Meet Deon Gordon, one of the great minds behind Sloss Tech and a leading figure in Birmingham’s thriving tech industry. Sloss Tech is a vital conference driving the growth of Birmingham’s tech sector, fostering connections between tech enthusiasts, founders, investors, and professionals. This year’s conference is unique due to its post-pandemic return, introducing new programs for inclusivity and engaging students and early-career professionals. Deon envisions tech as a catalyst for economic growth and innovation in Birmingham and emphasizes the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the tech community.
Check out what he has to say about the tech industry and the highly anticipated Sloss Tech conference, scheduled for August 4th, 2023.
1. Before we dive too deep, Deon, can you introduce yourself to the readers?
Certainly! My name is Deon Gordon, and I was born and bred in Birmingham. I attended Ramsay High School here in the city. During my high school days, I discovered my passion for tech and started diving into the world of creativity by building websites. I taught myself to code at the local library and began helping local businesses with tech-related projects. However, I noticed that many kids, myself included, in rural and underprivileged areas lacked exposure to the world of tech.
2. How did you eventually end up in Birmingham's tech scene?
Initially, I went to Auburn University for architecture but soon realized it wasn’t my calling and took the entrepreneurial path. (Why did you come back to Birmingham?) I originally came back to Birmingham to join Chronical Studio a tech and digital agency. Later in 2014, I joined REV Birmingham as the Director of Business Growth, where I worked with aspiring restaurants, taking their concepts and turning them into concrete realities. Some of the restaurants I collaborated with include Eugene’s Hot Chicken, Shu Shop, and The Essential. From networking through REV Birmingham and being committed to my passion for tech, I was selected through a nationwide search to serve as the 3rd CEO in December 2017.
3. So, tell us more about Sloss Tech. What is it, and why is it important for Birmingham?
Birmingham has been making great strides in the tech sector, and Sloss Tech plays a vital role in driving this growth. The conference is organized by TechBirmingham, with partners like Telegraph Creative contributing to its branding. The event brings together tech enthusiasts, founders, funders, investors, and professionals to connect, learn, and inspire. It serves as a platform to bridge the gap between aspiring entrepreneurs and potential investors, which now offers year-round programs to facilitate these connections.
4. What makes this year's conference different from previous ones?
This year’s Sloss Tech conference is unique because it’s the first one since the COVID-19 pandemic. We are introducing new programs, such as “Next in Tech,” designed to engage students and early-career professionals who work in tech companies. The goal is to make the conference inclusive for everyone, regardless of their background, and offer opportunities for networking and collaboration.
5. As a tech advocate in Birmingham, what do you believe is the significance of tech for the city?
Birmingham needs more tech because it has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs, and foster innovation. Tech is a powerful catalyst for transformation, and, by nurturing the tech industry, we can attract talent and businesses from other cities and regions. Furthermore, tech can empower underserved communities by providing access to education and opportunities for personal and professional development.
6. What value does Sloss Tech bring to Birmingham and its downtown area?
Sloss Tech brings immense value to Birmingham by attracting visitors and participants from outside the region. This exposure helps showcase the city’s vibrant tech ecosystem, as well as its rich history and resilience. By hosting a conference of this magnitude, we solidify Birmingham’s brand as a city that embraces technology and innovation, which can be particularly appealing to the younger generation.
7. What excites you the most about this year's Sloss Tech conference?
This year, I’m particularly excited about the diverse lineup of keynote speakers and panelists, many of whom are from organizations like Endeavor, Google, and Microsoft. Additionally, the expansion of programs like “Founders and Funders” and “Next in Tech” promises to make the conference more inclusive and accessible to all attendees.
8. How have you seen the tech industry grow in Birmingham since you became a part of it?
Over the years, I’ve witnessed remarkable growth in Birmingham’s tech industry. It has evolved from an emerging market to a maturing one. Birmingham is now on par with cities like Atlanta and Austin. While it may not be as prominent as tech hubs like New York City or San Francisco, it is undoubtedly gaining momentum and recognition in the tech world. Ed Farm is another example of how Birmingham is making a splash in the tech scene by equipping educators in local schools and communities with innovative tools and strategies that support active learning for all students.
9. Where does Birmingham stand in the tech industry?
One crucial aspect to note is the emphasis on diversity and inclusion in Birmingham’s tech community. Birmingham has a rich history of civil rights activism, and we aim to continue that legacy by creating a tech industry that is accessible and welcoming to people from all backgrounds. Sloss Tech reflects our commitment to making Birmingham’s tech scene a place where everyone can thrive and succeed. There is no city like Birmingham.
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