The 2017 Innovation Week Birmingham is kicking off in just three weeks – August 18 through August 25 – and leading up to the week the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) is highlighting the partners and sponsors that will help make Innovation Week Birmingham a premiere event in our region.
Innovation Depot, has been a proud partner of Innovation Week since it began four years ago, and has an invaluable impact on the Magic City. Devon Laney spoke with the BBA about the significance of Innovation Week and how Innovation Depot is helping boost technology advancement in Birmingham.
BBA: How does your organization promote innovation in Birmingham?
Laney: Innovation Depot is a 140,000-square-foot 501(c)3 startup incubator that is the hub for startups and technology in our Birmingham region. Operating in partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), it gives entrepreneurs a competitive advantage in obtaining the resources they need to succeed. Since 1987, Innovation Depot has worked to grow economic impact and job creation in the region by supporting the development and growth of emerging technology, business service, biotechnology and life science businesses. Innovation Depot has worked to strengthen public and private partnerships throughout the State, expanding reach to entrepreneurs and high-growth startup companies in the region. Innovation Depot has steadily grown its program. In 2016, 102 member companies produced 870 jobs, and raised $19.3 million. The five-year economic impact of Innovation Depot on the region is $1.42 billion. In 2015, Innovation Depot was a major contributor to Birmingham’s designation as a White House TechHire city; in 2016, Innovation Depot received global recognition as “Most Innovative Incubator” by the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA); and in 2017, Innovation Depot helped to secure the $6 million America’s Promise Innovate Birmingham workforce grant to train 925 youth for technology jobs. Below is a synopsis of Innovation Depot programs:
- Depot/U is the collective name representing all of Innovation Depot’s educational programs – which currently include Covalence and Generation IT. All of the Depot/U programs, including Covalence and Generation IT, are part of the Innovate Birmingham workforce development roadmap to training 925 opportunity youth for technology jobs in Birmingham.
- Covalence Software Developer Bootcamp – Covalence is a 10 week fully immersive software developer bootcamp. The program maintains a 91 percent hire rate, and on average 41 percent of graduates experience salary increases post-program.
- Generation IT – Generation is a youth employment program that recruits, trains and places young people in jobs. It is a product of McKinsey Social Initiative, and has quickly become the world’s largest and fastest-scaling, demand-driven youth employment organization. Generation IT is the help-desk technician training program, and it is conducted at Innovation Depot as part of the Innovate Birmingham programming.
- I Am Bham – I Am Bham is a program of Covalence that is part of Innovate Birmingham and which is conducted at Innovation Depot. The program is a 14-week software developer bootcamp with curriculum that incorporates substantial soft skills training.
- Velocity Accelerator – Velocity is Alabama’s first, full-time, premier seed accelerator program. Each year, up to ten high growth potential technology startups are selected from an international pool of applicants for the twelve-week, fully immersive program. Velocity is funded by an economic development venture philanthropy fund (Velocity Fund) that is backed by a large number of community partners in the Birmingham region. Regions Bank, Alabama Power, BBVA Compass, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Protective Life Corporation, UAB, McWane Inc. and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham have contributed to the Velocity Fund and continue to be involved in the program. Velocity companies receive $50,000 for 6 percent equity by the Velocity Fund upon entering the program and receive access to $800 thousand in perks through Innovation Depot’s membership in the Global Accelerator Network (GAN). Throughout the program’s intensive 12-week period, Velocity teams are paired with successful startup founders and entrepreneurs who serve as mentors throughout the program in order to accelerate their commercial progress. The program hopes to see about a year’s worth of progress in these three months, culminating in Demo Day, an event celebrating the graduation of the cohort and introducing the entrepreneurs to a wide network of potential investors and customers.
- Ignite Co-working – Ignite co-working offers entrepreneurs a month-to-month flex option for space and access to the community of Innovation Depot.
Innovation Depot gives its entrepreneurs an advantage through flexible, scalable space, all-inclusive infrastructure, mentoring and training, and by surrounding them with easy and quick access to a number of resource organizations that support their growth. TechBirmingham, Birmingham Venture Club, the Birmingham Business Resource Center, the Alabama Small Business Development Center (ASBDC), UAB iLab, the Alabama Capital Network and the Angel Investment Management Group (AIM) are some of the organizations located and serving entrepreneurs inside of Innovation Depot. In addition to organizational resources, Innovation Depot is home to programs that provide an enhanced layer of support: the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups program, Women Who Code – Birmingham Chapter, Code for Birmingham, and StartupGrind Birmingham. The Women Who Code and StartupGrind programs are local chapters of Google for Entrepreneurs programs.
BBA: What aspects do you feel make Birmingham an innovative city?
Laney: Despite the saturation of venture capital in California, the rise of Innovation Districts – areas where clusters of education providers, incubators, startups and accelerators – is helping to fuel entrepreneurship in non-traditional technology ecosystems like Birmingham. Most recently in Birmingham, a conglomerate of public and private leaders in the Birmingham region are collaborating and have aligned resources to form Innovate Birmingham, which is a focused effort to build Birmingham’s innovation district (classified as an anchor-plus model) by assembling the workforce, infrastructure and access to seed capital needed for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive in the region. UAB has recently invested substantially into Birmingham’s Innovation District infrastructure through their commitment to extending fiber into Innovation Depot and throughout the entire Innovation District long term.
BBA: Why is it important to have a week that highlights innovation in Birmingham?
Laney: A week highlighting innovation in the city will help foster the growth of Birmingham’s innovation ecosystem.
Be sure to check out the 2017 Innovation Week calendar and don’t miss the Innovation Week Birmingham Ribbon Cutting and Birmingham Education Foundation + EAB Database Hack-A-Thon at Innovation Depot August 18 and August 23.