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10 imagined futures: Philly’s tech community tells us what they envision for the next decade

What will this industry look like, locally, a decade from now? More diverse in its leadership, more eager to discuss its failures, less concerned about comparing itself to other cities and more.

Cherry Street Pier. (Photo courtesy of Delaware River Waterfront Corporation)

As we close out a 2019 next week (and a decade of Technical.ly!) next week, we’ve been reflecting on the past 10 years of Philly’s tech community.

In this decade, we’ve seen some landmark moments like civic tech organization Code for Philly coming out of national org Code for America, the city being considered for Amazon HQ2 and city government itself started putting money into startups with StartupPHL.

While we’ve spent a good amount of time reflecting, it’s time to look forward.

We asked members of Philly’s tech and startup scene to imagine 10 years into the future: What does your tech community look like? What are future trends? What big industries will Philly be known for? How do you think this community will change?

Their answers, some of which have been edited for length or clarity, are below:

Ellen Weber, executive director of Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute and angel investor

“With all the initiatives targeting inclusiveness, I would expect the Philadelphia tech community to be much more diverse and inclusive. It will also be more ‘porous’ meaning that people move from large tech companies to their own startups, get acquired and start the cycle again. I would expect in 2030 that the industry and infrastructure domains would also be more diverse, including some areas that we can’t even predict now.

“Most importantly, it will be much easier for people to ‘find’ the tech community — that organizations like the University City Science Center and Philly Startup Leaders will expand their outreach and be much more transparent, so it won’t require luck to find the right people to get connected.”

Kristen Fitch, marketing director at the University City Science Center

“I envision Philadelphia being a global leader in cell and gene therapy with an increase in cross-university and cross-lab research. We’ll see more interdisciplinary activity between researchers, engineers, artists, designers, and beyond. These are areas that institutions like Drexel University’s ExCITe Center and Jefferson University — and even the Science Center’s BioArt Residency program — are spearheading, and I predict it becoming common practice.

“I also hope we move beyond thinking about ourselves in the context of other cities and regions. If we play our cards right, other cities and regions will be looking to us for the playbook on identifying, leveraging and exploiting strengths as a leader in an emerging cluster and our ability to come together around shared a vision, leveraging unique but complementary strengths and do it in a way that’s authentic to our city (looking at you Amplify Philly).”

Brigitte Daniel, EVP of Wilco Electronic Systems and founder of Mogulette

“In 10 years I envision Philadelphia becoming one of the top Smart Cities in the world. We will be recognized for our ability to collaboratively leverage the City’s unique assets that bridge technology and communities, and impact and business. Why?

  • We will see an influx of smart green technologies heavily integrated and adopted across all sectors of housing and city infrastructure.
  • Real estate development will become more technically savvy, intuitive and in harmony with communities.
  • A new pipeline for workforce in addition to new opportunities for venture capital funding for startups, will be created and made available through state and federally funded green tech initiatives thus making Philadelphia not only a top smart city, but also a leader in building inclusive urban innovation ecosystems.

“It will be an epic decade indeed!”

Kiera Smalls, director of Philly Startup Leaders

On future trends: “To truly succeed with founder development in our startup ecosystem, we will embrace empathy over ego. We will see more failures and hard times shared publicly in an attempt to help ourselves and the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Michael Rappaport, CEO and founder of Chariot Solutions

“A recent study showed that just five cities (Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose) accounted for 90% of the growth in tech jobs between 2005 and 2017. But in 10 years, Philadelphia will be included in that list. The Philadelphia innovation community will continue to push forward and work together (something, by the way, that we do just as well if not better than most tech communities) to create more job opportunities. This growth will not only keep graduates from our first class universities here, but Philly will also attract more talent from the West Coast who will recognize the city as top destination for tech jobs.”

Chris Wink, CEO of Technically Media

“In 10 years, what we understand to be the Philly tech community will have fully transitioned into simply being part of Philadelphia’s very old, storied and established business community — but smarter, more progressive, inclusive and influenced by software and the modern norms introduced by the leaders today. We’ll still have more dedicated gatherings of software developers, even as the languages, processes and outcomes evolve. Oh, and we’ll have flying delivery drones in our skies before autonomous vehicles on our roads.”

Tracey Welson-Rossman, founder of TechGirlz

“In 10 years, Philadelphia will become the undisputed city in the country for women in tech. Philly has always supported the women in tech movement but in the next decade, I predict the majority of major companies in the area will have women in high level CTO/CIO type of roles.”

Eliza Pollack, director of innovation in the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology

“My hope for the next 10 years is that people stop thinking about government as clunky, unresponsive and bureaucratic, and instead see it as a place where innovation happens for the pure sake of delivering the best services to residents. Internally, I’d love to see the public sector be more open to talking about failure, embracing risk, and recognizing that mistakes are great learning opportunities; and externally, I hope the trend of cross-sector problem solving and communication continues. Government has come a long way in admitting that we can’t (and shouldn’t!) solve problems all on our own and I think there’s such tremendous value in working with other entities to address the needs of Philly.”

Mark Wheeler, CIO at the City of Philadelphia

“As we move into the next decade, we plan to focus on engaging with the Philadelphia community to better understand what they need for success. Technological services will be based on connecting with Philadelphia residents to identify city challenges. Accessibility is key for the future of technology and the City. We plan to make digital offerings more available to residents by making sure they have access to technology and the internet so that they can use it in ways that are meaningful to their lives. We expect Philadelphia to be a welcoming ecosystem of innovative technology that includes a broad range of firms, companies, and thinkers. We hope to create a space that allows for opportunity and growth for all.”

And me — Paige Gross, lead reporter for Technical.ly Philly

After six months in this job, I believe that Philadelphia’s tech scene benefits from the characteristics that this city is already known for — grittiness, honesty and a bit of underdog-ness. I think, more than other tech hubs, Philly is more aware of its flaws, and is willing to talk them through and implement solutions, which bodes well for a tech future that is strong and accessible.

Companies: Chariot Solutions / City of Philadelphia / TechGirlz / Temple University / University City Science Center / Wilco Electronic Systems / Technical.ly

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