Sloss Tech is proof of Birmingham’s vibrant innovation economy

Members of Birmingham’s startup community, innovation economy and tech companies gathered at Sloss Tech and made it clear that the Magic City tech ecosystem is, well, magical.

Even Mayor Randall Woodfin compared what is happening in Birmingham’s innovation economy today to the boom in the steel industry that gave the city its nickname more than a century ago.

“I put all the innovative and technological space on your shoulders, but I push and encourage you all the way because the city of Birmingham needs you,” Woodfin told the Lyric Theater sold-out audience in August. 2.

Sloss Tech showcases Birmingham’s emerging technology and innovation ecosystem from the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Woodfin said Birmingham’s economy has shifted from an economy based on steel to one that is diverse in healthcare, financial services and manufacturing. Today, Woodfin said technology is disrupting all of these industries and it is important for Birmingham to learn how to marry the two.

“You are all disruptors, in a positive way, of the trajectory we need to take to take the city of Birmingham,” he said.

For example, he said Birmingham needs to “double and triple” on biotechnology, biomedicine and personalized medicine made possible by technology and innovation. The same goes for the manufacturing sector, which uses the strengths available to the city, including its unparalleled transport infrastructure, to add value to this industry.

Woodfin spoke of his own stumbles – failing the bar before becoming a lawyer and losing his first candidacy for an elected post before eventually becoming mayor of Birmingham – before cheering on those at Sloss Tech.

“When it comes to the economy of this city, all of you in this room are responsible for the future of this city,” he said. “There will be stumbles. You will fail. You are going to lose. But you will get up because the city of Birmingham needs you.

Woodfin’s address ended up being the perfect backdrop for a day where Birmingham’s tech leaders celebrated successes, launched startups and spoke candidly about shortcomings.
Celebrated successes include Wyndy, the babysitting app that Tommy Mayfield founded in 2017 to make it easier for parents to find, hire and pay for a trusted babysitter. Mayfield said the company has received another round of funding that will allow it to add staff and expand its geographic footprint.

Mayfield was part of the startup panel who spoke about what Birmingham does well and what it could do better to support startups. For example, offering his thousands of employees access to the Wyndy app or babysitting credits would be a big employee benefit and directly support a local startup, he said.

A trio of Shipt employees used Sloss Tech to launch their new business, Linq. The company allows users to digitally share business card information through their phones without having to download an app.

Elliott Potter, one of the co-founders, said he took inspiration from Sloss Tech a year ago to prepare a new product for this year’s event. He said they never dreamed they would have their own panel to help launch this year’s Sloss Tech.

“We have received the best business feedback we have ever received,” said Potter. “It was our public debut. All of the feedback we have received today is absolutely critical.

Potter said the team will make adjustments to the program based on the feedback received.

“It was a great trip and a lot of fun,” he said.

The three continue to work at Shipt, which supports them in pursuing their own start-up plans. It’s an example of how Birmingham’s tech economy is perpetuated by nurturing new startups.

“Birmingham’s tech ecosystem in general is very favorable; collaborative and synergistic, ”Potter said. “We are just happy to ride the wave. “

However, Sloss Tech has made it clear that more can be done to ensure that anyone who wants to ride this wave can do so. The Women in Tech panel was real and raw in pointing out that Birmingham, like other cities, can do more to be inclusive, especially when it comes to women.

This is the kind of open discussion organizers TechBirmingham and Telegraph wanted with Sloss Tech.

Deon Gordon, president of TechBirmingham, said Birmingham is a city that has proven maybe not included correctly on the first try, but has the means to keep working there until ‘she does.

TechBirmingham uses a grant from the National Center for Women and Information Technology to recruit, retain and advance women from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education through industrial and entrepreneurial careers.

Organizations like TechBirmingham are sowing other seeds to meet the city’s future needs in the tech economy.

Gordon highlighted a new coding initiative TechBirmingham is rolling out to 12 schools across the city this year. It will include professional development for teachers, access to equipment and the curriculum for students, and the creation of an advanced placement program for those who excel in the program.

“These three things, the research tells us, can really not only help move needles, but also start moving mountains in terms of kids and their skills and self-efficacy,” Gordon said. “Do they think they can do it? Do they believe they have a future in STEM and coding? “

Gordon said it’s important to let young people know that there are futures in the industry that don’t require programming or even coding skills.

“Everyone has a role to play in this regard and as long as we can shed light on these different roles and how they fit into this larger tech ecosystem, we will be much better at it,” he said. .

Sloss Tech has a lot to offer, which keynote speaker Alexis Ohanian pointed out. He said that one of the key traits he looks for in a startup founder is relentlessness, as it shows the motivation and understanding he or she has for what he or she does.

The Reddit co-founder and now a passionate investor in startups said there is a lot to like about what’s going on in Birmingham today. He said Birmingham appears to be a place that has talent, a lower cost of living, a high quality of life, and a place that could foster large-scale startups.

“It’s a great time for the tech community here to start to thrive,” Ohanian told Alabama NewsCenter in an interview.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on the strengths, challenges Birmingham faces as an Alabama NewsCenter tech startup hub on Vimeo.

He said technology-based entrepreneurship is a powerful force in today’s world that can help bring about significant change.

“I think the talent is universally distributed, it’s just that the opportunity hasn’t always been,” Ohanian said. “I think you can already see this starting to change in tech hubs like Birmingham.”

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