Welcome to our inaugural BHM BIZ Hot List, a collection of companies that are making a major impact on the Birmingham market and markets far beyond central Alabama. In putting together our Hot List, we focused on both young, technologically oriented companies as well as several venerable brands. On the pages that follow you will find the stories and the people behind these businesses.
With a history that stretches back to the post-World War II era and a future that promises product stretching away from the Southeast to other areas of the U.S., Milo’s Tea has moved into the realm of national beverage brand. Patricia Wallwork, granddaughter of company founders Bea and Milo Carlton, is leading the company. The family-owned company has added new products to its beverage lineup, a growing number of employees and additional space at its Bessemer facility.
Smart and customizable cloud solutions for customers have the communications provider Momentum Telecom moving with a lot of momentum from headquarters in Birmingham and offices in Kennesaw, Georgia, Lexington, Kentucky, Atlanta, Georgia, Cartersville, Georgia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Vancouver, Canada and Belarus in eastern Europe.
Founded in 2001 Momentum has grown organically and through mergers. In 2014, Momentum and IBBS, the top two providers of private label voice services and broadband management/OSS solutions, announced a merger between the two companies under the name Momentum Telecom. In 2015 Momentum completed a merger with award-winning, Philadelphia-based Unified Communications provider Alteva. Alteva was founded in 2002 and became a pioneer and one of the top providers in the Hosted VoIP industry.
Shipt launched in the summer of 2014 in Birmingham by founder and serial entrepreneur Bill Smith. Through a user-friendly app and a local network of reliable shoppers, Shipt connects members to fresh groceries and everyday essentials. Growth has been explosive, punctuated by a $20 million round of financing to expand the delivery service’s national footprint.
Now in over 35 cities and counting, Shipt works with vetted shoppers who are able to set their own schedules and is constantly aiming to improve member experiences through a newly developed rating system.
StrategyWise helps companies and governmental entities create value by capturing, analyzing, and applying data insights to drive policy formation, business process improvement, and game-changing innovations. Depending on client needs, the company can provide a bird’s eye view of your industry’s competitive environment or comb through marketing and business practices, all efforts designed to improve the bottom line. Diverse team members have backgrounds in entrepreneurship, business strategy, economics, finance, software and technology development, digital and traditional marketing, military intelligence, nonprofits, governmental affairs, healthcare, community building, international relations, international business, statistics, research, and data analysis. The company is immersed in the rollicking field of big data, bringing those insights into practical application.
Devon Laney, CEO of Innovation Depot, and the team of advisors, board members, and staff surrounding him have brought the business incubator significant success and centered the city’s blossoming start-up culture on the facility. Its Velocity Accelerator program has been a leading edge effort to fostering a tech-based entrepreneurial spirit in the city.
Their business is protecting your business. These technology risk management experts provide a turnkey disaster recovery solution that includes all the components you need to be as protected as possible. They serve a variety of industries in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and other coastal areas that are prone to natural disaster. The professionals at ThinkGard employ a fully managed approach to Disaster Recovery — including design, implementation, configuration, documentation, and ongoing management and testing. “What sets ThinkGard apart from other IT companies is that in terms of being a managed service provider (MSP), our sole focus is on business continuity and backup and disaster recovery. With our engineers having no other competing priorities, we can assure our customers that their backups will never take a back seat to any other IT functions,” says CEO Paul Franks.
Dr. Kathy Nugent
Managing Director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Nugent is a senior biotechnology executive with over 20 years of healthcare industry experience. Nugent also currently serves as the director and assistant professor of the Masters of Biotechnology program at UAB. Nugent specializes in providing senior counsel to companies focused on pharmaceutical discovery and development. Specifically, she provides strategic guidance in the areas of financial, scientific and regulatory communications, product launches and crisis management. Nugent also serves as president of the Biotechnology Association of Alabama.
Created by former Microsoft employees, Platypi is a full service design, web, and mobile development firm. The firm was instrumental in partnership with Innovation Depot in developing the local tech talent pool with Depot U., an affordable software-coding course. As a result, the Covalence Extended Bootcamp and Generation IT programs were launched as part of the recently awarded “America’s Promise” technology workforce grant. The continued success of the coding bootcamp in Birmingham, with both local and out of state participants, indicated a similar need for the program elsewhere. The first expansion will take place in the city of Chattanooga.
Board and leadership collaboration software was an opportunity that grew out of John Peinhardt’s recognition of an opportunity to enhance, streamline, and revolutionize board of director communications and processes. Ellen Glasgow is co-founder and vice president of sales for Directorpoint. Prior to Directorpoint, she served as a Management Consultant for Vantage Associates, Inc. Directorpoint LLC incorporated in 2012 with a vision of becoming the premier board of directors software and services company. By the summer of 2012, Directorpoint’s beta release, with its intuitive design and simple licensing structure, had garnered such high interest that the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees sought to partner with the company. Today Directorpoint is used by thousands globally and continues to invest heavily in maintaining its position as the world’s most intuitive and innovative board of directors’ software.
The rebirth of The Summit Club into City Club Birmingham was a full year in the making. “With this reinvention and new name, the club is starting its next chapter with a vibrant setting, unique culinary experiences and a host of new amenities and programming that really match the lifestyle of today’s private club member,” says Richard Davis, general manager of City Club Birmingham. Along with design changes, the biggest renovation has been to the dining facilities including Alloy, an upscale bar and lounge; the Touchdown Room, a private high-tech-enabled workspace where members can drop in and work; the new Multimedia Space with multiple large-screen TVs; and the new Element Dining Room with an innovative new menu.
It seems simple enough. Pack Health strives to help people overwhelmed by a diagnosis affordably access the right care and develop the self-management skills needed to improve their well being. A Pack Health kit is specific to a disease such as arthritis or diabetes and comes with educational materials that help manage the disease. Pack Health then regularly calls the patients throughout a 12-week period to answer any questions or give them advice.
A consulting firm for the medical industry, ConcertCare is in business to restore the link between quality patient care and provider profitability. By streamlining and automating the painstaking, often redundant, tasks involved in practice management, the company helps medical professionals regain their focus on ensuring the best possible patient outcomes.
FreeTextbooks saves college students 50 percent on their textbooks every year utilizing a nationwide team of student entrepreneurs who buy and sell textbooks from other students using the company’s app and earning commission along the way. The company has about 1,000 reps on more than 90 campuses. In 2014, the company was recently selected as one of 11 applicants out of 1,500 to work with the prestigious Techstars program in Austin, Texas.
Southern Research Institute
Southern Research is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with nearly 500 scientists and engineers working across four divisions: Drug Discovery, Drug Development, Engineering, and Energy & Environment. SRI is developing 18 drugs to combat various forms of cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s and tuberculosis, among others, and has developed 20 other drugs, including seven FDA-approved cancer drugs—a number rivaling any other U.S. research institute. SRI, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary, works on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, hospitals, major aerospace firms, utility companies, and other private and government organizations to solve the world’s hardest problems. Southern Research is headquartered in Birmingham, with additional laboratories and offices in Wilsonville, Alabama; Frederick, Maryland; Durham, North Carolina; Houston, Texas; and Cartersville, Georgia. The research institute was established in 1941.
The Birmingham company Prepaid Technologies, capitalizing on nearly two decades of steady growth and innovation in financial technology, received a $5 million venture capital investment from Florida-based Ballast Point Ventures. The investment came just months after Prepaid teamed up with Visa to provide wearable tech payment rings at the summer Olympics. Though Prepaid believes wearable tech is an industry worth exploring—the company is working on another project with MasterCard and U.S. Youth Soccer—the company’s bread-and-butter remains in electronic payments options like payroll cards, prefunded purchasing cards and incentive programs. The company was founded in 1998 by Thomas McCulley.
BPV’s investment will allow Prepaid to strengthen their IT capacity, says Prepaid President Stephen Faust, streamlining and automating internal process flows to allow staff to work more on client satisfaction and developing product. Prepaid will also add staff and develop their marketing arm. Faust joined the company in 2008 and began building out their suite of services and technology. The company was expanding around 20 percent annually, Faust says, when McCulley handed over the reins to Faust, who happens to be his son-in-law. Though McCulley remains involved on a daily basis, Faust says he saw potential to grow the business to the next level.