Why Philly reminds me of what Austin was like 10 years ago - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 19, 2015 10:43 am

Why Philly reminds me of what Austin was like 10 years ago

Technologist, drummer and Philly native Bill Smith saw overlap between the lifestyles of the music and tech scenes in Austin, Texas, where he lived for 10 years. Now he's seeing the same thing in Philly.

At SXSW 2005.

(Photo by Flickr user Philip Kromer, used under a Creative Commons license)

Upon moving away in 2002, I remember I was told, “Austin is your home now.” With a smartass grin, I replied, “Nah, Philadelphia will always be.”

I ended up living in Austin for 10 years and moved back to Philly in 2012. During my time in Austin, I worked in tech for Dell, AMD and Northrup Grumman, while playing in bands and recording and mixing records. Down there, no one seemed to care where I was as long as I finished my work, and I was constantly hopping back and forth between my music and my tech work. I soon came to realize that any gap between the lifestyles of the tech world and the music world had disappeared in Austin.

The people of Austin embrace their music like they do their technology.

So this week I’m heading back to Austin for SXSW. But make no mistake — Philly is home now. And the melding of the tech and music scenes I witnessed in Austin, I am seeing and experiencing in Philly today.

Meetups are popping up like the Philly New Technology Meetup, where people get together, pick each other’s brains, do serious work and make friends. Recently I played drums during a product demo at Philly New Technology Meetup for Decib.ly, whose CEO is Seed Philly founder Brad Dennenberg. They created an app empowering the fans during a live show to become more a part of the experience they are witnessing. A very cool and original Philadelphia music innovation.

Even on the music side, I see the mindset in Philly has changed for the better.

I just finished recording and mixing a record with a Philly band, The Whips, who have a ’50s-era style. Gone are the days of using physical faders, so I used a dual touchscreen system I recently put together and no one seemed to care. People are more open to these new ideas. They ask good questions because they are curious and interested, instead of wasting time telling someone their idea is all wrong.

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Starting and playing in a band requires the same mindset necessary for starting a company or working in a startup: You set your mind on the vision and don’t look back.

If you want to see real music and innovation, you don’t have to go somewhere else because it’s all happening in Philly right now. Remember, it’s all about the mindset. Be open, be curious and and let it rip!

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Bill Smith

Bill Smith is a technologist, musician and Philadelphia native, who spent 10 years working and living in Austin from 2002-2012. The Villanova alum has worked for Dell, AMD and Northrup Grumman. He currently works at PECO as an IT Financial Analyst and plays drums in his band, W.E. Smith and the Robotrippers.

  • Maybe you can convince Brad and Mike of Philly Tech Meetup to host an invite that incorporates some local bands. They’re having an event with local restaurants next month, so it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

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