Rise of the Rest bus tour to showcase Birmingham innovation ecosystem

Rise of the Rest bus tour to showcase Birmingham innovation ecosystem
The Rise of the Rest bus made several stops during its day in Birmingham. (contributed)

Birmingham’s entrepreneurial and innovation landscape is in the spotlight today as the city hosts a national tour of supporters of early-stage startups.

The Rise of the Rest bus tour passes through the Magic City, where it will make stops at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the makerspace MAKEbhm, downtown business incubator Innovation Depot and healthcare startup Pack Health.

The initiative is led by Steve Case, the founder of America Online and the chairman and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based investment firm Revolution, which seeks to help build disruptive, innovative companies.

In each city, the tour features a pitch competition and a $100,000 award to a promising startup. Since 2014, Case and his team have traveled more than 8,000 miles touring entrepreneurial communities in 33 cities.

Last year, Case and JD Vance, Revolution managing partner, announced a $150 million Rise of the Rest Seed Fund to further the program’s goal of supporting emerging startup ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston.

“Both the Rise of the Rest bus tour and fund are helping to raise the visibility of promising startups in cities across the country,” Case said.

“For the past four years, we have been encouraged by the entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders we’ve met on our tours and are excited to invest catalytic capital into these Rise of the Rest regions.”

Steve Case, founder of America Online, formed the “Rise of the Rest” initiative to support the growth of innovative, tech-focused businesses across the United States. (Bloomberg Finance LP)

‘A national stage’

During today’s tour, a VIP Leadership breakfast with Case, Vance and local business and civic leaders was held at Post Office Pies, and the group was scheduled to lunch at Sloss Furnaces, which is also the site of the pitch competition.

Others expected to participate in today’s events include Chris Moody of the Foundry Group, Ann Florie of Leadership Birmingham, Jared Weinstein of Thrive Capital, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts and John Hudson of Bronze ValleyAlabama Power.

Google for Entrepreneurs, a longtime Rise of the Rest partner, is again providing coaches to help founders with their pitches.

“From steel mills to startups, Birmingham is and has always been a city of builders and makers. The product and the means of production may have changed, but the pride and the quality of the craftsmanship has not,” said Josh Carpenter, director of the city’s Office of Economic Development.

“The Rise of the Rest pitch competition at Sloss Furnace brings our talent to a national stage where it belongs,” he added. “We are eager to showcase the energy and talent that is driving Birmingham’s economy forward.”

Other cities on the Rise of the Rest bus tour this spring are Dallas, Memphis, Chattanooga and Louisville.

Innovation Depot is among the Birmingham stops on the Rise of the Rest bus tour. (Made in Alabama)

Startup competitors

Local pitch competition finalists are:

    • Smart Alto, which makes a text-messaging robot that helps real estate agents respond to leads.
    • Eugene’s Hot Chicken, which will open a community kitchen for Birmingham food trucks and business startups.
    • Swervice, a firm that offers independent auto shop owners an enhanced digital customer experience anchored by an on-demand car maintenance valet service and real-time customer engagement.
    • O3 Solution, which brings agile project management to industrial construction.
    • Tappas, a firm that brings unprecedented levels of autonomy to mobile application testing, making it as easy, effective and ubiquitous as possible using smart automation and machine learning technology.
    • Mixtroz, a software that drives live event attendees from the digital space (mobile phone) to physical space (event) in real time while collecting valuable data.
    • Shine E Solar, which offers community garden launch kits for urban lots along with solar-powered, smart systems that will assist in maintaining the installations.
    • Help Lightning, which delivers superior mobile communication, collaboration and cognition through merged reality virtual interactive presence for users needing help solving problems.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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