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Birmingham’s Sloss Tech conference is ‘not just back, but bigger’ in 2023

In its first four years, Birmingham’s Sloss Tech conference earned growing attention in technology, innovation and entrepreneurial circles in the Southeast and across the nation.

Beginning in 2016, all four annual conferences sold out, with a collective attendance of about 3,000 people coming to Birmingham from 47 states to compare notes and hear from renowned subject matter experts.

Sloss Tech also reached six million users online, generated 120 million online impressions and accumulated earned media with an estimated value of $10 million.

Then came the COVID pandemic. For three years, there was no conference.

That changed on Friday when Sloss Tech returned. Presented by TechBirmingham and Telegraph Creative, the conference is taking place in downtown Birmingham, with the historic Lyric Theatre as the hub of activity, along with breakout sessions at the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema and satellite experiences in other nearby locations.

TechBirmingham CEO Deon Gordon said there’s been high demand for resuming Sloss Tech, a strong sign of excitement about Birmingham’s future as a center for entrepreneurial and tech growth.

“This is an opportunity for Birmingham,” Gordon said. “We’re happy to have Sloss Tech not just back, but bigger. Hosting this conference is not only indicative of where Birmingham is in the technology and innovation ecosystem, but also speaks to where we are going. It’s an ideal time for people to see what’s happening here with innovation and entrepreneurs and investors. People can come and see the excitement, feel the energy, get a real idea of who we are.

“Once they’re here, Birmingham sells itself.”

Artificial intelligence (AI), biotech, Extended Reality (XR) and sports tech are among the leading-edge topics featured at this year’s Sloss Tech. The audience will include students and early-career tech professionals, many affiliated with historically Black colleges and universities, thanks to a new Sloss Tech initiative called “Next in Tech.”

One of the conference’s keynote speakers is Devon Townsend, co-founder and chief product officer of Cameo, an online platform where users can pay for personalized messages, such as birthday greetings, from celebrities.

Among others participating as speakers or panelists are Sherrell Dorsey, CEO of Plexus; Amina Al Sherif, Google‘s AI and machine learning practice lead; Curtis Carver, vice president and chief information officer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB); and Cornell Wesley, director of the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for the city of Birmingham.

The city is an official community partner and host of Sloss Tech. Supporting and encouraging Birmingham’s growth as a technology hub has been a priority of city government for more than a decade, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin noted. The partnership with Sloss Tech is an important part of that effort.

“Sloss Tech helps us keep Birmingham in the forefront of the national conversation about growing regional tech hubs,” Woodfin said. “We have been committed to becoming a leader in the tech space, whether we’re talking about training and recruitment of the workforce of the future or being a place where innovation takes root and grows.”

Serving as a catalyst for the conversations and connections that make growth happen is the purpose of Sloss Tech, said Seth Griffin, chief creative officer of Telegraph. Birmingham’s momentum has only increased since the last Sloss Tech, Griffin added, making this an ideal time to resume the annual conference.

“Birmingham and Alabama are serious about attracting and retaining world-class talent,” said Griffin. “We’re going to keep getting behind entrepreneurs and building great companies and creating jobs. We’re going to keep making an impact.”

Sloss Tech is supported by more than 30 local businesses and organizations, including Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation.

That kind of support makes Sloss Tech what TechBirmingham’s Gordon termed a “catalytic magnet.” Whether it’s an entrepreneur in need of a co-founder, a company in need of next-level funding or an investor who falls in love with the city and moves to Birmingham, the goal is to make it easy for people to intersect with inspiration, ideas and opportunity.

The target audience is not just those attending Sloss Tech or watching it online, Gordon said. It is also those speaking and presenting at the conference, who will spread the word about Birmingham across the nation and around the world.

“Sloss Tech is much more than an event,” said Gordon. “It’s a platform for continuing to build Birmingham. We hope every person who comes, leaves as an advocate for our city. We want them to share that sense of optimism and enthusiasm that drives what we’re building here.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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