Philadelphia has what it takes — Amazon or no Amazon - Technical.ly Philly

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Apr. 20, 2018 11:43 am

Philadelphia has what it takes — Amazon or no Amazon

Why Todd Barrish is bringing his company to Philly, and why it would make sense for Jeff Bezos to do the same.

Philly Philly.

(Photo courtesy of Philly By Drone)

This is a guest post by Todd Barrish, president and founder of Indicate Media.

At the start of the year, Philadelphia had a 16-to-1 shot of becoming the home of Amazon’s second headquarters according to Irish betting site PaddyPower. In the event, however, that Amazon opts for another city, the blow to the city’s tech scene might sting, but it is far from fatal.

Today, Philadelphia isn’t generally recognized as a center for tech innovation. However, times are changing fast, technology is pervasive across all kinds of industries and in the spirit of Benjamin Franklin, this American cultural icon is stepping up to the plate.

A stealth tech hub

Transformation is well underway. Philadelphia is now among the top startup cities in the U.S., and boasts more than 300 startups that call the region home, including innovative tech companies such as Stitch, Borderwise and NeuroFlow. Though it slowed down like the rest of the industry last year, in 2016 some 178 deals closed for a total value of just over $1 billion.

(Chart via PACT)

(Chart via PACT)

Philadelphia has lots of other elements working in its favor, too. The region has more than 100 degree-granting institutions, including Penn, Temple and Drexel.

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But unlike other tech hubs, Philadelphia is also livable.

The average housing value is $147,000 versus $308,000 for New York City and $569,000 for Boston. (In case you were wondering, the average for Palo Alto is $3.2 million.)

Comcast, of course, also calls the city home and Vanguard opened a 16,000 square-foot innovation center downtown last year. Philadelphia’s other attributes that make it a logical home for tech firms include a diverse population, bike friendliness and a range of excellent restaurants (not to mention world-class sports teams, ahem — go Sixers).

Those seeking a better work-life balance appreciate the city as a more affordable alternative to New York and Boston, and for those who want to raise a family yet enjoy access to one of the top cities on the East Coast, Philadelphia is waiting for you. When compared to suburbia or exurbia, Philadelphia should have the edge for millennials who claim they want to live an urban environment.

Why 2018 is different

In the past, some have surmised that Philadelphia was too family-oriented to draw the type of young tech talent that flock to Silicon Valley, Boston or New York. But a lot has happened in the past few years. Widespread digital transformation literally means there’s tech talent needed for every major company now. And, since technology is everywhere, tech talent has a lot more choices.

If the cost of living in San Francisco doesn’t dissuade you from living there, then the city’s omnipresent tech scene and the presence of tech bros might. These days, the tech industry isn’t like entertainment where you really have to live in one or two areas (Los Angeles or New York) to ply your trade. If your goal is to run Google someday then, yeah, you should probably head elsewhere. But if you’d be happy working in tech and having some family balance, then Philadelphia is a great choice.

My PR agency, Indicate Media, is no exception to this rule.

While we love our NYC roots, we are putting our money where our mouth is and opening our Philadelphia operations in Q2 2018. With the growing tech opportunity expressed above and the ability to find great talent within the Philadelphia borders, we see tremendous opportunity to help this city’s tech talent tell stories that both resonate and squarely position themselves as viable players in the ever-present national and international tech ecosystem.

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