Alabama’s top innovators gathered in Birmingham recently to celebrate the region’s thriving entrepreneurial scene and collaborate on ways to make it stronger.
The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama’s 2018 “imerge” event awarded $151,000 to winners of an Alabama Launchpad startup pitch competition and honored industry leaders with EDPA’s annual Innovation Awards.
Attendees networked over food and drink as EDPA transformed the covered parking area of its office on First Avenue South into a pop-up performance venue.
Entrepreneurs who have helped fuel the growing innovation ecosystem in Birmingham and across the state talked about how the Magic City has shaped their companies’ culture and played a role in their success.
“Birmingham, and particularly the South, has a certain way of putting people first and really caring for people,” said Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Shipt, the same-day delivery marketplace that last week announced a plan to create 881 jobs in Birmingham over the next several years.
Smith said Shipt, which was acquired by Target last year, has been able to scale that culture to locations and shoppers across the country as it aggressively expands.
“That’s been a huge part of our success and will continue to be part of our success in the future.”
$1 billion reasons
Smith was part of a panel discussion – “$1 Billion Reasons to Believe in Alabama” – so named because the companies that were a part of it represented more than $1 billion in recent transactions. Also part of the panel were Shegun Otulana, founder and CEO of Theranest, and Chad Trull of Hospicelink.
Otulana offered encouragement to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
“It’s a journey, and it’s not going to be easy. Don’t be afraid to fail,” he said. “Keep at it and seek counsel and hopefully it gets you to the right place.”
Birmingham auto racing software developer Apex Pro won $100,000 in the seed category of the startup competition, as well as the $1,000 audience choice award. Global Inspections of Mobile won $50,000 in the concept category.
EDPA President Steve Spencer said imerge brings together the many facets of Alabama’s vibrant entrepreneurial scene in one place to foster even more growth.
“These are the stars of Alabama innovation here tonight. We want to create an environment where people can work with each other, learn from each other and celebrate each other,” he said.
The 2018 EDPA Innovation Award winners are:
- Lifetime Achievement in Innovation: Art Tipton, Birmingham, is president and CEO of Southern Research, one of the leading research organizations in the U.S. in the areas of drug discovery and development, engineering and energy and environmental sciences.
- Startup of the Year: XpertDox, Birmingham, is a free web-based resource that connects patients to expert doctors, hospitals, ongoing clinical trials and peer-to-peer support.
- Outstanding Achievement in Innovative Manufacturing: Alignment Simple Solutions, Pelham, manufactures portable, affordable and accurate wheel alignment products and accessories for all vehicles.
- Corporate Innovator of the Year (small company, 10-50 employees): Inventure Renewables Inc., Tuscaloosa, pioneers process technologies for the rapid, low-cost, high-yield extraction of natural, biochemical and material building blocks from low-value/waste to provide cost-effective, carbon-neutral biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials.
- Corporate Innovator of the Year (large company, 50-plus employees): Shipt, Birmingham, is a membership-based online grocery marketplace delivering fresh foods and household essentials through a community of shoppers and a convenient app.
- Startup Executive of the Year: Dr. Karim Budhwani, Birmingham, is CEO of CerFlux Personalized Medicine, which aims to reduce the pain, reduce the discomfort and reduce the cost of cancer treatment.
- Business Executive of the Year: Miranda Bouldin Frost, Huntsville, is president and CEO of LogiCore, which since its inception in 2002 has been an innovative resource for Department of Defense, government and commercial clients.
- Social Entrepreneur of the Year: Buddy Palmer is president and CEO of Create Birmingham, which has a mission to invest in imagination and invention. Through its programs, Create Birmingham constructs and supports diverse avenues for commercial and nonprofit creative success.
- “imerging” Young Leaders awards: Dustin Embrey, Connie Griesemer, Wayne Heard, Trent Kocurek, Chris Maurice, Ben Podbielski and Jeff Zeiders.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.