Innovator Highlight: Michael Harrison, VFA Alum

Name: Michael Harrison

Venture for America Class: 2015

Company: Fleetio

Position: Product Manager

Graduated: North Carolina State University

Major: Industrial Engineering

Hometown: Raleigh, NC

About Fleetio

Michael Harrison VFA headshot.JPG

Fleetio's suite of fleet management solutions helps fleets of all sizes automate fleet operations, manage asset lifecycle and track drivers with the convenience of a smartphone and the Fleetio Go mobile app. Fleets can track, score and rank their drivers, manage maintenance, fuel, vehicle inspections, parts + more. Fleetio offers fuel card automation plus integration with multiple telematics solutions for automated odometer updates, DTC handling, and fuel location reporting.

Q & A

As a VFA fellow, why did you choose Birmingham?

Truthfully, I didn’t know much about Birmingham and was driven mostly by the opportunity to build cool products at Fleetio while launching a new VFA community with a handful of friends. When I visited, I saw enough of the tech ecosystem and heard enough Bham praise from ardent residents to take the bait.

As a VFA Alumni, your 2-year fellowship is over, what makes you continue to stay in Birmingham?

I’m bullish on Fleetio’s growth potential and it has remained a terrific place to launch my career. But what’s more, this city that I once assumed was simply a suitable place to work, now feels like home. This is a wonderful place to live. When I arrived, it was immediately apparent that Birmingham has a unique, collective city pride, and somewhere between day 1 and day 730, I transitioned from observer to promoter.

Describe your perfect day in the Birmingham

Hand-ground Domestique coffee beans. 18 at Highland Park as the first group off the tee. Pepper Place Market. Lunch at Rojo. Bike to Sidebar. 3 hours of volleyball. Cool-down at Trim Tab. Sunset+planes at Shuttleworth. The Garage.

What do you think makes the Magic City “magic?”

Well, nobody has a stirred response to reading about a magic trick; magic is sensory. Birmingham is the same way. People underrate our city until they visit it and love it...and then they become the next audience-member grasping to figure out its secret. The mystery validates the moniker.

What projects are you currently working on at Fleetio?

I’m currently focused on vehicle maintenance and repair. We’re trying to find new ways to automate the steps in conducting and recording vehicle service, so that means I’m researching and designing new product offerings, everything from large-scale integrations to tiny UI/UX tweaks within our platform. 

What personal side-projects are you currently working on?

I work a little on the side as a photographer, specializing mostly in community events and sports. Otherwise, my time is spent as a Computer Science teacher at Woodlawn HS, an opportunity provided by the organization TEALS.

What advice would you give prospective young people looking to move to Birmingham?

This community is not just willing - it’s eager - to invest in you. At this stage in your life, you should crave guidance and mentorship, and I’m grateful to live in a city where its residents give each so freely.  

About Venture for America

Venture for America is a two-year fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to work at a startup and create jobs in American cities. Fellows learn important startup skills at VFA’s five-week Training Camp at Brown University, apply for jobs within their vetted company network, and work for two years as full-time, salaried employees in one of 18 cities. When Fellows are ready to start a company—be it two years after college or ten—VFA has the resources to help make that dream a reality. In the last six years, VFA has produced 33 Fellow-Founded companies who have raised $29M and have created over 145 new jobs.

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