Best way to help local startups? Buy from them!

Rotary Club of Birmingham
Image courtesy of Picture Birmingham

Did you know Birmingham’s Rotary Club is the largest chapter in the nation?  I got to listen in on their recent Innovation Panel luncheon and here’s what I learned!

Birmingham’s Rotary Club

If you haven’t heard of Rotary Club, basically it started in Chicago in 1905 with a desire to serve the community and unite representatives from across professions.

Rotary Club of Birmingham
The innovation panel at Birmingham’s Rotary Club meeting (Original image by Wade Cline)

With 645 members, Birmingham’s Rotary Club is the largest in the nation.    President Betsy Holloway presides over weekly meetings at the Harbert Center downtown.

They jumpstarted the beautiful Rotary Trail downtown and help fund research to end Polio.

Innovation Panel

This week’s luncheon included a panel of innovation experts from our city.

These three panelists discussed all things entrepreneurship, technology and innovation in Birmingham.

Shegun Otulana, CEO @ TheraNest
Rotary club of Birmingham
Image courtesy of Cary Norton
What makes Birmingham the best place to run your company?

One is the mindset about what it means to be an entrepreneur is changing, especially in technology. Today people will actually listen to you if you tell them you are starting a business.

The second thing is our ease of access to technology.

I would also say just the general funding environment has changed.  I think there has been a cultural shift where you can fund a company and expect to lose money but in the long run you will hit home runs.  And I think that has led to a lot of experimentation and a lot of successful businesses.

How can the people of Birmingham help local start-ups?

The community itself needs to be comfortable with seed-stage funding of startups.

Bebe Goodrich, CEO @ IceboxCoffee
Rotary Club of Birmingham
Image courtesy of Cary Norton
What makes Birmingham the best place to run your company?

You have a concentration of bored talent, you have a very successful ecosystem that you can afford to live in, and then you actually have family values that have resonated into your workforce…

Birmingham is genuinely unlike any other city in the country.  Birmingham is cultivating growth because it’s giving someone something to latch onto and an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Innovation Depot is one of the most vibrant places in the city.  What has the Innovation Depot meant to your company?

Employees get to see that they are a part of something bigger and better than just what we’re doing in this one little room on this one day.

Devon Laney, CEO @ Innovation Depot
Rotary Club of Birmingham
Image courtesy of Devon’s Twitter
Birmingham has the second fastest IT job growth as a percentage of working population in the country.  What explains this new momentum in Birmingham’s technology scene?

Today with the advances in technology and everything in the cloud it’s really leveled the playing field…which in turn means that we have got to have people that have those skills.  We have to have a workforce that is educated in technology.

How can the people of Birmingham help local startups?

This community has to support early-stage companies by being customers of those companies…or through investing…We have to support and invest in 30 companies to get three that are going to be successful long-term.

Let us know what you think about Birmingham’s innovation!
Madeline Ingram
Madeline Ingram
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