Students are our 'natural resource' and we're letting them get away: investor Wayne Kimmel - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 21, 2013 11:30 am

Students are our ‘natural resource’ and we’re letting them get away: investor Wayne Kimmel

Wayne Kimmel, managing partner at Conshohocken investment firm Artists & Instigators, spoke about the city's fight to keep students in Philly at the University City Science Center's Coffee & Capital investor chat.

Wayne Kimmel was fired up about brain drain and growing the Philly tech scene at yesterday's Coffee & Capital event.

It was 9 a.m. and Wayne Kimmel was fired up.

Someone at the University City Science Center‘s monthly “Coffee & Capital” event had just suggested that “the problem” with the Philly tech scene was that it was too quiet and there just wasn’t enough going on. Kimmel, who heads Conshohocken venture capital firm Artists & Instigators, disagreed.

“That’s BS,” he said and immediately started rattling off entrepreneur resources in the area. “Go to Indy Hall! Go to Venturef0rth! Go to Benjamin’s Desk! Go to PACT and talk to Dean Miller!”

Shortly after, he apologized.

“Sorry for yelling and screaming so early in the morning,” Kimmel said, “but this stuff fires me up.”

“This stuff” is the question of how to fight brain drain in Philly — how to keep students, or what Kimmel calls Philly’s “natural resource,” in the city, following a trend that has been happening for a decade. His main point was that Philly needs more venture capital firms and more buy-in (read: investment) from local nonprofit donors and universities.

It was by far the most locally-focused Coffee & Capital we’ve attended (find our previous coverage of the monthly investor chats here). Kimmel, 42, set the tone when he introduced himself at the beginning of the event and said he was sick of students leaving the city upon graduating.

“I’m done with that story,” said Kimmel, who cofounded Wayne, Pa.-based Eastern Technology Fund in 1999 with now-state treasurer Rob McCord and entrepreneur Ian Berg, who passed away in 2009. Eastern Technology Fund went through a number of rebrandings and is now Kimmel’s current fund, Artists & Instigators.

His firm focuses on consumer-facing products and among its roughly 35 investments over the last 14 years, one-third of them have been in local companies, he said. Its investments include online takeout service SeamlessWeb (now Seamless), weight loss company Nutrisystem and the now-acquired online gaming platform Ryzing.

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Artists and Instigator’s lease for its Conshohocken office is about to be up, Kimmel said, but he would not disclose where the office will relocate.

Kimmel, who lives with his wife and two children in Gladwyne, is not awfully concerned with the city-suburbs distinction, though. It’s the region that’s important, he said.

“The city is not the end all, be all,” he said.

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