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Brett Goldman: ‘Philly is a human capital goldmine’ [Exit Interview]

The 28-year-old third generation Philadelphian who cofounded the Navy Yard's American Israel Business Lab, an effort to commercialize Israeli innovations in the U.S., is moving to Washington, D.C. to lead the TAMID Israel Investment Group, where he'll help "connect business-minded students with opportunities in the Israeli economy."

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Brett Goldman left Philly this summer, but don’t dump him in the brain drain category, he insists.

The 28-year-old third generation Philadelphian who cofounded the Navy Yard-based American Israel Business Lab, an effort to commercialize Israeli innovations in the U.S., is moving to Washington, D.C. to lead the TAMID Israel Investment Group, where he’ll be the nonprofit’s first full-time employee and help “connect business-minded students with opportunities in the Israeli economy.” TAMID has chapters at local schools like Penn, Penn State and Lehigh, so if anything, he’s said working to reverse the region’s brain drain trend.

So there’s that, and his pledge to come back. Below, Goldman on his deep Philly roots, how Philly’s tech scene can become stronger and the three big reasons he’ll be coming back to Philly (spoiler: they have to do with food).

What are your Philly roots? I grew up in Fox Chase and went to Greenberg Elementary School and George Washington High School. My Dad is from Oxford Circle and my Mom is from Mt. Airy and my grandparents from West Philly.

My dad recently retired from almost 40 years working for the Department of Parks and Recreation and growing up with that instilled an incredible sense of pride in this place (plus we have quite the collection of Broad Street Run T-Shirts). But the best part: I can pretty much go anywhere in the world and find people I know from the Northeast.

Brett Goldman is left Philly for Washington, D.C. to become the executive director of the TAMID Investment Group.

Was there anything that could have been done differently to keep you? Probably not. This was the right opportunity at the right time and a convergence of many different things that I’ve been working on for the past few years. When an opportunity like that comes, you have to embrace it.

Could you see yourself coming back to Philadelphia? Definitely. If nothing more than for a cheesesteak from John’s, Pizza from Vince’s in Northeast Philly and of course, Han Dynasty. So my stomach is here, and my heart is definitely here as well: I grew up here and I really believe in this place and I want to come back some day. I can’t imagine raising a family anywhere else but Philly.

When someone you meet from outside the region asks about Philadelphia and its tech community, what do you tell them? The first thing I tell them? That we’ve got something incredible here. At the American Israel Business Lab, we did a lot of work with Alice Solomon from Select Greater Philadelphia to promote the region in Israel and people often asked, “Why Philly?” We’d tell them: we have some of the best colleges, universities and research hospitals in the world which translates into a human capital goldmine. We have a city that, for all it faults, is being incredibly proactive to nurture this community.

There are active VC and angels here and a vibrant coworking scene lead by guys like Venturef0rth, Indy Hall and Benjamin’s Desk and I don’t think there’s anything as expansive as Philly Startup Leaders in any other community. It’s a great entry point to the rest of the country that if you’re not paying attention to, you should.

What advice or specific action would you take to improve the tech community here and retain others in the future? I think we’re off to an OK start. We have a drive and narrative that can only come from Philly.

While we’re on the right track, it’s yet not enough: we need more public-private partnerships to fill in that grey area between R&D and full commercialization. Once we do that, it’s not just about tech entrepreneurs anymore but about the people who are manufacturing, installing and maintaining our creations. We can’t forget how that will really move the needle for our businesses and the region as a whole.

Companies: Select Greater Philadelphia

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