Four Birmingham entrepreneurs gave advice on how to fundraise to a packed house at Innovation Depot last week.
Keith Kakadia, CEO of Socially.In, a social media marketing company, Weida Tan, founder and CEO of Fledging, a tech company that makes storage devices, Ross Wesson, founder and CEO of Deft Dynamics, which invents and commercializes new technologies, and Gary York, CEO of Help Lightning, a problem-solving app that merges reality and virtual interactive presence, answered questions from Ty West, editor of the Birmingham Business Journal, on topics ranging from the fundraising environment in Birmingham to what they would do differently.
The Investors Roundtable was hosted by the Birmingham Business Alliance in partnership with the BBJ and Innovation Depot. The event was part of a series focused on different topics in the Birmingham startup community, with this roundtable zeroing in on small businesses that have recently raised money through various platforms.
The panel delved into resources in Birmingham like the Alabama Capital Network, the Alabama Futures Fund and pitch competitions and trends of Birmingham investors. Multiple panelists stated they moved to Birmingham from various locations because of the myriad of resources offered here, including Wesson, who moved from New York City to start Deft Dynamics.
“We made that decision consciously,” Wesson said. “Birmingham is the perfect sized city. The cost of living and quality of life – selling that makes people relocate here.”
Kakadia relocated from Starkville, Miss., a year and a half ago, he said, and has grown Socially.In from seven employees to 15 in that timeframe.
“Thanks to companies like Shipt, investors see that something is happening here in Birmingham,” Kakadia said. “They’re saying ‘let’s take a closer look.’”
Tan pointed to groups like the Birmingham Business Alliance and the Small Business Development Center as important allies in his company’s growth.
The panelists agreed that access to capital definitely exists in Birmingham, and that networking is key to establishing relationships that can help business boom.
And York said in the Bay Area he felt like a small fish in a big pond, whereas in Birmingham it is reversed.
“We’re not just talking about it [in Birmingham],” Kakadia said. “We’re doing it.”
The Investors Roundtable is part of the Birmingham Business Alliance’s Pitch Clinics, held every other Friday at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The clinics help local startups get “investor ready.” For more information about participating in the Pitch Clinics, contact Virginia McGarry at the BBA.