Meet 7 entrepreneurs mentoring promising startups at Alabama Launchpad


Alabama Launchpad
Matt Fitzgerald (right) alongside business partners Arnar Thors and Eric Housh. Matt Fitzgerald will be serving as a Launch Advisor for the upcoming Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition. Photo via EDPA

For the past 15 years, the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition has guided some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs in Alabama by investing $5.6 million in 100 Alabama startups. Now, Alabama Launchpad is introducing a few changes to the program to provide even greater support for participating startups. We spoke with 7 Alabama entrepreneurs serving as Launch Advisors for the program to learn more.

Click here to learn more about applying to the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition—apply NOW through March 1st!

Meet 7 New Launch Advisors

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama building, headquarters of Alabama Launchpad. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

For startups participating in the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition, the program is more than just a source of funding. Throughout the process, each startup will receive invaluable coaching from experienced mentors, known as Launch Advisors. These Launch Advisors will assist the Finalists in business operations, planning and pitch preparation for the final competition and beyond.

Without further ado, let’s meet 7 Alabama entrepreneurs serving as Launch Advisors for the upcoming Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition!

1. Shegun Otulana

Founder & CEO, HVL

Shegun Otulana, Alabama Launchpad
Shegun Otulana is a talented entrepreneur in Alabama. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Shegun Otulana is the Founder and CEO of HVL, a venture studio in Alabama that focuses on growing ideas into successful technology companies, such as Funnelfly and TrustSpot. Before founding HVL, Shegun founded and ran TheraNest and its parent company, Therapy Brands.

What do you see as the value of the Alabama Launchpad program?

Shegun: “Alabama Launchpad is a catalyst for economic growth in our state, and it continues to look for ways to deliver value to our early-stage entrepreneurs. It’s a privilege to join the Launchpad program by coming alongside to advise Alabama founders who are looking to build great businesses here.”

2. Rachel Lane PhD, RD

Science Communications Consultant at The Written Science, LLC

Rachel Lane
Rachel Lane aims to help “translate” complicated information from participating startups to a general audience. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Rachel Lane is a Huntsville-based entrepreneur and owner of The Written Science, LLC. During her career as a clinical dietician, she noticed a barrier between scientific researchers and clinicians. After finishing her Ph.D, she founded The Written Science, LLC in order to work with subject matter experts to effectively communicate the value of their research to users, patients, clinicians and potential investors.

How will you work with Launchpad Finalists to prepare them for the real world?

Rachel: “When it comes to bioscience, innovation often comes from individuals with years and years of experience in the field. It’s not always easy to unpack that information into a form that is digestible for the general audience. With my expertise, I’ll be able to extract that value, ask pertinent questions and help translate the information to help them communicate it to a general audience.”

What are you looking forward to during the competition?

Rachel: “I am excited for a higher level of interaction between the Launch Advisors and participants. Even if they don’t end up winning the funding, the constructive process will allow each startup to walk away a stronger, more confident company. I can’t wait to meet the other Launch Advisors and see the innovative projects that each startup has been working on.”

3. Ryan Robinett

Principal at Multiply, Inc

Ryan Robinett, Alabama Launchpad
Ryan joins the Launch Advisor team as leader in all things marketing. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

After spending most of his professional career as a career consultant, Ryan Robinett chose to start out on his own. So, in 2018 he formed Multiply, a tech-enabled services firm that helps companies get the most our of their sales force. Ryan specializes in equipping, training, and managing sales teams for companies large and small throughout the state.

How will you utilize your expertise to mentor the Alabama Launchpad Finalists?

Ryan: “Money is all well and good, but to me what is more valuable is a customer and a good reference. I’ll be focusing on helping each Finalist to market their business or product to potential customers—how they can apply their knowledge to the real world.”

What excites you about the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition?

Ryan: “To me, the entire process is fun. I’ve served as a judge for Alabama Launchpad before, and I really enjoy conversing and lending my expertise. And it’s a two-way street: both Finalists AND Launch Advisors can learn through this free exchange of ideas.”

4. Michael Eady

Co-Founder, President at Knight Eady

Michael Eady
Birmingham-based entrepreneur Michael Eady is excited to work with Alabama Launchpad finalists. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

For the past 8 years, Birmingham native Michael Eady has been growing his startup Knight Eady into a full-service event, strategy and creative agency that support clients across the country. In addition to Knight Eady, Michael has worked along Hunter Strickler in the development of Clutch!.

As a Launch Advisor, how are you planning to mentor each Finalist?

Michael: “Essentially, I’ll be running each Finalist through a ‘boot camp’ of marketing and branding. The idea is to coach them on how to build a brand, how to market themselves and how to develop a solid pitch. My expertise is in helping companies find the most effective way to communicate themselves to potential clients, so I’ll be helping each Finalist overcome those hurdles.”

What excites you about the startup competition?

Michael: “I’m an entrepreneur, so I love the energy that I see from other entrepreneurs at this stage in their career. At the end of the day, the goal of Alabama Launchpad is to help grow financially successful companies in the state.”

5. Mary Ila Ward

Owner, Horizon Point Consulting, LLC and MatchFIT, LLC

Mary Ila Ward, Alabama Launchpad
Mary Ila Ward is a multi-talented entrepreneur who helps companies encourage leadership among their employees. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Before founding Horizon Point Consulting, Mary Ila Ward has worked as a consultant, project manager, recruiter and more for companies and cities across Alabama. In 2011, she decided to weld her areas of expertise together by forming Horizon Point Consulting, which focuses on innovating workplaces through hiring, growing and retaining leaders.

How will you use your experience to aid Alabama Launchpad Finalists?

Mary: “In my case, I will be working individually with each finalist to coach them on their leadership and entrepreneurial potential. Each Launch Advisor has experience with founding and growing a business, so we know what it’s like to be in their position.”

What are you most looking forward to during the competition?

Mary: “I am really looking forward to learning and growing alongside these Finalists. Horizon Point is a relationship-based business, so I’m passionate about helping these Finalists grow as entrepreneurs and find & hire employees that will complement their strengths and weaknesses.”

6. Matt Fitzgerald, P.E.

Owner, Fitz-Thors Engineering

Matt Fitzgerald
A former Launchpad competitor and judge, Matt Fitzgerald is looking forward to taking part in the competition as a Launch Advisor. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Since 2007, Matt Fitzgerald has been partnering with longtime friend Arnar Thors at their firm, Fitz-Thors Engineering. The duo has grown their engineering firm from simple mechanical tooling to large-scale, full robotics systems along manufacturing lines. Recently, they purchased a facility in downtown Birmingham, Hardware Park, to grow their own capabilities and provide a space for local technology companies to thrive.

How will you be able to utilize your experience and help the startups at Alabama Launchpad succeed?

Matt: “I’m an entrepreneur myself and I’ve participated in Alabama Launchpad as both a finalist and a judge. With my background in engineering, I’ll be able to advise the startups when it comes to engineering and help translate their ideas to a form that the general audience can understand.”

In your opinion, what is the value of Alabama Launchpad?

Matt: “Even if your company doesn’t walk away with the prize money, Alabama Launchpad is an invaluable experience. Whether it’s working on your pitch or financials, the program is such a beneficial learning opportunity. In addition, you meet and work with people who will become advocates for yourself and your company. It’s exciting to see how impactful this program is to the startup community.”

7. Hunter Strickler

Director of Venture Operations at HVL

Hunter Strickler, Alabama Launchpad
Hunter is a seasoned entrepreneur, and has worked closely with Michael Eady in the past. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Born and raised in Birmingham, Hunter Strickler is a seasoned entrepreneur with several successful startups under his belt. Currently, Hunter is working on Clutch!, an event parking management software that specializes in organizing game-day parking for some big clients, such as the University of Alabama, University of Georgia, Ole Miss and several other SEC schools.

How do you plan to work with each of the participating startups in Alabama Launchpad?

Hunter: “I think it’s important for each startup to have guidance from people who have been in their position. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the different opinions and advice from the experts, so my goal is to serve as a voice that helps them step back and look at the big picture. I’ll be there to help ‘translate’ the ideas into a coherent plan for the participating startups.”

What about Alabama Launchpad excites you?

Hunter: “I’m a big believer in locally-grown tech and startups, and I think they’ll be the impetus behind big changes on the horizon for Birmingham and Alabama as a whole. I’m very enthusiastic about jumpstarting these innovators, seeing their ideas come to life and flourishing in the state.”

Alabama Launchpad Applications Close March 1st—Apply Now

Alabama Launchpad
The team from Field Culture Compost, a past winner of Alabama Launchpad. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

If you’re involved in an Alabama startups looking to get a leg up in the ever-changing world of innovation, Alabama Launchpad is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Applications for the first Startup Competition close Monday, March 1st at 5PM, so don’t wait—click here to begin the application process.

Are you planning to apply for the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know!

Sponsored by:

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer at Bham Now

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