Ignite Alabama - Sparking Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Alabama

Ignite Alabama spotlights Alabama start-ups and entrepreneurs who are building a 21st century economy in Alabama. The show also covers the latest research and technology that paves the way for innovation in business. The mission of Ignite Alabama is to spark innovation, creativity, and new ideas that empower and equip Alabama residents to start businesses and grow Alabama's economy. Ignite Alabama is a Shinecast® show by Sheree Martin.
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Ignite Alabama - Sparking Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Alabama




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Jun 11, 2017

Episode 21 of the Ignite Alabama podcast features Sheree Martin's conversation with Jack White, CEO and founder of Book-it Legal, an innovative startup in the legal space. Book-it Legal is a marketplace startup that helps law firms hire law students to do legal research, legal writing and other related work.

Jack is a lawyer who spent a few years practicing transactional law with a “big” law firm in Birmingham before starting Book-it Legal, LLC in 2016.

Book-it Legal got its first boost through the Alabama Launchpad program when it won $50,000 in funding to push the new company from idea to minimum viable product. Most recently, Book-it Legal was one of 10 startups (out of 100 applicants) selected to make up the first cohort of the Velocity Accelerator Program through the Innovation Depot. The first edition Velocity Accelerator ended in April and I believe applications are still open for the second cohort.

Jack’s plans for Book-it Legal, LLC for summer of 2017 are to grow and scale the enterprise. At the time of our conversation in late April, law students from 5 schools were available for projects and lawyers from 11 states had signed up.

The biggest piece of advice Jack offers to new entrepreneurs is to find a local entrepreneurial community and get involved. Jack started by attending meetups of Birmingham Startup Drinks, a meetup group in Birmingham facilitated by Tony Sommerville. Find it on The first meetup Jack attended happened to be the first pitch night for Birmingham Startup Drinks. That evening, Jack met lawyers on the board of Innovation Depot, along with Tony, who introduced him to Nate, who runs the Velocity Accelerator program for Innovation Depot.

Books and Resources

The Lean Startup is the book any aspiring entrepreneur should start with.  The book Jack wishes he’d read earlier in his startup journey: The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Jack also recommends White Tears, a recent work of fiction.

Jack recommends that entrepreneurs who want to start a marketplace type of business check out Share Tribe Academy.

Full Show Notes at 


Mar 26, 2017

Taylor Phillips, managing director of the new 501(c)(3) nonprofit Futureproof Bama is the guest on Episode 20 of the Ignite Alabama podcast.

Alabama has, at most, a 10-year window to prepare for a future where 30% or more of the jobs that exist today will be replaced by AI, robotics and other automation technologies.

The time to prepare for this new future is today, but that can only happen if there's awareness that leads to action.

I'm optimistic about how my own life will fit into the new automation paradigm, but, like Taylor, I'm concerned that Alabama is woefully unprepared for the future that is already arriving. Many jobs are being lost to AI and automation technology right now.

When most people think of automation and robots they think of robotic welding and factory floor assembly lines.

In reality, the job sectors are going to be hit first and fastest will be the traditional administrative positions in banking and finance, insurance, document review and assembly and the like.

Trucking and transportation will also be hard hit. We're less than 10 years away from a reality where autonomous vehicles, including delivery trucks and long-haul trucking, are commonplace.

For full show notes visit

Jun 28, 2016

Matthew & Jesie Lawrence, owners of Marble Creek Farmstead, are my guests on episode 19 of the Ignite Alabama podcast.

Marble Creek Farmstead is a sustainable farming operation in Talladega County producing pastured poultry and pork, along with a variety of produce and other specialty meats.

One of the biggest challenges for Alabama poultry producers has been the lack of a USDA-certified poultry processing facility in the state (and limited availability or other meat processing facilities for smaller producers of beef, pork or other meats).

Matthew Lawrence, who has an MBA and finance background, and his wife Jesie, who has a business degree in marketing, saw a need AND a business opportunity to bring USDA-certified poultry processing to Alabama and started working earlier this year to solve that problem.

In April, they opened Pell City Processing at The Trading Post. Matthew and Jesie own a majority interest in the venture.

Matthew & Jesie take a wholistic approach to farming and problem-solving or prevention on the farm. They uses a systems approach, to achieve synergies that result from a complex natural ecosystem working as it is designed to work. Rather than seeking to simplify, Marble Creek Farmstead is about embracing complexity and letting nature do a lot of the work, which builds resiliency into the business model.

I’m a big believer in the power of sustainable agriculture to be a force in the economic transformation of rural communities and small towns all across Alabama. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word about how important it is to support entrepreneurs who are working in the farming, value-added food sectors, and related fields.

This episode includes about 75-80% of my interview with Matthew and Jesie. I edited out a few segments that are very farming focused. If you want to hear the entire episode, I’m releasing the full conversation as episode 24 of the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, also available on iTunes and I’ll include a link to where you can download or stream the full Shine Springs Farm Shinecast version episode in the show notes for this Ignite Alabama version over at

Jun 16, 2016

In this week’s show you’re going to get a taste of some of the innovative ideas in development by a few of Alabama’s brightest startups.

The Birmingham Venture Club was kind enough to let me attend the first round of the inaugural Spark Match Pitch competition held May 26, 2016 at the Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham.

Eight startups were selected from over 25 applicants to participate in the first round of the Spark Match using a video-based application process.

Four of the original eight were selected to advance to the semi-final round set for July 28. Semi-finalists were selected through an audience voting system using the app.

At the Spark Match, the startups were placed in one of two divisions--the Vulcan Division and the Rickwood Division. If you’re familiar with Birmingham, you probably understand the division names. Vulcan, of course, is the original iron man, the cast iron statue that’s the symbol of the Magic City. Rickwood is the legendary baseball field--America’s oldest surviving professional ball field.

Paul Pless, treasurer of the Birmingham Venture Club and a principal at New Capital Partners, had the planning lead on the Spark Match for the BVC and served as moderator and, what I’ll describe as the, explainer-in-chief for the competition.

The 8 startups pitching in the inaugural Spark Match were:

  • SimplyProse
  • Fetch
  • ShadowSafe
  • Alternavisit
  • SelectMySpace
  • 2b Electronic
  • Slate XP
  • Nourish

For Round 1, startups were asked to focus their 3-minute pitch on defining the problem and explaining the solution their company offered.

Votes  were cast to select a finalist for each division, using, as I mentioned, the app.

Alternavist came away as the top vote getter in the Vulcan Division, with Nourish taking the top spot in the Rickwood Division.

Once we had identified the two division winners, a third vote was cast to select two more competitors from the remaining six startups to advance to the semi finals. More on the voting process below, along with information on the dates for Round 2 pitch events.

ShadowSafe and 2b-Electronics took the third and fourth slots to advance.

If you’re a long time listener to Ignite Alabama you might recall that Jake and Cole of Simply Prose were my guests on episode 6 of the show last year. You can still get the episode through iTunes or download it directly at

The top vote getter in the Vulcan Division was Alternatvisit and the top vote getter in the Rickwood Division was Nousish. The remaining two positions in the at-large vote were ShadowSafe and 2b Electronic.

Once the total votes were tallied the final rankings for the semi-final round of the Spark Match look like this:

1st Seed: Nourish

2nd Seed: Alternavist

3rd Seed: ShadowSafe

4th Seed: 2b Electronic

The semi-finals will play out in two competition rounds.

The top seeded Nourish will meet 4th seed 2b Electronic in the July 28  semi-final round of Spark Match.

2nd seed Alternavisit will face off against 3rd seed ShadowSafe in the Sept. 22 semifinal round.

The Spark Match pitch competition events are open to the public, with the purchase of a ticket. Members of the Birmingham Venture Club attend free.

To learn more visit

I want to extend my thanks to the BVC board, BVC Treasurer and Spark Match coordinator Paul Pless, and Jack Eyer of Relax Its Handled for allowing me to attend round 1, record the pitches for the Ignite Alabama podcast and enjoy a complimentary lunch.

If you like the podcast, please share the Ignite Alabama with your friends and visit to subscribe.


I’m Sheree Martin, this is the Ignite Alabama podcast. What’s YOUR business idea?







May 1, 2016

Jason Maddox, president of Vulcan Security Systems, in Birmingham, Alabama talks about IP video surveillance security technology and the commercial video security solutions his company provides.

Clients include small manufacturers and industrial operations, warehouses, shopping centers, retail establishments, churches, daycare facilities, private schools and similar enterprises.

This Episode Consists of Promoted Content.

Full show notes are available at

For more on Vulcan Security Systems visit:

Sep 29, 2015

George Kobler, an attorney in Huntsville, Alabama who practices in the area of intellectual property, is the guest on episode 16 of the Ignite Alabama podcast.

IP law encompasses patents, which is the focus of today’s conversation, as well as copyright law, trademarks, and proprietary information that falls within the realm of trade secrets.

In this conversation George explains the difference between copyrights, trademarks, patents and other forms of intellectual property. Our focus is on patent law.

To determine whether something might be eligible for patent protection, the first question is whether it pertains to eligible subject matter. George explains, basically, what this means. If yes, then the next question is whether the invention is both novel and non-obvious.

We walk through several hypothetical examples.

We also talk about situations involving co-inventors, modifications to someone else's design, inventions and discoveries made in the course of employment or using employer's resources outside of the scope of employment.

We finish up the question with hypotheticals relating to the team and project based environment where independent contractors come together to work on one business idea, while remaining free to pursue outside ventures.

Since the focus is on law and George and I are both members of the Alabama State Bar I wanted to give you the standard disclaimer that lawyers are required to use in advertising and other marketing materials, just to make sure that George and I are both in compliance with rules of the Alabama State Bar.

No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

LinkedIn is the best place to contact George. I've included a link to his LinkedIn profile in the show notes at He's also on Twitter: @RocketCityIP

Sep 15, 2015

Episode 15 of the Ignite Alabama podcast is a quick recap of two panel discussions from Rocket Hatch's Investor Day about how to pitch to and work with VCs and angel investors.

Full show notes available at


Sep 8, 2015

Welcome to episode 14 of the Ignite Alabama podcast. I’m your host and producer Sheree Martin and this show is about sparking innovation and entrepreneurship throughout Alabama.


This week’s guest is Antonio Montoya, an entrepreneur and one of the forces behind RocketHatch, a creative community and startup space in Huntsville, Alabama.


The RocketHatch statement of values are a perfect reflection of what every true 21st century enterprise should cherish:

  • Collaboration over competition
  • Trust over agendas
  • Encouragement over criticism


Those values reflect what I’m trying to offer through this podcast and my larger Shinecast mission. This show is about Conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators without an agenda other than sparking innovation and entrepreneurship--in whatever form or shape it emerges.


I’m a native of the Shoals area of northwest Alabama and Huntsville was always our “big city” neighbor. Huntsville is where we went for big city shopping during the holidays. Huntsville is where we went for symphony music and touring Broadway musicals. Huntsville is where my brother always did the Cotton Row Run 10K when we were growing up. 4 of my honeybee colonies came from Huntsville!


We all know Huntsville for its role in the NASA space program and for the many companies, large and small, that play a role in the national defense of our great country.


But Huntsville is also an arts community and it’s much more than a city for defense department contractors. A few years ago when I first began to actively get involved in the local foods movement in Alabama I discovered that Huntsville had the most active grassroots oriented local foods community in Alabama. Although it was led by the not-for-profit Food Bank of North Alabama, the wonderful thing about the Food Policy Council of North Alabama is that it is open to everyone and anyone who cares about building a sustainable local foods system in Alabama.


Before meeting with Antonio last week when he was in Birmingham for the Alabama Launchpad Innovation awards event, I spent some time reviewing the first annual report of the RocketHatch and I found it so refreshing.


I’ll just let the conversation with Antonio unfold and tell you the rest of the story.


I look forward to visiting with lots of RocketHatch community members on September 10, 2015 at the Investor Day event at the Space and Rocket Center.

Thank you so much for listening to Ignite Alabama podcast. Be sure to visit and sign up for the free email newsletter so that you don’t miss any news or episodes.

Sep 2, 2015

In this bonus episode of the Ignite Alabama podcast, Deon Gordon & Nichol Welty of REV Birmingham deliver the when, what and how to submit your business idea to the 2015 Big Pitch Competition.

PNC has put up $25,000 in prize money for this year's event.

The deadline for applications is currently set for September 4, 2015.

A panel of judges will select 10 finalists who will receive intensive mentoring and business guidance and then deliver their pitches, Shark Tank style, in November.

Since REV Birmingham's mission is to revitalize areas of Birmingham's urban core, the ideal business is one that will add to the neighborhood vibe and generate street traffic. So, if you're a maker or creative with a business that generates foot traffic this is a competition you should look into.

Find out more at

Sep 1, 2015


To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company in Fitzpatrick Alabama is the recipient of the Alabama Launchpad 2015 award for Outstanding Achievement in Innovative Manufacturing.

These awards will be presented at Alabama Launchpad’s annual Innovation Conference in early September in Birmingham.

Today’s guest is Peggy Sutton, who co-founded To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company with her husband and they’ve grown the business from a kitchen startup to a major economic force in Bullock County, with more than 30 employees.

Founder Peggy Sutton shares her entrepreneurial journey with To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company, how the company has grown, and how its product line fits into the rapidly growing global market for real food.

I’m a big proponent of eating real food and believe that real food--like organic sprouted grains--is a linchpin in solving two major problems in Alabama: Chronic disease and also rural economic development.

Thanks to the willing support of her co-founder husband, Peggy's company is now sprouting 10,000 pounds of grains and legumes each day and serves a global market.

Find out more at

This interview will also be published on the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast and the Discover Grow Shinecast. 

Aug 25, 2015

E. J. Reedy of the Kauffman Foundation is the guest to talk about the 2015 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity. We cover the Index methodology and look at some of the characteristics of Alabama's dismal 49th place ranking.

Find out more at


Aug 18, 2015

Greg Sheek, director of Launchpad Programs, gives us an in-depth look at the Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

Greg describes the Launchpad startup competition, time frame for submission (currently running 3x per year), and the types of feedback that entrepreneurs who go through the competition receive throughout the process.

Greg also provides an overview of the annual Innovation Conference and SBIR grant assistance provided through the Launchpad programs.

This year's Innovation Conference is set for September 2, 2015 in Birmingham.

Subscribe to the Ignite Alabama podcast on iTunes and listen via your favorite podcast app.

Find out more at

Aug 11, 2015

Tony Megna, founder of BDI Labs, is the guest on episode 9 of Ignite Alabama.

He gives a look at MediaBit, the first product in the Internet of Things product line that BDI Labs will roll out over the next few years.

BDI Labs recently finished its season with the GIGTANK Accelerator Program in Chattanooga and is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign that will end August 22, 2015.

BDI Labs is based in Huntsville, Alabama.

In addition to telling us about the MediaBit, Tony offers up some great tips and advice for start-up entrepreneurs.

A special shout out to the 5 individuals who left awesome 5 star reviews of the Ignite Alabama podcast over on iTunes. Thank you, thank you. I so glad to hear that YOU like like what YOU’RE hearing.

If you are so inclined, I would very much appreciate it if you would leave a rating or review of the Ignite Alabama podcast on whatever platform you’re using to listen to the show, whether it’s SoundCloud, Stitcher Radio, Pocketcasts or iTunes or whatever.


Full shownotes available at



Aug 8, 2015

"Fear of Failure" is a theme that has come up frequently in early episodes of Ignite Alabama and in my general conversations about what holds people back from becoming an entrepreneur or taking action to go for a goal or dream.

Dr. Gabriella Cacciotti's research centers on the "fear of failure" concept as it relates to entrepreneurship. We spoke recently via Skype about her doctoral research on the concept of fear of failure and the excellent literature review paper she published in 2014 with Professor James Hayton through the Enterprise Research Centre in England.

This is the first "theory" focused episode of Ignite Alabama and Dr. Cacciotti provides an excellent summation of her research which reveals inconsistencies in the conceptualization of "fear of failure" and varied approaches to classifying and measuring this somewhat ephemeral concept.

We go a little deep but if you are interested why it can be challenging to "get your head around" fear of failure I think you will enjoy this episode.

Find out more at where you can get more comprehensive show notes.


Jul 28, 2015

In this episode of the Ignite Alabama podcast we take a big-picture look at 3D printing technology from the perspective of Dr. Kenneth Sloan, UAB professor of computer science and director of the 3D Print Lab at UAB.


This episode of Ignite Alabama is the introductory episode to 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing. Dr. Sloan’s area of expertise is in computer science for 3D modeling.


The 3D Print lab at UAB is mainly used for teaching and research but contract 3D printing can be performed on a limited scale for anyone who has the CAD model program written for a project.


In terms of materials, the UAB 3D Print Lab can print in both ABS and PLA thermoplastics. ABS is a very sturdy plastic, while PLA is a non-toxic biodegradable plastic that’s suitable for medical type implants. Dr. Sloan gets into the difference briefly in his comments.

I first learned about 3D printing or additive manufacturing when I was a contributing writer for Fabricating Equipment News way back at the dawn of the 21st century. I was writing on rapid prototyping and innovations in fabrication and machining and was constantly interviewing researchers and engineers who were working on the cutting edge of that technology in the time between 1999 and 2002 so it’s exciting to see how the technology is advancing along with our growth computer processing capacity and understanding of materials science.

In this interview, Dr. Sloan talks about how the rapid advancement of computing capacity has made 3D printing possible. He provides some insights into the viability of 3D printing for custom manufacturing and the challenges of 3D printing for traditional mass production of inexpensive items.

Dr. Sloan provides several examples of how dentists are using 3D printed implants and other items in today's dental practice.

We also get into the subject of how students can prepare for careers that will involve 3D modeling and new approaches to machining, fabrication in manufacturing.

One of my goals for Ignite Alabama, as a podcast and a movement, is to help raise awareness of the many new technologies that are now available to entrepreneurs and to help everyone from business advisers to policymakers to investors to educators generate ideas to move our economy forward.


I’m working now to line up interviewers with other researchers, scientists and engineers who look at 3D printing from other angles such as biotech applications for burn treatment and materials research for industrial applications of 3D printing, such as in development by Rolls Royce using titanium to print a component for one of its jet engines. That part is already being tested. If you have an interest in being featured on the show, please reach out to me. The easiest place to find me online is LinkedIn.


Complete show notes are available at




Jul 21, 2015

In episode 6 of Ignite Alabama we met Jake Wright and Cole Kinchler, two of the co-founders of SimplyProse, an online writing platform, that is making some noise in the start-up world.

Jake and Cole are senior business majors at Auburn University. In this interview, Jake and Cole explain how they came up with the idea as part of the Tiger Cage business pitch competition in the Fall of 2014. The recognition they received from the Tiger Cage competition led to mentoring by Kyle Sandler of The Round House. SimplyProse recently moved forward in the Alabama Launchpad startup pitch competition.

In the SimplyProse platform writers find a space to create, critique and market their work for profit or personal enjoyment. Writers decide who is able to view and contribute to their work, which suggestions are most beneficial, and which publisher best fits their budget and objectives for their project. For publishers and literary professionals, finding engaging new content and sifting through submissions has never been more seamless. SimplyProse is dedicated to developing a writing community centered on collaboration and focused on furthering the creativity of the individual writer.

Visit for complete shownotes and more on innovation and entrepreneurship in Alabama.


Jul 14, 2015

The Ark Labs in Florence, Alabama is a start-up that is developing technology to combine artificial intelligence with smart devices and the internet of things to monitor and control residential and commercial water usage.

The technology will help to boost water efficiency, reduce insurance claims due to water damage, and reduce demands on local water supply and wastewater treatment facilities.

In episode 5 of Ignite Alabama I talk to Robbie Hillis, the force behind this Florence, Alabama-based startup.

The Ark Labs is one of the startups chosen to participate in this summer's GIG Tank Accelerator program in Chattanooga.

After we cover the problem that The Ark Labs technology will solve, we get into a bigger discussion about entrepreneurship in Alabama, the fear of failure and desire for the illusion of security that seems to hold back so many people who might otherwise start a business (small or large), and the plethora of innovative ideas that are all around us.

Visit for complete show notes and other resources.

Jul 13, 2015

MotionMobs is a mobile-first app development company headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.

In episode 4 of Ignite Alabama, Taylor Wyatt, co-founder and president of MotionMobs, talks about the history and business growth of MotionMobs but the focus of our conversation is on the process of planning a startup from idea to launch and the benefits and challenges of growing a tech startup in Alabama.

We talk about angel investors and other methods of funding a startup and the importance of comprehensive and careful planning whether you are starting a new business or seeking to develop an app for your company.

We also talk about education with the focus on tech education and the role of traditional 4-year college degrees for tech careers.

This conversation is the same interview available as episode 4 of Birmingham Shines podcast, with different intro and outro comments from the host, Sheree Martin.

You can find more detailed show notes and other resources at

Jul 7, 2015

In this episode of Ignite Alabama I talk with Jennifer Skjellum, executive director of Tech Birmingham and the Central Alabama chapter of Angel Investor Management Group.

Jennifer moved to Alabama from Starville, Mississippi when her husband became chair of the Computer Science department at UAB. 

She's a successful tech entrepreneur with several successful business ventures under her belt and she's now involved in helping other entrepreneurs and start-up visionaries grow and launch their businesses through her work with the AIM Group, Tech Birmingham and a new 501c3, Tech Alabama.

In this episode, we cover everything from the recent Kaufmann Foundation report which ranked Alabama 49th in startups to a new coding program for teen girls.

For more information and full show notes, visit


Jul 6, 2015

Soluble Therapeutics, Inc. was formed in 2008 to commercialize technogy developed by UAB researchers. This HSC™ Technology helps to deal with a bottleneck in pharmaceutical R&D--the identification of appropriate biologic solutions to deliver protein-based drugs.

In 2010 Dr. Joseph M. Garner came on board as CEO of Soluble Therapeutics, Inc. to lead the commercialization efforts and continue to validate the technology.

Director of Business Development, John McCarter, is the guest of this episode of Ignite Alabama. He began working with Soluble Therapeutics, Inc. in 2010 as an intern and moved through the ranks in business development.

John explains the company's transition from a primary focus on technology validation to the commercialization of the technology and expansion.

He also describes some of the capitalization sources, which have included significant infusion from venture capital funds and a $1 million NIH grant.

Soluble Therapeutics, Inc. has a global customer base and John explains how he uses webinars, LinkedIn and other internet-based communications technology to complement his marketing efforts at international conferences. 

We also talk about the attributes of a 21st century economy and whether Alabama and Birmingham is moving in the right direction.

For more information and business resources, visit

PDF transcripts of each episode of Ignite Alabama will soon be available for purchase at a nominal price.

Ignite Alabama is a Shinecast® podcast developed, produced and hosted by Sheree Martin.


Jul 2, 2015

Kyle Sandler began his career as a teen radio DJ and ended up in Menlo Park, California, where he became friends with employees of Google in the very early days.

Kyle ended up taking a job in marketing with Google as employee #240 and the rest, as they say, is history.

After cashing out of Google, Kyle founded The Droid Guy and eventually sold that website for 7-figures. Kyle's next big start-up was Nibletz, which he eventually sold, as well. 

Kyle ended up in Opelika, Alabama. He explains how and why in this episode. After some time as entrepreneur-in-residence at Auburn University, Kyle founded The Round House, a start-up accelerator and coworking space in historic downtown Opelika. 

Kyle is now mentoring aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs and startups.

You can find out more about this show and the Shinecast® resources at

A specific website for Ignite Alabama is in the works.

Jul 2, 2015

Sheree Martin is the host and producer of Ignite Alabama, a Shinecast® show.

In this preview episode of Ignite Alabama, Sheree gives some background on her early professional career as a business lawyer and how that career, combined with relentless curiosity and desire to stay current with technology, evolved into strategic communication and a desire to empower and equip others to take ownership of their lives through an integrated approach modeled on Benjamin Frankin.