BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 21, 2023) - Two startup companies competed in a field of nine finalists to earn a combined $75,000 in non-dilutive funding in the Alabama Launchpad Cycle 1 2023 Finale. Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), partnered with Innovate Alabama, to host the finale at The EDGE on Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Domestique Coffee claimed $50,000, winning the early-seed stage competition. Domestique, founded by brothers Nathan and Michael Pocus in 2014, is a coffee, hospitality and lifestyle brand with specialty coffee at several brick-and-mortar locations as well as through wholesale offerings.
“Winning Launchpad will allow us to finalize our mobile user app that we’ve been developing, and it’s going to take our business to the next level,” said Nathan Pocus. “Now, we’re going to be able to really unify all of our sales channels into one, easy-to-use mobile user app and start to fulfill our customer’s needs of easy access to high quality coffee.”
“Even if we hadn’t won this time, the connections we’ve made and the program that EDPA has put together has really been valuable for us. This is our third time participating, and so the first two times we were finalists who didn’t win. It’s been well worth the effort, and perseverance is key,” he said.
Cahaba Fire Company, LLC, founded by Ryan King and Ben Horton, won the concept stage prize of $25,000. The company develops innovative products for fire departments and first responders in order to expand first responders’ capabilities to get the job done more safely, quickly and reliably.
“I believe this win is going to launch us off the Launchpad,” King said. “The advisors, the whole process – it was amazing. We are so much further, just by working alongside our Launch Advisors alone, than we thought we would be. It was a success before we won, and this $25,000 is icing on the cake. It will boost us right where we need to be with production.”
Each finalist company received intensive mentorship, through both one-on-one and group session training with Launch Advisors, to prepare for the finale judging panels.
The early-seed stage companies were evaluated by three judges: Dr. Patrick J. Murphy, Goodrich Chair and Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Will Wright, Head of Innovation at Protective Life and Founding Partner at Wright Strategies, LLC; Gordon G. Martin, Retired Senior Vice President of Corporate and Administrative Services at Alabama Power Company.
“It’s always fun to get out of your normal, daily routine and see some of the cool, new ideas that are happening around Alabama,” said Wright. “It’s also a pleasure to give back and help folks who are going through the Launchpad journey.”
The concept stage competition included a panel of three judges: Amelia (Amy) Degenkolb, CEO and Co-Founder at Novocuff; Charles Jackson, Innovation Project Manager at Alabama Power Company; Jonathan E. Smith, CPA, Founder and Owner of B.A.T. Solutions LLC.
“The work of EDPA’s Alabama Launchpad is so important, creating access to funds that early startups may not have otherwise had and also maximizing opportunity for mentorship,” Jackson said. “The several weeks’ worth of mentorship is more vital than any funding that may happen or occur because it’s a ‘win’ for every company - even those who do not walk away with the award at the end of the pitch competition. .”
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 has now funded 114 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 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.
Alabama Launchpad’s Cycle 1 2023 finalists were able to deliver presentations in-person, while the competition also streamed live online. To view the recorded finale, please visit alabamalaunchpad.com.
The Alabama Launchpad Cycle 2 2023 applications are now open, and the deadline to apply is May 15, 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 114 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.