Why GLOW's Investment From The Velocity Fund Is Important To Birmingham's Future

GLOW has been announced as one of ten companies who are receiving an investment from the Velocity Fund. These ten brands were selected from a long list of tech and app startups who applied from around the globe.

This blog from GLOW Co-Founder and serial entrepreneur Jim Cavale, breaks down how big this is for GLOW's founding market of Birmingham, and illustrates the context of the movement that GLOW a big part of, as a member of the inaugural class for the Velocity Accelerator Fund at Innovation Depot.

You hear it all the time these days - "Birmingham has really come a long way. I'm excited for the future of our city."

There is a pride beginning to form in the more than 1.2mm people who reside in the Metro Birmingham area. About one million of these folks don't even live in the city limits, but they work or play here.

And whether they knew it or not, what happens in the city permeates throughout the rest of the metro area. It matters.

There are thriving areas both around and within our city center, which are drawing people from more than 20 miles away, to work and/or play in the city on a regular basis.

Whether its the Second Avenue North movement, that began with the likes of Rogue Tavern, Urban Standard and Pale Eddies, giving way to The Collins Bar, El Barrio and Bamboo on 2nd...

Or the Uptown Birmingham District that started with The Westin as an anchor, giving way to Todd English Pub, Cantina Laredo, The Southern, Octane, Texas De Brazil, Mugshots and soon, a state-of-the-art Top Golf facility that will most likely draw people from all over the state, let alone neighboring states like Tennessee and Mississippi...

Or the Avondale neighborhood, where the Avondale Brewery arose, only to give way to a series of bars, clubs and restaurants that people visit from throughout the metro area...

People are excited. And I could go on... there is a lot happening and it continues to grow (Pizitz, breweries, Thomas Jefferson Hotel, Redmont Hotel, etc.).

Then you have the award-winning Regions Park baseball stadium and Railroad Park, which people fought to ensure would not happen because of the incorrect assumption that "our city is just too unsafe." People said that attendance would go down if we built a ballpark downtown. They were wrong. We've set records.

People aren't just traveling into the city; they're moving into it.

Condos, lofts, high-rises, etc... are being built at a higher rate than ever before and we can't build them fast enough, with an almost-consistent 100% occupancy. You also have neighborhoods like Crestwood and Avondale, seeing an influx of young people who have recently graduated from college, and are wanting to be a part of a "united revitalization movement".

So what does all this have to do with Birmingham's new Velocity Accelerator Fund, based inside of Innovation Depot?

We need jobs. How else will our restaurants thrive? How will our new residential real estate remain fully occupied? How will we recruit young talent to stay in Birmingham, instead of moving to Atlanta, Charlotte or Nashville, when they graduate from Auburn University, University of Alabama or any of the other schools in the southeast that they choose to attend?

It's nice to have UAB, BBVA, Protective Life, Alabama Power, Regions Bank, etc. These anchors are vital to our city in multiple ways beyond the jobs they provide.

But let's be honest, its not likely that the jobs we need to produce in this city, are going come from us recruiting another dozen of these big corporations to move their HQ to Birmingham.

Don't get me wrong, I love recruiting people to Birmingham! As a New York transplant and entrepreneur in this city for the past 11 years, I've moved friends, employees and family here from the east and west coast. I love selling Birmingham and the vision of what it can be, based on knowing and believing in what it can become.

But recruiting big corporations, with hits of 500-1,000 new jobs per, is not the likely job creation solution. Instead, it will be the same formula that you've seen transform other southern cities in the past 20 years, most notably Austin and Nashville.

That formula is a sum of small business success. It's more than 100 new Iron Tribe Fitness-type brands starting, proving their concept and growing, to the point where they can each employ 50 people (or maybe just 49 ;).

My friends Devon Laney and Kathleen Hamrick at Innovation Depot, have done a great job cultivating an environment where startups can reside during the proof of concept phase. My good friend Tony Summerville's company, Fleetio, is one of many examples of businesses who've done just that, and are creating dozens of jobs for young people to be able to move [or stay] into our city.

The Velocity Accelerator Fund takes this to a new level. My buddy Nate Schmidt, Founder and CEO of Instagift, graduated from TechStars Seattle, where he received several rounds of investment and incredible resources that were vital for Instagift to eventually thrive back here in Birmingham.

We need more Instagifts.

TechStars is an accelerator fund that uses the same formula that Schmidt pitched Laney and the Innovation Depot board to consider using for Birmingham's first accelerator fund.

The formula?

Accept hundreds of applications from tech startups around the globe. Review and select ten companies, both local and abroad, to move their headquarters into the Velocity Space for twelve weeks. Infuse each tech startup with an initial capital investment round, and the promise of knowledge, connections and growth for their business, during the twelve weeks they are together with the other nine tech startups that are selected.

Then, at the end of the twelve weeks, cultivate an event with investors and funds, where each CEO can pitch what they've accomplished to that point. The opportunity is to raise a next round of capital that the CEO who has proven her concept, can lever to begin to create jobs for their company that will [hopefully] now be based in Birmingham, if it wasn't already.

Of course, these are startups and "the odds are the odds". That doesn't mean you don't do these types of accelerator programs! It means you more of them! It calls for us to do multiple at one time! If you think any differently, I question your passion for capitalism and democracy!

I'm so honored to serve as the Entrepreneur-In-Residence for these ten companies that have been selected for the first class at Velocity. I'll be laboring alongside Schmidt and Estes Gould, who know this program is a pilot for the future of our city.

The tech startup CEOs that have been selected, are young, talented entrepreneurs who I know I will push very hard in every realm, from marketing to finance, and in between. But I also know, I'm going to enjoy jumping back in to this stage with them, and laboring right next to them (and my fellow E-I-R Billy Boozer)... for the sake of their company and the future of Birmingham.

Are the next Nashville? Or maybe the next Austin? No. We're the next Birmingham.

Per AL.com's article when the announcement was made yesterday at the Birmingham Venture Club's annual meeting... Meet the Velocity Accelerator Fund's inaugural class of tech startups:

GLOW: Founders Yazmin and Jim Cavale founded GLOW, a company that aims to provide a way for women to find hair styling, spray-tanning, and makeup services from qualified professionals in their own homes through the GLOW app. Customers will be able to schedule, pay and communicate all through the app.

Book-It Legal: Jack West and Walker Beauchamp founded Book-It Legal, an online marketplace connecting law students to law firms, especially for temporary projects. Law firms sometimes have to use overqualified attorneys on research projects, but don't want to spend the money for an intern or an associate. Book-It Legal posts projects Book-It Legal and students can pick them up, allowing students to gain experience in law.

Planet Fundraiser: Kasey Birdsong and Drew Honeycutt founded this app that allows customers and merchants to easily donate to their favorite charities. Customers sign up, take a picture of their receipt, and Planet Fundraiser coordinates the donation. The company has already partnered with Shipt and Chick-Fil-A.

Koyote: Andrew Petrovics built a hardware that can track accurate and time-specific population data based on cell phones. The hardware has potential users ranging from the government to private industry to the military. Delect: Washington, D.C.-based founders Serge Amouzou and Jeremy Feldman founded Delect, which allows restaurant customers to pay their bills directly from their phones.

Healthfundit: Founders Larry Lawal and Felix Kishinevsky created Healthfundit as a platform for medical research. The company is based in Birmingham and has partnered with the National Institutes of Health to get their top projects that didn't get funded by the government.

Gender Reveal: Matt Landers, founder of Innovation Depot company Platypi, got the idea for Gender Reveal during his wife's pregnancy.The Gender Reveal app will simplify the reveal process, from the doctor's office, to the party to the thank yous.

Quantalytix: Founders Chris Aliotta and William Bryant were analysts at Regions Financial Corp. when they noticed an inefficiency that Quantalytix aims to solve. The goal is to build a software to assess and analyze risk in small and large banks, eventually aiming to create the Bloomberg of analytics.

Likely Al: Jozef Marko and Lukas Ruttkay come to Birmingham from Slovakia after internships at Facebook and Google, respectively. They aim to create an algorithm that would tell you which image of a given set would resonate the most with an audience.

MetalView: Founder Andrew Wingard aims to create a marketplace between metal industry buyers and suppliers. The marketplace will allow buyers to easily access suppliers' inventories and quickly get a quote.

"This class includes companies in all sectors - from finance to health to beauty to marketing, but each of them has great potential," Schmidt said in a press release. "We hope that Velocity, and the support from the Birmingham community that we've already started to receive, will help them reach their potential much faster than they would on their own."

The Velocity Accelerator from Innovation Depot on Vimeo.

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