When Technically Philly gave Dean Miller a ring yesterday, he admitted to spending the majority of the conversation staring out of the window.
“We have our summer celebration tonight, and I’m worried about this thunderstorm,” he says.
Miller, a partner at Novitas Capital, shouldn’t be worrying. For one, the event is inside. Two: Ealier this month Miller oversaw the merging of two of the regions high profile technology groups: Eastern Technology Council and Mid-Atlantic Capital Alliance. Both had the similar mission of helping foster technology entrepreneurship and investing.
“We knew that if you put them side by side you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart,” says Miller. As head of the MAC Alliance, Miller helped oversee the consolidation of the two groups into the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technology, or PACT.
“We’re kind of a one stop shop and strategic hub now whether you are an investor or an entrepreneur,” he says.
We chatted with the local tech veteran about the roaring 90s, PACT’s new event strategy and Miller’s plans for world domination.
So how long have you been in the area? All Technically Philly knows is that you went to Wharton.
I’m from upstate New York actually, but I went to Franklin and Marshall and spent ten years at large companies and startups before getting my Wharton MBA. Then I graduated in the late 90s when the venture capital market was going haywire. I landed at PA Early Stage (ed. note: Wayne-based PA Early Stage was renamed Novitas Capital in 2007) when it was getting started, I was the first non-founding partner.
We did a lot of good, though there were a lot of blowups as well.
How did you get involved with PACT and the merger?
I’ve been involved off and on with the MAC Alliance. Most recently, I was chairman of MAC since around the founding of Technically Philly, actually. Our primary constitutant was the investor but we always talked about connecting investors with entrepreneurs but we only really did that with our yearly conference at the Convention Center.
About a year ago we started having conversations with ETC and it turned out that we had very similar missions. We knew that if you put them side by side you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. And the beauty is they didn’t have a lot of overlapping constituents.
How will PACT be different from what MAC and ETC could do on their own?
We’ve said if all we do is combine memberships and calendars, that will be a horrible disappointment. We spent a lot of time thinking and surveying members to figure out what is important to our members, and one thing that always comes up is networking with the right people. You don’t want to show up to an event with a bunch of irrelevant people. That got us thinking of doing more, smaller events with subsets of our constituents.
Can you give us an example?
Investor-only events. Entrepreneurial events. What you’ll see from PACT is events focused on things like young investors. Well do some [venture capital] partner-only events, some life sciences-only events. The success is not have 150 people show, it’s having 25 of the right peopleâ€¦
How is PACT funded?
It’s a membership organization in combination with sponsorship.
How many people are in PACT?
Organizationally there are several hundred, which means we have thousands of individuals.
Are there any broader strategic plans that this consolidation allows you to start thinking about?
Like taking over the world? [laughs]
I haven’t left my day job. Im serving this roll into 2011. Really, my vision was to create a successful merger of these two organizations. The addition to that it’s really more collaborative.
There are lots of organizations serving the technology community, and I just eliminated one of them. Really what we are doing is reaching out to these other groups like Ben Franlin Technology Partners, Pennsylvania Bio, the Science Center and Philly Startup Leaders. A lot of these organizations make sense for us to work with.
In talking with readers, we always got the same reaction: “Thank God MAC and ETC merged, there are just so many groups out there”
Consolidation makes sense. Will it continue? I don’t think so necessarily, but I think collaboration is really important so we are not stepping on each others toes while sticking to our core focus. That way we can all collectively help the entrepreneurial community.
Do you think the community exists in silos?
I think the collaboration has been better recently. Historically, it’s been pretty siloed. That’s one of my main focuses: to tear down these walls.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia s technology community. See others here.