Startups

2018 in review: The upside to losing Amazon

As the year wraps up, we spoke to tech leaders and got a look back at the frenzy over HQ2, and the lessons it left for Philadelphia. Plus: What's an Amazon sandwich?

Amazon's HQ in Seattle. (Courtesy photo)

Last week, at Technical.ly’s quarterly stakeholder meeting, we gathered two dozen tech leaders in a room to look back at the year that just whizzed by, and to take stock of the things we won and lost.

So, of course we had to talk about Amazon.

From a newfound sense of unity to a talent magnet to the northeast and Philly’s strong stance on a list of world-class cities, the founders and organizers agreed there was a sizable upside to getting Philly on the list of finalists for Amazon’s second headquarters project, which ultimately was split between New York and Virginia.

Will Luttrell, the First-Round-Capital-backed adtech veteran who cofounded Center City’s Amino, put it in colorful (delicious?) terms:

“We gained an Amazon sandwich,” Luttrell said, in reference to the two campuses that will take shape in the Northeast, luring 25,000 workers to each city. “Having adtech and product people close to recruit from” will be a plus for his company, while a Philly location as an Amazon hub would have made access to top talent even harder because the corporation would suck up much of that talent.

Ask Cory Donovan, who leads impact investing organization ImpactPHL, and he’ll point to how the national frenzy of the past year made Philly take stock, and think about what needs to improve.

“Amazon would have been both a shot in the arm and a big win in some ways,” Donovan said. “But this helped us look at what we can do better. Our poverty rate, for example.”

In a sense, said Coded by Kids’ Alexandria Leggett, the Amazon snub leaves one win: dodging the bullet of inequality.

“Being in the top 20 showed we’re doing the right things to be an innovative city, but it would have widened the gap between the tech elite and the working poor,” said Leggett. The sentiment echoes the work Naila Mattison is doing at The ITEM, a nonprofit working to provide low-cost tech certification and training for underrepresented youth in tech.

Possible adverse effects aside, Ben Franklin Technologies Partners’ VP of Marketing Jason Bannon praised the tech community’s ability to band together and shape the Philly Delivers pitch, hitting a tight six-week deadline collaboratively.

So what’s next for Philly? Well, since the now-disclosed Amazon incentive package revealed a long-term offer of $5.7 billion, Zivtech founder Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg has an idea.

“Why can’t that be given to companies already here?” he asked. “Why not incentivize your own companies to grow?”

_

Full disclosure: Coded by Kids’ Community Engagement Manager Alexandria Leggett worked as an events coordinator for Technical.ly from 2016 to 2018. That relationship is unrelated to this report.

Companies: Amazon

Before you go...

Please consider supporting Technical.ly to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, Technical.ly has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services
Engagement

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!

Trending

Track power outages with ‘Is PECO Okay,’ a new site from the Philly dev behind ‘Is SEPTA F*cked’

Welcome to Camp Apple Intelligence

9 inclusivity recommendations for tech workplaces from Philadelphia youth

Find out what type of heat wave you’re really in for with NOAA’s HeatRisk dashboard

Technically Media