Danielle Cohn’s first job was at a gas station.
She was 13 and she pumped gas and changed tires at a station in her hometown of Bala Cynwyd, a Philly suburb. The only girl on staff and easily the youngest, Cohn had a very specific goal in mind: She wanted to save up $288 for a TV from Boscov’s.
“I wanted to watch MTV,” she said. Or, as Cohn put it, “I wanted Comcast.”
She eventually made the purchase and even got a modest return on her investment: she’d charge her parents $1 for every show they watched on the TV.
"Comcast being successful means Philadelphia will be successful."
Today, Cohn, 41, of Old City, is working at Comcast. She’s the telecom giant’s director of entrepreneurial engagement, a new role created to get more startups through Comcast’s front doors. Cohn’s in charge of getting new products and services in front of the right people at the company. One example is Center City’s OneTwoSee, whose sports data app debuted on Comcast’s new X1 cable platform last December.
In the last month, she’s helped connect 10 Philly startups with different Comcast departments, she said. (Her role isn’t limited to Philly startups, though.) She also headed to South by Southwest last month to help Comcast with recruiting efforts and invited Philly startups to Comcast’s events at the Austin conference.
She works in Comcast’s 30-person Strategic Development department, led by Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz and VP of Strategic Development Marc Siry. Both Siry and Schwartz have become more common on the local tech scene circuit, as Comcast works to up its local cred by running startup internship programs, hosting tech events for the likes of Girl Develop It and Philly New Tech Meetup and a becoming the title sponsor of Philly Tech Week for the first time, which, full disclosure, Technical.ly Philly organizes. Think of Cohn’s hire as another way into the local scene.
It’s a strategic move for Comcast, as Cohn has long been one of the tech scene’s most vocal champions. She spent 18 years working in marketing for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau but her interests always centered around entrepreneurship and startups. When she went on business trips, instead of visiting churches or museums, Cohn would visit coworking spaces. She went on to volunteer as Philly Startup Leaders’ communications director and helped develop the Nutter administration’s flagship StartUp PHL program. (Cohn was a big part of the city’s “PHL” marketing push. She’s the reason Mayor Nutter wears a PHL lapel pin.)
“The thing that I love about the tech community is that people are very generous with their time and very civic-minded,” she said during a recent interview at Ralph’s, Comcast’s sunlight-filled employee cafeteria on the 43rd floor of its Center City tower. She was, of course, wearing a PHL pin attached to the zipper of her scarf, which she got from an Old City designer.
She felt at home with Philly’s founders, who all had an entrepreneurial spirit that she identified with. (She actually met Comcast’s Schwartz because First Round Capital managing partner Josh Kopelman suggested she speak to him for advice on her startup. It was a healthcare startup but it’s since been put on the back burner, she said.)
Cohn, a lifelong Philadelphian and Temple grad, said she’s excited about working for Comcast because its future is directly tied to the city’s future.
“Comcast being successful means Philadelphia will be successful,” she said.