives: Rachel Wilhite

Seed Hatchery Graduate Startups Receive More Than $700K in Angel Investments


Start Investing - Start Co.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Memphis, Tenn. (Jan. 30, 2014) Start Co., a venture development organization that focuses on building startup companies and their founders, today announced more than $700,000 in angel investments for three Memphis-based Seed Hatchery graduate startups from the 2013 cohort. These investments, made by the Start Co. Angels, represent the largest percentage of a cohort that has received post-accelerator validation funding.

“This is a significant milestone for startups in the Memphis community and we’re proud of the graduates and our role in building out an angel fund and network in Memphis, something the community has not seen in nearly a decade,” said Eric Mathews, founder and CEO of Start Co. “We see these funding rounds as a tipping point for our current programs, where later-stage investment will be less of an exception and more of an opportunity for the teams that move through our programs and utilize our resources.”

The three Memphis-based startups receiving funding are:

  • MentorMe ($175,000): MentorMe is an online mentoring platform that matches mentors with mentees and provides management and measurement tools throughout the program. Founder Brit Fitzpatrick began utilizing Start Co. resources at the idea stage and participated in the first Women’s 48-Hour Launch program in the fall of 2012.  She is also a graduate of the NewMe accelerator program in San Francisco.
  • Musistic ($200,000): Musistic is an innovative music networking plug-in that defeats the limitations of geography and technology, allowing musicians to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, on virtually any digital audio workstation. Founders are Justin Olita, Vince Rogers, and Brian Wentzloff. The company is led by CEO, Jim Lattimore.
  • Screwpulp ($330,000): Screwpulp is an e-book publishing and purchasing platform. Founder Richard Billings began utilizing Start Co. resources, such as 48-Hour Launch, at the early idea stage.

“These startups have proven worthy of investment over the last seven months with enough revenue generation, customer acquisition, and traction to warrant more funding to run more experiments for validation for future growth and sustainability,” said Andre Fowlkes, co-president of Start Co. “They are evolving in this post-accelerator phase, a phase that Start Co. Angels intends to continue to support to advance startups and the ecosystem around them.”

Start Co. offers office hours, mentorship, technical assistance and access to great programming for its graduating teams post-accelerator and the organization will continue to build out accelerator programming in 2014. All Start Co. accelerator programs are accepting applications for their programs through March 15.

More information on becoming an investor, mentor or accessing the organization’s resources can be found at

Start Co. is a nationally recognized non-profit (501c3) serving as the nexus of public-private efforts to accelerate the success of diverse entrepreneurs and their high growth companies while enhancing the Memphis’ startup ecosystem that supports them. Start Co. partners include archer>malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group and Mosaik Solutions.  More information can be found at

Think Like an Entrepreneur: How Start Co. is Changing the Game for Student Journalists


At Start Co., we believe that thinking like an entrepreneur is a mindset that benefits more than just our founders.  That’s why when Dr.s Lurene Kelley and Carrie Brown of the University of Memphis approached us about developing a course that taught entrepreneurial skills to their journalism students, we couldn’t say no.  “Given the disruptive forces that have forever changed the traditional news model, we thought that we needed a course that would encourage a different kind of thinking among our students,” said Lurene Kelley.  “We wanted them to think about developing their own journalistic endeavors or at least learn to think in a more innovative fashion.”

Many would say that this partnership was born out of necessity.  The Internet has destabilized the business models that sustained quality journalism for decades.  “It is no longer enough for journalism students to develop strong skills in writing, reporting and creating multimedia editorial content,” Carrie Brown stated.  “They must also learn business fundamentals, marketing strategies and how to take advantage of new opportunities for sustainability and growth.”  This nontraditional skillset is essential in order for journalists to figure out their future in the age of the Internet.

Entrepreneurial Journalism is a course requirement for any student seeking a graduate degree in journalism.  Throughout the semester, the class utilizes Start Co.’s founder’s toolkit in order to emphasize the importance of creative problem solving.  Students are taught to fully embrace the three D’s of starting up and learn to conduct customer discovery, explore product delivery methods and maximize dollars received.

Work is done collaboratively, and ideas are shared to develop strategic solutions to problems facing the news industry and beyond.  The experience culminates with a final pitch in front of fellow students, faculty and members of Memphis’ entrepreneurial community that simulates the atmosphere encountered at a scaled down demo day.

“Without the support of Start Co. and Andre Fowlkes, our Entrepreneurial Journalism class could not have been nearly as dynamic or valuable as it has become,” Kelley remarked. Entrepreneurial Journalism is more than just a class.  It is producing viable ideas and creating connections across the country.  “The partnership is already bearing fruit,” added Kelley.  With students creating business plans for final projects, participating in accelerator programs and even working for Start Co., this alliance is only growing stronger.

Want to get a student’s perspective on this unique opportunity?  Keep an eye on our blog for part two of the series.  In the mean time, check out this semester’s entrepreneurial journalism class’ blog here.

Rachel Wilhite is an entrepreneurial journalist and Relationship Manager at Start Co. Contact her at

First Upstart Memphis Cohort to Host Demo Day


Far too often we see buzz phrases like “glass ceiling” and “gender gap” in the news with no thoughts on how to combat them.  We know that women face adversity professionally, especially when trying to start their own business, and we can agree that this is unfortunate—but what have we agreed to do about it?  That’s why Start Co. decided to provide solutions and create Upstart Memphis, a women’s exclusive accelerator program for tech-based startups.

On July 11, 2013 four teams were given $15,000 each to get their startup off the ground.  Now, we would like you to see just how far they’ve come.  Join us Wednesday, October 23 at the Malco’s Studio on the Square at 2 PM as we celebrate and highlight our female founders and their accomplishments.  This year, Upstart Memphis will be showcasing:

  • Leni Stoeva, CEO of Artwardly, a web-based service that leases artwork to businesses, corporations and collectors.
  • Kelli Meade, CEO of GemPhones, a brand of high-fashion earphones designed to include both quality of sound and functionality.
  • Zakkiyah Daniels, CEO of Stylecrook, a fashion retail marketplace where members can save on the latest styles with the help of their friends.
  • Audrey Jones and Demarcus Bowser, co-founders of Kids360, a mobile app that allows parents to communicate their emergency contact information across multiple channels.

In addition, we will also feature Brit Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO of MentorMe as well as Tameesha Desangles, an entrepreneur who has advanced through Start Co.’s Launch University and earned an opportunity to pitch alongside our other women’s teams.

Upstart Memphis is one of a handful of women focused accelerators in the country—and the first program of its kind to come to a conclusion and renewal on Demo Day.  Upstart Memphis is part of Start Co.’s larger Start Empowering platform dedicated to serving underrepresented founders and increasing access to vital capital, mentorship and networking opportunities.

It is our hope that Upstart Memphis will provide the foundation for closing the disparity gap for real economic inclusion into the building of high growth entrepreneurial companies within our city.  Economic growth and job creation are driven by entrepreneurship, regardless of gender.  It takes a village to launch a startup.  We invite you to join ours.

Please register to attend here.