Category Archives: technology

Birmingham’s inaugural Innovation Week underway

IMG_20140922_103827This morning the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), TechBirmingham, the Birmingham Venture Club, and Alabama Launchpad were joined by representatives of the city of Birmingham at Innovation Depot as they held a ribbon cutting to mark the start of the city’s first ever Innovation Week. Special events like a screening of the web series StartupLand! and an open house at the Depot are interspersed among regularly scheduled gatherings (think Birmingham Startup Drinks and a Code for Birmingham hack session on Friday) this week. This morning’s ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on startup capital held at the BBA’s offices downtown.

It will culminate with a one-day . A full schedule is posted on the official website for the effort (with, the event’s media partner) creating a public Google calendar for you to subscribe to as well). Those attending the week’s events are asked to use the hashtag #innovationweekbirmingham when sharing items via social media networks, though we’ve seen a few trying to use #innovationweekbham as well (including us) to leave a few more characters free for commenting.

Sherri Ross Walters named a runner-up for 92Y Genius competition

walters headshotBirmingham, AL resident Sherri Ross Walters recently learned she was the only non-New York City resident among four winners to place in the 92nd Street Y’s Genius Start-Up Competition. She was among the 50+ that entered the contest, organized as part of the organization’s  7 Days of Genius festival.

Walters learned of the competition via a friend on Facebook sharing the link to an article from Inc. publicizing it in February. Her entry involved developing a citywide resource “to help the homeless find information in real time.” Information accessible would potentially include identifying which area shelters are open, available beds, and where meals will be served. All of this would be available to users via a small box mounted on bus stop poles. How she came up with the concept is indicative of the passion she’s shown to other efforts in the city in recent years, including the Birmingham Girls Club and Birmingham Dance Walk.

“I chatted with a sweet homeless man named Dave at a restaurant one day after buying him lunch,” said Walters via an email exchange earlier today. “He described having to get to the shelters early to get a place in line for a bed that evening. That really spoke to me.”

The area’s recent winter storms also had an impact on the development of the idea. “As our community was posting away on Facebook offering up shelter, baby items, medications, food, and the like, I knew that a lot of homeless people would never see that information,” she said.

“I love what our city does by opening Boutwell (like this) for them in extreme weather circumstances along with the amazing work our shelters and various groups do, but I wondered about the other nights of the year, along with what Dave told me,” she continued. “How many hours do they spend in line at a shelter and do they always get a bed? What if there were a fast, easy way for them to get the information they needed before trekking across down only to find out the shelter is full. Or that an organization that normally serves meals has run out of food for the evening. We have so many wonderful groups in our community that offer help – I wanted to create one place where the homeless could get that information.”

Walters finished as second runner-up in the competition, securing a pass to the 92Y Spring 2014 Talks Season Pass. She is currently investigating ways to move forward with the project locally, including pursuing conversations with city officials to determine feasibility, and the homeless community to “help pinpoint the greatest needs for the first phase.” She is also hoping to work with others to “develop a prototype and plan, including entrepreneurial friends to discuss business plan and funding and engineers to talk about the application once needs are determined.”

She points out, according to the website OneRoof, that Birmingham has nearly 1,500 people on any given night who experience homelessness. Walters thinks her idea can make a difference. “I am hoping that with this new communication system, they can find the resources they need to spend a safe night indoors, as well as get food, toiletries, and the help they need. I also envision this being a tool they can use to help each other by staying in touch, finding lost friends, and reporting emergencies if needed,” she said.

According to the competition’s webpage, “The entries were judged by 92Y, Cornell Tech and venture capital firm RRE Ventures on the ideas’ innovation, potential impact and implementation plan.” The winners were announced at the Genius of the Start-Up event held on Monday, March 3. The series of events continues through March 10 and can be watched via live stream on the 92Y’s website or follow the Twitter hashtag #thatsgenius.

StartupBus to stop in Birmingham on Sunday

startupbusStartupBus North America turns five this year and they’re making a stop at Innovation Depot on Sunday, March 2nd at 2 p.m. It will be the first time one of the annual rolling incubators of “buspreneurs” makes a stop in Birmingham on its way to the  SXSW Interactive conference.

The South bus will have originated in Nashville, TN and will stop in Chattanooga before its arrival. It will then continue to Memphis, TN; Jackson, MS; Baton Rogue, LA; and Houston, TX; before arriving at its final destination in San Antonio.

Teams on the bus will get off and work on their ideas for an hour or so before they continue on their 3-day, pressure-filled journey to SXSW. According to a status update to TechBirmingham’s fan page on Facebook, locals “are invited to come meet them, maybe listen to their pitch, or be a mentor.”

What is Virtual Alabama?

Virtual Alabama logoEarlier today, Birmingham News reported about the called work session for the Birmingham Board of Education scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. One of the items to be discussed is Virtual Alabama.

So, what is it?

The service has operated internally since 2006 (and publicly since late 2007), a project that’s grown out of the state’s department of homeland security. It’s built on Google Earth’s enterprise solution, meaning it’s pretty powerful. It’s access is limited to local, county, and state government offices and associated agencies.

What is it capable of doing?

Perhaps this video created in 2008 by Google Business as a case study can help shed some light on what it’s done already – and maybe get folks to imagine just what the potential importance to the state will be as it continues to be refined.


A post published on the Google Enterprise blog back in 2009 touts how its gone on to serve as an inspiration to other states. The platform has received increased attention recently, in part due to the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and its ability to help officials craft a school safety systems for districts statewide. It’s something already utilized by the University of Montevallo.

Aereo announces expansion into Birmingham

aereo_antennaThere was a lot of buzz Wednesday afternoon as folks in Birmingham learned New York-based TV tech start-up Aereo was including The Magic City in a 22 city expansion this spring. It’s the result of the company receiving a $38 million infusion of financing from IAC/InterActiveCorp and Highland Capital Partners – a development made public on Tuesday and announced at CES.

It does seem to be a viable solution for those in the metro area who aren’t able to easily receive over-the-air digital signals who don’t want to consider cable TV or satellite as replacements. Customers will also be able to access Bloomberg TV, where Aereo’s CEO, Chet Kanjolia, spoke about the legality of the service yesterday morning. But if you want to watch, let’s say a BCS championship game on ESPN, you’re out of luck for right now.

But back to legality…

Shortly after it launched in New York City last year, many of the broadcast networks filed temporary injunctions against the company on the grounds of copyright infringement. Their workaround involves the digital antenna you’re paying to lease from them (that’s what’s pictured up above, alongside a dime). Incidentally, The New York Times points out that Aereo doesn’t currently pay for the content. There are also concerns about what legally constitutes digital video recording, and how the service will affect revenue for the networks.

Prices for the service range from $1 a day to $80 a year in addition to a one hour per day free trial option, with DVR storage options available from 3 – 40 hours. It works on PC and Mac platforms, with plans for an Android version to be introduced later this year.

Ignite Birmingham looks for submissions for April 4 edition

ignite Birmingham logoThe folks organizing Ignite Birmingham are currently seeking submissions for their next installment, currently set for April 4.

According to the February 24th post on the event’s website, they’re not looking for sales pitches or rants, but “those weird, curious, unusual things that really get you excited.” For those unfamiliar with Ignite, those chosen to present get 5 minutes to present, using 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. It’s known as “an information exchange for fostering and inspiring a city’s diverse community.”

This will be the seventh time that an Ignite event will be held in Birmingham, AL and it’ll be returning to Matthew’s Bar and Grill. Tickets will be available beginning March 19 (and you can already join the Facebook event). If you’re still wondering what it’s like, you can always check out videos of past speaker presentations on the event’s YouTube channel.

Local startup makes it into Y Combinator

mongo hq logoWe’ve learned that Jason McCay and Ben Wyrosdick of MongoHQ have made it into this summer’s Y Combinator group out in California.

For those not familiar with Y Combinator, it’s a start-up funding firm based out of Mountain View. They do two rounds of seed funding each year as well as valuable coaching and resources – much more information is available on their about page. The guys will be participating in the summer funding cycle beginning next month (going through August).

Several companies have successfully completed the program and received venture capital funding, including popular projects like DropBox, Reddit, and Scribd.

The Terminal had the pleasure of sharing office space with McCay and Wyrosdick last year while located at Shift Workspace downtown. Here’s hoping for nothing but good things to happen for both of them during this experience.