2 weeks ago

Sloss Tech is evidence of Birmingham’s vibrant innovation economy

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

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

“I’m putting the whole innovative and tech space on your shoulders, but I’m pushing you and cheering you on the entire way because the city of Birmingham needs you,” Woodfin told the sold-out audience at the Lyric Theatre on Aug. 2.

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

Woodfin said Birmingham’s economy emerged from one based on steel to a diversified one in health care, financial services and manufacturing. Today, Woodfin said technology is disrupting all those industries and it’s important that Birmingham learn how to marry the two.

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

For instance, he said Birmingham needs to “double-down and triple-down” on biotech, biomedicine and personalized medicine enabled by technology and innovation. The same is true for manufacturing, using the assets the city has – in particular, its unparalleled transportation infrastructure – to enhance that industry.

Woodfin talked about his own stumbles – failing the bar before becoming a lawyer and losing his first run for elected office before eventually becoming mayor of Birmingham – before encouraging those at Sloss Tech.

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

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

Mayfield was on the startup panel that talked about what Birmingham is doing right and what it could be doing better to support startups. For instance, offering its thousands of employees access to the Wyndy app or babysitting credits would be a great benefit to the employees and directly support a local startup, he said.

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

Elliott Potter, one of the co-founders, said they were inspired by Sloss Tech a year ago to have a new product ready by this year’s event. He said they never dreamed they would have their own panel to help kick off this year’s Sloss Tech.

“We’ve gotten the best business feedback we’ve ever gotten,” Potter said. “This was our public debut. All of the feedback we’ve gotten today is absolutely crucial.”

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

“It’s been an awesome journey and a lot of fun,” he said.

The three continue to work at Shipt, which supports them as they pursue their own startup plans. It’s an example of how the Birmingham tech economy is perpetuating itself by fostering new startups.

“The tech ecosystem in Birmingham in general is very much supportive; collaborative and synergistic,” Potter said. “We’re just happy to be riding the wave.”

Sloss Tech did make it clear, however, that more can be done to ensure everyone who wants to ride that wave can do so. The women in technology panel was real and raw in highlighting that Birmingham, like other cities, can do more to be inclusive, especially when it comes to women.

That’s the kind of open talk organizers TechBirmingham and Telegraph wanted with Sloss Tech.

Deon Gordon, president of TechBirmingham, said Birmingham is a city that has proved it may not get inclusion right the first time, but it has the wherewithal to keep working at it until it does.

TechBirmingham is using a grant from the National Center for Women and Information Technology to recruit, retain and advance women from K-12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers.

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

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

“Those three things right there, research tells us, can really not just help move needles, but start to move mountains in terms of kids and their proficiency and their self-efficacy,” Gordon said. “Do they believe they can do this? Do they believe that they have a future in STEM and in coding?”

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

“Everybody has a role to play in this and to the degree that we can illuminate those various roles and how they tie into this larger tech ecosystem, we will be much better for it,” he said.

Sloss Tech offered much to take in, which keynote speaker Alexis Ohanian pointed out. He said one of the key traits he looks for in a startup’s founder is relentlessness because that speaks to the drive and understanding he or she has for what it is they are undertaking.

The co-founder of Reddit and now an avid investor in startups said there is much to like about what is happening in Birmingham today. He said Birmingham seems to be a place that has talent, a lower cost of living, a high quality of life and a place that could foster startups on a grand scale.

“It’s a very good time for the tech community here to be starting to thrive,” Ohanian told Alabama NewsCenter in an interview.

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

He said tech-enabled entrepreneurship is a powerful force in the world today that can help bring about important change.

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

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Episode 1: SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic

Dale Jackson is joined by the SEC Network personality and WJOX-FM’s Three Man Front host Cole Cubelic.

Cole describes his path to multimedia stardom — from putting on the pads as a middle-schooler to pharmaceutical sales to calling SEC football games. Cole shares how his wife’s supported him throw the lows and how he got to his highs.
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12 hours ago

Episode 22: It’s Bo time

With Auburn announcing Bo Nix the starter at quarterback, DrunkAubie reconvenes to react and answer listeners’ questions about the freshman. DrunkAubie also discusses the top traditions and top mascots in college football and offers up some advice for the upcoming season.

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12 hours ago

State Rep. John Rogers not running for U.S. Senate, says Jones showing ‘conservatism’ but not racist

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) on Wednesday told Yellowhammer News that he will not run in the 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary against Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Rogers began considering a potential bid towards the tail-end of the Alabama legislature’s regular session this spring. At that time, he told Yellowhammer News, “I don’t want to run a campaign just to run. I want to run to win.”

He said he needed to raise $500,000 in order to be competitive.

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However, after testing the waters for months, Rogers has concluded that he cannot raise sufficient funds, saying Jones’ war chest was too much to overcome in a primary. Rogers previously challenged Jones to a public debate, which Alabama’s junior senator ignored.

The state representative from Jefferson County on Wednesday also commented on the ongoing battle that has pitted Jones and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC).

Rogers said that he disagreed with the charges of racism against Jones made by the state party’s secretary, Val Bright, who last week penned an open letter saying that Jones and the DNC were targeting “blacks” in their effort to overhaul the party’s structure and leadership.

“Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins,” Bright stated.

“In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins,” she added. “From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.”

Rogers advised that he does not believe Jones to be a racist.

“Because Alabama is a conservative state, and you’ve got to have some conservatives in the legislature (Congress) — I hate to say that, but it is Alabama, and if you’re going to run for a statewide office, you’ve got to be in the middle of the road,” Rogers said. “And Doug knows that. I mean — I don’t like some of the things he does to show his ‘conservatism,’ but if you want to be expecting to win against a Republican, you’ve got to show some conservatism.”

Rogers continued to say Jones is still his friend and has been “for a long time.”

“I don’t think he’s racist, I wouldn’t dare call him a racist,” Rogers concluded.

RELATED: Rogers: Jones called me, admitted I was ‘right’ on abortion remarks

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

University of Alabama in Huntsville honored for discovering one of physics’ ‘Holy Grails’

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced this week that it has been honored by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers with a Milestone Plaque for a 1987 physics discovery.

The discovery of superconductivity at 93 Kelvin occurred on January 29, 1987, and the dedication of the award recognizes “the impact of the world’s first material to superconduct above the technologically significant temperature of liquid nitrogen.”

UAH said in a release posted to its website, “The material that is the subject of the discovery was first conceived, synthesized, and tested in a UAH physics laboratory in Wilson Hall. It has been referred to by some science writers as one of physics’ ‘Holy Grails.’ The discovery prompted an American Physical Society meeting in March of 1987 to become known as ‘The Woodstock of Physics.'”

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The site added, “By crossing the 77 Kelvin barrier and making superconductivity possible at the temperature of the much more affordable and easily used coolant liquid nitrogen, the material discovered at UAH opened up a realm of more practical superconductivity applications.”

The site also noted that superconductors have been useful in powerful electromagnets, such as those used in MRI and NMR machines, maglev trains, and fusion reactor research; low-loss electrical power cables; fast fault current limiters; fast digital circuits; sensitive detection and measurement of magnetism, subatomic particles, and light, along with radio-frequency and microwave filters.

The UAH material has been used in high field magnets (holding the current record of 45.5 Tesla), electric power cables, fault current limiters, and radio-frequency filters.

A bronze plaque, which was presented on Monday, will be mounted outside the room that once served as the superconductivity laboratory at UAH.

The plaque reads as follows:

On this site, a material consisting of yttrium, barium, copper, and oxygen was first conceived, synthesized, tested, and — on 29 January 1987 — found to exhibit stable and reproducible superconductivity at 93 Kelvin. This marked the first time the phenomenon had been unambiguously achieved above 77 Kelvin, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, thus enabling more practical and widespread use of superconductors.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

14 hours ago

‘Gun control’ may be popular, but eventually its proponents will have to explain what it means

A popular refrain in American politics today is that “Americans want stricter gun laws.”

Is that true? Sort of.

NPR released the following poll results:

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60% of Americans want “stricter gun laws.”

85% of Democrats want “stricter gun laws.”

58% of independents want “stricter gun laws.”

39% of Republicans want “stricter gun laws.”

But what does that mean?

Here is what the “March for Our Lives” proponents have started pushing for in something they called the “Peace Plan.”

It is a wishlist of ideas, some popular, some unpopular. Some of the ideas are unconstitutional and most are ineffective feel-good ideas or vindictive uses of the federal government power to punish their enemies.

Do Americans want gun registry and licensing?

The CNN report of the “Peace Plan” states, “The first prong of the plan calls for legislation that would ‘raise the national standard for gun ownership’ through several mechanisms, including a national licensing and registry system.

Yes, 70% of Americans favor “Requiring all privately-owned guns to be registered with the police.”

This is unconstitutional.

How about a handgun ban?

The CNN report explains, “The plan calls for a review of the 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned a ban on handguns in the nation’s capital and upheld the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a gun for personal use.”

No, a 2018 poll says 71% oppose that.

But the request is for a “review” of the ruling by who?

“By directing the Justice Department to review the decision and ensuring the next generation of federal judges appointed by the President have ‘a different interpretation of the Second Amendment,'” the report outlines.

So, a litmus test to all future judges in order to change the 2nd Amendment to only appoint people that will declare what is currently unconstitutional is now constitutional?

Aren’t these the same people who scream about precedent and demand that the Roe v. Wade ruling be held as an untouchable benchmark in American history?

How about a punishing of their political opponents with the force of government?

The CNN report says, “The plan also calls for the investigation of the National Rifle Association by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.”

This is a stunning request here. There is no indication the NRA is out breaking laws, but gun-grabbers want to use government entities to take them on?

This mentality is exactly why the 2nd Amendment exists.

Tyranny, even by the majority, is still tyranny.

Shouldn’t we be wary when the same people that want to punish you for wrong-think also want to talk about gun registries and gun-confiscation?

The “no one wants your guns” charade is over.

Make no mistake, these people want your guns.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.