Jul. 7, 2014 7:33 am

A charter school is incubating startups, and PHL Collective is its first company

String Theory Schools has launched a new kind of incubator, where startups exchange their expertise and mentorship for free office space and access to state-of-the-art facilities.

PHL Collective's new office is on the eighth floor of String Theory Schools, at 16th and Vine Streets.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

String Theory Schools has launched a new kind of incubator, where startups exchange their expertise and mentorship for free office space, access to state-of-the-art facilities and the knowledge that they’re training Philadelphia’s youth.

It’s another way the charter school is using Philly resources to teach its middle school and high school students. In its first year, students at the Center City school learned how to grow tilapia in their aquaponics lab. They then learned how to cook the fish with the Vetri Foundation — chef Marc Vetri’s nonprofit focused on teaching students how to eat healthy.

String Theory, which opened the city’s first arts and science-focused charter school last fall, accepted its first tenant last month, game studio PHL Collective. They’re looking for tech, biotech and life sciences companies to join the incubator, said COO Jason Corosanite.

Interested in getting space? Email String Theory
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Inside PHL Collective’s new office at String Theory. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

As part of the incubator, startups:

  • get free office space on the 33,000-square-foot top floor of the school’s eight-story building, the former GlaxoSmithKline building at 16th and Vine Streets, complete with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the city.
  • get access to the school’s facilities, like its DNA lab, its motion-capture suite from Vicon, the British company that video games like Call of Duty and Halo used to drive its character animation (PHL Collective founder Nick Madonna said a small indie game studio like his would not normally have access to such expensive technology), and more.
  • take on student interns, which they’ll train and mentor in their field.
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PHL Collective moved into their new office last month. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

The incubator was a good fit for PHL Collective in part because it aligned with the game studio’s mission of hiring local talent, Madonna said. His five full-time employees are recent grads of UArts and Drexel. The studio, which bounced around Center City coworking spaces Benjamin’s Desk and CityCoHo before opening up shop at at the school, will work with String Theory digital design majors on forthcoming games.

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Team PHL Collective plays their latest game, ClusterPuck99, in their game room. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

As for String Theory, the school opened with 250 ninth graders this past year and will add 950 students from grades 5-9 this fall, Corosanite said. About one-quarter of those incoming students will be from String Theory’s school on South Broad Street, while others will be new students, chosen via lottery. Total enrollment will eventually be 1,800 students by 2016, Corosanite said.

Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.


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