Two Teams with UA Ties Set For Finals of Start-up Business Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two teams affiliated with The University of Alabama are set to compete in a state-wide business competition this week.

The projects are part of seven young businesses hoping to prove they could be commercially viable at the Alabama Launchpad Start-Up Competition. Teams with UA ties have done well in past Launchpad competitions, with a company based off UA technology one of the winners in the most recent competition last year.

The teams are in the “pre-seed” phase and are competing for a share of up to $100,000 in award money. The competition is geared to promote, reward and increase the pipeline of high-growth, innovative ventures that have the potential to create and keep jobs in Alabama. The teams will make their final pitch presentations March 21 at Evonik Industries, 750 Lakeshore Parkway, Birmingham. The event begins at 9 a.m.

The two UA-affiliated teams were selected from 12 companies who made pitches to competition judges Jan. 24 and were part of 19 companies originally selected to enter Alabama Launchpad.

The two teams are:

Bidsters – Competing for the second time, Bidsters features an online interactive database in which businesses in the construction industry can display information to interact and collaborate with others in the industry. Bidster’s website, at, is designed to help large contractors submit competitive bids while helping subcontractors grow.

The company is led by Ben Bickerstaff, who graduated from UA in civil engineering in December. A native of Anniston, Bickerstaff has set up shop in The Edge, a business incubator in downtown Tuscaloosa that is a joint project between UA, the city of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

If the company is successful in the competition, Bickerstaff plans to use the money to finish development of the website, hire legal counsel to devise website policies and host a launch party for potential customers.

Child Safety Pass – Based from technology developed at the Center for Advanced Public Safety, or CAPS, at UA, Child Safety Pass is a software program that allows parents to track their child’s school bus and also whether their child got on the bus. It uses cell phones and radio-frequency identification technology to provide real-time updates to parents whose children depend on the bus each school day.

The team is led by Will Kirby, a Decatur native, and a senior in accounting and management at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, and  Matthew York, assistant research engineer at the CAPS focusing primarily on mobile device research and related projects. York earned his both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from UA.

CAPS, which is led by Dr. Allen Parrish, a professor of computer science, creates information technology to better society.

If the team is a Launchpad winner, it will use the money to fund development of the prototype into a marketable product.

Both projects received early assistance and mentoring through the Office for Technology Transfer within the UA Office of the Vice President for Research.

The Alabama Launchpad Competition, started as a pilot project in 2006, is financed by business, the state of Alabama and seven universities, including UA. Since its inception, 27 companies have been funded, splitting more than $1.3 million. Alabama Launchpad has led to the creation of 221 knowledge-based jobs and $15 million in follow-on funding.


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,