SEEC 2019: Conference Speakers,

Pitch Judges & Networking Professionals


Conference Speakers 

Richard RhettRichard Rhett - Co-Founder - Sierra Madre

B.S., Mississippi State University 

Originally a Mechanical Engineer for the Department of Homeland Security where he led projects protecting national infrastructure from terrorist attacks. In short, he blew stuff up most days. Richard left his promising and secure career to start Sierra Madre, an outdoor gear company focused on innovating the camping experience and taking it to a whole new realm. They call it: Air Camping. Along with a savage lust for designing outstanding gear, Rhett incorporated his compassion for people after visiting a remote Honduran Village in 2009. There he witnessed the devastation that struck the people due to unclean water sources. "An easily avoidable plague", he thought. So Rhett decided drilling clean water wells would be the driving force behind Sierra Madre's efforts.

Richard bootstrapped Sierra Madre until 2017 - when Sir Richard Branson joined as an investor on a ridiculously funny, yet heart-racing episode of Shark Tank. Richard has carved a new path of business growth and cash flow profitability through utilizing Kickstarter, where they have raised well over $650k in pre-sold products with follow on sales in the millions. Richard is majority shareholder and CEO of Sierra Madre and he's passionate about changing the world through the business of doing good.

Kenneth Burke and Matt Holland - Text Request

B.A. Covenant College/B.A. Covenant College

Text Request is an online text messaging software for businesses. Users login from any device to send and receive texts using their current business phone numbers. We're a Chattanooga startup that works with businesses of all sizes across industries to help them better connect with customers, offer top tier service, and increase revenue. 

Kenneth Burke is the director of marketing for Text Request, a business text messaging software. He has been awarded for his work in sales and psychology research, and has helped dozens of businesses, from pre-launch startups to billion-dollar companies, achieve their goals. 

Matt Holland is the director of product and projects for Text Request, a business text messaging software. He attended Covenant College before working with Educational Outfitters Franchising as an operations manager. He was one of the founding members of Text Request.

Tori SamplesTori Samples - Co-founder - Leaf Global Fintech

MBA, Vanderbilt University

Tori Samples is the Co-Founder and CTO of Leaf Global Fintech, a virtual bank for refugees escaping conflict. Leaf enables refugees to safely store and transport their assets across borders through a mobile platform using distributed ledger technology. Prior to Leaf, Tori was a Data Architect at HCA for six years. She holds a patent pending in claims-based longitudinal care summaries through Health Information Exchange. She has also worked in HIV/AIDS clinics in Tanzania and on the administrative team of Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, TN. She previously served on the board of Leadership Health Care and now sits on the board of the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance. Tori has personally worked with resettled refugees in the US for fifteen years. She has an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Corey RanslemCorey Ranslem - CEO - International Maritime Security Associates, Inc.

MBA, Georgetown University

Corey has been an entrepreneur for over 11 years. He started his first company during graduate school in 2006 and has started several other companies throughout the past 11 years. He has been in the homeland and maritime security industry for the past 24 years in both the public and private sectors. He is currently the CEO of International Maritime Security Associates, Inc. (IMSA) a company he and his business partner started in 2013. They moved the operations and development portion of the company to Chattanooga in 2016. IMSA is a risk mitigation, maritime security, and regulatory consulting firm. IMSA launched their award winning, state of the art ARMS (Automated Risk Management Solution) software platform into the maritime industry in late 2018. The platform provides real time geo-location specific risk and threat information to vessels while integrating their specific response protocols. Before starting IMSA with business partner Frank Fenner, Corey spent eight years in the U.S. Coast Guard and worked for a large defense contractor concentrating on maritime and Coast Guard operations. He holds an MBA in international business from Georgetown University and is a recognized expert in U.S. Federal Court in maritime security and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Nick MaccoNick Macco - Founder - Southtree, Legacybox

Lee University |

Nick Macco is an entrepreneur and founder of Southtree and Legacybox. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin Nick's love for entrepreneurship began in 4th grade pitching shoe designs to Nike's Phil Knight. Nick studied Business and Theology at Lee University. While attending Lee he founded Southtree, an internet based company, in his garage. Southtree has grown into a national leader in digitizing analog media with a team of over 150. Southtree serves all fifty states, and has preserved over 1-million home movies and digitized large collections for clients such as Disney. Southtree and Legacybox have been featured on The View, Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, USA Today, and countless others. In 2014 Southtree was honored as Small Business of The Year by the Chamber of Commerce. In 2016 Southtree's sister brand, Legacybox was named one of America's Fastest Growing Companies by Inc Magazine. Nick is an avid Green Bay Packers fan and enjoys reading philosophy and history. Nick lives in Downtown Chattanooga with his beautiful wife Ashley and 3 adorable sons. 

Santosh SankarSantosh Sankar - Co-founder - Dynamo VC

B.S., Penn State University 

Santosh Sankar is co-founder and partner at Dynamo, a Chattanooga, TN-based early stage fund that invests in extraordinary founding teams building startups in supply chain and mobility. Prior to Dynamo, Santosh worked in investment banking and built two bootstrapped businesses prior to turning 21. Santosh is a proud graduate of Penn State University. He now lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife, son, and two golden retrievers. He was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List in 2017.

Justin JollsJustin Jolls - Co-Founder and Inventor - Jolls Innovations, LLC

MBA, Canisius College

Justin Jolls is the Co-Founder and Inventor of Jolls Innovations, LLC.  Makers of the Paint Tray Saver. He moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Buffalo, NY in 2017.  Justin has always had a passion for creating new things and entrepreneurship. Justin studied Entrepreneurship, Management, and Finance at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY earning and B.S. and MBA and was a founding member of the Canisius College CEO chapter.  With the support of his Wife and Co-founder, they launched their product the Paint Tray Saver in March of 2018. When not working on the business Justin enjoys his day job in a local Chattanooga Startup and spending time on hobbies including woodworking, home improvement projects and all of the outdoor activities that the Southeast has to offer.