Philly was never in play for Wharton's Coursekit - Technical.ly Philly

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Jun. 29, 2011 12:00 pm

Philly was never in play for Wharton’s Coursekit

This is Exit Interview, an occasional interview series with someone who has left Philadelphia, perhaps for another country or region or even just out of city limits and often taking talent, business and jobs with them. If you or someone you know left Philly for whatever reason, we want to hear from you. Contact us. The […]
Joseph Cohen

Joseph Cohen

This is Exit Interview, an occasional interview series with someone who has left Philadelphia, perhaps for another country or region or even just out of city limits and often taking talent, business and jobs with them. If you or someone you know left Philly for whatever reason, we want to hear from you. Contact us.

The Wharton School of Business is something of a mixed blessing for Philadelphia technology community. One one hand it has produced some of the region’s most successful startup companies such as Invite Media and Ticketleap.

However, most Wharton grads end up taking their business elsewhere. Invite Media largely relocated to New York. Diapers.com split for New Jersey. Now, Philadelphia can add Coursekit to the ever-expanding list of Wharton startup brain drain.

Coursekit, founded by three Penn students aims to replace BlackBoard and the standard for educational collaboration in higher education. After their school year was over, the company relocated to New York City, the hometown of founder Joseph Cohen. After raising $1 million from a highly-respected venture funds in a seed round , the company has no plans of returning.

We interviewed Coursekit CEO and Co-Founder Joseph Cohen just before his funding round was announced about Wharton brain drain and asked what Philadelphia could do to better keep its Wharton startups.

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Are you still attending Wharton? Will you be back?

I haven’t made up my mind, actually.

Why is the business in NYC?

A few reasons: in terms of building a tech startup, my experience is that it’s better to build it in a place that has a community. I’m not saying Philly doesn’t, but New York has a bigger one. I also have a network in New York and I’m very comfortable with the tech environment here.

Second, is the education community, it’s bigger in New York. It also helps with hiring and networking. And the third reason is that I’m from here.

If Philly is the second-largest college town why would you leave? [Source: Philadelphia Greater Chamber of Commerce 2010 Regional Report. PDF link.]

Philly has a lot of colleges, but when it comes to proximity to all the colleges in the Northeast, New York is more central. It’s also a matter of education companies based here [in New York].

Was there a specific moment or event that occurred when you realized Philly wasn’t for you?

Thing is, when I finished school for the year it wasn’t like a huge… I wasn’t in Philly by choice. It wasn’t a big deal to move.

Are there any lessons Philly can learn from the fact that it wasnt in play?

In general. There can only be so many big communities. I don’t know if Philadelphia can or wants to be a tech hub. Things are so exciting in early stage tech, and the action is in New York and Silicon Valley so it makes sense to build a company in those areas.

There’s just a frustration when Philadelphia has this great business school but people end up going elsewhere. That’s why we’re interested in talking to you.

Underlining this is: what’s appealing about New York is appealing to startup people. I’d rather live here then anywhere else. It’s much easier to hire creative or engineering talent here as well.

I think it goes beyond a tech thing. You just happen to be a tech company and we happen to be a tech publication, but Wharton is not a tech school.

I think there’s just more opportunity in New York. There are lots of die-hard Philly people, I’m just not one of those people. I’m not knocking it. I wouldn’t have gone to Philly had Wharton not been there.

Anything else coming up from Coursekit?

Any professor will be able to use Coursekit this Fall, taking their class to another level to really foster an online community. I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.

Companies: Coursekit
People: Joseph Cohen
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