This is a subject that’s near and dear to me. 25 years ago, I started a career in tech that has been immensely rewarding. It has allowed me to serve many people and provide for my family. The possibilities created by a thriving tech sector are exactly the kind of opportunities we want in Hoover.
So in 2016, I wrote a campaign piece that introduced the concept of a technology incubator to the stream of election consciousness. (You can read an archive of this piece by clicking here or the picture below) In a nutshell, I’ve always thought that the technology community in Hoover was more than ready to have its breakout moment. The pieces have always been there, and it was just a matter of pulling them together.
The topic caught on, and during the term it was discussed and picked up by several parties for investigation. My particular effort was the “Hoover Tech Roundtable”, which is a topic I’ll talk about in a subsequent post. However, as the story goes, after a few stops and starts a group of successful entrepreneurs decided to bring their blood, sweat, and tears (as well as a large amount of hard-earned capital) to bear and start a technology incubator right here in Hoover!
So I’m proud to report that the idea is now a reality in 2 forms. There is now a Hoover-based incubator at 3000 Riverchase (formerly Galleria Tower), and a shared workspace for small companies just across the hall. Those are two very important building blocks that can have significant impact on economic development in the city. Here is just a little bit about both.
HAILO Incubator (Hoover Artificial Intelligence and LOgistics)
The Hailo Ventures incubator is exactly what you’d expect in a startup of startups: An eclectic environment of furnishings from various places. An eclectic group of people from various places. Lights, toys, Mountain Dew, and high carb brain fuel. In desks here and there, very smart people talk very fast on headsets and webcams. It is an environment of frugality and big time investment, fast coding and strategic vision, excitement and long evenings…
What’s not expected are the adjustments in the era of COVID. People wear masks, and many work from home. Training and meetings are virtual, and nobody crowds around a screen like in the olden days of a few months ago. The cubes and workstations are separated by plexiglass.
However, I’m told in true startup fashion everyone has adapted to uncertainty. Business is actually thriving in some of the new adaptations. These folks cannot afford to put hopes and dreams on hold, and they’re getting things done. My longtime friend Selena Harrison is the CEO, and it’s been really inspiring to hear how they are finding success in the current environment.
I worked in software companies for about 10 years, including a stint at a dot-com, so I’m a little familiar with the environment. Still, it was exciting to see the changes in the modern approach and know that this is happening right here in Hoover. There are 4 startups in the incubator and 2 more being considered for inclusion. If they succeed, they’ll have done so in the heart of our city and our people–including HCS graduates–will see the benefit.
In a true testament to the expertise of the people involved, the HAILO incubator is off to a great start despite the challenges of 2020.
Werkplās Shared Workspace Environment
Right across the hall from HAILO is the Werkplās shared workspace environment. While the name may sound like a branch of an international Swedish conglomerate, it is actually a creation of the 3000 Riverchase team itself. The workspace experts there have created their own specific response to the demand for office space with a smaller footprint.
Shared workspace is still a new concept. In its most basic form, a shared workspace is a large area of office space designed to be shared by individuals who have leased the area in various ways. This means a small company or individual can enjoy all the benefits of a fully featured office environment without the impossibly large capital investment.
If you are a consultant, non-profit, or run a small business of any kind where you need a corporate environment but can’t afford a bazillion dollars in Class A office space, then this setup is for you. The minds at 3000 Riverchase have been hard at work creating a top notch response to the new economy.
The Value of Teamwork
As an elected official, it would be tempting to swoop in and take credit for these developments. While I’m proud to have played my part, the truth is these things are always a team effort. The stage for economic development is set when business leaders and government leaders can achieve a shared vision. Add in the private investment of people willing to risk their own money, and things start to percolate. Then it’s the hard day-to-day work of the people involved who make the magic happen.
These efforts are just the beginning. The future technology is bright here in Hoover!