BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Aug. 18, 2023) - Two startup companies competed in a field of 11 finalists to earn a combined $75,000 in non-dilutive funding in the Alabama Launchpad Cycle 2 2023 Finale. Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), partnered with Innovate Alabama to host the finale at The Park at Auburn University on Thursday, August 17, 2023.
CROUX, founded by Jennifer Ryan and four co-founders, claimed $50,000, winning the early-seed stage competition. CROUX, a former Alabama Launchpad concept stage winner, connects high-quality talent with flexible work opportunities in the hospitality industry. Formed by founders from the restaurant and hospitality space, CROUX leans on the idea that the future of the industry starts with better treatment of its people. Through flexible work, benefits, and fast payment, it is serving those who serve.
“Hospitality was born here in the south,” Ryan said. “We want Alabama to be a place where it’s revitalized. Alabama Launchpad has allowed us to build CROUX to, in-turn, rebuild the hospitality industry. We’ve filled nearly 6000 shifts in the last 12 months and put about three quarters of a million dollars into the hands of hourly workers. Tourism and hospitality drive a big chunk of our economy, and we have to get it right. We bring the war stories and the understanding; it’s personal for us to get this right.”
VivoSphere, LLC, co-founded by Dr. Yuan Tian and Dr. Elizabeth Lipke, won the concept stage prize of $25,000. The company creates more human-like tissue for more human-like drug response, reducing false positive drug candidates at early stages to avoid costly failure during clinical stage. Vivosphere was born out of research conducted at Auburn University by Dr. Tian, a postdoctoral researcher, with Dr. Lipke as his advisor.
“It took a lot of hard work to get to this day,” Tian said. “It’s certainly an encouragement for us to go forward, especially in the state we call home.”
Each finalist company received two months of intensive mentorship, through both one-on-one and group session training with startup founders and business experts, to prepare for the finale judging panels.
The early-seed stage companies were evaluated by three judges: Ellen Holladay, Independent Board Director and former CIO for Motion Industries; Richard Nelli, Executive in Residence at ATDC; and Isaac M. Cooper, CDAA, CEO/Managing Partner at IMC Financial Consulting, LLC.
“Judging the seed stage competition for Alabama Launchpad has been an incredible experience,” said Holladay. “The quality of presentations reflected the thoughtful approach that each founder has taken to develop a marketable solution to address a real problem, while providing a positive impact to our local economy.”
The concept stage competition included a panel of three judges: C. Vivek Lal, MD, FAAP, Founder, Executive Chairman & CSO at Alveolus Bio; John Walker, Co-Founder of The Osprey Group; and Avanti Paul, former COO of Southern Research.
“The pitch competition unveiled an extraordinary reservoir of talent, offering a glimpse into the immensely promising entrepreneurial future of Alabama,” said Lal.
Alabama Launchpad has now funded 115 Alabama startups since its inception in 2006. Over the past 16 years, Alabama Launchpad has awarded over $6 million in non-dilutive funding to the winning companies, which today have an estimated combined post-money valuation of more than $1 billion and employ more than 1,300 people.
Alabama Launchpad is conducted in partnership with Innovate Alabama, which implements programs and policies that support Alabama’s innovation ecosystem. Through these efforts, Innovate Alabama empowers entrepreneurs, business owners and students to build a business, a career and a life in Alabama.
Alabama Launchpad is also funded in part by grants from the Alabama Department of Commerce and Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), as well as private foundations like Truist, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s Caring Foundation and Wells Fargo.
The Alabama Launchpad program has funded growing companies like TaxxWiz, CHONEX, Vulcan Line Tools, Immediate and more by offering non-dilutive prize money for its pitch competition. The EDPA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports business recruitment and expansion efforts in Alabama and promotes innovative and emerging startup companies through its Alabama Launchpad program.
The Alabama Launchpad Cycle 3 2023 applications are now open, and the deadline to apply is Sept. 7, at 5 p.m. To learn more, please click here.
About Alabama Launchpad
Established in 2006, Alabama Launchpad is Alabama’s most active, early-stage seed fund investor, driving innovation and job growth through startup competitions and ongoing mentoring for Alabama entrepreneurs. Alabama Launchpad is made possible by the generous support from Innovate Alabama, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Commerce, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Caring Foundation, Truist Bank, The University of Alabama, Auburn University, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Daniel Corporation Foundation. It is the state’s longest running business plan and pitch competition. Over the past 16 years, Alabama Launchpad has invested over $6 million into 116 Alabama startups. The winning startup companies have generated over 1,300 jobs for the state and have a combined post-money valuation of over $1 billion.
About Innovate Alabama
Innovate Alabama is Alabama’s first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation with a mission to help innovators grow roots here in Alabama. Innovate Alabama was established to implement the initiatives and recommendations set forth in the Alabama Innovation Commission’s report, including smart policy solutions that will create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy to remain competitive in a 21st-century world. With founding CEO Cynthia Crutchfield leading the charge, Innovate Alabama is also made up of a board of 11 innovation leaders appointed by Gov. Ivey, collaborating across sectors to advance industries, drive technology and facilitate an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive. Learn more about Innovate Alabama at www.innovatealabama.org.