Birmingham’s Velocity Accelerator holds its first Demo Day

Birmingham’s Velocity Accelerator holds its first Demo Day
Velocity Accelerator's inaugural class celebrates after a successful first Demo Day at Iron City. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Velocity Accelerator program at Birmingham’s Innovation Depot had promised its inaugural class it would make one year’s worth of growth in three months through the program.

Based on the companies’ pitches at the program’s first Demo Day, it delivered on that promise.

Hundreds of supporters turned out at Iron City Tuesday night to hear the founders of the nine startup companies.

“I’m so proud of all of the companies. This is the best pitch that any of them have given,” said Nate Schmidt, executive director of Velocity Accelerator. “Two of our teams got funding. Others launched products. Others pivoted – we had a couple of companies change their entire business model because of what was happening at Velocity.”

Velocity Accelerator holds Demo Day in Birmingham from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Planet Fundraiser and Glow announced they are funded for expansion into markets outside of Birmingham, having successfully launched in the Magic City. Glow will open in Nashville this summer and Planet Fundraiser has businesses on board in Atlanta.

Book-It Legal has law students and lawyers on board from multiple locations as it looks to expand to other markets.

Healthfundit had some of the biggest news of the night. The crowdfunding site for medical research has been approved by Facebook Messenger and has deals in place with Leidos and National Institutes of Health to help vet projects for funding and promotion.

Koyote announced its Pointz system – which rewards shoppers for spending time in merchants’ stores – is linked to Facebook, making it possible for retailers to now target Facebook ads to those using Pointz.

Covalence announced it is bringing its coding boot camp to Chattanooga and Ft. Lauderdale in May and is in talks with Nashville and Columbia, S.C., for the fall.

Delect is well into testing its pay-at-the-table app at Serendipity restaurant in Birmingham, with plans to add more restaurants this year.

Likely AI has completed the first version of its software that helps choose the best photo that viewers will respond to on social media.

Quantalytix is the only financial technology, or fintech, company in the inaugural Velocity Accelerator class.

Mark Smith, Global Wealth Market executive BBVA Compass, said the Birmingham banking company is supporting initiatives like Velocity Accelerator for what it can mean for financial services and other industries.

“Birmingham’s got a long history of banking,” Smith said. “If you look at the big four that are here, we’ve got an opportunity to really drive a lot of the fintech technology that’s going on.”

Smith said the corporate community in Birmingham seems to have recognized the impact startups can have on the economy.

“Birmingham has a great opportunity to be the next tech hub,” he said. “If you look at what’s happened to Austin, Nashville and Raleigh, I think we’ve got a great opportunity to do that.”

Schmidt said the Velocity Accelerator companies are showing that support exists in Birmingham to grow.

“The progress they’ve made since day number one on their pitches and their business is astounding,” he said. “This isn’t the end. This is just one day to celebrate. If you come to Velocity on Thursday … you’ll see a lot of these companies in the space still working. The beat will go on, but for today I’m really proud of what everybody did.”

Schmidt acknowledged there were only nine of the original 10 companies that pitched on Demo Day. Andrew Wingard, founder and CEO of MetalView, died unexpectedly in March.

“He and his wife and his kids and his family were very much in our thoughts tonight,” Schmidt said. “We raised $15,000 for their family shortly after his passing. I think that our program was a real source of peace and happiness for him and he was a big part of what we did. We miss Andrew Wingard.”

Even with the loss and the other struggles and trials of the inaugural Velocity Accelerator class, Schmidt said the first class shows the program’s potential.

“Some of the next great companies in this city are going to come through Velocity,” he said. “No doubt about it.”

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