BIRMINGHAM, AL | August 27, 2020 – For years, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato has had a goal of diversifying the city’s economy to make it less retail-dependent and to grow the city’s technology sector.
A new business incubator in the office tower connected to the Riverchase Galleria shopping mall is a step toward that end.
The incubator, called HAILO Ventures, opened in The Offices at 3000 Riverchase in June and is focused on helping launch technology companies in the artificial intelligence, operations, logistics and cybersecurity sectors.
The incubator currently occupies about 10,000 square feet on the 15th floor of the tower and so far is home to four other startup companies.
CEO Selena Harrison said she likes to use an airplane analogy to explain the purpose of HAILO Ventures. The incubator’s job is to be a copilot and crew to help other companies get their plane down the runway, find their wings and take flight.
A lot of people have good ideas for companies but may lack the business expertise and the knowledge of how to market what they cando to the right people, Harrison said.
HAILO Ventures provides some physical office space to get started, entrepreneurial mentors to help guide them in the right direction and professional services to assist with things such as marketing, accounting, legal and personnel services.
The general premise is that once a company hires five employees, completes five quarters of operation or reaches $500,000 in revenues, they should be ready to find their own office space, move out and begin operations on their own, Harrison said.
However, HAILO will be somewhat flexible with that model, based on individual companies’ needs, she said.
At first, there was discussion among city officials about whether the city should fund an incubator.
Councilman Mike Shaw, who has a background in technology and chairs the council’s Technology and Telecom Committee, felt strongly that the incubator should be privately funded, so that’s the route they took.
Six private investors, some with extensive experience in startup and technology companies, agreed to put up the seed money for the incubator.
Mike Oakman, the chief operating officer and executive vice president for Healthgrades Marketplace (another company in The Offices at 3000 Riverchase), is one of those investors and co-chairman of the board of directors for HAILO Ventures.
Oakman, who has started numerous technology companies and positioned several companies for lucrative buyouts, said most startup companies in Silicon Valley do big fundraising campaigns and burn through a bunch of money, quickly buying expensive office space, furniture, equipment and toys.
That’s not the approach he and his fellow investors are taking as they look to advise startups here, he said.
“We are good at building companies, but we’re not focused on normal fundraisers,” he said.
They do want to help connect companies with potential investors, but the focus with HAILO Ventures is to give them the knowledge base and infrastructure they need to support growth and development, and he said he is extremely pleased with the progress made so far.
“I’d say there’s tremendous energy, excitement and edge,” Oakman said of the companies in the pipeline. “They are so excited.”
HOOVER RIPEFOR TECH INDUSTRY
Harrison said Hoover is ripe for such a technology push. There already are a solid, but lesser-known group of technology companies in the city, and the amenities that Hoover has to offer make it a great place for people in that industry to settle, she said.
Harrison’s background is in marketing. She spent about eight years in the banking industry and then a few years with SourceMed, a spinoff of HealthSouth that makes software for ambulatory surgery centers and physical therapy offices. She also did freelance marketing and consulting as she balanced work with being the mother of two children.
She’s thrilled with the new challenge at HAILO Ventures. “I really enjoy teaching and helping people meet their career goals,”she said.
The HAILO Ventures office has a very open floor plan, with a lot of co-working space, some single offices, three conference rooms, a boardroom, a training room that can hold about 30 people, dining area and a small “Zen room.”
The four companies that are currently working with HAILO Ventures are:
► AiCentriX: an artificial intelligence company that helps business leaders use their data to improve operational efficiencies, streamline processes, gain competitive advantages and solve industry problems.
►Truecoders: a company that trains people how to be computer programmers to fill a void for such workers in the technology industry in Birmingham. Oakman helped create the company and moved it to HAILO Ventures from Data Office Park when training went virtual due to COVID-19.
► FinTech Advantage: a company that builds and integrates software for the banking and finance industry.
► Content Logistics: a marketing company that is the newest addition at HAILO Ventures.
HAILO Ventures was formally created in November. The original plan was to move into The Offices at 3000 Riverchase in January, but buildout delays and then COVID-19 delays pushed the move-in date to June, Harrison said.
All but AiCentriX have been physically working in the HAILO Ventures space. The leader for AiCentriX opted to work from home due to COVID-19, Harrison said.
HAILO Ventures actually has part ownership in AiCentriX. That is one way that companies can pay for the incubator’s services. Another option is to pay a set amount, Harrison said. It just depends on the company.
With the current amount of space, HAILO Ventures believes it can accommodate 10 to 15 companies in the incubator at a time, but right now, there is room in The Offices at 3000 Riverchase to expand if needed.
For more information about HAILO Ventures, go to hailo.ventures.
This article was written by Jon Anderson for hooversun.com. The original article can be found at the following website: