It’s been a year full of meetups, demo days and coworking spot grand openings. And we’re looking forward to even more in 2013. Here are our picks for the five biggest stories of the year, in no particular order. Let us know your picks in the comments.
TECH FIRMS RELOCATE FROM THE SUBURBS TO THE CITY
Fiberlink. Bentley Systems. First Round Capital. The Nutter administration made a lot of noise about the handful of suburban tech firms that opened offices in or relocated to Philly. Local legislators — specifically Councilman Bill Green — worked to reform the city’s tax policy in order to lure investment firms to the city and prevent tech companies from fleeing the city as they expand. We’ll have to wait and see if the tax reforms make a difference, and if other tech companies follow suit and relocate to the city to help strengthen the broader region or if this is the same old cat and mouse game between the suburbs and the city.
EXPLOSION OF INCUBATORS AND COWORKING SPOTS
2012 was the year of the incubator in the Philly region. Coworking spots opened in Rittenhouse, Phoenixville and Center City, and there are others still in the works for certain niche communities, like game developers, freelancing parents and artists. We saw an incubator pivot and a new accelerator get announced. Many of these spots are less than a year old, so their impact remains to be seen — 2013 will be the year to see if they flourish or fail.
OPEN DATA TAKES PHILLY
The age of open data in Philly has arrived and it looks like it’s here to stay. Following Mayor Michael Nutter‘s signing of the open data executive order during Philly Tech Week last spring, the big announcements kept coming: Philly got Code for America‘s Mark Headd as its Chief Data Officer, the city released its crime data (which got a nod as one of the best data releases of 2012 from The Atlantic) and nearly every single benchmark from the open data executive order has been met. But it’s not just about the data releases themselves: now it’s on the city to work with the local civic hacking community to use this data to make a difference in Philly. The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, created this year, could also play a role in that mission.
PHILLY STARTUP LEADERS BACK ON THE RISE
It started with Bob Moul’s appointment as PSL president after the volunteer group lost two presidents in a row to New York City and to Silicon Valley. After that, Moul became something of a local tech scene darling and took PSL along for the ride. Moul started the year off announcing that he would lead Old City mobile development shop AppRenaissance, was later appointed to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation‘s board of directors as the only startup scene representation on the 30-person board and was even featured in Philadelphia Style magazine, a move that showed his broad reach for the community. Spreading the word about the local tech scene is one part of the puzzle, the other is leveraging the volunteer group’s members to help the community. We saw some of this with initiatives like beta-testing program PSL Labs and hope to see more in the coming year.
DIGITAL ACCESS INITIATIVES
KEYSPOT, the city’s two-year, federally-funded effort to bridge the digital divide, was the most notable digital access initiative this year. While the public-private partnership kicked off in May of 2011, this year saw the heart of the program, which accomplished 100,000 hours of computer training to 10,000 Philadelphians by the end of the summer. The program’s next challenge is to find a way to become continue its work even after its funding runs out in summer 2013. Comcast launched the second year of Internet Essentials, its low-cost web access program, aiming for stronger local participation following lackluster participation in the first year of the program.
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