Finding Profit


Wednesday, April 8th 2015

As a business leader, you are invited to join Finding Profit, an exclusive summit for business leaders pursuing ideas that create improvement and enable profit. In Finding Profit, we will draw from the experience of all attendees to help you find new ways to make your businesses more profitable. You will be engaged in three strategic sessions featuring leaders in accounting, marketing and investment banking.

Engage thought leaders: Three firms have united to fill what they each believe is a gap in our business community. Learning, in an intentional way, among other business leaders who value insights on crafting more profit. We have all been to too many intelligent but impractical to apply learning events. We have all listened to too many speakers who had one goal—promotion of themselves.

Finding Profit includes three engagement sessions, each designed to offer you at least one profound insight that you can take to work and begin using…that day. We are committed to elevating the SMB game in our city, our state, and our region because we believe small business is more than a political punch line but rather the engine that drives our economy.

ACCOUNTING: John Shank will guide a conversation that identifies the 5 most common pitfalls and mistakes that businesses make and how to fix them. These changes will result in improvements of your firm’s performance. Businesses often find themselves struggling to adequately plan for revenues and expenditures. Leaders often worry that components of the accounting system are not functioning appropriately. Come learn about the 5 biggest accounting issues and how your business can avoid being a victim of them!

MARKETING: Sean Doyle of FitzMartin will reframe the sales and marketing conversation and hopefully the way you use marketing as a business tool. This session begins with the assumption that 100% of marketing’s job is to generate revenue, not expenses. That said, we will discuss ways to think about sales and marketing that will bring immediate improvement to your bottom line.

INVESTMENT BANKING: Zane Tarence of Founders Investment Banking has a proven understanding of the traits necessary to build a valuable company, how to close an exceptional deal and when it’s time to exit. He will share some of the 17 traits that are holding back the value of your company.

Here is a video from one of my co-founders about Finding Profit.


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Posted in Barfield Murphy Shank & Smith, John Shank, Knowledge base, Planning, startup tips, Transition, Uncategorized, Venture Capital, Working Capital | Leave a comment

How Start Up Businesses Should Choose Their Accounting Firm

  1. Seek an advisor (not just an accountant) for the long-term.
    1. Your new business needs an advisor you can trust to help you manage risk and recognize opportunities – now and in the long-term future.
    2. When your accountant has a holistic view of your business, you have a trusted advisor with you to help anticipate next steps, stay ahead of trends and make valuable connections.
  2. Demand understanding, not just communication.
    1. Building a strong, long-term professional relationship with your accounting firm strengthens service quality and efficiency and enables you to plan for the future.
    2. Open, candid communications are critical to developing best practices to address the many complex issues your growing business will face.
  3. Insist on wide-ranging experience and resources.
    1. As your business evolves, so will your need for guidance, knowledge and resources.
    2. Your accounting firm should possess comprehensive skills and resources to assist at every stage of your growth and across a variety of challenges – a business valuation, international tax, exit strategies and more.
  4. Access the right resources directly.
    1. Is your accounting firm built for service? The more access you have to your
      accounting firm’s specialist skills and resources, the better able you are to
      resolve issues before they cost you valuable time and resources, and to identify
      opportunities before they’ve passed you by.
    2. Ultimately, technical skill is only useful when it’s provided in a timely manner.
  5. It’s not just what they know, but who they know.
    1. Your relationship with your accounting firm is important, but so are the
      relationships they bring to the table.
    2. Whatever your ultimate aim – from access to capital markets to private equity – look to an accounting firm with the skills, experience, and relationships with other expert resources to help you achieve your goals.
  6. Experience counts!
    1. You need the big guns, the head-honchos. In the world of accounting, that means the partners or members. Your growing business requires member-level involvement.
    2. Frankly, you deserve regular access to the kind of higher level thinking and foresight that comes from years of experience. The only real question is: will your accounting firm actually provide it?
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2015 Technology Outlook Survey

2014 was an exceptional year for the technology industry. Companies saw a strong deal environment as well as an increase in investment activity, fueling optimism among U.S. technology finance chiefs for a robust year ahead.

According to BDO USA, LLP’s 2015 Technology Outlook Survey, which polls 100 technology CFOs, 70 percent anticipate increased sales revenue in 2015. Overall, tech CFOs project a revenue increase of over 12 percent. CFOs’ bullish outlook follows forecasts of an 11 percent revenue increase in 2014 and an 8.7 percent increase in 2013, pointing to continued optimism in the industry.

Along with a positive outlook on revenue, companies expect deal pace to remain robust. CB Insights, for example, reports that in 2014, global technology transactions increased 58 percent over 2013 levels—the most in over five years. Following this positive trend, CFOs anticipate that merger and acquisition (M&A) activity will continue its strong track throughout 2015. The vast majority (96 percent) believe M&A activity will increase or stay the same this year, and 66 percent of CFOs cite that acquisitions will be primarily offensive. One-third of tech CFOs believe increased revenue and profitability will be the primary impetus for M&A activity in 2015, followed by improved market share (25 percent) and gaining engineering and research capabilities (14 percent).

“Although the tech industry is cautious of overvaluation, finance chiefs are confident that deal activity will continue its momentum well into 2015,” said Aftab Jamil, partner and leader of the Technology and Life Sciences Practice at BDO USA, LLP. “As consumers continue to demand innovative products and investments keep pouring into the sector, technology companies may be better positioned for business growth through strategic partnerships to expand their capabilities and offerings as well as to compete effectively and gain market share.”

Additional findings from the 2015 BDO Technology Outlook Survey include:

Software sector dominates deal flow. Sixty-one percent of CFOs surveyed continue to believe the software sector, including cloud computing, will drive the most M&A activity in 2015, on par with last year’s outlook (60 percent). In fact, IDG reports that cloud computing initiatives will lead in 2015 with 42 percent of enterprises planning to increase their cloud computing spending this year. As social media companies remain key players in the industry, 22 percent of CFOs say the social media sector will trigger the most deal activity this year, followed by biotechnology (10 percent).

“The software industry is quickly shifting from the traditional licensing model to cloud-based offerings, such as software-as-a-service to meet the overwhelming need for real-time responses and easy integration,” said Hank Galligan, leader of the Software Practice at BDO. “As the business environment evolves, companies are acknowledging the pressure to upgrade or introduce cloud computing services either through acquisitions or on their own.”

Despite the uncertainty of another tech bubble on the horizon, CFOs have a bright outlook for the future of deal pace with 62 percent predicting that business valuations will increase this year, a 35 percent increase from 2014.

Another blockbuster year for tech IPOs. The technology market experienced robust IPO activity in 2014, with 55 IPOs and Alibaba setting the record as the largest IPO in terms of proceeds raised, according to Renaissance Capital. On the heels of last year’s record activity, an overwhelming majority of respondents (86 percent) say IPO activity will remain the same or increase in 2015. This sentiment is also reflected in the January 2015 BDO IPO Outlook Survey, with 73 percent of capital market executives at leading investment banks predicting an increase in technology offerings.

As venture capital-backed investments soared in 2014, 39 percent of CFOs expect venture capital-backed companies will give rise to the most tech IPOs this year, followed by private equity (36 percent) and owner/manager or privately held businesses (25 percent; up from 18 percent in 2014).

When looking at factors driving IPO activity, more than one-third of CFOs surveyed (34 percent) say the performance of recent tech IPOs will have the greatest impact on the U.S. IPO market, followed by U.S. market volatility (25 percent), global political and economic issues (23 percent) and appeal of IPOs in foreign markets (11 percent). Notably, only five percent of CFOs say concerns about a tech bubble will have the most impact on IPO activity.

More companies plan to seek capital in 2015. Thirty-eight percent of surveyed CFOs say they anticipate seeking additional capital this year, up from 34 percent in 2014. Of the respondents planning to access capital, more than half (51 percent) will turn to a strategic partner—a significant increase from last year’s number of respondents (19 percent)—while only three percent will rely on the private debt market, down from 43 percent in 2014. In addition to strategic partners and private debt, 22 percent of CFOs plan to seek additional capital through public equity, followed by private equity (16 percent) and public debt (five percent).

These findings are from the eighth annual 2015 BDO Technology Outlook Survey, a national telephone survey conducted by Market Measurement, Inc., an independent market research consulting firm, whose executive interviewers spoke directly to 100 chief financial officers at leading technology companies throughout the United States. The survey was conducted from December 2014 to January 2015. Additional findings from the study will be released in the coming weeks.

About the Technology & Life Sciences Practice at BDO USA, LLP
BDO has been a valued business advisor to technology and life sciences companies for over 100 years. The firm works with a wide variety of technology clients, ranging from multinational Fortune 500 corporations to more entrepreneurial businesses, on myriad accounting, tax and other financial issues.

BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For more than 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves clients through 58 offices and more than 400 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of 1,328 offices in 151 countries.

BDO USA, LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. For more information please visit:

BMSS is an independent member firm of the BDO Alliance USA.

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IRS2Go 5.0 Smartphone App to Check Tax Refund Status

The Internal Revenue Service released IRS2Go 5.0, an update to the only official IRS free smartphone application, compatible with both Apple and Android devices.

Download IRS2Go free of charge for Android devices from the Google Play Store or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices.  Use it to check your refund status, watch the IRS YouTube channel, find free tax preparation help, get IRS news as soon as it’s released, subscribe to filing season updates or daily tax tips, and follow the IRS Twitter news feed, @IRSnews, to get the latest federal tax news, including information about tax law changes and important IRS programs.

“The new version of IRS2Go provides taxpayers another way to quickly get information and help around the clock,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS is focused on providing taxpayers with convenient self-service tools like IRS2Go, but it’s important to remind taxpayers to only use official IRS products to safeguard their personal information.”

Users who have already downloaded past versions of IRS2Go should make sure to update their devices with the most current official- and completely free-version of the app by visiting the Apple App or Google Play Store.

Taxpayers can check the status of their federal tax refund through IRS2Go – simply enter your Social Security number, which will be masked and encrypted for security purposes, then select filing status and enter the amount of anticipated refund for your 2014 tax return.

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Auditors Are Watching Your Websites for State & Local Tax Liabilities

Does your website announce that your business has office addresses in multiple cities and states? Do you describe your business as having clients in other states? If so, make sure you are in compliance with all state and local taxes and business license requirements for each area.

Municipalities often contract third-party auditors to assess and collect state and local taxes. One research method is to review company websites to see if they list an address or clients in the auditor’s specific area.

Let the BMSS State and Local Tax Services Group (SALT) help with all of your state and local tax needs. We offer planning, compliance and audit assistance, as well as a “SALT Scrub” for your company.

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IRS Proposes Taxpayer-Friendly Regulations for Research Credit

On January 16, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service proposed long anticipated and taxpayer-friendly regulations concerning the section 41 research tax credit (“research credit”) and its treatment of expenditures related to the development of software, both internal-use software (“IUS”) and non-IUS.

Under the new regulations and historically, IUS development generally must meet a higher standard to qualify than non-IUS development. The proposed regulations, however, narrow considerably the definition of “IUS” and thereby broaden considerably the range of software development expenditures eligible for the credit.

This alert outlines this and other major changes and recommended action items. Please consult the regulations for all details potentially relevant to your particular circumstances.

Under the new regulations, whether software is IUS depends on the initial intent of the taxpayer and the facts and circumstances at the beginning of the software development.

The regulations move the definition of IUS closer to the language of section 41, defining “IUS” as software that is developed by (or for the benefit of) the taxpayer for internal use if the software is developed by the taxpayer for back office functions of the taxpayer, namely financial management functions, human resource management functions, and support services functions as internal use.

Significantly, the regulations provide that software will not be treated as IUS if it is developed to either:

  1. Be commercially sold, leased, licensed, or otherwise marketed to third parties,
  2. Enable a taxpayer to interact with third parties, or
  3. Allow third parties to initiate functions or review data on the taxpayer’s system.

Thus, if the software benefits third parties, it may not be treated as IUS as it would have been under prior law. Examples of such non-IUS software, per the new regulations, include software developed to allow third parties to execute banking transactions, track the progress of a delivery of goods, search a taxpayer’s inventory for goods, store and retrieve a third party’s digital files, purchase tickets for transportation or entertainment, and receive services over the Internet.

The regulations provide that software that serves both general and administrative and non-general and administrative functions—“dual function computer software”—is presumed to be for internal use. However, if a taxpayer can identify a subset of elements of the dual-function software that enables third-party interaction, then the presumption will not apply to the related expenses. The research expenses identified as a third-party subset may be eligible for the research credit.

A safe harbor may be applied if a taxpayer cannot identify a third-party subset or to the remaining subset after the third-party subset has been separated—“dual function subset.” The safe harbor enables a taxpayer to include 25% of the subset’s qualified research expenses, as long as the third-party functions are reasonably anticipated to constitute at least 10% of dual function subset’s use.

Certain IUS development may qualify for the research credit if it meets the additional three-part test outlined in legislative history from 1986 and importantly modified in the new regulations.

  1. The software must be innovative, as where the software results in a reduction in cost, or improvement in speed, that is substantial and economically significant. Notably, the proposed regulations abandon the higher standard of earlier regulations requiring that the software be unique and novel, and differ in a significant way from prior software implementations.
  2. The software development must involve significant economic risk, as where the taxpayer commits substantial resources to the development and there is substantial uncertainty, because of technical risk, that such resources would be recovered within a reasonable period. Importantly, the new regulations require capability or methodological uncertainty for there to be substantial uncertainty because of technical risk. Uncertainty regarding only appropriate design, sufficient for purposes of non-IUS development, is insufficient for IUS development to meet this test.
  3. The software must not be commercially available for use by the taxpayer, as where the software cannot be purchased, leased, or licensed and used for the intended purpose without modifications that would satisfy the first two requirements.

The proposed regulations, once finalized, would be prospective only and effective for taxable years ending on or after the date the final regulations are published in the Federal Register. However, the regulations state that the Service will not challenge return positions consistent with the proposed regulations for taxable years ending on or after January 20, 2015, the date they were published in the Federal Register.

A public hearing has been scheduled for April 17, 2015, at the IRS Auditorium in Washington. The Service has requested written or electronic comments, due on March 23, 2015, approximately 60 days after these proposed regulations were published. Comments on all aspects of the proposed regulations are requested, but comments on the following are specifically invited:

  • The appropriate definition and treatment of connectivity software;
  • The dual function computer software safe harbor; and
  • Other facts and circumstances to be considered in determining whether IUS satisfies the high threshold of innovation test.

Taxpayers who pay for the development of software should:

  • Review their development efforts to address specific issues and opportunities the proposed regulations create (for example, whether software treated as IUS under the old rules would be treated as IUS under the new rules, whether the significant economic risk test’s clarified “substantial uncertainty” test is met, and whether any software is “dual function” software);
  • Consider whether and how the proposed regulations, notwithstanding their effective date, might be leveraged to support any software development expenses under examination; and
  • Consider whether and what comments or questions might be usefully submitted to the Service to help improve the regulations.

Questions?  Email me at

Copyright ©2015 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. BMSS is an independent member firm of the BDO Alliance USA.

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Post-recession growth could signal more IPOs from Birmingham companies

My coworker, Derrel Curry, was recently interviewed by the Birmingham Business Journal about the Birmingham economy and the outlook of businesses going public.   Derrel discusses both the perks and drawbacks of going public.  Read the full article...

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Revenue From Contracts with Customers: What Software Companies Need to Know

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers. ASU 2014-09 establishes comprehensive accounting guidance for revenue recognition and will replace substantially all existing U.S. GAAP on this topic. ASU 2014-09 is converged with IFRS 15, the comparable new standard issued by the IASB.

The revenue standard’s core principle is built on the contract between a vendor and a customer for the provision of goods and services. It utilizes the transfer of control between the parties to determine the pattern of revenue recognition based on the consideration to which the vendor is entitled.

To accomplish this objective, the standard requires five basic steps:

  1. Identify the contract with the customer.
  2. Identify the performance obligations in the contract.
  3. Determine the transaction price.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract.
  5. Recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation.

Most software entities adopting the new standard will experience a change in the timing and manner of revenue recognition.

Some of the more significant potential changes for software companies include:

  • The requirement for Vendor Specific Objective Evidence (VeSOE) is eliminated.
  • Payments from customer which extend beyond one year will no longer automatically preclude revenue recognition.
  • For many software companies, the changes could be significant and will require careful planning.

BDO has published a Revenue Recognition Resource Center, which includes an in-depth publication with examples and practical considerations for your business.

Talk with your BMSS CPA about how these new standards will affect your company.

*By Hank Galligan. This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “BDO TECH” newsletter (Winter 2014). Copyright ©2014 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. BMSS is an independent member firm of the BDO Alliance USA.

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Are Software Companies Missing Out on Section 199 Deductions?

Section 199, also known as the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD) or the Domestic Manufacturing Deduction, is centered on production and manufacturing activities. The deduction is, however, also applicable to many other activities, including software development. With the proper knowledge and understanding of its intricacies, determining this deduction can be worthwhile and provide substantial benefits for software companies.


DPAD provides a tax deduction for production within the United States and was enacted with the intent to reward and enhance job growth and competitiveness. DPAD generally gives a deduction equal to 9 percent of income from qualifying domestic production activities.

Businesses that operate in the following industries may be eligible: manufacturing tangible property, computer software, sound recordings, construction, engineering or architectural services, qualified film or the production of electricity, natural gas or potable water.

The deduction is allowed for both regular and the alternative minimum tax for corporations – both C and S corporations – individuals, partnerships and limited liability companies. Under a “safe harbor” rule, companies can claim the deduction even if their production activities are  only partially produced in the U.S., as long as its domestic labor and overhead related to production activity account for at least 20 percent of its total cost of goods sold (COGS).

Although the benefit was designed to incentivize U.S. production, its limitations, complex rules and potentially onerous compliance requirements have deterred some taxpayers from claiming the deduction. Still, with its many attractive characteristics, companies should seek to claim these benefits and enlist the help of tax professionals, if necessary.

A company producing computer software within the U.S. should consider its eligibility for this deduction. Computer software includes code for video games, equipment that is an integral part of other property, typewriters, calculators, adding and accounting machines, copiers, duplicating equipment and similar equipment. This category further includes any incidental and ancillary rights necessary to effect the acquisition of title to or right to use the software.

With this broad definition, software businesses are well-positioned to take advantage of the DPAD. Treasury has, however, somewhat limited the ability of these businesses to claim the deduction by excluding gross receipts derived solely from online software or software as a service (SaaS) delivery models.

With companies offering more and more software exclusively online, it may be more difficult for them to claim this deduction. Thankfully, there are two exceptions to this general rule:

  • The first exception applies if a company generates gross receipts from software provided in a tangible or downloadable form that is nearly identical to the online software in question.
  • The second exception applies when an unrelated party offers software in a tangible or downloadable form that is substantially identical to the online software.
  • Thus, as long as either the company or a third party offers substantially identical software to the online software and offers it in a tangible or downloadable form, then the online software may also be eligible for the deduction.

In 2012, the IRS released a memorandum addressing whether certain third-party computer software products were equivalent to a taxpayer’s online software in order to meet this second exception. The outcome is that a company cannot aggregate multiple software programs in order to meet the exception. Fortunately, components of the online software can be used if a company can identify other businesses that offer substantially identical features offline.

Furthermore, on Nov. 7, 2014, the IRS National Office released in a Technical Advice Memorandum that a taxpayerconducted qualifying activity from licensing customized software to contracting parties that then used their own data in conjunction with the licensed computer software to provide services to end users.

In addition to the pure software development opportunity, there is also an exception for software that is part of a hardware product. If the software development takes place in the U.S. and the cost of the software development is 20 percent or more of the total COGS of the product, the entire product is eligible for the DPAD regardless of the manufacturing location. This is a significant opportunity for companies that write software for hardware products that may be manufactured offshore.

The DPAD provides software companies an attractive opportunity to effectively lower their tax rate by approximately three percentage points. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the DPAD will cost $78.2 billion in foregone revenue from 2013 through 2017. With this sizable expected benefit and the chance to lower tax rates, software businesses that are not already claiming this deduction should consider reassessing their activities to determine whether or not they are leaving generous benefits on the table.

Talk with your BMSS CPA or one of our Technology professionals about your specific situation.

*By Chai Hoang and Jonathan Forman. This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “BDO TECH” newsletter (Winter 2014). Copyright ©2014 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. BMSS is an independent member firm of the BDO Alliance USA.

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Alabama Launchpad Accounting Compliance Awards

I am proud and excited to announce that BMSS is participating in the Alabama Launchpad’s Accounting Compliance awards.  Myself and others at BMSS will provide  consulting to the award winners to help with setting up appropriate federal grant compliance accounting systems.

Program Overview:

Alabama Launchpad’s Phase 0 program provides Alabama-based, early stage technology companies and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) winners with the tools and technical assistance needed to commercialize their innovation, grow their business and create quality jobs. The Phase 0 program is designed to give Phase I and Phase II proposals a greater rate of success by providing expert review and financial support.


Applicant must complete the application process through Alabama Launchpad’s SBIR/STTR Assistance Program. Email Addie Mancuso at to fill out an application.

Phase 0 Support Grant Requirements:

  • Applicant must be an Alabama Company
  • Applicant must meet all federal SBIR/STTR program eligibility requirements that are applicable to the relevant federal solicitation

All SBIR/STTR Phase 0 proposals must be assembled in the following sequence:

  • Email Addie Mancuso at
  • Create FluidReview account
  • Complete pre-screen questionnaire
  • Complete Phase 0 application
  • Pay the $150 application fee

Award and Reporting Requirements:

Applicants will receive notice of SBIR/STTR Phase 0 award/declination via email. Any and all documentation (required documentation varies on the award sought) requested by Alabama Launchpad must be returned within 21 days of the request or the award will be forfeited.

Award recipients are required to provide Alabama Launchpad with project data for evaluation and reporting purposes. Further instructions for the preparation and submission of progress reports will be sent to the awardee within 30 days after the expiration of the award.

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation reserves the right to prioritize funds to companies with less than $500,000 in Phase I and $1,000,000 in Phase II.

Failure to provide any requested materials for award or evaluation purposes will constitute default under this program. In such cases, Alabama Launchpad reserves the right to recover all previously expended funds issued under the related SBIR/STTR Phase 0 Award and the right to refuse any future SBIR/STTR Phase 0 proposals for consideration of funding.

Requirements for Accounting Compliance Awards

Applicant must be SBIR/STTR Phase I or Phase II award winner (notice of award proof must be provided).

Applicants must schedule an initial meeting with their preferred vendor of choice (see list of vendors) no later than 30 days after receiving the notification of the Phase 0 award. The determined accounting services must be completed within 90 days of the agreed upon start date based on the letter of acknowledgement.

The Phase 0 program will not cover additional costs outside of the determined services. A copy of the invoice to be reimbursed must be submitted to ALP, as a precondition to receiving the Phase 0 award funds. Applicants must notify Alabama Launchpad of award or decline of their Phase 0 award. Businesses can only receive Phase 0 funding once within the calendar year.

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