Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Start-up networking program comes to Tuscaloosa

The autoXLR8R accelerator program stopped in Tuscaloosa June 24 and 25 for part of its 13-week “tech tour” across the Southeast. The program, which is in its first year, connects entrepreneurs and start-ups with manufacturers, researchers, industry insiders and investors from around the region. In addition to The University of Alabama’s Alabama Institute for Manufacturing Excellence, participants will visit places like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research and Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Research.

Ron Davis, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute and president of the Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association, said the program is meant to create the networking opportunities needed to get start-up businesses off the ground.

“The purpose is to engage with these entrepreneurs and their automotive start-up business idea and give them the support they need to go in production,” Davis said.

The businesses represented at autoXLR8R represent a wide range of applications and ideas, from wheelchair alternatives that provide disabled people with a greater range of motion to alternative designs for charging electric vehicles.

As part of their stop at The University of Alabama, participants in the program met with Bill Taylor, former CEO of Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama operations.

“He’ll give them coaching in terms of potential they may have for their business, ask some tough questions maybe,” Davis said. “Anything he can do to help them think through the next best step for their business.”

In addition to meeting with Taylor, participants in the accelerator will meet with mentors from various departments around the University, including the Culverhouse College of Commerce, the College of Engineering and the College of Continuing Studies.

“The rest of [the program] here will be interactions with Dr. Bharat [Balasubramanian, executive director of the Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies], interaction with me, interaction with faculty here on campus to help talk through and coach them, relative to their business plan,” Davis said. “That’s the key thing we want to do as a university, add as much value to these businesses as we can and help them as much as we possibly can to be prepared for production, be prepared to have a successful start-up.”

Jack Sisk, program manager of autoXLR8R, said the goal of the the program was to provide the best possible service within their specific niche in the automotive industry.

“We didn’t want the MBA to sit at a desk and listen for 13 weeks,” Sisk said. “We wanted people from all levels of the process to be involved, start-ups on up.”

Lauren Harrison, a junior at the University of Vanderbilt, was at the program representing Ecoviate, a start-up seeking to develop devices that will fit in the exhaust of cars and reduce emissions with algae.

“It’s been incredible,” Harrison said. “I’m young, the rest of the team is young, and it’s just been great to meet all these industry experts and mentors.”

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