(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
Ben Franklin Technology Partners Director Omar Mencin and spokesman Jason Bannon are heading to Salt Lake City Thursday to represent Philadelphia in a new program to drive investment dollars to fledgling tech scenes across the country.
— Village Capital (@villagecapital) March 9, 2016
The program, called VilCap Communities, is organized by D.C.-based investment firm Village Capital, who point out that nationally, investment dollars are concentrated in New York, Boston and the Bay Area.
“We’ve always found it pretty hard to believe 70-75 percent of the talent lives in those cities,” VilCap Communities manager Jared Marquette told our sister site, Technical.ly Baltimore.
It’s a point that was frequently made by AOL founder Steve Case on his Rise of the Rest tour, during which he highlighted tech scenes across the country, including Philly’s, last summer. Case’s Rise of the Rest initiative is a partner on the VilCap program.
Local partners in 16 cities, including Philadelphia (with BFTP), Baltimore (with Johns Hopkins) and D.C. (with tech inclusion strategist Jason Towns), will run the program. In Philly, the program will focus on fintech startups, since BFTP has been seeing more and more fintech startups applying for BFTP dollars. (Baltimore is focusing on health, while D.C. is focusing on inclusive entrepreneurship.) One startup will get a $50,000 investment from BFTP when the program ends. Village Capital isn’t contributing any investment dollars.
BFTP is still working out the details, but essentially it will choose a cohort of startups to participate in the VilCap incubator and at the end of that program, the startups themselves will choose who gets the $50,000 investment. (That’s Village Capital’s trademark “peer-investment” model.)
It’s about investing in local startups, yes, but Bannon said it’s more about joining a network of growing tech scenes, about “building a national network of support.” It’s easy to think that your own city’s challenges are unique, but that’s often not the case. That’s certainly what we’ve seen in covering tech scenes in the Northeast, as well as on our Tomorrow Tour: young tech scenes face the same issues, whether it’s lack of funding or a struggle to build a regional identity.
BFTP also hopes the VilCap program will help Philadelphia draw the attention of investors who aren’t familiar with the city’s tech scene. Here’s to that.