(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
As the CEO of one of Philadelphia’s most successful tech startups, Apu Gupta has clout. And the Curalate cofounder flexed it in an open letter to Mayor Jim Kenney on Philly.com Monday.
“Where the mayor and the tech community can best work together is in putting Philadelphia on the national stage as a city where exciting things are happening and where a thriving tech community is taking hold,” Gupta wrote, explaining that “when I talk to [job] candidates, I’m selling them not just on my company but on Philly. I’m selling them on a city that has excitement, momentum, and a buzz about it.”
He continued: “The mayor is uniquely positioned to serve as the catalyst for this transformation by simply giving tech a larger voice, by celebrating our start-up success stories and promoting us at the national level.”
Reading Gupta’s letter, it sounded a lot like he was describing what Nutter did for the tech scene. (We’d venture a guess that Nutter’s former commerce department chief of staff Luke Butler, who’s now working for Curalate, had something to do with the piece.) Attending ribbon-cuttings every time a tech company graduated to a new office, speaking at AOL founder Steve Case’s national Rise of the Rest Tour, partnering with founders like Bob Moul on the StartUp PHL initiative. So it makes sense that Nutter enthusiastically shared the editorial. (So did First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, another local tech leader with clout.)
— Michael A. Nutter (@Michael_Nutter) February 29, 2016
It’s helpful that Nutter has already laid the groundwork for a close relationship with the tech scene, that he did much of the tone-setting. Kenney and his Commerce Director Harold Epps could easily follow in his footsteps. But the question is, will they? We wonder how much the Kenney administration will try to distinguish itself from the previous one. We found some clues in Kenney’s list of new commerce department initiatives, which he announced two weeks ago.
Among the dozen projects he announced, two initiatives that sound like they could have come from the Nutter camp: Kenney’s hiring a director of international investment to attract foreign businesses and trade. He also launched a project to gets suburban companies to open satellite offices, which former Commerce Director Alan Greenberger called “gateway offices.” Kenney also trumpeted the city’s involvement with the effort to highlight Philadelphia at South by Southwest and spoke of expanding StartUp PHL to college campuses. (We’re not clear on what that last part entails but we’ll follow up.)
In those ways, it doesn’t seem like Kenney’s afraid to carry on some of the flagship Nutter business initiatives. We also know that Kenney is ready and willing to engage with the tech scene, even though he feels out of his element there.
One last thing: can we talk about Gupta lobbying the mayor in the press? Very interesting, especially from a CEO who has been more under the radar when it comes to the Philly tech organizing. Is Gupta angling for more of a leadership role in the scene, the way Moul has historically taken on? And will more founders continue to speak up about what they want from the new administration?