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While I was talking to Estes Gould, the program manager for Birmingham’s Velocity startup accelerator, I was introduced to Jack West. Jack is intense, he’s a people person, and he’s got a positively sunny outlook. Maybe it’s the excitement of his company being on the end stretch of a fast-track program, having the potential to make it big in something nobody had thought of before. Maybe it was the impending “graduation,” the big public reveal on the 18th, that he and his team were preparing for.
Jack West is the CEO of Book-It Legal, one of almost a dozen companies leveraging the extensive network of industry contacts, mentorship opportunities, and cash reserves of Velocity and Birmingham’s original incubator, Innovation Depot. What are these companies trying? Why are they all technology-oriented? Just what is going on with Birmingham’s lack of consumer fiber internet access? I’m here to answer two out of those three questions!
So who are the Velocity companies? Estes gave me a cheat sheet with a pitch for each company, though she also warned me that investors aren’t necessarily buying into a service, but into a management style and a company. It’s a significant difference: if a company identifies a problem in their service model, they’re going to change it.
Book-It Legal aims to be a gig economy platform for legal services: “Book-It Legal is an online marketplace that connects attorneys with law students to work on a per-project, on-demand basis.” They’re veterans to accelerator programs, also funded by Alabama Launchpad.
GLOW is a listing service for beauty professionals – think of it as a babysitter list, but for services like “hair styling, spray-tanning, and makeup.” Why rely only on word of mouth when you can rely on people just as invested in their appearance as you are?
Sometimes people get pregnant. Odds are really, really good that you in fact know someone who has been pregnant. And recently, people have been throwing parties to celebrate pregnancy! It’s great, we could all use more parties in our lives. Genderreveal.com wants to help throw some parties to celebrate knowing which gender your baby will be
Planet Fundraiser takes charity to a new level. They intend to allow donations to take priority over paperwork for any stores feeling generous. By reducing the quantity of paperwork involved in a donation and expanding customer choice, founders Kasey Birdsong and Drew Honeycutt think they can encourage everyone to live more generously – and make some money in the process.
Koyote wants to gamify your buying experience. By tracking customer movements and offering rewards for certain behavior – checking in at a store a certain number of times, for example – Andrew Petrovics is confident he can convince businesses and customers to have a little more fun.
Healthfundit sees an opening in an otherwise saturated crowdfunding market – no other services fund public and private medical research. After “obtaining top NIH projects that didn’t get funding by the government,” founders Larry Lawal and Felix Kishinevsky are ready to help the country put its money where its mouth is by funding potentially lifesaving medical research that our government either can’t or won’t pay for in the process.
But simple pitches can’t describe what makes our startups so strong. None of these companies are trying to compete by doing something better – that tends to run into the brick wall that is “other companies already have bigger name recognition and market share.” The Velocity companies have identified needs and have found original ways to fulfill them, which puts them two steps ahead of anyone else. Come see the rest of their plans at Iron City April 18th, starting at 5PM, for free!