Application Cycle Currently Closed


The PortAL Fund is a 501(c)3, early-stage investment fund designed to ambitiously accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem of south Alabama and the central Gulf Coast region. The PortAL Fund will attract, retain, and support high-growth ventures by providing access to founder-friendly capital, office space, structured mentoring, an entrepreneur-in-residence, industry leaders, and other resources to encourage rapid growth.

The PortAL Fund plans to make approximately fifteen investments over five years into high-performing startups and entrepreneurs. Investments will begin in 2019.

  • General Questions
    • What is the mission of the PortAL Fund?

      The mission of the PortAL Fund is to retain, support, and accelerate the central Gulf Coast’s highest-performing startups and to attract startup activity aligned with local industry clusters by providing access to founder-friendly, early-stage capital, and other essential resources.

    • Why should I apply for funding from the PortAL Fund?

      The PortAL Fund is the most founder-friendly funding source for high-performing startups in the central Gulf Coast and southwest Alabama region. If your startup is currently located outside of this area, we offer a suite of incentives to relocate your venture to our resource-rich region.

      The fund provides entrepreneurs with up to $250,000 in exchange for a convertible note as well as additional services designed to rapidly scale your venture. Portfolio companies will have access to affordable office space in Innovation PortAL, a regional innovation and entrepreneurial hub in Mobile, Alabama. Additionally, entrepreneurs will gain access to mentors, subject matter experts, and an entrepreneur-in-residence, who will prepare them for introductions to Innovation PortAL’s network of investors.

    • How does the PortAL Fund differ from angel investors and private equity firms?

      The PortAL Fund differs from other funding sources by being a founder-friendly, 501c3 fund with considerable non-monetary resources designed to support high-growth startups. The fund encourages founders to maintain an attractive cap table for future investors by utilizing a convertible note with terms unique to each deal. Additionally, any return on investment will be reinvested to continue cultivating future entrepreneurs and startups.

      This fund is also mission-driven. It is geographically rooted in south Alabama with the goal of retaining and attracting high-performing entrepreneurs with scalable startups. It is also designed to accelerate the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem of south Alabama and the central Gulf Coast by supporting entrepreneurs who work in emerging technologies or who are innovating within the prominent industries of our region.

      In line with that mission, portfolio companies are required to remain headquartered in the south Alabama region (eligible counties include Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Clarke, Choctaw, Monroe and Washington) for two years. Any transitions into the south Alabama market must occur within three months of executing the investment contract.

    • Does the PortAL Fund take equity in the recipients?

      Yes. The PortAL Fund uses a convertible note, which would eventually convert to a percentage of equity in the venture. Deal terms will be determined on a case-by-case basis and will take a range of factors into consideration, such as investment risk, market and industry trends, runway to revenue, and management team.

    • If I am selected for investment by the PortAL Fund, what will I need to agree to?

      The PortAL Fund has four primary requirements for invested ventures:

      1. Execute a convertible note.
      2. Operate a significant portion of the business (at least 51% of the founding team or 1 founder plus 51% of the staff) in the south Alabama region for two years, beginning within three months of executing the investment contract. The eligible counties in Alabama for locating your business include Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Clarke, Choctaw, Monroe, and Washington.
      3. Participate in subject matter expert, mentoring, and entrepreneur-in-residence meetings.
      4. Maintain operational transparency with The PortAL Fund by providing quarterly reporting on jobs created, revenue generated, and follow-on capital for as long as the business is in operation.

    • Does the PortAL Fund work to connect me with the follow-on capital providers?

      The PortAL Fund works diligently to connect entrepreneurs (through social events, shared office space, direct introductions, and more) to a robust network of investors, venture capital firms, and private investors across the southeastern United States.

    • How is the PortAL Fund funded?

      The PortAL Fund is a 501(c)3 resource funded by our incredible donors who are deeply committed to innovation-based economic development. Click here to see the current sponsors of the PortAL Fund. Additionally, any return on investment will be reinvested to continue cultivating future entrepreneurs and startups.

  • Application Details
    • When can I apply for funding from the PortAL Fund?

      The PortAL Fund will have one application cycle in 2019. The application deadline will be announced at a future date.

    • What is the selection process?

      There are three rounds of evaluation for the The PortAL Fund which occur in the two months following the application deadline.

      First, PortAL fund administrators review all applications to check for completion, eligibility, and alignment with investment objectives. Any ineligible or incomplete applications will be disqualified, and those applicants will be notified within 20 business days of the deadline that their application was removed from consideration for investment. Applicants progressing to the second level of review will also be notified via email within 20 business days of the application deadline.

      Next, entrepreneurs that have progressed to the second round of review will be invited to a 30 minute video call with members of the PortAL Fund’s review committee. After video calls have been completed, applications will be reviewed and applicants will be notified whether or not they have progressed within 10 business days of their video chat.

      Finally, the remaining ventures will be asked to deliver an in-person pitch and Q&A with the PortAL Fund Investment Committee (PFIC), who will then select the final ventures for consideration. The final ventures will undergo a due diligence process. After considering both the in-person pitches as well as the due diligence reports, the PFIC will determine the ventures that will receive investment from the PortAL Fund.

    • Who is the PortAL Fund Investment Committee (PFIC)?

      The PFIC is a group of hand-selected individuals representing a diverse range of experience and expertise such as venture capital, corporate innovation, startup exits, and everything in between. The committee will base their decisions on the scalability of the startup, the strength of the investment opportunity, the potential impact on the region (economically, culturally, and otherwise) as well as the skills, assets, and value added by the management team.

    • How many investments will be made each cycle?

      The PortAL Fund aims to make approximately 15 investments over a five year period, which translates to one to two investments per cycle. However, the PortAL Fund reserves the right to make no investments in a cycle or two or more investments in a cycle.

    • How will I know if I made it to the next phase of the application? Will I be notified if I do not advance?

      All applicants will receive a notification of whether or not the applicant has advanced to the next round of review. Communication will take place via email.

    • What is Pitch Day?

      Pitch Day is a time in which finalists are invited to pitch in front of the PortAL Fund Investment Committee (PFIC). The pitches will last 45 minutes with an additional 45 minutes for questions. Applicants will be asked to send any audio-visual materials (presentations/decks) to the PortAL Fund staff in advance of Pitch Day. The PortAL Fund staff will also organize an optional pitch practice for each venture invited to pitch to the PFIC.

    • Are you required to present in-person on Pitch Day?

      Yes, in-person representation by at least one member of the founding team is required in order to be considered for funding.

    • Is Pitch Day open to the public?

      No, Pitch Day is not open to the public. Your audience will be comprised of representatives from the PFIC, the PortAL Fund administrators, and Innovation PortAL’s Board of Directors. You may only invite additional team members with an active role in your company, your pitch, or your Q&A session.

    • How will the PortAL Fund protect the materials submitted in the funding application?

      The PortAL Fund limits access to application materials to its staff, PFIC, and Board of Directors. Additionally, considerable steps are taken to limit access to these documents. However, there will be no confidentiality obligation by any recipient of the documents submitted for funding. We ask that you not share in your application any information you feel to be highly-confidential in nature.

  • PortAL Fund Eligibility
    • What kind of startup may apply?

      Startups from every industry that have a high potential for rapid growth are invited to apply, and particular consideration will be given to startups that are utilizing emerging technologies or are aligned with regional industry activity (aerospace, med-tech, shipping & logistics, ship building, chemical, etc.). The scalability and growth rate of each applying venture will be subject to considerable scrutiny. Startups should demonstrate a plan to reach national or international markets within two to three years. Additionally, applicants should demonstrate considerable development within the core function of the business, with minimum developments including prototype testing, launching a minimum viable product, acquiring beta users, etc.

      Applicants do not need to have previously worked with Innovation PortAL staff or participated in Innovation PortAL programs to apply.

    • What criteria will you use to decide which companies receive funding?

      The PortAL Fund administrators and PFIC will consider the following characteristics of the startup and management team:
      • The innovative nature of the product, technology, or service
      • The scalability of the business model
      • The total business development to-date, such as letters of intent, sales, growth rate, impact on users, social value, partners, etc.
      • The state of the industry or market and competition
      • The qualities of the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial team, including talent, diversity, and qualities that add value to the company and the overall community.

    • Are there geographical and/or team-size requirements?

      All funded ventures will be required to move their headquarters or a significant portion of operations to the south Alabama region for at least two years. Furthermore, at least 51% of the founding team or one founder plus 51% of the staff will be required to work and live full time in the region for at least two years. This period will begin within three months of executing the investment contract. There are no requirements or restrictions of team size.

    • May non-profits apply?

      The PortAL Fund will not consider applications submitted by nonprofits, although social enterprises with for-profit business models are encouraged to apply.

    • Does it matter where I am currently located?

      The PortAL Fund welcomes applicants from across the globe.

    • Will you fund competing companies?

      Although we aim to diversify our investments, we may fund companies that compete in some capacity. This may be inevitable, and we will strive to support each company equally.

    • Is there a limit on the number of applications per entrepreneur or startup?

      There is no limit to the number of times a startup or an entrepreneur can apply to the PortAL Fund. If an entrepreneur is the founder of multiple startups seeking funding from the PortAL Fund, the individual is allowed to apply with multiple ventures so long as she or he discloses this detail in each application.

    • May I submit someone else's idea or venture?

      Submissions must be the original idea of the applicant, or the applicant must have written consent to submit another’s idea. This detail must also be disclosed in the application.

    • Do applicants need to disclose any funding already received?

      Yes, applicants must disclose all sources of previously-received funding.

  • How to Apply
    • What do I have to do to begin the funding application?

      You must go to our F6S Application, create an account, and complete the entire application.

    • How do I update my entry?

      If your startup hits significant milestones that were not included in your original application, please let us know by updating our director of operations, Corey James. He can be reached at

      An example of a noteworthy update would be the launch of your beta product; whereas re-forecasting your financials for year five is not an acceptable update. We will amend your original application with these updates so they are taken into consideration by the PFIC.

    • What should be addressed in the final pitch?

      If you are selected for the final round of the application process, be sure to address the following questions during your pitch:

      • What is the mission and vision of the organization?
      • What is the product, service, or technology, and how is it innovative?
      • What is the business model, and how is it scalable? How has the business been validated?
      • What are your streams of revenue?
      • Who is the management team? What expertise, experience, or characteristics do they have that add value to the business?
      • What is the customer acquisition and/or marketing strategy?
      • What is the value of your industry and what are its relevant trends?
      • What is your total addressable market, and what percentage of that market do you plan to obtain?
      • Who are your strategic partnerships?
      • How does this business create and capture value?
      • Why is your startup unique or different, and why does it matter?
      • Who are the direct and indirect competitors?
      • What are the barriers to entry for your industry and where does your startup fit in the marketplace?
      • What is financial summary to-date? What are your financial projections? What are your financial assumptions? What are your projected costs and revenue?
      • Why would this business be beneficial to the central Gulf Coast (specifically south Alabama) region?
      • How does the business intend to utilize the PortAL Fund Investment?
      • How does the business plan to measure the return on the investment?

    • Why do you ask for my social security number?

      The PortAL Fund performs a basic background check as part of its application process. Only relevant founders or owners of the organization are subject to a background check, not employees. This process is meant to ensure that there are no significant outstanding financial responsibilities and no fraudulent activity. This is not a credit check. Your credit score will not be accessed, and running this report will not affect your credit score. We conduct these background checks through a popular service called LexisNexis. We will not require background checks for equity stakeholders who are accredited venture funds or angel investment groups.

    • I am not a U.S. citizen, and I do not have a social security number. Is that a problem?

      That is not a problem. You will be asked for other identifying information if you are selected to be a finalist. You will also be asked to provide references.

  • Additional Questions
    • Will the PortAL Fund provide guidance to recipients as they relocate to south Alabama?

      Yes, the PortAL Fund administrators will provide relocation support by assisting with searches for accommodations, by facilitating inclusion in various networks, by assisting with cultural assimilation, and by helping with all other questions or requests. The PortAL Fund does not provide housing, but we can help to connect you with companies and services that help to find the right place for you and your company.

    • Am I required to work in Innovation PortAL's 358 St. Louis Street Facility?

      Not exactly. The PortAL Fund’s portfolio companies are expected to have some presence in the St. Louis Street facility, but the entire company is not required to operate within the walls of the building. Companies are required, however, to have at least 51% of the founding team or one founder plus 51% of the staff working and living full-time in the southern Alabama region for at least two years, beginning three months after executing the investment contract. The eligible counties in Alabama for locating your business include: Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Clarke, Choctaw, Monroe, and Washington.

    • How will you know where a startup is located?

      Startups may be asked to provide proof of their business location. This may take the form of a lease agreement or business licenses.

    • How do you ensure that funds are used appropriately?

      To ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose, we require you to sign a comprehensive investment agreement before formally becoming a PortAL Fund Venture.

    • What happens if our company fails?

      Not all startup companies succeed; we understand that. If your company fails during the period of investment, you will forfeit any additional funds but will not be required to “pay back” previously disbursed funds unless significant aspects of the investment agreement have been breached.

      If your business does fail, you, as an entrepreneur, will be encouraged to remain in south Alabama to start a new venture, or to join an existing startup. Failure happens, and we believe it is a learning experience that helps entrepreneurs to succeed in their next venture!


Meet the people behind the PortAL Fund.

  • View bio

    Hayley Van Antwerp

    Executive Director

    Executive Director

    Hayley Van Antwerp

    Hayley is the Founder and Executive Director of Innovation PortAL. While startups are her current passion, Hayley began her career on the corporate side in the financial services industry in New York City. She cut her teeth in equity research before transitioning into management consulting for a number of well-known banks and broker/dealers. Many frequent flier miles later, she went “in house” and spent ten years at Merrill Lynch/Bank of America working in a myriad of strategy and management positions. Hayley moved from New York to Mobile six years ago and has never looked back.

    Hayley is passionate about entrepreneurship and economic development, especially in Alabama. She volunteered for over a year to create Innovation PortAL. Furthermore, Hayley has served as an instructor for startup programs including the National Science Foundation’s iCorps program as well as the Minority Business Accelerator and is actively working with a small steering committee to pilot a mentoring program for our region. She is an advisory board member for the University of South Alabama’s Melton Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and also serves as an advisory board member for the School of Business at the University of Mobile. Hayley is a cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University. She and her husband, Bragg, are the proud parents of four high-energy kiddos and one exceptional canine.

  • View bio

    Corey James

    Director of Operations

    Director of Operations

    Corey James

    Corey James is a New Orleans native who currently serves as Director of Operations of Innovation PortAL. Corey’s role within the organization includes overseeing program development, startup consulting, community development initiatives, marketing, and communication. He manages Innovation PortAL’s network of mentors and subject matter experts as well as assists with investment reviews and fund execution for the PortAL Fund.

    Within the community, Corey volunteers with the facilitator and organizer networks for Techstars’ Startup Weekend and also serves as an instructor for the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program. He is also an active member of the steering committee for the Gulf Coast Tech Council.

    Corey graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (concentration in Society & Law) and Theological Studies from the honors college of Saint Louis University. While there, Corey co-launched with Belizean cacao farmers a chocolate social enterprise entitled Magis Chocolate. Beyond work, Corey’s areas of interest and research include social ethics in business movements, philosophical economics, emerging technologies, and rock climbing.

  • View bio

    Mike Stashak

    Entrepreneur in Residence

    Entrepreneur in Residence

    Mike Stashak

    Mike is an experienced general manager with a track record of success in growing businesses – both start-ups and established companies. He has deep expertise in both consumer products and B2B marketing and sales.

    At Wahoo, Mike took a company from one employee with a single beta product to 130 employees with over 20 products, an established brand, and a global distribution network, including the Apple Store, REI, Best Buy, and Amazon. He leads a team responsible for all aspects of growth - strategy, sales, and marketing – plus part of the team managing the business and a capital raise. Wahoo Fitness is a leader in wearable and smartphone connected consumer devices focused on the bike, running and gym markets.

    Before Wahoo, Mike spent 15 years focused on strategy, sales, and marketing. Highlights include:
    - Top strategy consulting: At McKinsey, he focused on marketing strategy and go-to-market topics (sales excellence, channel programs, etc.) for both B2B and consumer products companies.
    - Strategy and Innovation: He led growth and innovation initiatives for Equifax, a $2B public company focused on financial services and consumer products.
    - Business development: He led the corporate development function for a $100M publicly held technology company with deep expertise in business development, M&A, and partnerships/alliances.

    Mike is a graduate of Darden School of Business (MBA 2001) and Duke University (BA 1995).

Meet Our Friends

Our Partners

Meet Our Finest


  • Frank Lott


    Innovation PortAL

    Owner & President

    Heritage Homes

  • Hayley Van Antwerp

    Executive Director

    Innovation PortAL

  • Bill Sisson

    President & CEO

    Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce

  • Mike Stashak

    Entrepreneur in Residence

    Innovation PortAL

    Head of Business Development & Strategy

    Wahoo Sports

  • Elizabeth Stevens

    President & Chief Executive Officer

    Downtown Mobile Alliance

  • David Trent

    Site Director

    Airbus Americas Engineering

  • Lynne Chronister

    Vice President for Research and Economic Development

    University of South Alabama

  • Michael Chambers

    Associate Vice President for Research Innovation

    University of South Alabama

  • Michael Berson


    Adams & Reese

  • Stephen Potts


    PMT Publishing, inc.

  • Dean Parker


    Vita Capital

  • Jeremiah Newell

    Founder and Superintendent

    MAEF Public Charter Schools

  • Todd Greer

    Dean of the School of Business

    University of Mobile

  • Raymond Bell


    Maynard Cooper & Gale PC

  • Matt Zarzour

    Chief Executive Officer

    Zarzour Company

  • Nick Sellers

    Vice President, Mobile Division

    Alabama Power

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