Memphis Startup Proof Positive of the Power of Everywhere Else

annoucement2_rz_Lyme disease vaccine

Earlier this week Memphis-based US Biologic announced the successful field trials of it’s revolutionary Lyme disease vaccine. The vaccine, given to animals orally, creates antibodies that then attack the Lyme disease passed on from a tick bite.

Although the vaccine is being developed for animals, the company sees a connection between stopping the spread of Lyme disease in animals and doing the same for humans.

rsz_incontentad2“The CDC has long-acknowledged a ‘One Health’ approach to preventing infectious diseases by linking animal and human treatments,” says US BIOLOGIC board director Tom Monath, MD. “US BIOLOGIC’s oral bait vaccine is an important example of how a vaccine for animals, in this case the white-footed mouse reservoir of Lyme disease, can break the Lyme disease transmission cycle.”

Lyme disease is no joke. According to the CDC, it affects over 300,000 people in the U.S. each year and can cause severe damage to joints and the neurologic system. The CDC also recently linked Lyme disease with several deaths due to cardiac disease.

What’s unique about US Biologic, though, is that they don’t plan on stopping at Lyme disease. The success of that vaccine proves that stopping diseases in animals will also help curb them in humans. They are essentially creating a platform from which they can develop treatments for any number of common diseases.

“The success of these field trials introduces a technology platform that can break the transmission of many diseases transmitted by animals,” says US BIOLOGIC board member David Williams, former Chairman & CEO of Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest vaccine provider. “Because of the large and growing number of cases, the focus on Lyme disease is a logical first step.”

Stories like that of US Biologic are what make “everywhere else” such a special place. We love all the technology that comes from Silicon Valley. Hey, we’re on Secret as much as the rest of you!

But it’s awesome to see what smart people outside the Valley are capable of, even if it’s not the sexiest new consumer app. I probably won’t be bragging to my friends that I just gave my cat the latest Lyme disease drug, but when it keeps my family healthy, I’m sure going to be grateful to US Biologic.

Memphis Startup Restore Medical Becomes First To 510 (K) Out Of Zero To 510 Accelerator

Restore Medical Solutions, Memphis startup, 510KThe ZeroTo510 startup accelerator in Memphis Tennessee is the first cohort-based medical device startup accelerator in the country. The joint venture between Start Co and Memphis Bioworks puts medical device companies through an accelerator program and helps shape scientists and engineers into startup founders.

The other, important goal for ZeroTo510 is getting these medical device startups to the 510(k) approval from the FDA. This approval is a quicker path to market roughly based on the idea that your product is expanding on an idea or improving an idea previously approved by the FDA. In short a typical FDA approval for a new device can take anywhere from 3-10 years while a 510 (k) approval can shorten that time down to 1-3 years.

All of the companies selected for the first two completed cohorts at ZeroTo510 (summer 2012 and summer 2013) werelooking to get that approval and get their product to market.

Marston-1We’ve covered Restore Medical almost from the point when founders Shawn Flynn and Ryan Ramkhelawan made the move from Atlanta to Memphis for the accelerator at the beginning of summer 2012. At that time both founders told Nibletz that they liked Bioworks and the cohesiveness of the Memphis startup community, despite the fact that Atlanta is a much larger city.

Restore Medical has developed a system that more thoroughly, cleanly, cheaply and greenly sterilizes surgical instruments. The way surgical instruments are currently sterilized is time consuming. Not only that, but if one instrument is found to be unsterile the entire batch of instruments for a particular surgery needs to go through the process again. This can take hours at a time, so the OR teams must make a decision on whether to wake up the patient or to keep the patient under anesthesia which can be costly for the doctors and the patients not to mention dangerous.

“Our product allows hospitals to clean and re-sterilize surgical instruments more efficiently, saving time and money,”  Flynn, the company President said in a statement. “More importantly, it improves the sterilization process, reducing the chances that a patient will be infected by contaminated instruments.

Restore Medical Solutions announced on Thursday that they had received their FDA 510(k) clearance. The company is also pleased to announced that it has successfully completed the certification process for internationally recognized medical device specific quality management standards ISO 13485:2003 and the Canadian Medical Device Conformity Assessment System (CMDCAS). Certification was conducted by BSI Group, one of the world′s leading certification bodies.

“These clearances allow us to market our products domestically and internationally, and they show that our product is safe, effective and meets regulatory requirements in both the United States and Canada,” said Ramkhelawan.

Restore Medical Solutions is moving into a larger 2500 square foot space  in the Memphis Bioworks complex which will allow them space for assembly and distribution.

You can find out more about Restore Medical Solutions here.



Memphis Woman Led Startup MentorMe Headed West for A NewMe

MentorMe, Brittany Fitzpatrick, NewMe Accelerator, Memphis startup

Last year, just before Christmas we got a chance to help with the Upstart 48 Hour Launch event in Memphis, Tennessee. This event, like Startup Weekend events, was a weekend-long startup building hackathon with a twist. The twist? It was for women-led startup projects only.

We saw several great startups. Some are still going strong, and we even met our employee #1 at that event.  Danielle Inez’ Pink Robin Avenue ended up winning the weekend competition and a free booth at The Startup Conference. Another great startup we saw was Mentor.Me, or just MentorMe now.

While the startup, led by Memphis woman Brittany Fitzpatrick, didn’t win the competition, Fitzpatrick immediately turned on her entrepreneurial prowess and before the end of the evening she had crowdfunded, in person, her own booth for the conference.  That showed what kind of passionate, hardworking entrepreneur Fitzpatrick really is.

MentorMe is a matching service for mentors and mentee’s, kind of like “ for mentors.” Fitzpatrick has a strong background in mentorship and quickly discovered that mentor/mentee mismatch was a huge problem nationwide.

Fitzpatrick ended up quitting her job at Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities and going all in with her startup. She went through the spring session at the Memphis-based Seed Hatchery accelerator and continued to grind.

Marston-1Last month Fitzpatrick participated in the NewMe Pop-Up accelerator in Memphis, where her startup MentorMe came in 3rd place.   That win also got her a spot in the NewMe accelerator program in Silicon Valley, which starts next week.

NewMe is an invite-only 12-week accelerator for technology startups led by underrepresented minorities. Private investment firm CB Insights reported in 2010 that African Americans represented just 1 percent of Internet company founders nationally. Furthermore, although women represent more than 50% of the U.S. population, they represent only 35 percent of those launching their own ventures.

“As an African-American woman and a tech startup founder, I am always happy to align myself with efforts to change the ratio so that we can create a startup community that is more reflective of the diversity we see in the community-at-large,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

“From upstart 48 hour launch last winter, through Seed Hatchery I’ve had the privilege of seeing both and Brittany grow from idea to full fledged startup. Brittany quit her day job, dug in, and made this opportunity happen for her. We’ll miss her for the few months while she’s out west for the NewMe Accelerator, but we’re looking forward to her coming back home to Memphis and being another success story for the Memphis startup ecosystem,” Seed Hatchery Managing Director Eric Mathews told Nibletz.

Find out more about MentorMe here at


Startup Culture: Offering Your Courageous, Daring Employees Something Intangible

ProdigiArts, Startup Culture, Startup Tips, Memphis startup

(cultureclub photo:


Who would choose to work for some entrepreneur they met at a coffee shop, for little pay, unconventional hours, and without promise of Google-like fortunes? They may have a fantastic idea that will solve some great problem in modern society, but right now their eyes are bleary from too much caffeine and a scalding Macbook. It’s hard to believe in them.

Startups not only face difficulty in convincing prospective investors and clients, but also potential employees whose talents would make a valuable contribution to the ever-growing company. Capital might not be the greatest resource at your disposal, but your people are.

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to fantasize about the kind of company culture you’d like to foster in the future: throngs of employees working diligently and creatively, in between collective games of Call of Duty. In reality, culture building happens the moment one other person says ‘yes’ to joining your crazy idea for a company.

The famed animation studio Pixar faced the same struggle to build culture. The production house that totes 27 Academy Awards on its mantle started out with sleep-deprived, passionate people who took a chance on an idea they believed in. Since its inception in 1979, Pixar has taken many directions, from producing special effects for Star Trek to working on a commercial for Listerine. Despite the change in vision, structure, or ownership, the individuals who were so passionate about their craft and creating a company notable for what it offered the world made Pixar great. By no means did this happen without investment and capital, but it started with the right people.

In James Collins’ celebrated book Good to Great, he emphasizes recruiting the right people, who are flexible and put in their time and energy day after day, even when the vision or direction of a company might take a detour. He says that while vision is essential when starting a business and gaining employees, “If you begin with ‘who’ rather than ‘what,’ you can more easily adapt to a changing world.”


One of the really important features of our company culture is a strong emphasis on trust and validation. In our industry most young, ambitious animators want to go work for the larger, more legendary studios in New York or Los Angeles, where they will probably be made to work longer hours and receive little credit.

While this is the reality of many recent graduates and young professionals in their career development journey, we try to value and recognize each accomplishment made, whether that’s with bonuses for especially noteworthy projects or getting taken out to lunch because someone forgot to bring theirs for the day. Every person, no matter how old or how young, desires a place in a community and to feel like their work is valued and contributes to something greater than themselves. We may not have the notoriety of a large studio, but what defines our culture is how satisfied and ambitious those brave souls are who have joined our growing studio.

Investing in human capital proves to be just as important as your real capital. Find those select few who invest their time, talents, and future in your company, because those are the ones who will be there at the end of the day, even when financial backers may not be.

Joshua Colfer is with ProdigiArts a Memphis animation, design and development firm. See what they can do for your startup visit them on the web at


Memphis Startup Xtrant Could Be The Tumblr of Project Management

Xtrant, Memphis startup,startup,tumblrAt SXSW David Karp talked about his motivation for building Tumblr.

I tried all of the great tools that were around at the time—WordPress, Blogger—and obviously all the specialized tools—Flickr for photos and YouTube for videos—and I kept falling down. I was perfectly happy with all these tools but at the same time, constantly frustrated by the limitations imposed by all of them.

So, with that love/hate thing going on, Karp set out to iterate on the “tumblelog,” and turned it into a business worth $1.1 billion dollars (at least to Yahoo).

The guys behind project management company Xtrant feel the same way. Email, Dropbox, and chat all have their good parts, but they also all have frustrating limitations. (Missing email thread, anyone?)

Back in February, before I joined the Nibletz team, I helped a friend get ready to show her startup in’s Startup Village. In the months leading up to the conference, we used the soft launch version of Xtrant to keep our team organized and on task.

That version worked really well for us. My friend was able to upload diagrams of the booth, logos she had designed, and schedules of our milestones. We kept a running conversation on the project page, as well as a calendar for all our meetings. It was far better than 50 emails for each task.

Over the last few months, though, Xtrant has rolled out several new features that make the experience even better.

  • MEMPHIS-1Person status–Now users can see someone’s contact info and when they last visited the project page.
  • Pending/Send Reminder & Invite Permissions–You can see if someone hasn’t accepted the invite to a project yet and send them an email reminder. You can also allow other users to invite their team members.
  • Email Notifications–This is probably the biggest change to date, and one that is a huge win for UX. Previously the emails simply noted that the project had been changed. So, you had to click over, sign in, and find out if the change involved you or not. Now the emails are well-designed, with a brief rundown of the actions taken. Of course, you still click over to the page if you need to be involved, but if the changes don’t concern you, you can keep moving.
  • Coming soon: iOS and Android apps

Like Tumblr, Xtrant is iterating on many other project management systems. By making themselves both a “social media for work” and a “project/task management” platform, they are also streamlining the work experience, getting rid of a lot of the clunky-ness we deal with every day. With these new features, they could be poised to live up to their promise.

Sign your team up for Xtrant and keep an eye out for mobile apps this summer.


The Case For Remote Work

WorkForPie, Cliff McKinney, Startup Tips, Memphis startup

Some of the best companies in the world, including Github, 37Signals, and Automattic, allow their employees to work from home. It’s pretty surprising to us that so few startups follow their lead. We’re a small organization ourselves (only two full-time employees), but we don’t require each other to be on site. We live in the same city, and we go to the office often enough, but there’s absolutely no obligation that we do so. It works for us. If Brad really needs to concentrate on something, he’ll stay home (or ask me to), put on the headphones, and get to work. I do the same thing. We’re actually sometimes more productive when we’re distributed.

We thought we’d share some early stats from our anonymous job matching service to help make the case for remote work as a viable and even potentially superior alternative to on site work. Since we’re not in Silicon Valley ourselves, perhaps we have a unique perspective that can be hard to see from the inside looking out. Either way, our hope is that our conclusions will convince your team to at least consider making remote work an option.

(Shameless Plug Warning) If, by chance, you do come to that conclusion, be sure to let us know. We’d be more than happy to help you fill out your team with amazing people. You can learn more about our service here. Oh, and developers can see the FAQ (and sign up) here.

Shocker No. 1: Not all great developers want to be in Silicon Valley (or other tech hubs).

There is a “talent war” in Silicon Valley right now. Have you heard about it? Some of the side effects have been quite amazing. Aqui-hire has become a word most of us understand, developer salaries are higher than they’ve ever been, and perks and benefits offered by Silicon Valley startups are unheard of elsewhere. Another side effect is that, increasingly, developers are being lured to the valley from elsewhere. Several of the best from our hometown of Memphis have moved to San Francisco over the last couple years, and the same can be said of just about every larger southern or mid-western city in the US.

Still, for some, Silicon Valley is a difficult place to be. There are a large number of individuals who, for family or other reasons, simply can’t make the move. There are even more who choose not to. This is especially true for families. According to Wolfram Alpha, you’d need to almost double (1.9x) your Memphis salary to live similarly in San Francisco (source). That may be possible for a developer moving to the area, but can the same be said for a spouse in a different field? Silicon Valley is an amazing place for a 20-something single person. Perhaps not so much for a 30-something with a young family.


Memphis to San Francisco Wage Comparison

Memphis to San Francisco Wage Comparison

Shocker No. 2: Not all great developers are IN Silicon Valley.

So far, nearly 200 developers have signed up for our anonymous job matching service. A fair number are in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs (primarily NY), but certainly not the majority. We use their Work for Pie scores as an approximate measure of coding chops. The score is primarily based on open source contributions and is far from perfect, but it’s better than most of the other options out there, so for now we’ll go with it.

When they sign up, we ask developers a series of questions in order to better understand what they care about and what kind of career options they’d like to entertain. We ask them if they’d prefer to work remotely, and we also ask how important their answer is, relative to their other preferences.

The average Work for Pie score for the entire community* (thousands of developers) is 38.2. Our community boasts some of the very best and most prolific open source contributors from all over the world. WFP scores in the mid-twenties and up represent significant meaningful participation in communities like Github, Bitbucket, Stack Overflow, and (to a much lesser extent) Hacker News.

Now, the average WFP score of the nearly 200 developers who have opted in to our job matching service is 37.4 with a range from 1 to 93. That’s a bit lower than the community as a whole, but probably statistically insignificant. The average WFP score of those individuals who highly prefer remote work is 37.3, so almost the same, with a range from 1 to 86. There are clearly quite a few highly skilled developers who prefer a distributed team. Finally, the average WFP score of those individuals not in Silicon Valley and to whom relocation is not an option is 41.8, with a range from 1 to 93. Clearly, there are some excellent developers who aren’t in Silicon Valley.

chart_1 (1)

The whole point of this exercise isn’t to say that developers outside of Silicon Valley are better than developers who live there. That’s ridiculous and undoubtedly false. The point of this exercise is to say that there are a lot of really great developers who live outside the Valley and don’t have any desire to be there. If your goal is to build an amazing team, it might be worth your time to look elsewhere.

Shocker No. 3: The economics of remote work make it a huge win.

We ask our job seekers their desired salary, and the illogical but not surprising truth is that most list desired salary as some function of their current salary. If they’re in TN, where average salary tops out at maybe $100k, they’ll often list something in that range. If they’re in San Francisco, where average salary is considerably higher, the desired salary follows suit.

The point is this: most people know that locating from most any place to San Francisco is going to require a huge pay boost for the economics to make sense. Someone making $100k in Memphis would need to make $190k in SF to live the same way. That fact alone convinces many to remove SF from the list of cities to consider, no matter the salary. But, a Silicon Valley salary level is pretty unheard of here in Memphis. Offer that kind of money to almost anyone here, and the chances that you’ll lure them away from whatever they’re doing now are fairly high. Throw in the fact that you’ll save money on space and catered lunches and all the other Silicon Valley perks and the economics make even more sense. Money isn’t everything, but a pay boost of $20k or more is enough to make a majority of folks at least hear you out. We’ve seen it happen time and again with many an awesome developer who can’t or won’t relocate.

Github, from what I can tell, uses this exact strategy to great effect. Find the top Rails developer in nearly every small city in the US, and the chances that he or she works for Github are pretty darn high. There is a lot of talk about great developers being 10x more productive than just average ones. I’m not sure I buy all that, but it definitely helps to have a great team. Isn’t the chance at hiring someone great worth some of the inconveniences (of which there are few) of a distributed team? Github thinks so.

Remote work is not for everyone. There are several studies that show that on site teams are more productive than distributed teams. But, if you have the chance to hire an amazing developer in Kansas for the same price as an average one in Silicon Valley, doesn’t the extra productivity from that hire make up for the potential drop due to having a distributed team? Our argument is that yes, it does. It should be something your team considers. If you’re struggling to hire, or if you can’t pay market rates with your seed money, or if you care more about building an amazing team than about having them on site, then it’s something you should consider. It’s easier than ever these days.

What do you think? Leave your comments below and check out workforpie here.

Now read: No You’re Not Better Than Silicon Valley: How To Support Your Entrepreneurial Ecosystem 


Carlton Crothers Named President/CEO At EmergeMemphis

EmergeMemphis, Memphis startup, Carlton Crothers

EmergeMemphis, the incubator and technology hub in downtown Memphis, has named Carlton Crothers as the new President and CEO.  Crothers has 14 years experience in cultivating, developing, and bringing early stage technologies to market.

Most recently Crothers was a Principal at Innovation Ecosystem Design based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. According to his LinkedIn profile, the private company provides successful innovation ecosystem solutions. Before Texas, Crothers was the CEO of Technology Incubation and Acceleration as part of the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC SmartZone).

In his position in Michigan, Crothers oversaw 54,000 square feet of office space housing 19 companies with over 170 employees. Those companies created over 500 spinoff jobs with $68.3 million invested in a rural community of 12,000.

“Our organization’s mission is to provide value-added services to our members that will positively impact their growth, accelerate the successful development of member companies, springboard high technology education programs, and recruit new companies and talent to Memphis,” Scott Fountain, chairman of EmergeMemphis and senior Vice President/Chief Development Officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care, said in a press release. “Our board is thrilled to attract Carlton to Memphis, especially given his proven track record of job creation.”

“The measurable goals of EmergeMemphis generate wealth and economic stimulus into the Mid-South economy,” Steve Bares President and Executive Director of Memphis Bioworks said in a statement. “In addition, they seek to assist emerging businesses that are not residents in the building through our many programs aimed at assisting entrepreneurs succeed.”

Eric Mathews, Co-President at Start Co, who also served as the most recent Interim Director at EmergeMemphis, said, ” I am excited in welcoming Crothers to our growing Memphis entrepreneurial ecosystem. With EmergeMemphis, Bioworks, and Start Co operating on all cylinders, Memphis will grow its leadership role in technology, entrepreneurship, and job growth across the southeast”

Mathews’ organization, Launch Your City (recently renamed Start Co), “graduated” out of the EmergeMemphis incubator earlier this year.

EmergeMemphis is a business and technology incubator with the goal of helping high-growth start-ups and early stage companies become self-sustaining.  They do this by strategically aligning entrepreneurs with various resources, a compelling environment, and mentors that help ensure the success of the participating companies.  Emerge operates as a 501-c-3, but plays a unique and critical roll bridging the public and private sectors. EmergeMemphis was formed in 2001 and serves as an incubator for high-growth companies.  While this often means technology-based business models, Emerge also seeks companies across a wide range of industries and models. Their renovated, historic property in downtown Memphis includes 35,000 square feet of tenant space.  Today, 37 companies as well as FedEx’s Innovation Lab, are residents at Emerge.

Memphis startup organization, Launch Your City,rebrands as Start Co


Start Co Is Bringing NewMe Accelerator Tour To Memphis June 28-30

NewMe Accelerator, Memphis startup,Start CoThe NewMe accelerator program is a critically acclaimed accelerator in San Francisco that specifically targets women and minority startups and founders. They launched their Silicon Valley program in June of 2011, and recently announced an abbreviated “pop up” accelerator tour, coming to cities across the country.

The NewMe pop accelerator will make it’s way to Memphis June 28-30 and be housed at the FedEx Institue of Technology, on the campus of the University of Memphis.

The three-night event June 28-30 features one-on-one coaching from NewME experts, a two-part workshop titled “The Art of the Pitch” that will provide the secrets to a perfect pitch and standing out among other founders. The weekend culminates with “Demo Day,” a night where startups will network with key players in Memphis’ tech scene, special guests from Silicon Valley, and ultimately pitch their idea to a panel of judges that consists of local and Silicon Valley investors.

They’ve already held the pop up program in Miami and Washington DC. In fact, Zoobean, the Washington DC pop up winner, has closed a $500,000 seed round led by Mitch Kapor.

In addition to Memphis Tennessee, the NewMe Popup accelerator will also be held in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Durham, Austin, New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Oakland.

Participants in the NewMe popup accelerator in Memphis, or on any other city stop will get one-on-one coaching from Silicon Valley business leaders, hands on workshops, and the opportunity to pitch their idea to local and Valley-based investors with the chance to win $45,000 worth of prizes from our sponsors and the opportunity to participate in the NewME Accelerator in San Francisco.

“We’re excited about NewME’s mission and the important work they are doing to accelerate entrepreneurs across the country. Our mission with Google for Entrepreneurs is to grow entrepreneurial communities and equip them with the resources and technology they need to tackle big ideas and build amazing companies,” said Mary Grove, Director of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach at Google one of the key sponsors for the NewMe Accelerator. “We’re truly excited to be teaming up with NewME to bring this series to Memphis and can’t wait to see the big ideas that come from the teams here.”

Start Co. is eager to welcome NewME to Memphis. “We’re excited that Memphis was  selected for this exclusive opportunity,” said co-president and CEO Eric Mathews. “It’s a privilege to participate as their local community partner.”

You can apply and find out more about  NewMe here and Start Co here.

Are you working on your pitch deck? Check out this Pop!


Memphis’ Startup WorkForPie Selected For Southland For Kufikia

WorkForPie, Kufikia, Memphis startup, Nashville, SouthlandCliff McKinney and Brad Montgomery, the Memphis based startup team behind WorkForPie have been working on a new product called Kufikia for the past few months. McKinney explained to nibletz that Kufikia loosely means “to achieve” with that they have come up with a learning platform for advanced software developers.

With a new innovative approach, combining cohort based learning, typically found in an accelerator program, with mentoring, and early stage job placement, they were able to get selected as one of the first 20 startups in the Startup Village at the Southland conference in Nashville Tennessee next month. We revealed the entire list of 20 startups earlier today.

Kufikia participants will get the “3 S’s” out of the program according to McKinney. Those three S’s are; structure (a 9 week long curriculum), study buddies (cohorts of 10 students going through the program together), and support coming from the platforms sponsors. Each cohort will have three company sponsors that will alternate in three week intervals throughout the course of the program.

McKinney and Montgomery plan on starting the first cohort in late June. For the first program they are targeting participants in Silicon Valley, the Pacific Northwest, New York and Nashville. Actually four cohorts will run simultaneously. Although this is an online program they want the students and company resources to be in close proximity to each other.

Kufikia has already attracted some heavyweight sponsors for their platform, which they aren’t identifying just yet.

The sponsors will benefit by working closely with the students in the program and hopefully converting them to new employees. McKinney says that most companies spend upwards of $15,000 providing internships to potential employees that may not work out. By working with the students over the nine week period the company sponsors will develop relationships with them and hopefully hire them on.

The sponsors participating will have jobs to fill, and hopefully with those students. McKinney and Montgomery are making a bold bet on the success of the program. Sponsors are under an agreement to provide mentoring and coaching to the cohort but don’t make a financial commitment to Kufikia until they actually hire someone.

Both Montgomery and McKinney are looking forward to showing off this new product to the attendees at Southland including over 41 venture capital and angel firms that have committed to attend.

Find out more about Kufikia here.

Check out this awesome guest post by McKinney here: Are accelerators everywhere else better at producing groundbreaking innovation?


Memphis Animation Startup ProdigiArts To Partner With Nibletz Community

Prodigiarts,Memphis startup,startup,guest post, contributorProdigi Arts is an animation startup that works out of the same incubator that we work out of. While an animation studio may not be your typical high growth potential startup, as a technology company based in Memphis founder Chris O’Conner and all around jack of all trades and Public Relations Coordinator for the company Joshua Colfer, are running the company with the vigor of any startup.

They rely on the resources that other startups in Memphis rely on and they face many of the same issues tech startups face in a medium sized revitalizing market. As Colfer tells us below, O’Conner started Prodigi Arts as a side business or side startup and then made the decision to take the plunge and take the company full time.

Now both O’Conner and Colfer will contribute to the Nibletz community providing content based on their experiences as entrepreneurs, experience in technology and experience in technology. Prodigi Arts will contribute on a wide range of themes, from best practices for startups resorting to animation videos for telling their startup stories, to taking the plunge and pushing an idea forward.

Both O’Conner and Colfer are committed to the world of startups and animation. After just moving into the incubator they made it appoint to attend the first The Startup Conference and then sought out the nibletz team to share their thoughts. Colfer and O’Conner are joining an evergrowing stable of great people contributing to the nibletz community like Sarah Ware (co-founder and CEO of Markerly), Mike Muhney the godfather of CRM, and several members of the Young Entrepreneurs Council.

Below Colfer tells us a lot more about Prodigi Arts and just why they’re part of the nibletz, “everywhere else” community. If you want to take your animation project to the next level you can find out more about Prodigi Arts here at and you can email Josh directly at

Prodigi Arts is an animation studio that produces memorable and poignant multimedia productions used in advertising, commercials, product development, training videos.

Prodigi was founded in 2005 by Memphis native Chris O’ Conner. Steeped heavily in the arts world, Chris grew up sketching, singing, composing music and performing for audiences everywhere. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in 2006, Chris had the opportunity to continue his education in animation in Southern California, or return to Memphis to grow and cultivate Prodigi Arts. He chose to return to his hometown to work as a Marketing Representative for the Germantown Performing Arts Center from 2007 to 2010, and served as a Creative Consultant for the performing arts Group, Watoto De Africa as well. During this time, he also began fine tuning the business plan for Prodigi Arts and making connections in the area.


We are based in Memphis, TN.


The startup culture in Memphis can be likened to the AV kids in high school who find support and belonging in the dark confines of the technology room, who one day hope to join the society of filmmakers or special effects artists. Fortunately, startups in the Bluff City have the support of organizations like Launch Memphis, Emerge Memphis and the University of Memphis Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Since Memphis is a city that is not as quick to embrace innovation and technological advances, startups face some difficulty securing capital from investors willing to take risks on fresh ideas.


Prodigi Arts creates memorable, engaging and entertaining productions through the art of animation. Capturing the attention of audiences is a difficult endeavor for any company, small and big alike. We solve this problem by incorporating 2D & 3D animation, motion graphics, live action and video production into every project. We solve the problem of communicating complex ideas in a simple and concise manner for companies and organizations to tell their stories in the most understandable way possible.

A difficulty that we have faced is entering into the entrepreneurial process without investors or startup capital. Thus far, we have been able to subside entirely on revenue generated from client projects, with the intentions of holding private ownership over the company.

A recent stride that we have made as a company has been our Corporate Sponsorship of Leadership Memphis, which is shared by large entities like United Way and FedEx. In addition, we have signed a three year contract to create the animated and video productions for the CFO of the Year and Small Business Awards with Memphis Business Journal. In addition, Prodigi’s founder, Chris O’ Conner has spoken at numerous events about being a minority business owner, and was honored with the Innovator of the Year Award in Decemeber of 2012 at the “Agents of Change” Gala.


Within the next year, we hope to take on projects that will stretch our creative abilities as an animation studio and grow a more diverse portfolio that highlight different animation techniques. We also aim to become a staple animation company in the Memphis and Mid-South region within the next year that companies will go to when they seek animated commercials, instead of larger firms in the New York or Los Angeles area.


One of Chris’ mentors is a marketing professor at Middle Tennessee State University, who has helped him organize his business plan and strategize about how to market animation services to businesses in the area. Another is Dale Carnegie, author of the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. While no longer alive, Carnegie’s ideas about forming business relationships and working within the framework of others’ objectives is an imperative lesson for Prodigi as we seek to make connections with companies and grow our clientele base.


One of our advantages to being located in Memphis is that we are the only animation studio to occupy a niche that has previously gone unoccupied in the past. Being the only animation company, we can provide a creative service at a lower cost than the larger studios in New York or Los Angeles. However, the associations with animation have at times dissuaded businesses from using our services. More often than not, companies assume that we provide animation for children’s shows and cartoons, rather than for companies looking to tell their stories in creative ways. In Metropolitan areas, animation is used regularly in advertisements and commercials, and provides a memorable alternative to video production. Many businesses in Memphis have yet to think of these kinds of applications for animation, and still hold on to their assumptions of animation for children’s shows and cartoons. In essence, we are creating a market for animation.


At the moment we have just finished a live action animation project with Hnedak Bobo Group, and will be starting on the Small Business of the Year Awards with the Memphis Business Journal within a week. After that we have potential clients in mind that we will focus on reaching out to in hopes of partnering with them to bring their brands to life.

We can be found out at


Twitter Name: prodigiarts1



Memphis’ Bad Ass Startup Chick Brittany Fitzpatrick Pitches MentorMe

MentorMe,Brittany Fitzpatrick,Seed Hatchery,startup,memphis startupThe day of reckoning is upon us and it appears that Bad Ass Startup Chick Brittany Fitzpatrick’s nerves have calmed a bit. After working tirelessly on a startup she originally pitched at the women’s 48 hour launch in Decemeber, Fitzpatrick is ready to show the world her answer to many of mentoring’s problems.

Community service and helping people have been what Brittany Fitzpatrick’s life’s work have been about. But what makes this Memphian even more amazing is that she left a position with one of the most prestigious, well known brands in the non-profit space, Ronald McDonald House Charities, to start something of her own, again in community service.

As the communications coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis, Brittany took the passion and drive she’s had since high school and through college at Howard University and Memphis University, and combined it with the tools available in recent day to double the groups social media reach. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis works with the most well known children’s research facility in the world, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Over the last six years,  Brittany has been a mentor and helped other mentor’s in a variety of programs. Through her work with Ronald McDonald House Charities and other stops along the way, she found that mentorship was a great thing, but flawed in many ways.

When she first pitched the idea for her startup “Mentor Me” back in December at a women focused 48 Hour Launch, she revealed that most mentor orgranizations spend more money re-placing mentors and mentees than they do setting up original pairs. Brittanny quickly realized if someone could fix the initial matching proces than these programs could focus on their original goals and save a lot of money.

That’s where her startup Mentor Me comes in. Mentor Me is a mentor and mentee online matching service that uses a variety of information given from both parties and an algorithm to make more successful matches. While Brittany is hesitant about using the verbage “e-harmony for mentor”, at the core that’s what it is and that’s why it’s going to be so successful.

But the biggest factor in the success of Mentor Me is going to be a combination of the technology and the founder. Brittany is a dynamic young woman. Back in December, the prize for the 48 Hour Launch competition was a startup village booth at When Brittany came in second place she decided to crowdfund the people in the audience so that she too could have a booth for her startup. Within minutes her mission was successful.

After working for three months in the Seed Hatchery startup accelerator, Fitzpatrick unveiled MentorMe to the public at large Thursday in Memphis. Check out her pitch below:

But the biggest factor in the success of Mentor Me is going to be a combination of the technology and the founder. Brittany is a dynamic young woman. Back in December, the prize for the 48 Hour Launch competition was a startup village booth at When Brittany came in second place she decided to crowdfund the people in the audience so that she too could have a booth for her startup. Within minutes her mission was successful.

Find out more about Mentor me here at





2 Memphis Tech & Startup Ninjas Turn Farmer With BetterFed [SeedHatchery]

betterfedThe story about how Scott Finney and his scientific outsourcing startup, IncreaseIf, pivoted to become BetterFed is a story that wouldn’t even fit here on the pages of nibletz. It’s actually a classic story of believing in the founder though and that’s what the team that vetted Seed Hatchery startups did. (disclosure I was on that team).

We knew that Scott Finney had a very well versed background in engineering. A graduate of Auburn University, and a regular attendee of the local Startup Meetup, Finney has had a slew of great ideas. IncreaseIf may not have been one of those, but his passion and technical expertise would drive him to his ultimate destiny which is BetterFed.

BetterFed is a startup that bridges farmers and local growers with people too busy to get to the farmers market but still want the freshness, benefits and healthy alternatives that come from real home grown food. To get from IncreaseIf to BetterFed, took a lot of pivoting, until Finney just blew everything up and solicited the help of Seed Hatchery alum Kenn Gibbs.  Gibbs had taken his own edutainment startup, Knoco, through last year’s Seed Hatchery program.

At first Gibbs wasn’t sure if he would join Finney on the BetterFed journey. He was already knee deep in mentoring and offering technical advice to the other cohort teams. However without much poking and proding, Gibbs came around and now both young men are so into BetterFed that they created Twitter handles FarmerFinn and FarmerKenn. They’ve also been talking about opening up their own farm and becoming growersthemselves.

We got a chance to talk to Finney just before he went onstage here’s what he said:

What’s your startup, what do you do?
BetterFed connects customers to local food sources. We provide weekly food subscriptions that best fit your families eating habits.

Why did you apply to Seed Hatchery?

I was looking to get my MBA sometime soon. Speaking with some of the alum, I heard the benefits of Seed Hatchery outweighing a classroom experience.

What were you expecting?
I was expecting to be a technical co-founder for a team and ended up being a lone founder for the first month of the cohort.

Did you get what you were expecting?

Yes, I knew I was going to be forced out of my comfort zone, but didn’t know how much until now.

What was your big “A Ha Moment”?

The importance of taking action and realizing you can plan and assume all you want, but you won’t learn anything until you take action.

What are two big things you learned during the Accelerator Process?

Get a product out to your customers as soon as you can, and tell everyone about what you’re working on because you never know who can make an introduction to a valuable relationship.

What’s one thing you learned about yourself during the accelerator process?

The program required me to use skill sets I did not believe I had. In the past I would have let others handle sales and marketing, but I’m completely involved in those avenues.

What are you hoping for after Investor day?

We’re looking to continue our customer discovery to validate all that we’ve learned in the past couple weeks.

Tell us one of your mentors and what you learned from him or her?

Sarah Baker is a PR and communication expert and she’s helped us focus our message to our target audience.
And now check out their pitch video.
Find out more at  

We’ve got more Seed Hatchery startup stories for you here. 


The Big Day Is Here For Memphis Startup ScrewPulp

screwpulpLast week we were pleased to bring you the story of ScrewPulp’s launch. The new self publishing platform is helping authors and publishers with much needed traction and engagement through a different model.

Publishers/authors sign up for ScrewPulp which helps them market their books by giving away the first 25 copies in exchange for a social media mention, review or rating. From there, as books gain popularity they increase in price by $1.00 per level. This format gives authors/publishers, much needed exposure and the benefit of having ratings and reviews built in to their profile.

Publishers hold all the rights to their books. ScrewPulp takes a small percentage and leaves the author/publisher with no less than 75%. They only ask that submitted works stay on the site for 90 days.

Screw Pulp founder Richard Billings launched the startup at 48 Hour Launch in June of last year. From there he went on to take the top prize at Launch Memphis’ Global Entrepreneurship Week event, which included pitching in front of Federal Court Judge, John Fowlkes.  The Seed Hatchery accelerator was the next natural step for the team.

We’ve chronicled the life of ScrewPulp from that very first pitch in June, consequently the same 48 Hour Launch event that attracted Nibletz to Memphis, through demo day. Check out more Screwpulp coverage here and watch Billings’ pitch video here:


Check out more of our Seed Hatchery coverage here. 


Musistic Debuts At Seed Hatchery Demo Day, Finally A GitHub For Musicians

musisticWhat do you get when you cross two musicians and two recording studio employees in Memphis one of the earliest cities in the world with a globally musical pulse? Musistic.

The Musistic team is made up of Justin Olita, Vince Rogers, Brian Wentzloff and Rachel Hurley (who joined them after leaving the soundstache team). The four of them together are pioneering a new collaborative music platform that allows musicians to collaborate in a meaningful way, similar to how programmers collaborate on GitHub.

Users can find others to collaborate on a song or album together via the Musistic platform. From there each musician can post their parts and tracks for the others to “pull down” and record on top of. The best part is that the Musistic platform is DAW friendly across many types of popular software.

Gone are the days when musicians need to upload enormous email attachments or figure out which drop box, or other cloud account has enough space for their project.

Using Musistic they can easily find the parts they need, re-record, edit and get them back up for the collaborators to continue working on. This isa welcomed tool in the music community and it’s made from a team that is rich in their musical background.

To date they’ve secured a creative capital investment from Loaded For Bear equal to $100,000 per year for five years. They are also working on strategic partnerships with the Memphis Music Foundation and the Folk Alliance International.  It also helps that Hurley, who leads marketing and business development, has deep relationships with hundreds of Memphis musicians.

To get a better idea of what Musistic is and where it’s going, check out the pitch video below.

You can find out more at

We’ve got more Seed Hatchery coverage here.