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October 17, 2023 | Tom Ballard

LaunchTN announces new Chief Investment Officer

Monique Villa is leaving to pursue entrepreneurial projects in venture capital; Eller Mallchok Kelliher is succeeding her.

Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) announced yesterday a changing of the guard in a key leadership position.

Monique Villa, who joined the organization as Chief Investment Officer soon after Lindsey Cox was named Chief Executive Officer in March 2022 and helped establish “InvestTN,” is leaving her full-time role to pursue entrepreneurial projects in venture capital (VC). She will be succeeded by Eller Mallchok Kelliher, a Chattanooga native who brings substantial experience in pre-Seed, Seed, and Series A venture funding and a deep familiarity with Tennessee’s vast and diverse start-up ecosystem.

“We are thrilled by the response we’ve seen to date from start-ups interested in ‘InvestTN,’” Cox said. “Monique did an incredible job of establishing this important program for the state and getting it launched, and Eller’s early-stage VC background will help us continue executing on this critical initiative. I am proud of our capital team and remain convinced this program, alongside the suite of capital programs we offer, will transform how we support innovative, high-growth startups who can shape the future of Tennessee.”

Eller Mallchok Kelliher

Kelliher spent seven years at Jumpstart Foundry (JSF), a Nashville-based investment firm focused on early-stage healthcare companies. While there, she led fundraising and investor relations initiatives for each annual JSF venture fund and oversaw the investment process for more than 130 seed-stage investments, deploying more than $19 million in capital. Prior to joining the LaunchTN capital team, Kelliher was a partner at SeedToB Capital in Atlanta where she led due diligence and negotiated Seed and Series A financing rounds with healthcare artificial intelligence start-ups.

“I am honored to take on this role for LaunchTN, an organization I have long admired,” said Kelliher. “We are seeing great deal flow across the state for ‘InvestTN.’ I think this is a unique and interesting opportunity to deploy venture techniques for the betterment of Tennessee’s ecosystem.”

Funded by a significant portion of Tennessee’s $116.9 million allocation under the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative, “InvestTN” makes equity investments in Volunteer State-based start-ups and venture capital firms. Since its launch in June 2023, the $70 million component of the overall “FundTN” initiative has received more than 400 submissions from start-ups and 25 venture funds.


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