(Photo by Christopher Wink)
First there was the Center City building boom. Then the urbanist foundation of a young professional creative class. Now talent retention efforts in Philadelphia need to turn to specific sectors.
This is a damn cool place to stay after college, with Census data increasingly confirming that. But can younger residents find a tribe and begin a career within the city? (Whether they can afford to start (and educate) a family is the conversation’s next step.)
For the tech community, that question is front and center for the Start. Stay. Grow. event series — a collaborative effort between Technical.ly Philly and Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), along with Campus Philly, Blackstone Launchpad and a handful of volunteers. The series grew with support from StartupPHL.
Kicked off last fall with the first Start. Stay. Grow Summit and supported by a half-dozen PSL-led events at various Center City startups, the second summit brought more than 150 college entrepreneurs, technologists and aspirants to the CityCoHo coworking space Tuesday night to hear from nearly 20 local event organizers.
— Technical.ly Philly (@TechnicallyPHL) September 9, 2014
From gaming nights to makerspaces to coding events to bootstrapping breakfasts, the call was for students to both find one event to use as a community entry point and to be shocked by just how varied and active the local tech community is.
After the presentations, students milled about, meeting each other and local event organizers. Students from Drexel, Penn, Temple, Philadelphia University, St. Joe’s, Villanova, the Community College of Philadelphia, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Eastern were in attendance. Two-dozen administrators, professors and college group leaders from many of those colleges discussed ways to build sustainable pathways between campus and community.
The prompts were less about immediate networking and more about long-term fixes. The consensus was that it can’t all be put on new students to find events and networks. After identifying the problem — no clear entry point for students to discover the active Philly tech scene — four breakout groups discussed solutions for building on new connections sparked by Start. Stay. Grow.
Among those suggestions:
- Unite each college’s “Shark Tank-style” college startup event with a cross-campus championship attended by local community leaders, not unlike this April’s Switch Philly, said a Temple student.
- Develop an internship exchange in which students could experience several local companies, not unlike a local-only Venture for America, an extension of the PennApps fellowship program, or a variation on the Philly Startup Leaders pre-accelerator initiative.
- Better connect campus career centers with tech-focused jobs fairs, like NET/WORK, to supplement existing college efforts, said Dalton Banks.
- Host more career-focused tech tours, like one Campus Philly organized with Technical.ly Philly, said one attendee from Bryn Mawr.
- Establish an alumni mentorship network, perhaps a new focus for an existing PSL program.
- Borrow from theater programs, where students are required to attend local performances. Why shouldn’t entrepreneurship, business, or STEM programs do the same for local tech events, said Zoe Selzer.
- Empower program directors and professors to be connectors, helping student leaders build more ties. With a crew of leaders experienced in local tech firming joining universities in key roles (e.g., Chuck Sacco, Selzer and Ellen Weber) this may happen quickly.
“Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be a vertical,” said Mike Tannenbaum, a partner on the event series who built the Start. Stay. Grow. website. “Today, every student should have some experience starting something on their own, and they can learn a lot of it locally.”
At the evening’s public event, these 17 speakers shared how their efforts are supporting the Philly tech scene:
- Philly Tech Week
- Philly Startup Leaders
- Girl Develop It
- University City Science Center (Kristen Fitch)
- Mike Krupit
- Maurice Gaston
- David Dylan Thomas
- Philly Game Forge
- PACT (Dean Miller)
- Angel Venture Fair (Marc Kramer)
- ExCITe Center (Kara Lindstrom)
- Code for Philly (Danny Harvith)
- Start. Stay. Grow. (Yuval Yarden)