Next week, the city’s bars, breweries and pubs will be center stage as the third annual Philly Beer Week kicks off. The event gives the city’s beer scene a chance to shine on a national spotlight, attracting outsiders to see the beer culture that has been growing rapidly in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the city’s technology scene is experiencing a similar revival. After being nonexistent for years, the city suddenly has a handful of events the blend culture and technology to help put Philadelphia in a broader national conversation about new startups, investment and innovative ideas.
The two “scenes” overlapped this week with the creation of the Philly Beer Week iPhone app by a group of volunteers. The application helps Philly Beer Week attendees easily find their next watering hole during the week-long festival and uses geolocation to tell you the event nearest to you. Technically Philly thinks, however, that the two burgeoning scenes have much in common and have a lot to learn from one another.
In fact we think techies should borrow liberally form our beer-drinking friends to help continue Philadelphia’s growing reputation as a tech town. Here’s what needs to happen:
Be arrogant. Philly has planted a flag proclaiming itself the America’s “best beer-drinking city.” Other cities may take offense, but the proclamation has some legs, thrusting the city into a conversation that was previously dominated by places like Portland and San Diego.
The technology scene could learn a thing or two by making such broad proclamations. Gigabit Philly was a good start, but Philly’s techies should pick a niche and own it. It is unlikely that any city will ever supplant Silicon Valley as the de-facto technology capital of the world, but the city could be the hub for pharma startups, do-it-yourself hacking or incubation.
Use your history. Philly beer drinkers like to point to the rich history the drink has had in the city’s – and by extension, country’s – history. The foundations of the revolution were have said to have been laid in the city’s pubs. The history gives the movement legitimacy while separating it from other city’s beer scenes whose beer drinking “history” barely goes back 100 years.
When Councilman Bill Green lobbied for Gigabit Philly he liked to use the motto that Philadelphia was a “city of firsts.” Aside from the obvious (creation of American democracy, anyone?) the city was home to the first computer, the first great American techie (Franklin, anyone?) and was the first major city to seriously consider municipal wireless.
Own a week. Philly Beer Week is a wonderful time for the city’s beer institutions to enjoy some time in the limelight and promote the diversity amongst the city’s breweries and pubs.
Unfortunately, the city’s techies have no week to call their own. Other cities have startup or Internet weeks where they host startup competitions, conferences and entertainment events that revolve around technology. Philly easily has enough meetup groups, media outlets, venture capitalists and passion to host an entire week of technology-based events to help but Philly in a broader national conversation.
The city should be proud of both subcultures and their rise to national legitimacy, but we all still have a lot of work to do to make each realize its full potential. Given recent history, though, Technically Philly thinks that its only a matter of time before Philly is the undisputed king of beer and technology.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some drinking to do.