5 months ago

Velocity Accelerator companies start ‘boot camp’ at Birmingham’s Innovation Depot

Seven high-growth companies are one week into a 13-week intense “boot camp” of development that organizers believe is a key component to the economic development efforts driving Birmingham’s tech-sector forward.

Velocity Accelerator introduced its seven cohort companies to the public this week. This is the third class of cohorts to go through the program at Innovation Depot.

The companies range from startups to a 14-year-old business. What all of them have in common is that they are already established with a product and revenues. Diversity among sectors is seen as part of the secret sauce that makes Velocity Accelerator work.

“We intentionally don’t focus on one industry sector,” said Devon Laney, CEO of Innovation Depot. “I think it’s part of the strength of the program to have diversity in the industries and the sectors and to be able to attract companies from outside of Alabama to Birmingham and hopefully stay when they get done.”

Meet the 2019 Velocity Accelerator cohorts at Birmingham’s Innovation Depot from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The past two Velocity Accelerator classes taught organizers that having companies at the same stage in their development was also important.

“We wanted companies that were all at a very similar place – companies that all had revenue, they all had products,” Laney said. “They were all at a very similar stage so that the curriculum of the Velocity program would be applicable throughout the program at the same time to all of the teams so that they could move through the program sort of together, really, in a lot of ways, and progress at the same pace throughout the program.”

This year’s cohort companies are:

  • Fanboard was founded in Atlanta by Morgan Drake, Josh Fisher and James Simpson and marries augmented reality with live events like sports and concerts
  • S(w)ervice was formed in Birmingham by Thomas Walker and Warren Wills and offers an on-demand auto maintenance solution with appointment bookings and vehicle valet services.
  • Babypalooza is a Birmingham company founded by Cecilia Pearson that is a parenting platform where live events intersect with technology to make it easy for new, expectant and hopeful parents to access the products, people and parenting information they need most.
  • Uptime Dynamics was founded in Birmingham by Thomas Smillie, Tom Woodruff and Maggie Belshe to redefine what a computerized maintenance management system can do for manufacturers.
  • Need2Say was started in Birmingham by Oscar Garcia with the mission of helping you communicate what you Need2Say in your second language so that you will realize your full potential in school, work and daily life.
  • Milk the Moment was founded in Nashville by Courtney “Coko” Eason and uses the MILK App, which rewards you whenever you refrain from using your phone in places or situations where we all could be a little more present, intimate, focused and safe.
  • Fledging was formed in Birmingham by Weida Tan and Steven Robbins and produces premium electronics like storage products, such as its flagship product, Feather SSD (Solid State Drive) for Mac devices.

Laney said companies from all over the world applied to be part of the new Velocity Accelerator cohort, bolstered by the successes of the previous two classes.

The initial Velocity Accelerator in 2017 had nine companies, three of which had raised additional capital by the end of the program and two more have done so since.

In 2018, there were seven companies, five of which raised follow-on capital and two of them from out of state relocated and stayed in Birmingham.

“We’re looking at this as economic development,” Laney said. “We see this as a pipeline of growth companies that we can help support, attract to Birmingham and retain.”

Laney said the first two Velocity Accelerator cohorts took the $1.5 million invested in them and have leveraged that seed investment to raise more than $8 million and create over 70 jobs in the past two years.

“The return on the investment from the private sector, I think, is phenomenal,” Laney said.

Several of this year’s cohorts were well aware of the past success and cited it as a reason for wanting to participate in the intense Velocity Accelerator program.

“I’m proud of the history,” Laney said. “I’m glad that now we have something to build on and that other entrepreneurs and other startups can see the history and say, ‘Yes, I want to be in Birmingham. Yes, I want to go through Velocity because I understand the potential I have there to grow my business.’”

The 2019 cohort kicked off Jan. 28 and concludes April 30 with Velocity Demo Day at Iron City, where each company will pitch to potential customers, investors and community supporters.

Participants in the program receive $50,000 each from the Velocity Fund, which is supported by Alabama PowerRegions BankBBVA CompassBlue Cross and Blue Shield of AlabamaProtective LifeUAB, the Community Foundation of Greater BirminghamEncompass HealthEBSCOBrasfield & GorrieMcWaneAltec and Hoar Construction.

Laney said the support from the private sector is part of the buy-in that has been critical to the program’s success.

“The program is great. The curriculum is great. We’ve done a good job with all of those things, I think,” Laney said. “The community support and the buy-in from the community is the reason that Velocity is successful.”

Having the corporate community provide dollars and not just lip-service of support is a key to creating a sustainable innovation economy, Laney said.

“It speaks volumes. It’s a difference-maker for us.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.


A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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10 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.


Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”


With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

11 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.


“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.


State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.