What happened to Philly Tech Meetup? - Technical.ly Philly

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Aug. 28, 2014 10:30 am

What happened to Philly Tech Meetup?

Four years, 4,400 members, four months of radio silence. With its founder MIA, a former pillar of the Philly tech scene appears to be crumbling.

Philly Tech Meetup, November 2013.

(Photo by Jason Sherman)

Philly Tech Meetup, a nearly four-year-old institution in the local tech scene, went dark about four months ago.

It billed itself as “the premier launching pad for tech startups in the Mid-Atlantic region, and one of the largest tech meetups in the USA.”

Founded in early 2011 by entrepreneur Rohan Mehta, the group held two meetups every month — startup demos and happy hours — and also hosted sporadic, ticketed “Fireside Chats,” often featuring out-of-market venture capitalists. The group has nearly 4,400 members and regularly filled the University City Science Center’s Quorum space, where it held its startup demos. In February, Mehta began charging $10 for the meetup.

Then, in April, Philly Tech Meetup stopped scheduling startup demo and happy hour events, without so much as a peep from Mehta.

The last public note we could find on the status of the meetup was on its Twitter account, which said, in May, that PTM would return at some point. Per this manual retweet, the account appears to have posted an update in June, but the original tweet has since been deleted.

(PTM’s most recent tweet, from July 3, is unrelated.)

Mehta did not return multiple requests for comment. Other members of the tech scene also reported being iced by the PTM founder. “He didn’t want anyone else to take over [the meetup],” said one PTM volunteer who asked to remain anonymous. That assessment fits with what we’ve heard.

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Rohan Mehta. (Photo via StartupWeekend.org)

Entrepreneur Bob Solomon reached out to Mehta a few months ago, when he noticed the lack of upcoming meetups, he told us. Solomon asked if Mehta wanted to hand over the reins to Solomon, or if he needed any help running the meetup. According to Solomon, Mehta said he was in New York and that he didn’t need any help.

Meanwhile, Trajectify owner Mike Krupit, who runs another meetup called Bootstrappers Breakfast, reached out to PTM co-organizer Cory Donovan about the status of PTM. Donovan said Mehta had been unresponsive, Krupit said. (Donovan, the manager of Interstate General Media’s Project Liberty Digital Incubator, declined to comment for this story.)

In May, Krupit, along with Donovan, Seed Philly owner Brad Denenberg and lawyer Eamon Gallagher, launched a similarly styled meetup, called Philly New Technology Meetup.

Aside from the extra word in the name, the meetup looks and feels the same: held at the same place, done in the same style (startup demos, plus a speaker, which veers from PTM’s original model) and even some of the same sponsors (law firm Duane Morris). Krupit said the new meetup was not meant to be competition; it was simply to fill a gap that PTM’s absence created, he told Technical.ly Philly.

At some point, Mehta removed Krupit and his New Technology Meetup co-organizers Donovan, Denenberg and Gallagher (plus Duane Morris attorneys Rich Cohen and Kate Tepper) from PTM’s Meetup.com page.

“I am not sure what he was trying to accomplish,” Krupit wrote in an email.

philly new tech meetup

At a recent Philly New Technology Meetup. (Photo via Meetup.com)

So what happened to PTM?

It’s not clear. Mehta was secretive, said the PTM volunteer who asked to remain anonymous. He was working on a startup in New York, the volunteer said, and complained of the growing costs of running PTM, citing Quorum’s cleanup fee and saying that the support from sponsor Duane Morris was not enough. (Quorum declined to comment for this story.)

PTM applied for a city-backed StartUp PHL grant last year to fund a “program expansion” (and was selected as one of 20 finalists) but ultimately did not receive one.

The most we could find on Mehta is that in 2012, he ran an early-stage investment firm called Bulwark Ventures and a financial startup called cStack. Websites for both companies are in pre-launch mode. Mehta is the chair of the advisory board of a nonprofit focused on public health in Tanzania called the Kupona Foundation, according to a foundation official. Mehta declined an interview request with Technical.ly Philly in October 2012, saying, “There are too many other interesting entrepreneurs for you too (sic) feature. :-)”

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