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Birmingham’s Kellie Clark: Investing in the Growth of Health Care Startups

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Kellie Clark is managing director for Prosper Health-tech Accelerator powered by Gener8tor (PHTA), which connects health technology startups to the coaching, capital, and connections they need to build and grow their businesses. (Provided)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

While younger, Kellie Clark always believed she’d become doctor, but once a young adult embarked on a career where she found work just as important. “I wanted to be a doctor, but I couldn’t pass organic chemistry, so I had to figure out what I was going to do next,” said Clark.

“Next” would eventually become managing director for Prosper Health-tech Accelerator powered by Gener8tor (PHTA), which connects health technology startups to the coaching, capital, and connections they need to build and grow their businesses.

“We invest in early-stage health care startups,” she said. “We believe and see Alabama and Birmingham as a unique testing ground for health care solutions that have global potential. Alabama faces a multitude of health care disparities and outcomes that mirror challenges that others are experiencing worldwide. Our goal is to transform these health care disparities into opportunities for innovation.”

It was while attending Auburn University that Clark “realized that there are more ways to help people than being a doctor,” she said.

She switched her focus of study to economic development after taking a family and social policy class.

“From there I studied public administration and got really interested in economic development. I didn’t know that there was a career field in that field at the time,” she said.

Since August 2023, she’s been managing director for Prosper Health-tech Accelerator where she and her team hold two separate cohorts and invest in 10 companies a year and in return get equity in their business.

“They come to Birmingham for 12 weeks and for 12 weeks they are meeting with our networks and health care partners. We are working to decrease the risk in their businesses. We’re making key intros, helping them get to get customers, pilot opportunities, and raise additional funding and at the end of the 12 weeks they become a part of our portfolio and they get ongoing support,” said Clark.

So far, they have invested into 25 companies.

Space To Grow

Born and raised in Birmingham, Clark, 37, grew up in Ensley the youngest with two older brothers. “I had an older sister, she passed about a decade ago,” said Clark.

Her parents worked in the health care field. Her mother, Shirley Cosby is a big influence on her life.

“My mom was a nurse for over 40 years. She worked hard to expose me to so many different things. What that did for me was when I was in college, when I started working, I didn’t question if I belonged or not,” said Clark.

Her father was a respiratory therapist at Cooper Green Hospital and Veteran Affairs Health Care (VA).

She attended Central Park Christian, a small private school that was around the corner from her childhood home in Belview Heights. She graduated in 2005 and then attended Auburn University where she finished her undergrad in political science/women studies in 2009 and her Master of Public Administration, in 2011.

Clark recalled growing up and noticing the differences between the community where she lived and other places.

But that has helped her when she faces adversity, especially as a Black woman taking up space where most times, she is the minority.  If she could offer advice for anyone who is experiencing the same thing, she says, “if a flower doesn’t bloom, you don’t blame the flower…you check the soil. Only be present and accept invitations to places and environments that nurture, protect, and grow you. Any space that doesn’t offer you this isn’t a space where you should be planted or rooted,” she said.

Love Of The Outdoors

Clark currently lives in Birmingham with her husband Collier Clark and their eight-year-old daughter, and six-year-old son.

In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors. “It makes me feel small and I think that is important for human beings,” she said. “The outdoors helps me keep things in perspective. There are things bigger and more important than emails, work … the outdoors is humbling. And it continues to exist and do it’s thing without our intervention. Nature doesn’t need us. That’s humbling when you think about it.”

Some of her favorite activities include hiking, camping, and gardening which she learned from her grandmother. “For years she only went to the grocery store for meat, sugar, and flour,” Clark said of her grandmother. Her grandmother grew okara, tomatoes, and collards, Clark said.

She credits her grandmother as well the love of the outdoors.

“She could always ‘smell’ when it was about to rain or [would say] if spider webs are big ‘it’s because a cold snap is coming.’ And she would be right. As a kid I thought she had superpowers. As an adult I realize she just spent most of her life in Monroe County her senses weren’t dulled by the city. She was in touch with her surroundings.”

Clark said she started a group in the Birmingham-area named Outdoor Afro in February 2017. “It’s a national origination and I helped start the Birmingham chapter and there is a chapter in Montgomery as well,” she said. “Our mission is to celebrate, inspire Black connection and leadership in nature. Every month we would do something outside. Whether it be rock climbing or kayaking.

When she’s not outdoors, she loves to read science fiction and Octavia Bulter, author of 1993’s Parable of the Sower, and spending time with her family.

Some of her favorite things about Birmingham is the accessibility to the outdoor trails “our independently owned restaurants — O’ Taste and See in Crestwood is some of the best soul food. It is so good” — and our outdoor festivals.

She was recently named one of Birmingham Business Journals 40 under 40 an accomplishment that didn’t set in “until I actually went to the [ceremony] and looked at the past nominees…that showed me the weight of it,” she said. “It’s an honor.”