April 25, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Startup Summit Draws 100-Plus Entrepreneurs to WorkPlay in Birmingham

April 25, 2012


Startup Summit 042412

Startup Summit participants network during a break, Tuesday, April 24, at WorkPlay. Founders of various startups and tech companies in Birmingham spoke to more than 100 startup founders or aspiring entrepreneurs about a variety of topics and sharing lessons they learned along the way. (The Birmingham News\Tamika Moore)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- More than 100 start-up founders and aspiring entrepreneurs attended the inaugural Startup Summit at WorkPlay Theatre on Tuesday with hopes of learning more about building innovative Birmingham businesses.

Startup Summit's founders created the day to inspire those with ideas for companies as well as those already building some.

The event featured 10 local startup founders as speakers on a number of challenges associated with founding and nurturing a business. Those included topics such as when to turn an idea into a real product, how to sell that product, how to raise capital for the business and how to find the right employees.

Tony Summerville, founder of Birmingham startup RareStep, and Daxko Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Sides organized the event. Another goal they had was to provide a venue for fostering relationships within the Birmingham startup ecosystem. To create those opportunities, they intentionally inserted 30-minute coffee breaks and a long lunch into the day to provide ample time for attendees to converse.

"We want to keep the momentum going -- people talking about startups and people thinking about startups," Summerville said.

Planning began in October, and Summerville and Sides said they were satisfied with the turnout and success. Throughout the day, they observed participants scribbling notes on paper or iPads and talking with other attendees and speakers. Some are already talking about follow-up events in the coming months.

"This has been a good melting pot of bringing people together in the startup world," Sides said.

Bits of advice could be seen throughout the day as attendees tweeted insight from speakers like Daxko Chief Executive David Gray, MongoHQ co-founders Jason McCay and Ben Wyrosdick, MedMined co-founder G.T. LaBorde and Hygia Health Services co-founder Tracy Comas.

"So is tweeting during a presentation the conference equivalent of saying 'amen' during a sermon? #startupsummit," attendee Austin Merritt observed in a tweet during one of the sessions.

The ages of attendees ranged from seasoned entrepreneur to college-age.

Jahkeel Robinson, a student at Miles College and the founder of two tech companies, Gorilla Mobile Apps and Tech Dreams LLC, was one of Startup Summit's participants. He wanted to learn more about what it takes to build a company. He also wanted to find a way of connecting members of Miles College's tech world with others in Birmingham's IT community.

"I'm young, I have a lot to learn and I figured this would be the best place to start," he said.

Wyrosdick, one of the MongoHQ co-founders said he accepted an invitation to speak as a way of giving back to Birmingham's tech community and fostering new ideas. He and co-founder McCay founded the company in 2010 and already have 20,000 customers, with offices in Mountain View, Calif., Chicago and Birmingham.

"I really want to see Birmingham become a place that's known for technical innovation," Wyrosdick said.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Martin Swant at mswant@bhamnews.com.

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