Meet the local speakers of the 2nd annual Sloss Tech July 14th


Sloss Tech will host some of Birmingham’s own brightest, in addition to national speakers like Tiki Barber and Casey Niestat.

I spoke with three of them, and they had a lot to say about Birmingham!

Sloss Tech Birmingham
via Lookfar Blog

Will Pearson Mental Floss Birmingham Alabama
Will Pearson. You’ve probably seen his work without even realizing it! – via

Will Pearson cofounded Mental Floss together with Mangesh Hattikudur while they both attended Duke University.

Since then, there have been a few changes: the magazine transitioned to all digital, and the founders left to start a podcast.

While Pearson may have left his magazine, he has no intentions of leaving Birmingham any time soon!


Julian Maha Sloss Tech
Dr. Julian Maha found a home in Birmingham and wants to make it better – via LinkedIn

Dr. Julian Maha founded KultureCity to make the world a friendlier place for his son, who has autism.

By making the world more sensory-friendly, Dr. Maha believes people with autism can focus on developing their skills and making a truly positive impact in their community.

He’s direct, he’s energetic, and he gets everyone in the conversation excited about, whatever the topic is.

Elizabeth Pharo Momentum Telecom Birmingham Alabama
Elizabeth Pharo – Birmingham native, telecom giant – via

Elizabeth Pharo is the chairman of Momentum Telecom, a Birmingham-based company which provides teleconferencing solutions to over a quarter of a million businesses.

That means successfully managing the infrastructure behind millions of VoIP phone lines!  Ms. Pharo has lived in Birmingham all her life.

Why did you choose to start your business in Birmingham?

Will Pearson

In those early days we were really looking for advisors in the space related to magazines and the book world, and we quickly discovered that there were many success stories and great businesses that were based here, or in Birmingham or in Alabama that were very much related to the magazine or bookstore business.

Mental Floss
absolutely not official imagery for Mental Floss – via

The other thing we felt about Birmingham was that it’s a great city – a great and affordable city to be able to start a business in.

We didn’t see any reason that we had to be starting this in New York or some other large city with a much higher cost of living at that point, and decided this was where we wanted to set up camp.

Dr. Julian Maha

Birmingham’s home.  I was born in Malaysia and moved to Alabama when I was 14.  Birmingham’s a city of great opportunity.  And for us, when people ask us “Why Birmingham, Alabama?”  Our response is, “Why not?”  Because we can do it in our homes here, we can do it anywhere in the US.  

Tiki Barber KultureCity Birmingham Alabama
NFL star Tiki Barber (one of the headliners at this year’s Sloss Tech!) has worked with KultureCity before! – via

I think we have a city that is not just primed for future growth, but also very accepting of people and of ideas within the community.

I think it’s one of the greatest cities in the world.  

Elizabeth Pharo

Bellsouth always had a big presence here, so some of our initial management team were ex-Bellsouth employees who were here.

Birmingham Sloss Tech

I just don’t think there was ever a question of starting anywhere else. There’s a lot of telecom-type talent in Birmingham, from that.

Why did you choose to stay in Birmingham?

Will Pearson

My wife and I very much wanted to stay in Birmingham, we wanted to start a family in Birmingham, and so I decided that I would travel between the two [mental_floss offices] for the six years or so.  

Dr. Julian Maha

We want to remain in Birmingham.  Our board primarily exists out of New York, and we’ve been asked a couple of times to move to New York, but Birmingham is our home base.

Birmingham’s always going to be the main location.

Birmingham Sloss Tech
via Dianne Boltin
Elizabeth Pharo

It’s my home city and there’s a lot of talent here in Birmingham. People like living in Birmingham, you know, it’s the largest small town in the US.

It’s great for families. It’s great for businesses.  The cost of living is low.  It’s not hard to recruit people to move to Birmingham.  

Where do you see Birmingham in the future?

Will Pearson

You know, I think one of the exciting things about the way the world is changing is that it’s no longer necessary for, say, everyone in the media world to be in New York, or everyone in the tech world to be in Silicon Valley, or everyone in various other industries to be in specific places.  

And it gives cities that are looking to grow intelligently an opportunity to step in and carve out a niche or find a way to attract those entrepreneurs.

Birmingham has put a lot of thought and energy into this, in the past decade or so especially.

I’m really excited to have a city that is willing to support entrepreneurs and to foster the growth of those kinds of companies.

Birmingham Sloss Tech
via Jason Avery
Dr. Julian Maha

I see Birmingham as the first sensory-inclusive city in the United States.  I think that’s a huge thing because that’s catering to about 20% of the population, if not greater.  

We see Birmingham leading this innovation with the Civil Rights movement.

We see this as being a very accepting and inclusive community that not only takes care of individuals that have disabilities, but also everyone within the community.

Elizabeth Pharo

I really see Birmingham as on the rise.  Culturally, Birmingham has grown slowly, but we seem to be able to grow with our character.  It’s so fantastic to hear from people who are younger than me just how excited they are, how cool it is.

If you look at what Jones Valley Teaching Farm and the Woodlawn Foundation are doing, that is remarkable.  We’ve gotten national recognition from the food scene.  

Sloss Tech Birmingham
via Twicopy

Birmingham has it’s own identity, and could be established as a Southern leader.

A lot of smart, young people like Bill Smith, people in financial management, people in tech, people in medicine, it’s just a good time and it’s still got that small town feel.

But we need to get gigabit infrastructure, and we need our municipalities to finally work together like David Sher has been advocating.

Birmingham Sloss Tech
via TechBirmingham
I had so much fun interviewing these three.

If you want to see them speak in person (trust me, you do), then grab your tickets to the second Sloss Tech, happening July 14th!

Did you know it’s the day before Sloss’ music festival?

Buy your tickets here before they sell out.

Sponsored by:

Meet the local speakers of the 2nd annual Sloss Tech July 14th

James Ozment
James Ozment

I'm a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat

Articles: 119