EDGE Newsletter – December 2019

EDGE Newsletter – December 2019

2019 has been a Great Year

In December 2018 I received the keys to the new EDGE building, a 26,300 square foot new, high tech facility that promised to help us drive entrepreneurial actions at The University of Alabama and in our community. Since that day we have added 64 individuals as either office tenants or members; that number represents 41 different organizations. We’ve been fortunate to work with innovators and entrepreneurs who are building businesses and sharing with each other. We also have mentors, sponsors, business partners and two advisory boards (one for AEI and one for The EDGE) who have significantly helped us this year.

In addition to office tenants and co-working members, we also have had a lot of activity through events held at The EDGE. Since we opened our doors, we have hosted 209 events at The EDGE. Every day we are meeting new people and building buzz around all of our work.

We are very fortunate to have an active support group, and with this kind of help, we are sure to see even more successes in 2020. Please take time to read more about some of our highlights in 2019 below. And to all of you, we wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and look forward to connecting in 2020.


Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD

Executive Director and
Will and Maggie Brooke Professor in Entrepreneurship

Biggest River Pitch Yet

On November 19, we hosted about 180 people who attended the 3rd annual River Pitch where competitors shared a 3-minute pitch of their business ideas. This year we had 9 booths (vs. 8 last year) and awarded 9 different people with $1,000 each. We were extremely impressed by all the great ideas and want to thank everyone who attended for making the event a success. Learn more about the competition here. A special congratulations to the winners:

Joanna Lemmon, Michael Fedewa, Dennis Miles, Leah Taylor, Jennifer Stasiak, Caroline Barnes, Tillman Ritchey, Adam Graff, and Riley Doyle.

Global Entrepreneurship Week








In addition to River Pitch, we celebrated with an exhibit by EDGE companies and Academy teams as well as two learning workshops.

The first on corporate entrepreneurship was led by John Smola (top left), Director of New Business Growth Development, Innovation and New Ventures at Alabama Power and Will Wright (top right) the Vice President of Digital and Innovation at Protective Life Corporation.

The second workshop was all about angel investing in Alabama, and it was run by Anderson Hicklen, the Managing Partner of the AIM Group as well as Jim Corman, also a partner in AIM and serial entrepreneur. In addition, before and after this workshop the EDGE tenants, members, and some Academy teams participated in an exhibit, allowing them to network and meet with others to talk about their businesses (see pictures below; Anderson in the center bottom, Jim on left and exhibitors on right).




Anderson (above) teaching the group about the angel investment process and Jim (above to the left) sharing the history of angel investing in Alabama and the potential for future growth. Above to the right – exhibitors at The EDGE.

2019 Crimson Entrepreneurship Academy (pre-accelerator program)

In the summer of 2019, the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute ran the first Crimson Entrepreneurship Academy. The 8-week program gave teams time to focus full time on their business ideas. The Academy program addressed three themes: (1) building personal confidence, (2) building businesses and (3) building networks. Curriculum plus individual coaching helped participants achieve their goals. Learn more about some of the graduating companies below. The program was made possible through the sponsorship of Medical Properties Trust and a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. Students spent the summer working full time on their business ideas, and to date, 50% of our participants either have a prototype of their product and/or financing to move their businesses forward.

Meet a Few of the 2019 Crimson Entrepreneurship Academy Graduating Companies:

Locality: an app for meeting people. Download their app and check out their WVUA segment.

Tankr: a new app for gas delivery. Check out their Facebook page and their WVUA segment.

Taylor’s Victory Garden Center: a discount gardening supply store located in West Alabama. Check out their website and WVUA segment.

Fit as a Fiddle: a company that offers online consultations and video tutorials of stretches and exercises specific to each instrument in the orchestral world.

Vestr: a music platform app that gives the user the ability to live stream what song they’re currently playing to other users.

Gravitate: an app for marketing, advertising and discovering what’s going on with Tuscaloosa nightlife.

Blackbriar Defense Technologies: a company looking to empower small businesses with working tools necessary to proactively defend themselves from evolving cyber threats. Check out their website.

Executive MBAs Innovate in New Entrepreneurship Course

This Fall the Executive MBA in Tuscaloosa added an entrepreneurship course co-taught by Dr. Theresa Welbourne and Professor Gina Simpson. Pictured on the left is one of the four teams. All four teams came up with a new idea and developed both a marketing web site and business plan for their products. Great to see the creativity and amazing outfits!

Congrats to all the teams; pictured here are members of the YellowHammer Flight Academy team. From left to right: Lonnie Golightly, Pamela Harris, Shane Gandy, and Robert Smith.

John Cassimus Speaking at The EDGE February 5th
5 pm – networking; program starts at 5:30

Serial entrepreneur and University of Alabama alumni John Cassimus will be at The EDGE on February 5th. Cassimus is best known for taking a single restaurant, Zoë’s Kitchen, started by his mother Zoë and father Marcus and founding the current company that operates over 260 fast-casual restaurants in the United States and was listed on the NYSE until a recent sale of the company. He will share with us his story, lessons learned and news about his latest venture called Crazy Cazboy’s.

Join us for a workshop featuring John Cassimus on Wednesday, February 5th. Attendance is free of charge; networking, food and drinks will be provided.

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Upcoming Events

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Click the link below to learn more about what’s happening with the EDGE in December.