Homegrown startups and entrepreneurs from as far away as the Ukraine are part of the inaugural class of Birmingham’s Velocity Accelerator program.
The 10 teams were announced today at the Birmingham Venture Club. The 16-week program begins in January and will result in a “demo day” where the startups get a chance to showcase their companies to potential investors and the public.
“We’re going to take 10 early-stage startup companies – the kind you would find in Silicon Valley – and we’re going to put them together in a beautifully designed, 4,000-square-foot office space in Innovation Depot,” said Nate Schmidt, Velocity Accelerator director. “They’re going to be there long hours. We’re going to give them $50,000 when they walk in the door. We’re going to surround them with mentoring and training. We’re going to support them as a community, as their customers and their advisers.”
The 10 companies were chosen from more than 100 applicants.
“We’ve had more than 100 companies apply from all over the world and we chose these 10,” Schmidt said. “We’ve had them from all over the country, we’ve had them from Canada and from many places in Europe and Australia and all over. It was very competitive.”
Here are the 10 companies:
- GLOW, founded by Yazmin and Jim Cavale, offers a way for women to find hairstyling, spray-tanning and makeup services from qualified professionals while being able to schedule, pay and communicate with their chosen professional through an app. Service providers, called GLOW-Pros, benefit from the ability to schedule on their own, acquire new customers and communicate directly with clients.
- Book-It Legal, founded by Jack West and Walker Beauchamp, is an online marketplace connecting law firms to law students by allowing the firms to post projects online and students to pick up a project and get paid.
- Planet Fundraiser, founded by Kasey Birdsong and Drew Honeycutt, is an app-based business that allows customers and merchants to give back easily to their favorite charities. All a customer has to do is sign up, take a picture of the receipt and Planet Fundraiser takes care of the rest. The company already has Chick-Fil-A and Shipt as customers.
- Koyote, founded by Andrew Petrovics, is based on hardware that can track population data accurately and time-specifically, based on cellphones.
- Delect, founded by Serge Amouzou and Jeremy Feldman, is a Washington, D.C.-based startup that is moving to Birmingham to be part of Velocity Accelerator. The app-based company allows restaurant bills to be paid through your phone and has been seen by some as a game-changer for restaurants.
- Healthfundit, founded by Larry Lawal and Felix Kishinevsky, is a crowdfunding platform for medical research. The Birmingham-based company made huge strides by partnering with the National Institutes of Health to help fund the top NIH projects that didn’t get government funding.
- Gender Reveal, founded by Matt Landers, is the latest venture from the CEO of Platypi and DepotU at Innovation Depot. This new venture, inspired by his experience during his wife’s pregnancy, taps into the popularity of gender reveal parties and will produce an app that makes the process from doctor’s office to party thank you notes much easier.
- Quantalytix, founded by former Regions Bank analysts Chris Aliotta and William Bryant, addresses a banking industry inefficiency. The company is designed around new software to assess and analyze risk in small and large banks all over the country.
- “Likely” was founded by Jozef Marko and Lukas Ruttkay, who hail from Slovakia but now live in the Ukraine. They had internships at Facebook and Google and are creating an algorithm that would tell users which image, of a given set, would resonate the most with an audience.
- MetalView, founded by Andrew Wingard, a veteran of the metal industry, is an online marketplace where buyers can see what materials suppliers have and get a quote more easily and quickly.
“We got over 100 applicants from all around the world and it was a really tough process to screen them down to the 10 best companies to really bring into the program,” Innovation Depot CEO Devon Laneysaid. “We’re thrilled that we’ve got some international companies, we’ve got some companies coming from other cities in America – New York and Washington, D.C. – bringing them to Birmingham and showcasing what we have and the resources we have.”
As Birmingham puts an emphasis on innovation as an economic development tool and with the establishment of an Innovation District downtown, Laney said programs like Velocity Accelerator are a vital component.
“We’re trying to put an operating model in place that will identify, qualify and accelerate high-growth potential companies and give them capital and make them accountable to metrics and milestones and governance,” he said. “We’ve got the organic growth already, now let’s put a process in place to help drive that.”
Schmidt said the companies will come out of the program in four months with a significant head start on other startups.
“We truly believe that by giving companies a perfect start we can help them avoid early mistakes and become some of the next great companies in this city and in this region,” he said.