This is Exit Interview, an occasional interview series with someone who has left Philadelphia, perhaps for another country or region or even just out of city limits and often taking talent, business and jobs with them. If you or someone you know left Philly for whatever reason, we want to hear from you. Contact us.
New York City was always the plan for content-sharing site Spling, says founder and CEO Billy McFarland.
Spending last fall at DreamIt Ventures was an important step that helped McFarland fundraise, launch a private beta and hire a handful of team members, he said, but the incubation still amounted as more a detour than a destination.
On April 1, the Spling team plans to be officially based in Manhattan, McFarland, 20, specified to Technically Philly after announcing generally this month. He was among those DreamIt Philly alumni who took a road trip to NYC last week.
Before then, later this month, Spling will launch “a beautiful new version of our product in March,” says the Short Hills, N.J. native, an effort that requires talent that he says is more available northbound.
McFarland started working on Spling last year during his freshman year at Bucknell, where he was studying computer engineering. He left school last May to work on the project full-time with plans of moving to the 67th ward then.
“However, I quickly realized it was pretty unrealistic to leave school one day and expect to have the resources and network to succeed in a city like New York the next,” he said. Instead, he worked from home, raised some early funding and earned at spot in DreamIt. This is the next step in the plan, he adds.
Below, McFarland talks about why he is moving Spling and why he could build a business here in the future.
What are the primary reasons you and your business left Philadelphia?
The goal from the beginning was to be based out of NYC. That said, without our time in Philly, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today. At the end of the day, I really think it speaks volumes regarding DreamIt’s positive impact on the Philly tech community
Watch a video on Spling.
Was there a specific event or moment that you realized you wanted to leave?
The majority of our investors are either located in New York City or have a good portion of their portfolio companies there. We are also aggressively hiring, so it’s hard to ignore the amazing talent in NYC â€“ not saying that there isn’t talent in Philadelphia, but we’ve just been lucky enough to form a larger network amongst startup founders and engineers in NYC through our advisers, mentors, and investors.
It was hard to leave DreamIt’s Philly network, but once we realized how active the NYC alumni networks are, we didn’t have anything holding us back. Once again, this shows how successful DreamIt has been in creating an amazing community of startup founders across the east coast.
Do you think you would return to Philadelphia under appropriate circumstances?
Absolutely. With the combination of Penn’s startup initiatives and DreamIt, Philly will always be an option. Speaking of Penn, I think they have the ability to keep expanding Philly’s startup community. We actually had a booth at the career fair there last week, and the knowledge and curiosity the students had towards the startups in attendance was amazing. We are actively
recruiting at numerous college campuses, and Penn definitely has one of the best startup vibes we’ve seen.
What is the perception you most often find of Philadelphia?
Arguing that the best talent follows money, the biggest knock I hear on Philly is that there’s a lack of talent due to the lack of money being invested into startups. Numerically speaking, there isn’t nearly as much money being invested in Philly as San Fran or NYC, but I do think people underestimate Philly’s technical talent and community