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Meet the who’s who of local tech community builders: Philly’s 100 RealLIST Connectors

If you're just entering the Philadelphia technology and entrepreneurship scene, here's who you'd want to know.

Clockwise from top left: Jumoke Dada, Sylvester Mobley, Jeff Friedman, Opeola Bukola, Josh Kopelman and Anne Bovaird Nevins. (Image by Paige Gross)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Community Building Month of our editorial calendar.

Correction: Amber Wanner is now the founder and CEO of Vette.io. (5/28/20, 2:45 p.m.) Michelle Freeman is the co-organizer of Amplify Philly. Mention of Kiera Smalls' City Fit Girls org has been added. (5/28/20, 6:17 p.m.) Jeff Friedman's title has been updated. (5/29/20, 9:42 a.m.)
What does Philly’s tech community look like and who helps build it?

It’s something we pay attention to all year, but we’ve been taking a closer look during Community Building Month, especially as the definition of community has and will change due to the coronavirus pandemic and shift to remote work and virtual events.

For the past four years, we at Technical.ly have been bringing you lists of promising startups in Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. and Delaware. Last fall, we launched the inaugural lists of influential and impressive engineers. Now, we’re happy to introduce the next evolution in the RealLIST series: RealLIST Connectors, our roundup of folks working to build their local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation community by linking others with an eye toward future growth and inclusivity.

In this list you’ll see many different initiatives that these leaders have started and organized, but there’s one thing that unites them: It’s not just about them. In the conversations we’ve had over the years, it’s become clear that they care about their city’s tech and business community, and about leaving it better for future generations.

Many have had success at individual pursuits, but so often it’s the case that they realize they didn’t get there on their own. So now, they’re connecting others to help the cycle continue, whether that’s through organizing a meetup, heading an organization or going out of their way to make sure two people know each other. That’s how communities grow.

This list was compiled with input from Technical.ly’s newsroom, including reporter Paige Gross, editor Julie Zeglen and CEO Chris Wink. We solicited nominations from the community itself, but mainly, we referred back to our years of reporting on the local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation economies. What you see below is a peek into our source book.

Laurie Actman

  • Chief marketing, communications and program officer at Penn Center for Innovation at University of Pennsylvania
  • Like many institutions, Penn is better understood as a loose confederation of dozens of schools and departments. Actman has become the public face of the its robust tech commercialization and has the unenviable task of connecting various corners of this world, which she does as a member of the PACT board and an active supporter of both Amplify Philly and Philly Tech Week.

Lloyd Adams

  • SVP and managing director of the East Region at SAP America, Inc.
  • Adams has worked for the tech company for more than 20 years, and currently sits on on the board of PACT.

Chris Alfano

  • CTO at Jarvus Innovations
  • Alfano has been building things in and for the Philly tech community for more than a decade. He’s held multiple development roles and cofounded Devnuts, now known as LocalHost. He was also instrumental in bringing Code for America to Philly, starting the Code for Philly chapter, and serving as brigade captain and on the national board.
Vote Alfano.

Chris Alfano. (Courtesy photo)

Tim Allen

  • IT director of Wharton Computing
  • As one of the world’s best respected business schools (and the country’s first), much of its faculty and staff take a very global view. Over the last decade from the back-office IT department, Allen has quietly been one of school’s most important connectors to the outside world. Active in Django and Python software communities, he follows closely the intersections of the innovation ecosystem.

Morgan Berman

  • Founder and CEO of Milkcrate
  • Adapting a tech company to trends as a first-time founder is no easy feat, and she has served on the boards of Philly Startup Leaders, AlmaLinks, Energy Coordinating Agency and her local civic association in South Philadelphia.
MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman.

Morgan Berman. (Courtesy photo)

Jeff Bodle

  • Partner at Morgan Lewis, specializing in emerging businesses and other innovative high-growth companies
  • Bodle’s one of the OG supporters of Philly Tech Week, and stays active in the tech community, often working with startups or more mature companies through acquisitions, investing and IPOs.

David Bookspan 

  • Founder and executive chair at Amino Payments
  • Bookspan is a veteran of Philly’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. He’s the cofounder of Dreamit Ventures, founder of Monetate and now of Amino. He’s a resource to many young startup founders.

Anne Bovaird Nevins 

  • President of PIDC
  • The region’s primary economic development public-private partnership has tended to be a seat for influence. In her spare time, Bovaird Nevins sits on boards for her Fairmount neighborhood org and spent time as a mentor for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s “pay it forward” program.

Anne Bovaird Nevins. (Courtesy photo)

Tracy Brala

  • VP of ecosystem development and executive director of Venture Café Philadelphia
  • Brala has been leading the charge on the every-Thursday gathering of tech, innovation and business leaders at the University City Science Center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brala has lead a digital version of the networking and idea-sharing event, still pulling in interesting speakers and a couple hundred attendees.

Jonathan Brassington 

  • Cofounder and CEO of LiquidHub
  • Brassington recently took a role as Head of Capgemini Invent North America, during the company’s acquisition of LiquidHub. and has served on the board of PACT.

Liz Brown

  • Founder of Design Jawn
  • Brown runs a design thinking-focused consultancy, has taught at Jefferson and Drexel universities and was recently managing director of Backstage Capital.
A panel on building better teams by Kimberly Blessing (left,) Jessica Saint and Liz Brown.

A panel on building better teams by Kimberly Blessing (left,) Jessica Saint and Liz Brown. (Photo by Beth Finn)

Anthony Bucci

  • Cofounder and former CEO of RevZilla
  • The cofounder spent many years shaping the ecommerce company, stepping down from his role last year to focus on other ideas. He’s a staple at pitch events, handing out advice and mentorship to startups, and sometimes investing dollars.

Opeola Bukola

  • Director of the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (GPLEX)
  • Economy League of Greater Philadelphia’s three-day experiential program GPLEX has been long known for helping local civic leaders get to know each other as well as other cities on a one-year-local, one-year-away model. Bukola took on that mantle this year after working with the likes of Backstage Capital and Philly’s Global Identity Partnership.

Opeola Bukola. (Courtesy photo)

Chris Cera

  • CEO of Archweb Technologies
  • It’s hard to find others in Philly’s tech scene that are as involved and passionate about civic engagement. In addition to being among the founding members of Philly Startup Leaders, Cera was an early tenant of coworking space Indy Hall and a longtime Old City business owner. He’s a frequent Chamber of Commerce representative and doubles on the city’s prestigious Leadership Philadelphia board.

Robert Cheetham

  • President at CEO of Azavea
  • For a class of bootstrapped software founders, civic technologists and community-minded entrepreneurs who want to make things last, he is a Philadelphia original. He was brought up in government IT and has built one of the country’s most respected geospatial firms.

Domitrius Clark

Domitrius Clark. (Courtesy photo)

Danielle Cohn and Luke Butler

  • VP of startup engagement and head of LIFT Labs and senior director of entrepreneurial engagement at Comcast NBCUniversal, respectively
  • Cohn and Butler, often together at networking and speaking events, work closely with some of Philadelphia’s (and the world’s) newest startups. Both have spent time on PSL’s board and have backgrounds in business development and entrepreneurship.

Mark Constan

  • Principal at MTC Search Group and former recruiting lead at The Meet Group and eMoney Advisor
  • “He has been connecting ‘people’ for almost 20 years,” wrote one of his nominators. “One of the hardest working and ethical people I have met in the business world.”

Lauren Cox

  • Deputy communications director for the City of Philadelphia
  • From her time at the Commerce Department, Cox built up a network. Now in communications for the mayor’s office, she’s stayed connected to local entrepreneurs.

Jumoke Dada

  • Technologist and founder of Tech Women Network and Signature RED consulting company
  • Growing out of her HUE Summit, Dada has grown one of the most vibrant communities for women of color in technology and entrepreneurship.
Jumoke Dada

Jumoke Dada. (Courtesy photo)

Geoff DiMasi

  • Chief of partnerships at Apostrophe 
  • The cofounder of coworking space Indy Hall (though he’s no longer involved in the day-to-day), co-curator of Ignite Philly and founder of creative agency P’unk Ave, he’s moved on to lead a spinoff company focused on bringing to market the content management system, Apostrophe, that P’unk Ave developed in-house. On the board of Leadership Philadelphia, he’s a good access point.

Brigitte Daniel

  • EVP of Wilco Electronic Systems and founder of Mogulette
  • Daniel is one of the community’s most active and omni-present connectors, across startup and politics and inclusion and workforce development. She mixes up old and new worlds — so much so that at a Philly Tech Week event last year, one speaker joked: “Is it even a Philly tech event if Brigitte Daniel isn’t there?”

Cory Donovan

  • Executive director at ImpactPHL
  • When Donovan first moved to Philadelphia after running a tech council in rural Virginia, he made it a point to build his network through giving back, and years later he hasn’t stopped. He’s now the charging force behind the ImpactPHL network promoting social entrepreneurship, and has worked organizing the Philly New Tech Meetup.

Liz Dow

  • CEO of Leadership Philadelphia
  • Dow has long championed the concept of being a “connector” as an important civic role. Her familiar half-century-old civic leadership training program has taken an aggressive stance on incorporating the region’s innovation economy, meaning her programs increasingly connect members of this tech economy. A few members of this list are on her board, and several others have gone through her org’s leadership development programs.

Liz Dow. (Source unknown)

Adel Ebeid

  • Innovation and technology executive
  • The New Jersey state government institution became an influential CIO in the Nutter administration. In city IT and big tech circles, he maintains a reputation and a network worth tapping.

Talia Edmundson

  • Founder of HRnB Consulting
  • The former RevZilla people ops lead shaped much of the ecommerce company’s culture over the years, and has seen the inside of many of the region’s most influential tech companies. She’s now an independent consultant, working with startup companies on their first HR needs.

Michelle Freeman

  • >CEO of Witty Gritty
  • Freeman wears many connective hats: Her events and marketing company works with local, civic-minded nonprofits, and she served as a co-organizer for the past few TEDxPhiladelphia conferences. With Dave Silver, she’s also the co-organizer of Amplify Philly efforts at South by Southwest (see below).

Jeff Friedman 

  • Leader of citizen services at Amazon Web Services
  • Previously the City’s deputy director of performance management, Friedman was also the cofounder and co-director of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, an in-house civic idea incubator that pilots experimental projects in the civic space. He also cofounded what became OpenAccessPhilly, a regular meeting and volunteer-run stakeholder group of early civic technologists.

Jeff Friedman. (Photo courtesy of Generocity)

Abby Fretz

  •  Digital producer and consultant
  • One big cultural divide in tech is between backend and frontend experiences, represented by software and design. That is increasingly a dated view as these teams intersect at all companies, and communities collide too, thanks to people like Fretz, who has worked at several of the region’s creative agencies and dabbled in the local software culture.

Eamon Gallagher and Kristen Fitch

  • Director of strategic innovation and startup acceleration and marketing director of the University City Science Center, respectively
  • Amid leadership changes at the venerable Science Center, Fitch has held multiple roles and kept alive the networked and collaborative approach that most anchor institutions only speak about in brochures. And Gallagher is a go-to legal resource for founders, now working full time with startups through programs like Launch Lane and the Digital Health Accelerator.

Benjamin Garvey

  • Senior engineering manager, Betterment
  • Garvey is a frequent flyer at networking and speaking events, has presented at Data Jawn, and helped Betterment create more of a presence in Philadelphia, with a small team based here in MakeOffices.

Josh Goldblum

  • Founder and CEO of Bluecadet
  • From early days in Fairmount to their studio in Fishtown, Goldblum has built one of the country’s most advanced design-software-experience practices, certainly in the region. As cultural institutions think through how they’ll change, it’s through Goldblum and his team that they’ll pass.
Josh Goldblum.

Josh Goldblum. (Courtesy photo)

Andre Golsorkhi

  • Founder and CEO of Sidecar
  • It’s easy for a growth-stage tech CEO to get caught in a company that could use all their time. Some make themselves more available than others, and Golsorkhi has remained active in local founder groups and in mentoring and giving feedback to first-time entrepreneurs.

Jon Gosier

  • Investor, executive producer, writer and entrepreneur
  • First brought to Philadelphia by way of Dreamit, the former Philly Startup Leaders board member dabbles in an array of interests, from investing in startups to financing film projects. He’s grown an impressive network spanning the globe — and while he’s temporarily based in Atlanta, sources say he’ll be back.

Mikal Harden

  • Cofounder of Juno Search Partners
  • Harden is the personable lead of a human capital management firm in a crowded field, but she’s developed a reputation of giving back, helped in part by being among the lead organizers of the popular Disrupt HR Philadelphia series.

Ellen Hwang 

  • Program Director at the Knight Foundation
  • Networked from city government, she leapt into the prominent role of local program director for the national Knight Foundation. She’s bringing her experience in civic technology, smart cities and community engagement to further strengthen her connective instincts.
Ellen Hwang speaks to a group of workshop participants seated around a table.

Ellen Hwang leading a smart cities workshop at Tech in the Commons 2018. (Photo by Chris Wink)

Alex Hillman

Mikey Ilagan

  • Accessibility product manager at Comcast
  • You might know him for his sick memes, but the accessibility pro is also a regular meetup speaker and organizer — and his cofounded Philly Geek Awards are not to be forgotten.
Mikey Ilagan in a blue shirt, smiling.

Mikey Ilagan. (Courtesy photo)

Youngmoo Kim

  • Professor and founding director of Drexel University’s ExCITe Center
  • A creative thinker with passions for the intersection of arts and technology, he’s become an anchor of creative innovation.

Wayne Kimmel

  • Cofounder and managing partner of early-stage investment firm SeventySix Capital
  • He is far from the subdued, finance quants that make up the vast majority of Philadelphia’s investor class — we’ve pointed out his meme-driven book marketing campaign. But for all the noise, Kimmel’s VC firm is leading sportstech funding in the region, and he was talking about esports before it was as much of A Thing. He knows many different generations of startups here and beyond and connects across them.

Josh Kopelman

  • Founder of First Round Capital and Half.com, sold to eBay in 2001
  • Though Kopelman’s influential early-stage VC firm has invested in the likes of Uber and is known globally, he’s kept a finger on the pulse of Philly tech, joining boards, taking meetings and speaking at local events.
Apu Gupta and Josh Kopelman at Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast.

Josh Kopelman at Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

Mike Krupit 

  • Founder of business and leadership coaching startup Trajectify 
  • Krupit is the veteran of multiple startups, and his current venture has him working with entrepreneurs of young companies and small businesses on a daily basis. Krupit is also the founder of the active Philly New Technology Meetup, with more than 6,000 members. And oh yeah — he, like many of us, love to complain on Twitter.

Bon Ku

  • Assistant dean for health and design and head the Medicine+Design initiatives at Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College
  • This emergency doc is teaching med students design thinking and innovation while treating COVID-19 patients. He’s known to do a lot of speaking engagements, and recently was featured in “Chasing the Cure,” a new medical TV series aiming to break down silos between different stakeholders: Online communities of patients and caregivers already exist in sharing patient stories and medical knowledge.

Marion Leary

Marion Leary celebrates her 2017 Geek of the Year win. (Photo by Julie Zeglen)

Frank Lee 

  • Drexel professor and cofounder and co-director of the Drexel Game Design Program
  • Philadelphia has had more than one start to a regional game development community. From its earliest days to today, one of the anchors is the Drexel game lab. Through various efforts of his (including, yes, Cira Centre Pong), he’s done much to connect these disparate efforts.

Nate Lentz

  • Managing Partner at Osage Ventures
  • Lentz serves on the board of directors for a handful of startups including InstaMed and Sidecar. He also serves on the board of PACT (formerly chairman of the board) and of Ben Franklin Tech Partners.

Jennifer Maher 

  • CEO of coworking space and incubator 1776
  • Maher is an attorney with experience in commercial litigation, and who’s leadership lead to the shift in business model for 1776, now favoring managing and programming spaces. Maher has spent time on the boards of PSL and PACT.
A close up of Jenn Maher.

Jennifer Maher. (Courtesy photo)

Evan Malone 

  • President of makerspace NextFab
  • Back when 3D printing sounded like science fiction, quiet and reserved Malone grew the region’s first modern makerspace at the University City Science Center. Over the last decade, he’s grown a team and a community that has helped define the sector, and was recently involved in the effort to create more PPE during the COVID-19 crisis.

Bruce Marable 

  • Founder and CEO of Employee Cycle
  • A proud student of the software startup experience, he’s grown a network through several companies and almost a decade. Once a Coded by Kids board chair, he’s a helpful starting point for accessing the startup orbit.

Bill Marvin

  • CEO of InstaMed, a healthcare payments tech platform
  • Marvin has worked as an executive at Accenture and founded and ran startup CareWide, a Windows-based office product to manage the administrative operations of physicians. He has also contributed to an investment firm that has worked with a few hundred companies.

Dawn McDougall

  • Director of client engagement at PromptWorks
  • McDougal recently finished up a three-year stint as the executive director for the local chapter of Code for America, Code for Philly. She raised money, increased membership and had a huge influence in shaping the programing for the org.
Dawn McDougall speaks at a hackathon.

Dawn McDougall. (Courtesy photo)

Garrett Melby

  • Cofounder and CEO at GoodCompany Ventures
  • A former corporate attorney, he helped popularize the concept of social entrepreneurship here in Philadelphia.

Jonathan Mercer

  • Founder of Stacks Co., a Bucks County coworking space aiming to connect entrepreneurs and remote workers
  • Mercer has done a lot to amp up Philly’s suburban tech scene, including founding Stacks Co., organizing entrepreneurship events, and cofounding Startup Bucks. His nominator said: “Over the past two years, he’s done more to build the Philadelphia suburbs’ innovation community than anyone I’ve come across.”

Rajvi Mehta

  • Advanced data analyst at Vanguard
  • Mehta is chapter lead of Women in Data,  a national nonprofit dedicated to getting more inclusive groups of women interested in data careers founded in 2016. Mehta has lead the Philly chapter since February 2019, and is present at networking and general tech events in the area.

Rajvi Mehta. (Courtesy photo)

Dean Miller

  • President and CEO of Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT)
  • Nonprofit mergers are rare, but it was Miller who helped orchestrate the combination of once-warring IT business affinity groups to form PACT. Once a fixture of more established suburban tech business, he’s a committed Regional Rail-rider to take meetings, host and attend events in the city too.

Sylvester Mobley

  • Founder of tech education nonprofit Coded By Kids
  • Mobley was the recipient of the 2018 Philadelphia Award, a yearly accolade bestowed upon citizens who “acted and served on behalf of the best interests of the community.” Coded by Kids introduces tech skills to kids early on, and often collabs with other organizations, like Comcast’s BENgineers.

Sylvester Mobley. (Courtesy photo)

Bob Moore

  • CEO and Founder of Crossbeam
  • The founder is a serial entrepreneur, as Crossbeam is Moore’s third major venture, and attracted early and serious investors. Moore has been active in the Philly Startup Leaders community, and is known for being a go-to for advice for other founders.

John Moore

  • Angel investor, Social Venture Circle Philadelphia and Robin Hood Ventures
  • One of the earliest champions of impact investing in Philadelphia, his angel investing network and engagement with ImpactPHL makes him an important starting point for those looking to get the lay of the land.

Bob Moul

  • CEO of machine data intelligence platform Circonus
  • The serial CEO has been brought in multiple times to transition from company founders to big growth, most notably with his taking over Boomi to the sale of Dell. Moul was once known as the “startup CEO” public face of the Nutter administration’s rollout of StartupPHL, but has since taken a quieter role.

Yasmine Mustafa

  • Founder and CEO of ROAR for Good
  • Mustafa sold off a software plugin she was growing into a company, and took her curiosity, earnestness and passion to grow a rare consumer-facing hardware tech product in Philadelphia. With the help of a self-built network, this immigrant-founder pivoted ROAR and has had just about every modern entrepreneurial experience you can have. She’s also got experience on the boards of Coded by Kids, Leadership Philadelphia and more, and when she can find the time, is an influential connection point.
Yasmine Mustafa speaks at TEDxPhiladelphia, June 2015.

Yasmine Mustafa speaks at TEDxPhiladelphia, June 2015. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

Suzie Nieman 

  • Freelance technical project manager
  • Nieman was the Philly chapter lead of Girl Develop It until resigning in protest last January after  a number of complaints about racism within the company began circling. Nieman quickly launched We Evolve, a Slack community with more than 600 members and has the goal of “supporting and encouraging women, trans men, and non-binary adults in and around Philly in their tech journeys,” per its code of conduct.

Natalie Nixon 

  • Creativity strategist and president, Figure 8 Thinking
  • As design thinking went mainstream, Nixon became a near ubiquitous speaker regionally and beyond. You can hardly take on people-first systems thinking without her.

Rick Nucci

  • Founder and CEO of Guru Technologies
  • Nucci is the software CEO Philadelphia wants: He’s scruffy and self-effacing, with long-hair and a deep and informed love for music. Serious first-time founders will tell you few have been as generous with their mentoring time than Nucci, and Guru’s Center City offices are often a spot for meetups or events that bring the tech community together.

Guru cofounders Mitch Stewart (L) and Rick Nucci at Guru’s Center City HQ. (Courtesy photo)

Brian O’Neill

  • SVP of Engineering at Kibo Commerce 
  • O’Neill was the CTO of Monotate until it was acquired by Kibo in late 2019. He’s held various engineering and executive roles in Philly’s tech community and is a quick and frequent connector.

Tom Panzarella

  • Cofounder and CEO at Box Robotics, Inc.
  • If Philadelphia is going to have any chance at a robotics sector, Panzarella will be among its founders. A longtime community member, he dove deeply into advanced robotics, championing not just his firm but the category and Philadelphia as a natural home.

Everett Reiss 

  • Cofounder of hiring service and platform Jane.HR
  • Reiss has approached external recruiting differently for years under his Jane.HR brand, which spun out of his family’s executive search business. His “hiring as a service” has put him in at the center of recruiting both for tech and startup, but also nonprofit and other organizations, meaning he’s used his small firm to know much of what takes place and where.

Wil Reynolds

  • Founder and VP of innovation at Seer Interactive
  • The straightforward, fast-talking Reynolds is a staple of Philly’s tech community, often speaking at gatherings or conferences like Philly Tech Week or Founder Factory. He’s also spent time on PSL’s board, and often posts public-facing blogs posts about business strategy and innovation thinking.
Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds speaks at Philly Tech Week 2016 presented by Comcast.

Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds speaks at Philly Tech Week 2016 presented by Comcast. (Photo by Resolution Rentals for Technical.ly)

RoseAnn Rosenthal, Jason Bannon and Scott Nissenbaum

  • President and CEO, VP of marketing and communications, and chief investment officer and EVP, respectively, at Benjamin Franklin Tech Partners
  • The organization itself is quite connective, constantly working with new and experienced entrepreneurs, but these three people were called out as the folks who were widely respected and chock-full of local industry knowledge and connections.

Chuck Sacco

  • Assistant dean of strategic initiatives and director of the Baiada Institute
  • Once an early tech founder, he now is the most connected face of Drexel’s startup engagement, and has championed funding for startups in Washington. Sacco’s also founded, lead and advised many companies over the years.

Keith Scandone and Mike Gadsby

  • CEO and CIO of O3 World, respectively
  • Among the profitable creative agencies that serve as steady hands for hosting the events and employing the people who make up the tech community, cofounders Scandone and Gadsby have made it their business to connect across the region. Recently, Scandone helped launch Pay it Phorward, a peer-to-peer grant program to send money to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Pam Selle

  • Senior Software engineer at HashiCorp
  • Selle has worked at a variety of tech companies in the Philly area, and champions the remote working community here. She’s one of the longest-running technical organizers in Philadelphia, and in recent years has organized a remote holiday party, remote workers survey and organized a volunteer effort, Hours of Code.

Pam Selle. (Photo by Stanley Zheng)

Greg Seltzer

  • Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP
  • Seltzer’s in charge of Ballard Spahr’s Emerging Growth and Venture Capital Group, which supports its accelerator programs for startup companies, and in his spare time, founded the Philly Music Fest and Tech Tour events, too. As COVID-19 started spreading in the Philly area, Seltzer and his team began giving free legal advice to founders and those in the startup space.

Dave Silver and Will Toms

  • CEO and head of strategy, respectively, of REC Philly
  • The charismatic cofounders of the newly homed community for creatives have been convening musicians, artists and the like since 2014. Silver is also the lead organizer of Amplify Philly, a coalition dedicated to economic development and brand awareness for Philadelphia at the SXSW conference, which had just become a nonprofit and was preparing to head to Austin when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

REC Philly founders Will Toms (L) and Dave Silver in the lobby of their new space, December 2019. (Photo by Paige Gross)

Kiera Smalls and Jaclyn Allen

  • Executive director and head of programs and operations, respectively, of Philly Startup Leaders
  • Both relatively new to tech startup circles, the duo — often seen together running events on the ground — pair their charisma and mission with a decade of goodwill from a once-volunteer-only nonprofit to connect local entrepreneurs to growth resources. Smalls is also the cofounder of City Fit Girls, the popular fitness community.

Tayyib Smith

  • Senior principal at Little Giant Creative
  • From media, music and entrepreneurship, Smith has stretched his creative and branding agency into a range of important issues for his hometown — he grew up in what would now be called Northern Liberties, but he has an opinion or two about that. He’s curated a network of doers and change-makers.

Tiffanie Stanard

  • Founder and CEO of Stimulus
  • The marketing pro and media personality — she has her own radio show — helped launch Open Access Philly’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmark Survey in 2018.
Left to right: Comcast's Danielle Cohn, Stimulus' Tiffanie Stanard and Salesforce's Stephanie Glenn.

(L to R) Comcast’s Danielle Cohn, Stimulus’ Tiffanie Stanard and Salesforce’s Stephanie Glenn. (Photo by Roberto Torres)

Greg Sterndale

  • CEO of Promptworks
  • Sterndale’s nominators told us that he’s a thoughtful community leader “and is consistently looking for opportunities to give back.” Sterndale’s lead the company to sponsor many local nonprofits, from Hopeworks Camden to Philly Tech Sistas (see below), and most recently, looking for ways to help amid #stayathome, PromptWorks is offering devices, zoom access and other resources to nonprofit partners.

Kahiga Tiagha

  • Principal at Wellstone Technologies
  • Tiagha founded nonprofit The ITEM, (The Inclusive Technology & Entrepreneurship Movement) in 2015. The org hosts a monthly networking event, and focuses on tech training and workforce development, especially for diverse groups. He was also named to the SmartCityPHL Advisory Committee in April 2019.

Brett Topche

  • Cofounder and managing director of Red & Blue Ventures
  • With a fund dedicated to the Penn network, you might assume he’d play a focused role. But he’s a longtime and informed perspective on regional business and investment trends, and a true connector across business class.

Ashley Turner

  • Organizer of Philly Tech Sistas
  • The full-time academic technologist at Swarthmore College has run the women-of-color focused tech org, bringing accessible tech training and networking to the area, for the last few years.

Ashley Turner. (Courtesy photo)

Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

  • Cofounder and CEO at Zivtech and Probo.CI
  • He’s among the tech CEOs who funded early meetup groups and was an early voice that led to what is now Amplify Philly, the region’s presence at SXSW.

Amber Wanner

  • CEO and founder of Vette.io
  • Her nominator said Wanner “knows everyone in tech,” and is a familiar face at networking events.

Ellen Weber

  • Executive director of Robin Hood Ventures and Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute
  • Weber is constantly connecting with entrepreneurs and folks in Philly’s tech and business scene and earns praise for the pipeline of education and connections she’s grown, with the city’s largest college as a base.
A group of adults pose while standing on stairs

Ellen Weber (center) with Be Your Own Boss Bowl finalists in July 2019. (Courtesy photo)

Tracey Welson-Rossman

  • Chief marketing officer of Chariot Solutions 
  • One of the founding members of Philly Startup Leaders, the longtime marketing lead of software consulting firm Chariot Solutions keeps up a torrid public schedule. She’s a cofounder of the Women in Tech Summit, TechGirlz and Chariot’s Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise.

Gabe Weinberg

  • Founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo
  • The CEO launched the privacy-focused search engine site in 2009, building a small office in Paoli. Since, Weinberg has been an active member of Philadelphia’s venture capital community, mentoring startup founders and launching Hacker Angels, a group of “hacker” angel investors.

Mark Wheeler, Andrew Buss and Eliza Pollack

  • CIO, deputy CIO for innovation management, and director of innovation for the City of Philadelphia, respectively
  • Much has changed about city government IT in the last 20 years. Out from the shadows, there’s now an expectation that local civil servants should hear from constituents and take the best of software development trends to speak to users. They must be connectors, both internally and outside — and these three are among the best connected.
Eliza Pollack, program manager at the Office of Innovation and Technology, at the City as a Service Hackathon.

Eliza Pollack. (Photo by Chris Kendig)

Terry Williams

  • Founder and CEO of ORS Partners
  • Fast-talking and high-energy, Williams has been around the block in the region. After growing NextStage Capital, he’s an elephant in the region in the human capital management category with his ORS Partners. He’s on the board of the Sixers Innovation Lab and a known connector among a group of talent businesses with roots in the Western suburbs.

Erica Windisch

  • Founder of IOpipe
  • Part of a class of technical founders, Erica leveraged conference and user group speaking to expand a network. In 2019, IOpipe was acquired by New Relic, but Windisch told us she’s staying in Philly.

Michael Winslow and Shirlette Chambers

  • Director of core applications and platforms, and cloud software engineer at Comcast, respectively
  • This duo are currently co-leading the BENgineers, the Black employee network of engineers at Comcast that aims to enhance the pipeline for Black talent internally and externally at Comcast; create channels between Black technology employees, upper management and community leaders; and showcase Black talent to create representation.

Jamie Zale

  • Event manager at Linode
  • The boots-on-the-ground expert on gatherings is responsible for connecting the Old City cloud services company to the larger tech community via meetups and public events (including Philly Tech Week’s 2019 Kickoff Festival).
Companies: Philly Tech Sistas / Nerd Street / Betterment / Thomas Jefferson University / Crossbeam / Witty Gritty / REC Philly / ROAR / Coded by Kids / The ITEM / Jane / Pennovation Center / Guru Technologies / Promptworks / MilkCrate / 76 Forward / RevZilla / Wilco Electronic Systems / Wharton School / University of Pennsylvania / University City Science Center / Sidecar / SeventySix Capital / SEER Interactive / SAP / Robin Hood Ventures / Gabriel Investments / Azavea / Ballard Spahr / Ben Franklin Technology Partners / Bluecadet / Chariot Solutions / City of Philadelphia / Comcast / DreamIt Ventures / Drexel University / DuckDuckGo / Economy League of Greater Philadelphia / First Round Capital / Arcweb Technologies / Good Company Ventures / Indy Hall / InstaMed / Knight Foundation / Leadership Philadelphia / LiquidHub / Monetate / Morgan Lewis / NextFab / PACT / Philadelphia University / Philly Startup Leaders
Series: RealLIST Connectors / Community Building Month 2020 / RealLIST

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