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Helping Innovators Grow Roots

July 9, 2024 · Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Investors, News, Talent

Innovate Alabama Takes Center Stage at Sloss Tech 2024 

Connections forged? Check. 

Ideas exchanged? Check. 

Innovation advanced? Check. 

Presented by Innovate Alabama and hosted by TechBirmingham and Telegraph Creative, Sloss Tech 2024 brought an unmatched energy of excitement and inspiration this year.  

Innovate Alabama leveraged Alabama’s premier tech conference to connect with the hundreds of startup founders, small business owners, investors, lenders, students and employers attending Sloss Tech.  

Lights, Cameras, Action! 

A full crowd at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Birmingham witnessed Dr. Rodney Sampson, Innovate Alabama’s InvestAL program manager, open Sloss Tech alongside gener8tor Managing Director Kellie Clark with a captivating fireside chat about the highly anticipated SSBCI program that will infuse nearly $98 million into our state’s ecosystem. Afterward, Innovate Alabama leadership connected with conference attendees from across the state and region through panels and breakout sessions where likeminded entrepreneurs, startup founders, investors, lenders and students learned more about Innovate Alabama’s programs within the organizations three pillars: access to resources, talent development and lifestyle & recreation.  

Alabama’s Ecosystem Engaged 

“The Alabama startup ecosystem, especially on the technology side, is still in its early days, but growing very fast. And I think something like Innovate Alabama in the ecosystem is really going to propel that,” said Shegun Otulana, Sloss Tech’s “Next In Tech” keynote speaker, founder and of Harmony Venture Labs and Innovate Alabama commission member. “I don’t think we’ve really ever had an organization like Innovate Alabama fully dedicated to that work with the kind of capital that Innovate Alabama has and the way we’ve chosen to deploy it in Alabama.” 

SSBCI: The $98 Million Gamechanger 

Leveraging Sloss Tech to introduce SSBCI, coined InvestAL and LendAL by Innovate Alabama, was an incredible opportunity to reach entrepreneurs, investors and lenders across the entire state. In addition, it highlighted opportunities for those considering a move to Alabama. Through a mix of fireside chats and panels, many of which were livestreamed, Innovate Alabama educated interested applicants about eligibility requirements, broke down the application process in more detail and held scheduled office hours to provide tailored responses and feedback. 

Vickie Gibbs, program manager for InvestAL who works with Dr. Sampson, led an SSBCI panel for Sloss Tech attendees interested in learning more about the program. “The questions we got from startups and founders were great,” she said. “I think another great thing about this program is we want to make sure we’re accessing the whole state of Alabama. Traditionally, capital has not gone to groups that the U.S. Treasury calls SEDI, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. We want to make sure we are providing capital and access to all entrepreneurs across Alabama.” 

Attendees “SEEK AL” 

In addition to launching the SSBCI program at the conference, Innovate Alabama also activated its newly developed outdoor recreation campaign, SEEK AL, for the very first time.  SEEK AL positions Alabama’s outdoor recreation assets as talent attraction and retention tools. About 40 conference attendees joined Innovate Alabama Executive Director of Outdoor Recreation Programs T.C. McLemore for a VEO e-bike ride through Birmingham. Throughout the two-day conference, attendees also experienced Alabama’s breathtaking outdoors through virtual reality in a feature-laden, customized SEEK AL van that will soon be traveling around the state. 

E-bike ride participant Sophia Self of Mountain Brook said, “One of my favorite things about Alabama is the state parks and the outdoor opportunities. But I didn’t really know that there were trails within Birmingham. I think that’s super unique. And we already love visiting waterfalls and going on hikes. So, this is an extension of those outdoor activities – just in the city.” 

Developing Homegrown Talent 

Innovate Alabama also focused on its talent development pillar by leading Sloss Tech’s Next In Tech program, developing unique talent-focused programming, like Sloss Tech’s first-ever Student Pitch Competition and a keynote from renowned Alabama entrepreneur Shegun Otulana. As part of the partnership, Innovate Alabama enabled young professionals, college and high school students to attend the conference and participate in this tailored programming for free.  

Next In Tech attendee Christian Collins said, “A breakout session today was specifically to help us figure out whether we want to be an entrepreneur or be in the tech scene, and just learn how to begin that process of our career. Most importantly for me, I want to connect and communicate with the local tech scene in Birmingham. I would love to stay in Birmingham. It’s starting to become more of a tech hub in the Southeast, and I think that’s something really special.” 

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