What Comcast is doing to help local entrepreneurs - Technical.ly Philly

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Apr. 20, 2015 7:34 am

What Comcast is doing to help local entrepreneurs

Investment, mentorship and more.

The Comcast Center in Center City Philadelphia.

(Photo by Flickr user Knitting Zeal, used under a Creative Commons license)

Though Comcast is known internationally, it supports entrepreneurs locally by helping fund the tech needs of local businesses and investing in local startups.

The global media and technology company also hosts events such as meetups and hackathons, which give technologists the opportunity to hack solutions, win prizes and receive mentorship.

“The team at Comcast NBCUniversal is looking to innovate everything we do and we welcome new business partners — ranging from the latest customer service solutions to new media technologies that complement the X1 experience,” said Comcast Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz.

Comcast invests in local startups through Genacast Ventures, a partnership between investor Gil Beyda and Comcast Ventures that helps fuel early-stage companies in the area, including LeadID, Invite Media and Packlate.com. One past success is a seed investment in Divide, a bring-your-own-device enterprise security company formerly known as Enterpriod. Divide eventually sold to Google.

“Our passion has always been to turn great ideas into powerful businesses — and that starts with finding talented entrepreneurs,” said Beyda, who leads Genacast Ventures. “Comcast Ventures, with the help of the Genacast and Catalyst funds, has provided unparalleled strategic and financial support for entrepreneurs just getting started. Identifying innovative leaders is the mission of all our partners, and the ability to support them with the assets from Comcast and NBCUniversal provides startups with a distinct advantage.”

Comcast has also collaborated with DreamIt Ventures to invest in minority-owned startups, including Philly outfits ROAR and LIA Diagnostics.

Another initiative from Comcast, Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs, invites entrepreneurs of all kinds — tech or not — to apply to win a grand prize of $30,000 toward tech expenses. The competition, which is in its second year, accepted applications until March 15 and will announce this year’s grand prize winners June 1. Even a sandwich shop needing new computers, smartphones or internet access would qualify, reflecting the need for tech infrastructure across vocations. Last year, Wilmington’s entreDonovan, a women’s boutique that uses 3D scanners to recommend business attire, won a national grand prize for “Improved Customer Experience.”

“Technology plays a vital role when starting a new business and the Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs program is designed to recognize and assist business owners, here in Philadelphia and across the country, who are best using technology to make a difference for their customers and employees,” said Kathy Hickey, executive director of marketing for Comcast Business. “We’ve seen a huge uptick in entries in our second year of the program, especially from here in our hometown, and we’re excited to highlight their great work when the winners are announced later this year.”

Comcast has also upped its commitment to offering mentorship opportunities. The company has partnered with coworking spaces, including Philly’s Benjamin’s Desk, Chicago’s 1871, Washington, D.C.’s 1776, to support local tech ecosystems. Comcast also provides national speakers and experts to help startups with their strategic development.

Then there is actual code itself. Comcast has contributed 36,000 lines of code to an open source project called OpenStack. Last month, the company hosted an OpenStack community meetup, drawing over 150 developers to Rittenhouse Square for a two-day hackathon.

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Jason Sherman

Jason Sherman is a serial entrepreneur who writes about tech startups for Technical.ly Philly and the Examiner, where he has contributed since March 2012. The cofounder of B2B video platform See2B, he's a drone pilot and official videographer for various tech meetups, as well as frequent tech community mentor. Sherman majored in computer science at Delaware Valley University during the dot-com boom. He loves all things tech, art, music, film, food and his Shih Tzu, Wolfgang.

  • Mike Krupit

    Oh, Jason, don’t get me started. (Biting my tongue…)

    • Mike Krupit

      I apologize to many this my comment was out of context. Here what I responded to someone who inquired, summarized into two bullets:

      1. It kind of sucks that Philly is a one-horse town (Comcast) – for both us, the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and for Comcast. For innovation to flourish, the ecosystem needs diversity and fluidity. We don’t have enough of either yet. As a result, there are too many expectations placed on Comcast, including some that it is not ready to meet. The real challenge is that Philly needs more big companies – tech, engineering, finance, etc. – to provide things like jobs for college grads and safe havens for entrepreneurs. Aside from Comcast, Philly’s biggest employers are the city itself, universities and hospitals. More big companies and growth of professional jobs is hard, but it’s a Philly issue (regional, too) and will take a long time.

      2. Until then, without deeper economic, innovation and technology roots, most of our community has to work hard to survive. That includes me, my companies, Jason (who wrote the article for you), and an organization like Technically Philly (who needs the support of a company like Comcast). To survive in Philly means that we often make compromises. I was, in part, sharing my frustration with us having to make those compromises, that we can’t always (or don’t let ourselves) look at all sides of a story. I’m not as good of a cheerleader as some, but a “practical-ist,” authentic communicator and problem solver (for which I work very hard). I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but just want us talking about the hard stuff since we are on a tough journey and need to plan what to do if we want it to happen (that’s the coach in me).

      • Mike Krupit

        One last comment… if you have thoughts about this, please share them here. I know I will get private messages of support, empathy, disagreement, and admonishment. I think this conversation is best had in public – with real thoughts and real names.

      • Brad Denenberg

        Mike,
        As many know, I’m also a “practical-ist”, and not a 100% positive cheerleader. I believe that much of what goes on in our community is fluff and shows little results. It may not always be comfortable to admit our failings, but until we do, the ecosystem won’t be able to find solutions. I’ll take accuracy over good marketing any day, so we can identify problems and solutions. That being said, we need a much better, coordinated effort to market the successes.

        As for Comcast, I agree – having Comcast here is a blessing and a curse. I can literally count dozens of meetings over the past few years, where, after asking a corporation to get more involved in the community, the response was “we’ll do it as soon as Comcast does” or “Shouldn’t the largest tech player in the region take the lead?”.

        Yes, it’s true that Comcast has stepped up significantly in the past year and a half- hosting events, providing sponsorship, and giving access to staff (including leadership). Unfortunately, (whether true or not), there is a perception that more can and should be done, and others still hold back waiting for Comcast to take the lead.

        Until the rest of the business community understands that everyone needs to participate in the high tech economy, our city/region will lag behind, so…

        Here’s an idea for leaders at Comcast (Sam, Marc and Danielle, I hope you’re reading):

        Encourage matching contributions from your partners. Comcast clearly sees the value in contributing – from HR, R&D, thought leadership, investment and marketing perspectives. Help the community by sharing your vision and the value proposition to Comcast with other corporate leaders in town, and encourage them to commit to becoming more engaged. For those on the fence, demonstrate how easy it can be. Though financial support is great (and needed), access and relationships inside corporate partners is worth more than anything to a young company. It costs nothing, can lead to significant job growth, and it has a major impact.

  • Crafty Guy

    Hmm interesting that TP chose to post this but didn’t cover the CBG report conducted by the city. PTW sponsorship effect?

    • Juliana Reyes

      Hey CG, we got you. We have an explainer in the works. Was hoping to get it out this week but probably too optimistic, given PTW. At the latest look for it next week.

      • Mike Krupit

        BTW, I missed the “post sponsored by Comcast” message when I first read it. It looked like any other article/post. Now I understand what the “explainer” might be.

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