OKDHS to Benefit from New App Created in OKC

Many business owners are just learning about the real benefits of custom application solutions. From specialized operations for brands to time-saving solutions for working parents, the tech world is leading the way into a truly more efficient society. ittybam, an Oklahoma City-based tech consulting company, has created a new product that is poised to revolutionize the way child welfare specialists connect with potential foster parents. The CEO, Daniel France, is on a mission to make these communications exponentially faster, freeing up time for busy child advocates on both ends of the application.

Daniel France and his company, ittybam, have worked with many recognizable brands, including Kia, Caterpillar, Summit Web Conferences, and even presidential campaigns. A prominent member of the Oklahoma tech landscape for about ten years, he quickly moved from sales to management, eventually taking over a small development shop. Soon after, he became the founder of FilmFreeway, the largest film submission service in the world. “It helps filmmakers to submit their works to multiple film festivals at once, view their status and awards. Most importantly, it protects their film from being distributed without their consent,” he elaborated. “It also allows festivals to quickly tell their story, create segments and accept submissions with varying pricing, and to invite their team to judge those submissions from the app.”

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The company’s maxim is straightforward: We. Build. Cool. Shit. Entrepreneurship has been a serial component of France’s life. “Starting ittybam was just the logical step to continue building great products until I could create a new service for the world.” That new service aimed at changing the world is Actovos. “ We believe we will be able to take this solution to other states to help their teams make more informed decisions, and do it faster,” France said. Over the next year, in addition to a growing team and new client endeavors, a high priority for ittybam will be enhancing Actovos for new clients and extending its capabilities to help other industries.

As a part of the StarSpace46 prequel operation, The404, France made the leap to the new facility as one of the founding members. “The connections and relationships we’ve made here have helped propel us to where we are now. They provided us opportunities with new clients, and also resources to help us keep those clients happy,” he said. “If we hadn't been at StarSpace46, I highly doubt we would have had the opportunity to attract the State of Oklahoma to Actovos.”

Where Does the Name StarSpace46 Come From?

When people visit our event and coworking spaces for the first time, they often ask where the name StarSpace46 originated. While the brand certainly conjures up images of exploring the galaxy and shooting off into the night sky, the inspiration is quite down-to-earth. The name was in fact chosen because, like the organization, it is distinctly Oklahoman.

Oklahoma was the 46th state admitted to the union. The original state flag, adopted in 1911, was bright red, taking cues from the state's own name. The term "Oklahoma" is a portmanteau of the Choctaw Indian words for people, "okla," and "humma," which means red. In the center of this original flag stood the number 46, framed by a proud white star and outlined in blue. 1923 would become a significant date in the Oklahoma history timeline, however, when the newly formed Soviet Union began using red flags to promote their regime.

 By Mysid [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To avoid drawing unfavorable comparisons between communism and the 46th state, Oklahoma changed to the beautiful sky-blue version we know today. The modern Oklahoma flag design features an Osage shield crossed by two symbols of harmony: a Plains-style ceremonial pipe and a natural olive branch.  

In a nod to our state's history, the original "Star 46" flag has seen a resurgence in Oklahoma City, symbolizing a shift in attitudes with young people, business owners, and community leaders. The red "Star 46" flag can now be seen flying outside of houses, on license plates, adorning hats, and, for those deeply inspired the icon, tattooed on forearms. It has become a symbol of a do-it-yourself attitude and local pride, two qualities that are very important to the team at StarSpace46.

 By xrmap flag collection 2.7. (File:Flag of Oklahoma.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With an inclination towards supporting local craftspersons, artists, and businesses, the historic Star 46 flag now serves as a badge of honor for OKC's renaissance, and a rejection of the status quo. It indicates the need to rally and change the landscape, attracting more local businesses to stay and expand trade in our state. Also, to become active politically and make this an even better place to live and do business. We've intentionally stayed away from the use of the original red colors or the current state flag's blue colors to remain politically "neutral," and avoid any connotations of supporting conservative, liberal, or socialist ideas that the colors of the original flag may suggest to some.  

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With roots in tech entrepreneurship and technologists, an intentional aeronautical theme was materialized for the branding to give an almost sci-fi feel and further remove any ties to political affiliations or leanings, while still offering the nod to the spirit of the "Star 46" movement. StarSpace46's inclusion of the number 46 and the star emblem is a demonstration of our commitment to being an active part of the renaissance in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  






SheCodesOKC Strives to Change Tech Landscape

While technical innovations have driven the progress of humanity since the invention of the wheel, the landscape today looks different than ever before. Instead of teams of Egyptians dragging limestone across the desert, or the Wright Brothers hauling out to Kitty Hawk on a Thursday morning, most cutting-edge technology today occurs in front of a computer screen. One thing that has not yet changed, however, if the fact that the tech industry is predominantly male. SheCodesOKC, a group meeting monthly at StarSpace46, wants to help improve that by offering education and support to local women interested in programming.

The statistics are shocking, no matter how many times I read them. After reaching a high point in 1991 of 36 percent, the ratio of women to men in computing roles has been in constant decline. Of all the computer science degrees earned annually, only 28 percent of the graduates are women. Those are bleak numbers, considering approximately 74 percent of young girls are interested in computer science and STEM careers. Helping women find a place in tech is a big job, but SheCodesOKC is contributing to the change.

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The Nerdy Girls codeClub was organized by Carmen Bourlon, bringing together female programmers and coders to share ideas and gain insights. Over time, the club grew, and in August 2017, became SheCodesOKC. The new group, now co-organized by Bourlon and Caitlin Stewart, strives to develop the skills of local coders, as well as teach those who have an interest but need to get a solid start. “The thing I love most about coding is building something. Writing code lets me be creative and solve problems at the same time. Most new SheCodes attendees are not currently in the industry and are just starting. My very favorite thing about SheCodes is seeing women progress and gain confidence in their abilities,” Bourlon said.

SheCodesOKC offers a wide variety of meetups, focusing on JavaScript and front-end frameworks. A few times per year, the group hosts lightning talks, events which feature members sharing 15-minute speeches about a diverse set of subjects. Lightning talks are designed to build community by giving members a chance to share ideas and skills they are developing, or shed light on a new topic. A favorite recurring event among members is the “Hackternoon.” These get-togethers are all about finding a safe place to practice your technical skills but have a social component as well. Later this year, SheCodesOKC will be offering holiday-themed meetups that feature programming using Raspberry Pi computers.

Melissa Timmons, a front-end developer that recently relocated back to Oklahoma City, said SheCodesOKC was an “awesome” way to return to the tech community here. “I really appreciate the space SheCodes provides for networking and getting to know other women across the industry.  I’ve enjoyed great discussions with brilliant women who have a range of strengths, expertise, and experience,” Timmons said. “I recently attended the React.js workshop led by Carmen. The workshop was a great source of inspiration and exactly the push I needed to get going on some projects of my own.” One of the biggest benefits of SheCodesOKC, according to Timmons, is the solidarity of developing her craft among other female programmers. “I’ve also been encouraged to step out of my shell and participate in lightning talks which I’m really excited about! I’m looking forward to hearing more from this great group of women, as well as sharing some of what I’ve learned along the way.”

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Co-organizer Caitlin Stewart enjoys bringing together a community of like-minded individuals. “I love being a co-organizer of SheCodes because I get to meet a lot of amazing women in the programming industry who are willing to share their talents in a friendly, nonjudgemental space,” she said. “The community and knowledge we have are amazing.” Stewart attended several meetups before she stepped into a leadership role. “I thought it was important to continue that work [of teaching women about technology] and have an inclusive place to learn. It's important for women to see role models in their local community. Not just unattainable internet famous women but real, approachable, and fallible.”

It is important to point out that female computer coders of any age and experience level are welcome. Stewart’s daughter, Vesper, a 6-year-old budding programmer, said “I like going to SheCodes because I get to learn SQL and databases.” In 2017, only 7 percent of startups were owned by women. I have a feeling Vesper is on her way to increasing that measurement in the very near future.