Professional Development

Cool job alert: Be the link between City Hall and the startup community

The Department of Commerce redefined Archna Sahay's old job. Here's what both the city and entrepreneurs expect of the new position.

Philadelphia City Hall.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Say goodbye to the Director of Entrepreneurial Investment job at the Department of Commerce, formerly occupied by the likes of Rebecca Lopez-Kriss and Archna Sahay.

Following Sahay’s recent departure from city government to take a consulting role with Jeremy Nowak, Commerce sat down to find a better definition of what that role could look like.

The new title is Director of Business Development: Innovation and Technology. It’s meant to serve as a liaison to the startup and tech community and government resources but will also lead the attraction, retention and growth of both new and existing tech companies.

“The previous title, Director of Entrepreneurial Investment, was a bit vague as an entrepreneur can be anyone starting his or her own business,” Commerce spox Lauren Cox said in an email. “As Archna’s role developed, it became clear that this position needed to focus specifically on technology and innovation since this a rapidly growing sector in Philadelphia and across the country. The decision to rename the position better aligns the title with the new Director’s responsibilities, placing a clear focus on business development efforts.”

"You need to be savvy and be able to develop relationships and sell your ideas internally and externally."
Rebecca Lopez-Kriss

As the now-defunct position’s most recent occupant, Sahay told she was happy to see this line of work continue at Commerce. She also dropped some knowledge on her would-be replacement.

“My advice for the new person: listen to the needs of the community but don’t be shy about putting your own spin on the role,” Sahay said. “Rebecca did an incredible job launching the role and getting StartupPHL off the ground. I added my private sector experience in finance and business development to the position. I look forward to seeing how the next person builds on the foundation that has been created thus far.”

Apply for the gig

For Lopez-Kriss, who’s now at the Department of Revenue, whoever takes the gig needs to be aware of the, er, intricacies of city government.


“The City can be a really supportive, innovative, rewarding work environment, but it requires that you know how to navigate big bureaucratic systems,” Lopez-Kriss told in an email. “It isn’t unlike going to work for a large corporation: you need to be savvy and be able to develop relationships and sell your ideas internally and externally.”

But what about the tech community? What are they looking for in a figure that will, at least to an extent, be among them?

For entrepreneurs seeking city work like Mohamed Zerban, cofounder of startup Tern Water, it’s all about setting up a line of communication.

He says someone in that position should be “helping startups pitch the city big ideas that can benefit the entire community, then having the City work with startups to either implement the ideas, or better brainstorm them.”

People: Archna Sahay
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