How Alabama is leading the global energy technology revolution

How Alabama is leading the global energy technology revolution
The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator graduated its second cohort Tuesday night. (Billy Brown / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama strengthened its reputation Tuesday as the global hub of energy technology innovation when nine startups revealed their growth plans during Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator‘s Demo Day 2021.

The startups pitched their strategies at the conclusion of a 13-week cohort in Birmingham. Nate Schmidt, managing director of Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, says he’s proud of this class.

“They’ve been the best,” Schmidt said. “This class is the most cohesive class I could imagine. They all seem to be best friends. They work hard. They play hard. They’ve given us everything we could have ever wanted at Techstars.”

How Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is growing Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The startups arrived in Birmingham 13 weeks ago from across the U.S. and Canada, invited to diligently develop their companies with help from more than 120 corporate and community mentors across the state, including entrepreneurs Shegun Otulana and Jim Cavale and chef Chris Hastings.

“They’ve been exposed to our Southern hospitality – our region, our culture – everything we have to offer,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Every single one of them, regardless of where their success story takes them, will get to share that their journey started in Birmingham.”

[RELATED: Read profiles of the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator’s Class of 2021: HData, Noteworthy AI, Accelerate Wind, Flux Hybrids, Khepra, Sustaio, Moduly, Sunairio and Birdstop.]
The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is the only Techstars accelerator in the United States focused on energy. Through its corporate accelerators, Techstars develops partnerships with corporations to add industry expertise through mentorships, business development opportunities and access to resources. Alabama Power is Techstars’ first electric utility partner.

“In the energy and technology space, this is a great new frontier,” said Tony Smoke, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of Marketing and Economic Development. “We’ve got a lot of opportunities with our universities and with our existing industries partnering together to use this technology to our advantage. It gives us the opportunity to stay in the game.”

The Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator has been one of the most successful in the history of Techstars, having raised more than $30 million in capital for the first class in 2019. Out of that first class, four companies are now raising seed-series B funding and four companies have committed to maintaining a presence in Alabama.

“It really speaks well of the trajectory of innovation and entrepreneurship in our state and in this particular Birmingham region,” said Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We’re at a collision point of technology, energy and advanced manufacturing, all coming together in one important moment. To have Techstars pulling together this class is all a sign post that the state of Alabama is going to continue to take a leadership role as it relates to innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. For economic development, which is a big part of what we do at the Department of Commerce, this is the future in which we’re headed.”

The accelerator is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), the Alabama Department of Commerce, Altec, PowerSouth, the University of Alabama and Southern Research. The companies invited to participate in the accelerator specialize in technologies and business models to enhance the future of energy, including artificial intelligence (AI) for the power grid, renewable energy, consumer sustainability and weather prediction.

“I have never felt so supported before as an entrepreneur or as a founder,” said HData founder and CEO Hudson Hollister. “The accelerator put me together with colleagues who are in the same stage, have the same challenges, the same insecurities and the same passion in other directions in energy as I do. Because of that companionship and camaraderie, we’ve been able to work much faster and become much more effective than we ever could operating on our own.”

[RELATED: HData announces business intelligence partnership with Alabama Power, relocation to Birmingham]
Of the nine companies, seven teams plan to move to or maintain a presence in Birmingham. Both Moduly, originally based in Montreal, and HData, originally based in Joliet, Illinois, are moving to the Magic City. Five companies — Accelerate Wind, Birdstop, Flux Hybrids, Khepra and Noteworthy AI — will maintain a presence in Birmingham to conduct pilots, create second offices or plan for expansion.

For more information about the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, visit techstars.com/accelerators/alabama-power.

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