T. Devon Laney and Innovation Depot, Inc.
T. Devon: “Sure. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t start out thinking, ‘One day I’m going to run a technology incubator.’ That was not in the cards for me. I did go to school here in Alabama; I grew up in a small town, raised on a farm, learned a lot; then went off to get my undergraduate degree did the international business; started my own business when I was in college, a web-based business, it was essentially a vendor portal for musicians and all the ancillary products and services that go along with Latin music. And so, it was a web-based business. Way before Google and SEOs, which was nice.
I didn’t run it like a business like I should have. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was in college, but I got a nice little check every month just from advertising sales and a division of subscriptions on the side; did that all through college. After college, I went to work for a large corporation here in Alabama on the deployment of their internal intranet. Launched that; deployed that, did that for a few years; decided to go back and get my MBA. I went back to get my MBA, did that in strategy. I was able to go abroad for a year to school at Holland International Business School which I enjoyed a good bit, and then my business was winding up, my web business, and I was able to sell off a piece of that to some people.
Then I took a little time off during my rack of graduate school, a little traveling, but was recruited by Accenture, one of the big consulting companies. So, I was in their technology and strategy area at Accenture and I worked with a lot of Fortune 500 companies based out of their Atlanta offices, I was based out of their Atlanta office but traveled a good bit; I did that for about three years. And then, one day, out of the blue, someone I knew professionally contacted me and said there is this thing in Birmingham, Alabama called a technology incubator. The lady who started that, about 20 years ago was looking to expand it and grow it and she needed someone to help her, put all the pieces together and make it happen.
At first, I didn’t know what an incubator was and so, I responded with no. No, thanks. I’m busy, I have a job, no thanks; but he was very persuasive, called me back and said ‘Look, I think you’d be good for this, I really think she could use your help’. And so, I came over, I met with our founder for the organization, Susan Matlock, who had been in Birmingham many years, had a background in banking and finance, and in economic development. I was immediately struck by her passion for what she had done, her energy and all she accomplished and her vision for where she wanted to go. And then, decided to take the plunge so I moved from Atlanta’s site on the scene to Birmingham and that was in the fall of 2005.
We put the plan together to do what would become Innovation Depot. We bought the building in March of 2006, renovated it for a year; opened in 2007 as the Innovation Depot and we have just been going non-stop since then… (continues)
Innovation Depot is a technology incubation program. So we were- we were 501C3, an economic development organization, non-profit. And we work primarily with early stage or startup companies, typically in the technology space. And, technology is a very broad umbrella, as you know; so, that encompasses everything from software, mobile, the web, CRM companies, I have medical device companies, I have biotech companies, I have engineering technology companies. So, technology doesn’t just mean someone at a computer; it’s so much broader than that. What we look for high growth opportunity companies, typically something that we think can grow in scale and create jobs, have an economic impact.”
T. Devon Laney and Innovation Depot, Inc.
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Thank you to Innovation Depot for providing a location to film our Birmingham interview series.