Lost amid the sound and fury of the upcoming SlossFest is a fairly clear signal that Birmingham and Alabama are poised for great things. Technology sage Robert Scoble would agree – as long as we keep the geeks from leaving.
“You have to find a way to keep the nerds in your town,” Scoble said. “You’d better have world-class internet connections, and fiber. But you also have to have something for your workers to do, particularly the new workers coming out of college. Keeps the nerds from leaving. Find out what makes nerds stick.”
The “brain drain” is not an issue just for Southern cities like Birmingham, but it is one hurdle to overcome. Another problem is how to showcase the opportunities that do exist. While the internet has brought great focus on tech-heavy cities like Palo Alto, Austin and Boston, it also enables remote workers to have more choice.
The son of a Lockheed engineer, Scoble has always surrounded himself with technology, and the people who drive its adoption. He was one of the first internal bloggers for Microsoft, and cultivated that corporate culture known for information sharing and video. He’s now embedded within a virtual reality startup, and is looking at the world through a lens we will probably be taking for granted in a few years.
As of the time of our interview, Scoble had been in 11 countries over the preceding five weeks. He says he learns more by being in the labs and strategy sessions of up and coming companies. Some of which you will eventually know – many of which will fail and try again.
“The world has really flattened when it comes to startups,” Scoble added. “It’s so much cheaper to start a company today than it was 15 years ago. Back then, you had to have a rack of computers and servers. Today, you go to amazon.com and swipe your card and you have infrastructure.”
Scoble will be one of the featured speakers for Sloss Tech, a one-day technology conference on July 15 at the Lyric Theatre that will be a companion lead-in to SlossFest. SlossTech is the work of TechBirmingham, with a stated mission of “becoming a hub for our technological community to network, share ideas and push their boundaries of innovation.”