No capital to build a business? That's a "false argument": Robert Moore - Technical.ly Philly

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Nov. 20, 2013 12:30 pm

No capital to build a business? That’s a “false argument”: Robert Moore

If you are building a technology entrepreneurship community, don't focus on the taxes or investment or other big intractable problems first. Instead, prioritize an organic community of real doers who can network and help each other.

RJMetrics cofounder Robert Moore speaks at TEDxPhilly on Nov. 18, 2010.

(Photo courtesy of TEDxPhilly)

Conversations in Tech' is a video interview series from Technical.ly Philly in partnership with Callowhill creative agency Brolik. The series will be featured on Philly in Focus, a community multimedia site from Comcast NBCUniversal that allows local organizations to upload, manage and re-publish their content on multiple platforms.

You can’t discount the ecosystem, the little factors that make a big difference in what makes a person call a place home. That goes for entrepreneurs too.

For Robert J. Moore, the direct, if reserved CEO of Center City analytics company RJMetrics, that’s what a lot of burgeoning tech communities undervalue.

“There’s a ton of opportunity to do really meaningful things in a cost effective way in pretty much any big metro region,” he said. But there is an uneven arms race happening across the country, in which cities are pursuing economic development strategies based on tech startups from the top down. It’s the rise of the rest, but with access to all the same information and many of the same resources, why are some regions faring better than others?

Ask nearly any entrepreneur, including Moore, who has been active in Philadelphia for even just the last five years about what’s changing here, and they’ll likely cite the number of events. But it’s not trivial, he said.

“[That’s how we] understand who is out there with a day job at a Fortune 500 company but on the nights and weekends is trying out what it would be like to work at a startup,” he said. “Those are the people we hire.”

Sure, you need universities, you want a few good success stories, you’ll look for capital resources, but the organic social fabric of technologists and entrepreneurs in a given region shouldn’t be undersold, he said. You meet employers and employees at events, follow best practices on mailing lists and check your temperature against a regional narrative with media.

So to everyone who rails against the taxes or complains about the lack of investment opportunities in Philadelphia or any market for that matter, Moore tells her it’s an excuse, “a false argument.” You should work to improve any climate for young businesses, but that’s not the end, it’s the beginning.

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“Venture capital will flow wherever there are successful, interesting businesses,” he said. “If there were more great companies in Philly, there would be more capital in Philly.”

So build a network and create opportunities for serendipity first, then focus on the more mature, complex problems, he said. That means the early goals for a tech community are familiar ones: base yourselves in a place where people actually want to live.

When Moore and cofounder Jake Stein decided to double down on Philadelphia, building out a team of more than 30 in Center City, it was a choice about a city their team wanted to be in, not where they sell their product.

“We never meet any of our customers face to face, it’s just not part of our business model,” Moore said. They find new customers with online advertising and content marketing, introduce them to the product via email and video conferencing and deliver that product through the cloud. “We could be in Antarctica and be just as effective.”

If enough entrepreneurs and their teams make that decision about a place like Philadelphia, Moore said a goal will be met. He said: “The day the number of jobs that tech startups create in the aggregate really matter in the city, that’s a day that success has come.”

Companies: RJMetrics
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