Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Birmingham, AL

Birmingham

Nicknamed the “Pittsburgh of the South,” Birmingham continues to be home to a number of well-known companies, especially those involved in steel or iron production such as McWane or O’Neal Steel.

Birmingham, AL is the most populous city in the state as well as one of its primary economic centers. As a major iron and steel production hub in the post-Civil War era, the city earned the nickname “Pittsburgh of the South.” Birmingham continues to be home to a number of well-known companies, especially those involved in steel or iron production – companies such as McWane or O’Neal Steel.

The city is also a friendly place for new ventures, however, ranking 84th in WalletHub’s 2018 rankings of the best large cities to start a business, including top-25 rankings in both the “access to resources” and “business costs” categories. Additionally, the same website had the Birmingham metropolitan area ranked as the 90th-best for STEM professionals. Finally, Business.org ranked the city 71st on their list of the best cities for women to start a business.

Based on these rankings, Launchopedia has reviewed the resources that make up Birmingham’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Investor’s Business Daily hosts monthly meetups to support people interested in investment.

As opposed to most meetups, this is a low-stress networking group for entrepreneurs to meet one another in social situations rather than business ones.

BNI HH 150 is a serious business referral group that meets every week to help its members share referrals, grow their businesses, and beat their competition.

iRefer Business Networking holds regular meetings and events in several locations around the city.

Every Wednesday morning, Success Builders organizes and hosts a networking event in which people can make connections and share referrals.

 

Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Held annually, Birmingham Innovation Week is a collection of events, mostly free, to celebrate and support area entrepreneurship.

Held during the Birmingham Innovation Week in 2018, imerge is a day-long conference celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship.

Hosted annually at Samford University, the Lion’s Den is a conference and professional summit with several events designed to support entrepreneurs.

Hosted by the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, the MAX Diverse Business Expo is an annual conference supporting entrepreneurship and small business.

 

Startup Competitions:

Alabama Launchpad hosts a startup competition in which entrepreneurs can compete for either $50,000 in the concept track or $100,000 in the seed track.

Hosted by REV Birmingham, the Big Pitch competition is primarily intended for retail, restaurant, art or neighborhood service companies to increase foot traffic in Birmingham.

The main event of the annual Lion’s Den event is a Shark Tank-style pitch competition between four entrepreneurs in front of a large audience and panel of investors.

Students at Samford University can take part in the school’s Regions New Venture Competition for a chance to win some of the $15,000 in cash prizes available to the top three competitors.

Held annually, Spark Match is a competition in which entrepreneurs pitch their startups to a crowd that will decide who wins the $10,000 prize.

 

Co-working Spaces:

A dedicated co-working space in downtown Birmingham, Forge offers a number of membership options and amenities to best meet its members’ needs.

In addition to co-working space and conference rooms and event space available for rent, The Hub’s amenities include putt-putt and a bocce court.

The second floor of the MAKEbhm maker space offers open desk space for drop-in members as well as office space available and conference room rental options.

 

Maker spaces:

MAKEbhm provides a number of different studio spaces and equipment to give people the opportunity to make things that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

In addition to providing a wide variety of tools and equipment, Red Mountain Makers emphasizes education by hosting a number of classes and workshops.

Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have the opportunity to use the school’s maker space, located at the Sterne Library.

In the Vestavia Hills suburb of Birmingham, the public library includes a small maker space with 3D printing and a computer lab, with plans to include much more.

 

Incubators:

In addition to its startup competition and hosting the imerge conference, Alabama Launchpad helps grow small businesses by hosting events and connecting entrepreneurs with mentors.

The Annex is a culinary incubator, providing commercial kitchen space to food-based startups in need of it.

Innovation Depot’s largest program, the Elevate Incubator helps grow and support innovative technology startups in the Birmingham area.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham works with the Innovation Depot to run the Innovation Lab, which supports student entrepreneurship at UAB.

 

Accelerators:

Organized and hosted by Innovation Depot, the Velocity Accelerator is a 13-week program for high-growth technology product companies.

Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Alabama at Birmingham can participate in the school’s Commercial Accelerator, which helps grow their startups.

 

Colleges/Universities:

Students interested in entrepreneurship can join Birmingham Southern College’s Entrepreneurship Scholars Program.

Samford University offers both a major and minor in entrepreneurship and organizes other resources for entrepreneurial-minded students.

UAB offers a number of entrepreneurial resources outside of the classroom as well as courses, a minor, and graduate certificate in entrepreneurship.

 

Angel Groups/VCs:

Bonaventure Capital provides growth equity funding to innovative technology companies and provides several services after investment.

Fidelis Capital makes both minority and change of control equity investments in promising companies. They focus on those located in the Southern United States.

New Capital Partners is a private equity firm that partners with high-growth companies in several industries.

Redmont Capital is a small private debt firm that invests in Southwest Texas and Southeastern United States companies in a variety of sectors.

 

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

AL.com offers a number of newsletters, including one with business headlines and news from around the state.

The Birmingham Business Journal offers newsletters covering business and entrepreneurship news from around the Birmingham area.

Readers can subscribe to Business Alabama’s e-mail newsletters, with area- and topic-specific newsletters available.

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Birmingham not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

New Orleans, LASavannah, GABaton Rouge, LA


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at Funding$age where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.