Business woman’s brilliant business idea for Birmingham

Britney Summerville
Britney Summerville

Today’s guest blogger is Britney Summerville.

If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Shipt is one of Birmingham’s great start-up success stories. The company went from a few employees to a $550 million acquisition in less than five years.

The big question is, ‘How can Birmingham replicate that success?’

Building from within isn’t the only way to grow a region.

What if we could recruit technology companies to expand their operations in Birmingham?

As it turns out, we’re already gaining traction with that idea.

Birmingham—a technology hub

When you think technology hub you might not immediately think Birmingham, but we hope you will soon.

Last October venture capitalist Chris Moody from the Boulder, CO-based venture capital firm Foundry Group worked with a group made up of employees from Shipt, Alabama Power, and the city of Birmingham to bring five companies in his portfolio to town. These coastal city companies had just raised money and they needed to grow faster.

They spent several days in Birmingham, experiencing our technology ecosystem and imagining how they could fit in.  They learned about the workforce, cost of doing business, office space, customer landscape, and incentive options.

They heard from successful Birmingham tech entrepreneurs like Shegun Otulana, Founder & CEO of Therapy Brands/TheraNest and Chad Trull, CEO of HighFive Dental. They learned about the local colleges and universities, including HBCUs that have a gravitational pull to Birmingham for tech.

The meeting was a success and they determined that they could grow and scale in Birmingham. In fact, three of the five companies committed to opening remote offices here.

I named this initiative Birmingham Bound and it has changed the way people outside our state are thinking about technology in Birmingham.

Eleven new companies commit to Birmingham

Fast forward a year.  We’ve welcomed 25 companies and nine venture capital funds to town to show them what Birmingham’s technology ecosystem has to offer.

Eleven companies have committed to either relocating their headquarters or opening a remote tech office here. With them, these companies bring new jobs from software development to sales to customer support and everything in between.

Birmingham Bound is run under Shipt’s umbrella because we feel we have a responsibility and desire to level off the tech ecosystem here. Doing so will help existing tech companies acquire and retain more talent and will ultimately push a thriving industry forward.

Shipt, Alabama Power, the City of Birmingham, entrepreneur Bill Smith, and the State of Alabama Commerce teams work closely to create a good strategy and execute powerfully.

Other partners like UAB, Alabama Futures Fund, BBA, Jefferson County Commission, Bronze Valley, Tech Birmingham, JH Berry, ITAC, Innovate Birmingham, Alabama Capital Network, and the Overton Project keep this moving.

2019 has been about seeing what works. In 2020, we’re planning to scale even more.

Tech companies take a look at Birmingham out of curiosity and they choose to stay because of community.

The companies choosing Birmingham quickly see the city is a place they can grow and scale quickly and — more importantly — a place where they can have an impact.

Our tech community is close and I don’t blame them for wanting to be a part of it.

Britney Summerville is the Vice President of Community Engagement at Shipt and the founder of Birmingham Bound. She has 20 years experience in technology startups and is passionate about driving growth and entrepreneurship specifically in the technology space. On a daily basis she develops and nurtures relationships with the goal of leveling up Birmingham’s technology sector.

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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).

Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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5 thoughts on “Business woman’s brilliant business idea for Birmingham”

  1. A very informative read. Thank you.

    Just thinking out loud for a minute, with a number of towers in downtown Birmingham at or near empty, what would it take to convert any of these into a merchandising market? Perhaps it could be taylor towards high tech incubators, but also could be used for other types of marketing from apparel to furnishings to electronics. Just wondering.

  2. Nice article and I can see great benefit to what you’re doing. I have a couple of questions.

    1. You mention 25 companies that came into town and 11 have committed. Do we have data on the outgoing companies as well? I imagine this is a net inflow but feel like the additional data would help paint a more accurate picture.

    2. How do these numbers compare with other similar metros?

    3. If I’m a tech company, why would I choose Birmingham over Huntsville? Huntsville probably as more of the talent (engineers) that I want to tap into. Would be very interesting to see Huntsville’s numbers as well.

  3. The problem I see is that Birmingham had a chance to become a tech hub around 15 years ago, but now we have been passed by too many other southeastern cities that ultimately have the labor pools needed to sustain business growth. Instead of trying to be a tech hub, I think we should focus on unifying the cities surrounding bham and choose a path that works for the whole area like agriculture or sports tourism.

    1. This gets at what I was saying. AL.COM did another story about “brain-drain” and how Alabama is losing educated people. Population might be growing, but the population of people with 4 year degrees is shrinking, DESPITE the rapid growth of our big Universities.

      Huntsville is probably the one bright spot in the state, so given that Huntsville is shouldering its load, I surmise the that the Birmingham metro brain-drain is quite significant.

      That said, sure maybe 25 companies/funds have committed to calling Birmingham home, but it’s generally going to be companies that don’t require depth of talent who’s looking for the C student who wants to stay close to mom n dad.

  4. There is truth in every negative comment about Birmingham. Try anyway.

    There is poverty and low achievement in Birmingham. Hope anyway.

    These ideas have failed before. Work for progress anyway.

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