March 23, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Birmingham's Innovation Depot Incubator Posts Best Progress Report Ever

 By M
innovation depot.JPGInnovation Depot is home to 84 companies with 460 employees. (The Birmingham News/Hal Yeager)

BIRMINGHAM -- In a year when it launched a $1 million expansion and was named the nation's best technology incubator, Innovation Depot's real success stories were those of its 84 tenant companies.

"We had our best year ever in 2011," Susan Matlock, chief executive of Innovation Depot, said in an interview Thursday. "Our technology and IT companies closed more deals, and our biotech companies started getting more deals."

The business incubator is releasing its annual progress report today. It reveals that in 2011, Innovation Depot had 131 applicants for services, took on 19 new clients and graduated 10 companies. It ended the year with 83 companies with 450 employees, but has added one more company this year and employment now stands at 460.

According to the progress report, Innovation Depot companies posted $152 million in sales, giving them a sales impact of $294 million -- both record figures. Over the last four years, tenant companies at the incubator had an economic impact of $1.06 billion.

Even though it's called an incubator, Matlock said the companies at Innovation Depot are not completely green upstarts. Most of them have some level of business savvy and all of them have vetted business plans.

For instance, more than half of the Birmingham Venture Club's 2011 Entrepreneur Accelerator Program class was Innovation Depot tenants.

"Most of the people here have started or even sold companies before," she said, noting that companies come in with varying levels of sophistication and each with different needs of support from the incubator.

With that nurturing, companies were able to make strides during the year, to include:

• Vaxin won a $21.7 million contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for its advanced anthrax vaccine.

• ComplyMD secured $1.1 million in venture funding and expanded services to more than 70 hospitals across the country.

• Vista Engineering won a $750,000 phase two grant to further develop diamond coatings for biomedical implants.

• New tenant Deal Co-Op completed the TechStars program in Seattle and raised $500,000 in venture capital.

• Agenta Biotech won a $150,000 National Institutes of Health grant for work on molecular strategies to generate new bone using only DNA.

• 2B Solutions' 2B Inventory mobile point-of-sale product was used by Westminster Abbey, Historic Scotland, the Dallas Cowboys and others.

• FreeTextbooks.com grew to over 8,000 customers across 100 universities.

• Atlas RFID Solution's MVP product was used by Bechtel, Westinghouse, Shaw, Kiewit, Southern Co., Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Northrop Grumman and Sealed Air.

Throughout the year, Innovation Depot offered programs and assistance to foster growth and collaboration among the companies there.

Meanwhile, the incubator launched and has since completed a $1 million expansion and added 27,000 square feet to its facility at 1500 First Ave. North. At 140,000 square feet, Matlock said it is the largest business incubator in the Southeast.

It is now 75 percent occupied and should never be technically completely full.

"If you are 90 percent occupied, that's considered full occupancy for a business incubator because you always have to have move-around space," said Devon Laney, chief operating officer of Innovation Depot.

Several companies have had to move up to larger spaces in the last year with some needing to make multiple moves as growth came faster than expected, he said.

Innovation Depot is an economic development vehicle supported by UAB, the city of Birmingham, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and other foundations.

At a speech to the Rotary Club of Birmingham earlier this week, Brian Hilson, chief executive of the Birmingham Business Alliance, singled out Innovation Depot as one of the metro area's bright spots and noted it is critical to BBA's Blueprint Birmingham economic development plans to create and grow companies here from UAB and other entrepreneurial efforts.

Matlock said the incubator embraces its role in that plan.

"We very clearly fit into Blueprint Birmingham, and we share many of the same goals," she said.

Laney said Innovation Depot has established itself as a significant economic development engine for the entire metro area.

"There is an actual strategy in place for the region and it's focused on UAB and technology transfer," he said. "It's validation of what we've been doing and continue to do."

Another validation of Innovation Depot's work came at the National Business Incubation Association's international conference in San Jose, Calif., last year where it beat out 2,000 other incubators from the U.S. and 65 countries to win the "2011 Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year" award.

Matlock noted it is the incubation that makes for a great incubator.

"You don't win the award for the building, you win it for the programs," she said. "It's what we do and what these companies are able to do."



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