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VOL. 128 | NO. 27 | Friday, February 08, 2013

New Seed Hatchery Season Launches

By Andy Meek

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This weekend marks the start of the third season of Seed Hatchery, Memphis’ startup accelerator that aims to turn six teams of founders into well-prepared, more polished entrepreneurs.

And from several vantage points, it’s one of the most diverse collections of startup talent in the 90-day bootcamp’s three-year history.

The startups this time around are focused on sectors ranging from digital publishing to scientific research. The founders range in age from their 20s to their 50s.

One of the founders is a member of the local band Star & Micey, three of them are University of Memphis journalism graduates and this year’s cohort includes two women CEOs and one female co-founder.

The cohort also includes Seed Hatchery’s first team of married founders. They are Tom and Pam Cooper, a couple who decided to relocate from Indianapolis to Memphis to participate in Seed Hatchery with their startup SodBuster.

“While Tom has been brilliant as the (chief technology officer) of other peoples’ startups over his 30-year career, it wasn’t until we got married six years ago that he started seriously planning to start his own company,” Pam Cooper said. “I owned and operated a local franchise for 22 years, so I have the small-business experience. Tom has the tech chops.

“We’re thrilled to see our most diverse cohort yet, not just in terms of founders but also concepts.”

–Elizabeth Lemmonds
Chief brand officer, LaunchYourCity Inc.

“Nearly two years ago, we came upon the idea for SodBuster while brainstorming for a way to combine my passion for schools and their fundraising and communication needs, my small-business experience, and Tom’s world-class tech skills,” Pam Cooper said. “Seed Hatchery had the confidence in our vision of providing free tech advancement to two of the most deserving sectors, nonprofits and small business.”

Seed Hatchery kicks off Feb. 9. Each participating team gets $15,000 in seed funding and will work with experienced mentors along the way.

The program is a high-growth tech startup accelerator that includes a crash course in customer discovery, business development, go-to-market strategies and investor pitches. Investor Day, when the teams will formally make pitches for funding, is May 16.

“We’re thrilled to see our most diverse cohort yet, not just in terms of founders but also concepts,” said Elizabeth Lemmonds, chief brand officer at LaunchYourCity Inc. “It’s going to be a fun dynamic.”

The other Seed Hatchery teams include founder Brittany Fitzpatrick’s Mentordotme, which is a set of cloud-based tools designed to foster longer-lasting bonds between mentors and youngsters.

“Multiple studies show that the longer the mentoring relationship lasts, the better it is for the child,” Fitzpatrick said. “On the flip side, short mentoring relationships do more harm than no mentoring at all. By focusing on compatibility, Mentordotme provides a platform for organizations to make the best matches between mentors and youth.

“Then, Mentordotme provides additional tools to eliminate piles of paperwork and streamline the mentoring process from the initial recruiting to the tracking – making it easier for the organization, the mentor, and the mentee to keep up with one another.”

Founder Scott Finney is launching IncreaseIF.com. He says it provides a decision analysis tool that will return an impact factor to gauge the total opportunity cost benefit obtained by a firm by either outsourcing a given core task or using in-house resources for the task.

Vince Rogers, co-founder of Musistic, said his startup offers a “fundamentally new approach to a notion that has been generally reserved for the digital world – electronic, hip-hop and DJ acts. We have opened this world up to a full spectrum of professional and casual musicians to realistically allow rock bands, jazz combos, and string quartets to record, edit and share real music in real time.

“With merging data types, functionality and applying an algorithm to solve a universal age-old problem, we have created what we think of as a new social data category – social collaboration.”

The other Seed Hatchery participants include Soundstache, which co-founder Rachel Hurley said is going to help musicians interact with fans using GPS-enabled devices. Her co-founder is Nick Redmond of Star & Micey, who approached Hurley with the idea for the Soundstache app.

Finally, Richard Billings is CEO of Screwpulp Publishing. On Screwpulp’s website, the company is described this way:

“Books have changed into tablets. Readers have changed how they read. It’s time for publishers to change as well. No more big companies, long drawn-out processes or high costs. Screwpulp is going to change how authors self-publish and distribute their work like never before.”

Seed Hatchery is funded in part through an INCITE grant from the state of Tennessee and LaunchTennessee, awarded to LaunchYourCity Inc. and Memphis Bioworks. The startup companies’ seed investments are made by Solidus Co.

Program partners include archer-malmo, a-m ventures, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, BizSpark, The Marston Group and Rackspace.

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