The hardest part of owning a startup is always the beginning: the process of turning your idea into a company with a working business model and appropriate funding. Luckily, there is a multitude of accelerator programs in the South available to entrepreneurs who want to launch their startups quickly.
Among the many nicknames given to Birmingham, Alabama, the Magic City is perhaps the most recognized. The moniker dates back to 1873 and refers to the city’s rapid growth. Nearly 150 years later that nickname is still really relevant, especially in light of the startup growth that’s occurring all around the city that is home to UAB’s world-class research and corporate giants like BBVA Compass, Regions Bank and Brasfield & Gorrie, to name a few.
And nowhere is this magic more apparent than at the Innovation Depot, the self-proclaimed epicenter for technology, startups and entrepreneurs in the Birmingham region. It’s home to all the usual innovation hub programs—there’s an incubator and membership-based co-working space. It also runs Depot/U, Birmingham’s first developer bootcamp, which offers both a one-week program that teaches the bare basics of programming concepts, as well as an intense 10-week “Full Stack” curriculum that will turn you into a junior level developer with excellent job prospects by the end—the next classes start in February. At the end of last year, Innovation Depot also launched Velocity Accelerator, the state’s first seed accelerator program, which is open to high-growth technology-oriented startups.
“I’ve spent time on the West Coast. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s expensive…and if you’re starting a company, you want the biggest bang for your buck,” explained Kathleen Hamrick, director of Innovation Depot’s Innovation Lab, in this AL.com post announcing the accelerator.
The 12-week program, which kicks off Jan. 18, provides $50,000 in seed funding to participants, in exchange for 6% equity. On Demo Day, participants will pitch to investors, giving them the opportunity to score a term sheet and qualify for follow-on funding.
Innovation Depot has already chosen its first cohort of 10 companies, which hail from places in the South and beyond. There’s Birmingham-based Healthfundit, a crowdfunding platform for medical research; Book-It Legal, an online marketplace that connects law firms to law students for research projects; and Planet Fundraiser, an app that makes everyday purchases a fundraising opportunity. Then there’s Likely AI, the startup traveling all the way from Slovakia and run by two former Facebook and Google interns. The company is developing an algorithm that identifies images that resonate most with an audience.