The power of digital culture is how effortlessly it can be created. And, of course, how quickly it can be forgotten.
In the first software build up, the so-called Web 1.0 boom of the late-1990s, wealth was created and infrastructure developed. But visit many tech communities developing today, like Philadelphia, and outside of a few giants and a few leaders, there is a very real disconnect between then and now.
In large part, what we built then did not last. Particularly here in Philadelphia, there was a scattering of talent, via acquisitions and implosions. The places people would meet changed and a new crop of events and conveners grew. All of this can be healthy, but it can also be challenging.
Will what we build today last?
This is the fifth year of Philly Tech Week, now presented by Comcast. It has grown from a dozen events with hundreds of people to almost 100 events with thousands of people. There are new businesses, some still small and others growing. People here contribute to open source and scalable projects. At Technical.ly, we cover innovators new and old doing amazing things every day.
From the launch of OpenDataPhilly.org, a government transparency tool launched at the first Philly Tech Week, to this year’s Philly Tech Week Mayoral Forum, this community has rallied the attention of policy makers and influencers. There is a stronger and far more robust network of technologists, entrepreneurs and creative leaders. Institutions and businesses have joined the fray, too, helping to connect the dots — look no further than Comcast becoming the Philly Tech Week title sponsor and showing up at more local tech events, as it works to foster a tech workforce to fill its forthcoming second skyscraper.
But this work is easier in this moment because technology and startups are more popular today. They have become shorthand for great thinking and preparing for the future — the torchbearers of innovation.
To make it last, we need to build and defend processes for building a future workforce — robotics clubs and coding classes and entrepreneurial programs for everyone. We need to demand more of our current leaders — better businesses and smarter policies. We need to transition our collective mindset, too — building a tech community will reach a logical conclusion, but building for the future is by definition a task without end.
If Philly Tech Week 2015 presented by Comcast had a defined theme this year, it would be Innovation Legacy, how to make change last. We hope you’ll think about that (and join in with the #ptw15 conversation) at nearly 100 events over the coming days. Thank you.