The Innovation Depot is enjoying a recent rush of startup applicants eager get a spot in the 140,000-square-foot facility in downtown Birmingham.
"We have 79 companies with us right now," said Devon Laney, chief operating officer of the Innovation Depot. "That's the most since we moved to this facility almost five years ago."
The incubator facility, is the former home of a Sears, and is one of the largest in the southeast.
Birmingham is a hotbed for technology and health care companies, so new ideas are always percolating, said Laney.
"Oftentimes, when the economy is in decline, we see an uptick in entrepreneurial activity because people fear that they may lose the safety net of a permanent paycheck," he said.
The program fosters tech startups that develop a wide range of products, including apps for smartphones to military technology.
New businesses stay in the program for three to five years on average.
Last year, the Innovation Depot graduated 10 companies and generated $274 million in revenue. "This is pretty remarkable given the state of the economy," said Laney. "We also received 128 applicants and accepted 18."
One standout is Vipaar, which has developed technology that allows remote presence in almost any location.
"You could be a brain surgeon in Birmingham and connect in real time with a brain specialist in Berlin who can assist in a complicated surgery," explained Laney.
The technology is unique, because it can work with any platform, such as a video conferencing unit, a laptop, and even an iPad, he added.
Another star is a health IT company, formerly called MedMined.
"They were with us for a few years," said Laney. "They were bought by Cardinal Health for $100 million and then spun out as a new company called CareFusion."
The incubator welcomes alumni. Three of MedMined's founders are back working on their next new business ideas, said Laney.
Mi Kitchen es su Kitchen in Long Island City, N.Y. hosts more than 100 entrepreneurs looking to get lucky in the food industry.
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