Updated Alabama Launchpad competition spotlights entrepreneurs

Alabama’s entrepreneurs have a growing list of opportunities to showcase their innovative ideas. The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama is expanding its successful startup competition, and the newest site is Auburn.

EDPA is partnering with the city of Auburn, Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation to bring a regional Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition to the greater Auburn area.

Like the statewide program, which has pumped millions of dollars into companies across Alabama, the regional competition will offer local entrepreneurs the chance to compete for funding and receive valuable mentoring.

“We are fortunate to partner with Alabama Launchpad,” Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. said. “Alabama Launchpad has become the go-to resource for entrepreneurship in the state. And with the expertise at Auburn University, the program will contribute significantly to entrepreneurship development in the Auburn region.”

Alabama Launchpad expanded with a startup competition in the Shoals area. (Abraham Rowe/Alabama Launchpad)

Regional competitions

This is the second regional program for Alabama Launchpad. Last year, EDPA launched its first regional pilot program with the Shoals Alabama Launchpad, in which five companies were awarded a share of $97,000 in the competition finale.

“Just like in the Shoals, this partnership will give Auburn regional companies access to funding, resources and mentoring to help them start, stay and grow in Alabama,” EDPA Vice President Angela Wier said.

Winners from the Alabama Launchpad regional can also compete in Alabama Launchpad.

The Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad will begin in the fall, with startups competing for a share of up to $100,000. Startups from five East Alabama counties — Chambers, Lee, Macon, Russell and Tallapoosa — are eligible to participate.

Alabama Launchpad has invested more than $4 million in startups since the program’s inception. (Contributed)

Launchpad impact

Alabama Launchpad, a program started by EDPA in 2006, invests in the development of early-stage startups and spotlights innovative new companies. The companies go through a rigorous application process, which includes a video pitch and a business plan. Judges then select the startups to make live pitches and also choose the winners to share the funding.

Since its launch in 2006, the program has invested $4 million in companies that have created more than 500 jobs and gone on to raise $50 million in follow-on funding.

As it is expanding into regional competitions, EDPA also is making improvements to the original statewide competition.

Upgrades include a more efficient application process that will now judge entrants along two tracks: concept-stage entrepreneurs launching businesses and seed-stage businesses accelerating growth.

The competition also will have a shorter, two-month schedule compared to five months in the past. And only the best concept-business and seed-stage business will win cash prizes, although every entrant will receive valuable feedback and exposure to capital providers in the state.

“Alabama Launchpad has generated a lot of jobs and capital investments from 11 years of running the startup competition, but there is also room for improvement,” EDPA President Steve Spencer said.

“Based on many lessons learned, we are making significant upgrades. This step change should make the competition more aligned with the goals and needs of entrepreneurs and produce more fundable companies for the capital providers in the state.”

Participants have until Sept. 14 to apply for the latest round of the statewide competition.

Steve Spencer leads the EDPA, the organizer of the Alabama Launchpad competition and a key player in the state’s economic development efforts. (Contributed)

‘Imerge’ event

In another event that supports entrepreneurs across the state, EDPA will host the 2017 “imerge” event on Aug. 23 at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham.


Thomas Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman is the keynote speaker for the event. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times and author of six best-selling books, including “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.”

Friedman says innovation is coming faster than the ability of most people to keep up, an assertion from his latest book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration.”

“We are excited to have Mr. Friedman as our keynote speaker as we celebrate Alabama’s rich history and contemplate our bright future in innovation-based economic development,” Spencer said. “His observations on innovation and his worldview will drive discussion on handling the rapidly accelerating advances occurring in our economy.”

Also on the agenda for “imerge” are EDPA’s 2017 Innovation Awards. This year’s recipients include Jim Hudson, co-founder of Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

For six years, EDPA has held an annual conference to spotlight entrepreneurs and innovation in the state, and “imerge” represents a rebrand for that event.

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster. Click here for more information.

Empowering startups

Meanwhile, the partners involved in the new regional startup competition in Auburn are excited about its potential.

“The Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad will establish Auburn and the university as places of support for entrepreneurs,” said Bill Hardgrave, dean of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business.

The college already supports entrepreneurs with several programs, including Tiger Cage, which offers an annual competition for student startups.

“Our partnership with the city of Auburn on the Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad Competition is an excellent example of how we can empower a program that results in positive economic development in Alabama,” said Auburn Research and Technology Foundation Director Larry Fillmer.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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