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Will this non-profit turn Birmingham into the Silicon Valley of the South?

Photo credit: Gerry Daniel
Photo credit: Gerry Daniel

Many people may not see Alabama as a hotbed for tech startups, but according to Forbes, one Birmingham non-profit is making major strides in changing that perception.

Innovation Depot, an incubator and economic development program for tech companies, is helping local early stage tech firms grow and create jobs in the region.

To be accepted into Innovation Depot’s program, young companies submit their business plan and demonstrate their business’s viability. The companies have to show that they are fully committed to their venture, that they have the potential of being funded or have already been funded, and of course, the company has to be tech-based.

Innovation Depot has received funding from The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Jefferson County, and the city of Birmingham, but the the majority of their backing comes from private sources.

About 15 percent of the companies that get into program don’t make it all the way through, but 90 percent of the companies that graduate end up staying in Alabama and boosting the local economy.

ID_Devon-300x209“Our job is to work intimately with these companies every day providing resources, access to resources, access to expertise, introductions to investors, capital sources, professional resources,” Innovation Depot COO, Devon Laney told Forbes.

Several companies that have come through Innovation Depot’s program have experienced large scale success.

MedMined, a biotech firm that graduated from the program in 2004, was purchased two years later for $100 million.

Motus, a motorcycle firm that created and patented a V-4 engine, and CTS, which develops enterprise software, are two other examples of companies that have exploded since going through the Innovation Depot program.

Motus now operates out of downtown Birmingham, and CTS has six sites throughout the state.

Innovation Depot says they have almost 100 different businesses working through their program and more than 500 people on staff.

But unlike most incubators, they don’t take an equity stake in the companies they help.

“Our metric for success purely is on the outcomes,” Laney told Forbes. “What outcomes these companies are having on the Birmingham region and what does that look like in terms of jobs, in terms of pure earnings impact—economic impact on the city.”

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