Auburn to host Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition

Local entrepreneurs who have a great product or service to share with the public are in luck: Alabama Launchpad has chosen Auburn as the home of its second regional competition for startups.

The competition, slated to begin this fall, is a result of a partnership among Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the city of Auburn, Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert School of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, according to a press release from the EDPA.

Alabama Launchpad, an EDPA program, helps startup companies grow and stay in the state.

“ Over the life of Launchpad, we’ve invested a little over $3 million,” Angela Wier, EDPA vice president, said. “Those companies have created 500 jobs in the state and generated $52 million. It’s a way to diversify and bring jobs for the future.”

Businesses who participate in the Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad will compete for a share of up to $100,000 from EDPA. They must fill out an application and provide Alabama Launchpad with a video pitch to qualify for the process, Wier said. She said a team from the EDPA is reviewing the entire competition process and is scheduled to finalize the requirements and schedule in Auburn on Monday.

Although Wier described the financial investment as “a carrot” for people trying to launch a product, competitors benefit from the program’s mentorship as they learn how to woo investors.

“ Think of a funnel that’s wide at the top,” Wier said of the Launchpad competition. “There’s a cut at every stage. Really early stage companies, especially ones who are led by the inventor, who knows the technical part but not the business part, they might need help pitching to investors.”

She described the Launchpad as “a virtual incubation of the companies” and said that startups receive written feedback from the judges after each round of competition they’re in, regardless of whether they advance to the next round.

The EDPA started Alabama Launchpad in 2006 and saw its first regional competition in Muscle Shoals a decade later. Five companies earned a slice of the $97,000 available in the Shoals Alabama Launchpad finale.

“ The Shoals … came to us,” Wier said. “They had been running an idea competition. They had an interest, and it was just good timing because we were already thinking about creating a regional Alabama Launchpad.”

Regional winners qualify to participate in the statewide Alabama Launchpad program, according to the EDPA press release.

After the success of the Shoals pilot program, the EDPA in February invited communities to apply to be a region for a local competition. Auburn was the first community to complete the application process, Wier said.

“ We are fortunate to partner with Alabama Launchpad,” Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. said in the press release. “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.”

Startups from five East Alabama counties — Lee, Chambers, Macon, Tallapoosa and Russell — are allowed to participate.

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