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at stardust startups, we've got one mission

We accelerate innovative, Climate Action solutions in the coastal plain of North Carolina

Together, through innovative entrepreneurship, we can protect North Carolina’s beautiful coastal region.

Since Stardust Startups began in 2015, we’ve been bridging the gap between entrepreneurs with world-changing ideas and the seed funding they need. And while addressing the climate crisis is a huge challenge, we’re optimistic that emerging impact entrepreneurs are one piece of the puzzle. If we work together, we can make big strides by seeking out and supporting innovative Climate Action solutions.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
– Vincent Van Gogh


Projects funded


Dollars granted

the stardust difference

Let’s work together to find solutions not out of panic and fear, but out of love for our people and our planet.

We support entrepreneurs at their early, pre-seed stage

Microgrants are our main focus and we know they are effective

We address the pre-seed funding gap with a unique structure and sourcing model

The funding and visibility we provide is useful and easily leveraged by emerging entrepreneurs

We nurture human-scale, genuine, continuing relationships with our beneficiaries and donors

We know firsthand the challenges and opportunities that come with launching a startup

our story

Stardust Startups is organized for opportunities; we’ve been nurturing and growing emerging entrepreneurs since 2015.

September 2015

Angus Moloney, a 22-year-old entrepreneur with a profound determination to change the world for the better, died suddenly from a hiking accident on September 26, 2015. In honor of his bright spirit and passion for innovation, Angus’s parents and girlfriend began The Stardust-Startup Factory, a nonprofit that would maintain and grow his contribution to the world.

December 2015

By the end of the year, we had raised $15,000, launched our website, and began testing our selection and award process for microgrants. The mission was vast: to provide financial, moral, and social support for the innovative work of emerging entrepreneurs and early-stage startups making positive social and environmental impact in the areas of sustainability, health, and learning.


Loyal donors and family foundations helped Stardust Startups fund dozens of microgrants to deserving impact entrepreneurs all over the world. A team of interns, staff, and volunteers met weekly through Zoom to manage the nonprofit’s activities and strategize for the future.


The pandemic brought financial challenges, but helped us pivot and redefine our sourcing model. By aligning our mission with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Stardust was able to insert itself further into the international impact community. The team wrote and published a research paper on the effectiveness of microgrants for early-stage impact entrepreneurs.


Stardust Startups' geographic area of interest pivoted from global to regional with a focus on emerging entrepreneurs to bolster the blue economy along the NC coastal plain (where co-founder Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney lives). Innovative blue economy small business development is an essential part of a climate-ready nation and critical for helping local communities, economies, and ecosystems thrive.

The future

Stardust Startups is ready to partner with mission-aligned organizations that want to help us fund and support impact entrepreneurs protecting and defend North Carolina’s coasts.

leading the way

The Stardust Startups Board of Directors

Co-founder and Board Chair

L. Jean Palmer-Moloney

As a hydrogeographer with two PhDs, Jean-or LJ-brings 30 years of experience and expertise in problem-based learning, sustainability and water-food-energy systems assessment to Stardust Startups. Jean and her husband Jim live in Morehead City, North Carolina, with their three cats, two dogs, and two birds.
board of directors

Edward T. Cope

Mr Cope, is an experienced space professional with a deep and diverse scientific background currently doing strategic consulting in the commercial space arena in the SouthWest US and in Washington DC.

In May 2022, he completed a Graduate Certificate in Science Communications at George Mason University (GMU) as a follow-up to his May 2020 Global Health Security/Biodefense Master of Science at GMU. His graduate research focused on strategies to counter viral social media “info-demics” and misinformation/disinformation in the context of both Crisis and Risk Communications for Infectious Diseases (Measles, Ebola, COVID-19, etc ). His Capstone Research paper focused on the possibilities and challenges of centering a new strategic US foreign policy regime for Africa on Food Security and Agriculture 4.0.

In November 2015, after 42 years of government service, Mr Cope retired from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) having previously served with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the United States Air Force (USAF). In Mr Cope’s last 5 years at NGA he served as the NGA Director, Basic and Applied Research, responsible for guiding the research efforts of a multi-discipline team of 200 research scientists exploring innovative geospatial-intelligence related science and technology initiatives to address potential future national security threats. Over the full trajectory of Mr Cope’s career he has led Imagery R&D efforts, served as the Commander of multiple NRO and NGA operational units, was the NGA Deputy to a multi-billion dollar Space Radar Program Office, served as the Deputy CIO at NRO, and served as the Deputy Director of IMINT System Engineering.

From January 2016 until attending Graduate School at GMU in the fall of 2018, Mr Cope, was the Director, Global Mission Support at Thermopylae S&T (TST), a software tech company and Google Tech partner for Google Earth and Google Maps, focused on Web-based geospatial capabilities, mobile software applications, situation awareness, and cloud computing. TST is deep in tech and real-world intelligence community expertise committed to finding new ways to enable government and industry to leverage geospatial capabilities to meet customer needs. Mr Cope’s focus was on developing win-win strategies for public private partnerships leveraging IT, sensors, and geospatial capabilities, balancing mission value with business value on complex global national security challenges.

His original academic background was a Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1973 and an M.S. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1986. He currently resides in El Paso, Texas just a few miles north of the US/Mexico border where there is year-round sunshine and great trails for marathon training.

Board of Directors

Kashoro Nyenyezi

Kashoro Nyenyezi has been working with sexually abused women and their children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 2012. Her prior research (thesis) examined the study of HIV/AIDS epidemic among Congolese women in eastern DRC from 1996 to 2011. She observed and understood how gender-based violence employed in DRC conflicts damaged the lives of several Congolese women and girls. She felt compelled to give back to these women and their children through education and protection programs that foster self-confidence and survival skills. Kashoro has a bachelor's degree in International Studies and Diplomacy from the State University of New York at Oneonta, a master's degree in Public Administration from Strayer University in Washington, DC and she is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto with a concentration on Sexual Gender-Based Violence Prevention.
Board of Directors

Leni Rose Bereber

Leni Rose E. Bereber is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) based in Toronto, a Commissioner for Taking Affidavits in the Province of Ontario, and a member of Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
Board of Directors

Fran Pigott-Harding

Originally from Carteret County, Fran pursued a corporate career in Marketing Communication/Public Relations across various locations in the US. After her journey through California, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, she returned to North Carolina, settling in Morehead City. Besides working as an NC Real Estate Broker, Fran enjoys the coastal lifestyle, her loyal dog Diesel, and staying connected with family and friends worldwide.
Board of Directors

Dr. Jean Claude M. Luhere

Dr. Jean Claude, originally from the DRC, holds degrees in Biomedical and Medical Doctor, along with a Master's in Nutrition. He's a Certified Medical Doctor in multiple countries and has served as a physician. He's worked as a Project Specialist and Nutrition Manager, and now leads projects at Helping Hand for Survivors, a nonprofit supporting victims in war-torn communities in the DRC.
Board of Directors

Kristina Wolff

Kristina is a law student at the University of Toronto, and has an undergraduate degree in International Development from McGill University. After working with Stardust as both an Intern and Staff Member, Kristina has transitioned to the role of Board Member. In the future, Kristina hopes to combine her interest in sustainability and global citizenship with her passion for law. In her free time, Kristina enjoys knitting, fostering kittens, and spending time outdoors.

Stardust Startups NC’s Advisory Board and staff are under construction.