Company Culture
Coworking / Philly Tech Week

Benjamin’s Desk is launching a joint venture with DC incubator 1776

Meet the Benjamin’s Desk Challenge Center (powered by 1776).

At Benjamin's Desk 1701 Walnut St. spot, now home to Global Incubator 1776. (Courtesy photo)

The eighth floor of Benjamin’s Desk’s 1701 Walnut St. spot, the first-ever site for the Philly-based coworking and real estate company, will be housing a new joint venture called Benjamin’s Desk Challenge Center powered by 1776.

Dubbed as a “strategic alliance” between the Philly company and the D.C.-based incubator, the project aims to connect companies in the local ecosystem to a broader global network to inject new energy into Philadelphia’s rise as an innovation hub.

Per entrepreneur and BD partner Shelton Mercer, the new project is aimed at bringing startups, institutions and government together to “solve complex challenges.” Mercer will be leading the initiative from the Center City location.

“The Challenge Center will integrate Benjamin’s Desk entrepreneurial network with 1776’s global connections and UNION digital platform,” Mercer said.

Anthony Maher, Benjamin’s Desk co-CEO said there were no financial terms of the deal being disclosed. “But this is certainly not a ‘pay for space’ play,” the entrepreneur said. “It’s more like a joint venture to create custom solutions for corporations.”

Maher, who will announce the partnership alongside Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney at City Hall today at 2 p.m., said the new project will be working closely with the City, specifically with the Department of Commerce, in two areas:

“First, to measurably showcase Philadelphia both nationally and globally as a rising tech ecosystem solving real problems and challenges led by startups and corporations,” Maher said. “And secondly, attracting more startups to our city, create custom corporate accelerator programs within the city, create access to capital and competitions to allow for more early stage success and reinvent how R&D with corporations and startups intersect.”

In a press release, 1776 CIO Peter Cherukuri said called the partnership the result of a “shared vision” between the two companies of connecting startup ecosystems to “solve complex challenges.”

News of the partnership follows last month’s announcement of another BDX-1776 deal: the Philly company was picked to roll out 1776’s UNION programming in town, alongside other 20 partner companies. The partnerships also signal 1776 entering into the Philly market.

It’s certainly an interesting play from our standpoint, seeing as though it connects two markets we watch closely (Philly and D.C.) and shows that Mid-Atlantic firms are interested in taking advantage of the Amtrak corridor’s density. We’ll be keeping track on how the partnership is going to play out, but for the time being, we’ll suggest a first “complex challenge” for startups to tackle, one that also has Kenney concerned: our city’s embarrassingly high poverty rates.

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