Tatiana Birgisson is out as CEO of the company she founded in her college dorm room.
Durham-based energy drink maker Mati Energy announced this week that Birgisson will be leaving the company she has led since starting it as a Duke University undergraduate, as the company searches for more experienced hands to take the company forward.
Birgisson has been a prominent face in the Durham startup scene since graduating from Duke in 2012. She took the company from a small one-woman operation to a business that has raised around $8 million from investors and can be found on the shelves of grocery stores throughout the Southeast.
Her company now has its own 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Clayton and employs around 20 people. In the past year alone, the company brought in $5 million in investments and expanded to Texas.
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Lauren Whitehurst, an early investor in Mati and the wife of Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, will run the company on an interim basis.
She said Birgisson “did an amazing job” placing the company on the solid footing but that it needed someone with experience to expand further.
“It’s an incredible product and a proven market fit,” she said. “We are ready to scale really big, and we want to bring in someone who has experience getting a food beverage company to grow.”
Whitehurst didn’t want to put a timeline on the search for a new CEO, saying it will be “as long as it takes” to find the right person.
“We very much would like (it to be) someone in consumer goods, but we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” she said. “We want someone who really understands the industry we are in and has grown a brand before.”
It is unclear what Birgisson will do after leaving Mati. The company said she will “move towards pursuing new opportunities outside the company.”
Birgisson declined to comment for the story, saying she is on family vacation. She still holds a large ownership share in the company and remains on the board of directors.
When asked if Birgisson would remain involved with the company going forward, Whitehurst said she wouldn’t comment on Birgisson’s “private matters.”
Birgisson’s fiancé, Jake Stauch, said he officially left his role on the board of directors at Mati in January 2017. It had been planned for him to leave the board since 2016, he said, when the company began bringing in more money from investors.
Stauch said he couldn’t comment on Birgisson’s departure.
“I'm proud of everything she's accomplished and that she's truly a role model and inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs,” he added. “Mati is a great product and has a bright future.”
Whitehurst said the next stage for the company will be to either expand nationally or further penetrate the Southeast market.
She credited Birgisson with creating a strong product that can be successful in markets outside of North Carolina.
“She has built a brand that goes way beyond its association with her,” she said. “Her story is well known in this area, but Mati sits on the shelf in Atlanta, Nashville and online on Amazon. It stands on its own.”