ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Tommy Mayfield . If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Birmingham is known as the Magic City because it sprang into existence, as if by magic, in the years following the Civil War.
In many respects, the story of our city’s unlikely beginning mirrors my own, which began while I was practicing law at Maynard Cooper & Gale.
My wife Ginger and I had a crazy idea.
Like many parents, we found the process of finding, booking, and paying reliable babysitters difficult and inefficient. Our favorite sitters were college students, but we were still using the same methods parents were using a decade ago to connect with them, relying on word-of-mouth recommendations to meet new sitters and text messages to book them.
Modern technology has made ordering our groceries (thanks Shipt!) or finding a ride (thanks Uber!) insanely easy, so why wasn’t there a mobile app that could radically simplify the process of finding, booking, and paying college sitters?
My wife and I wanted to start a company to create that app, but I was an attorney—not a tech entrepreneur.
When we founded Wyndy and began talking about building our new company in Birmingham, several people told us it couldn’t be done. They simply couldn’t fathom that Jones Valley could produce the kind of technology we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley.
But things are already happening here that lead me to believe those folks are wrong.
Shipt, the on-demand grocery delivery service, was born right here in Birmingham. Despite the existence of Instacart, a silicon-valley born competitor with $675 million in backing, Shipt’s footprint has grown tremendously in the past several years. Bill Smith, Shipt’s founder, was kind enough to take time away from his booming business to offer me advice several months ago.
I’ve quickly found that the startup community in Birmingham is large, growing, and eager to help others who want to join its ranks. I’m particularly grateful to Nate Schmidt, the director of the new Velocity Accelerator at Innovation Depot, and Jack West, the founder of Book-It Legal. Nate and Jack are just two of the many folks who have provided me with encouragement and insight over the past few months.
In order to get Wyndy off the ground, we’ve needed the help of a broad array of Birmingham’s talented workforce–software developers (thanks Airship!), lawyers, graphic designers, bankers, videographers, insurance brokers, photographers, digital marketing specialists, and of course, local parents and college students.
I’ve begun to believe a city’s greatness hinges on its ability create synergy—to bring together distinct elements of its population so that their collaborative efforts leave the place better than it would otherwise be.
What excites me about Birmingham is the growing number of organizations aimed at creating synergy. The Athena Collective, the Velocity Accelerator, and Birmingham Startup Drinks are just a few that come to mind.
Equally exciting is the creation of new places where our citizens can come together to connect, whether it’s over a beer at one of our local breweries, at a show at Saturn or Iron City, on a stroll through Railroad Park or along the Rotary Trail, or over dinner at the Pizitz Food Hall.
David Sher and other ComebackTown contributors have previously addressed the challenges, like our disjointed municipal government structure, that hinder our community from realizing its full potential. While those challenges are real and significant, progress always precedes perfection.
Birmingham became the Magic City because it created synergy between iron ore, coal, and limestone—the essential elements for producing steel.
Birmingham is progressing—and with new synergies—there’s more magic in store for our Magic City.
A Birmingham native, Tommy Mayfield is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He and his wife Ginger are the parents of two little girls, ages 6 and 4. Tommy’s great-grandfather began a manufacturing business at Pepper Place in 1938. Almost eighty years later, on March 27, 2017, Wyndy launched in the same spot.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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