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Comcast seeks tech scene good will, but some aren’t having it

Why Comcast's announcement of a new internship program irked members of the city's grassroots tech community.

The Helping Delaware Work car design, unveiled. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Comcast’s newest internship program is an attempt to fight brain drain — and another move to become more involved with the local tech scene.

The brain drain the company is tackling is not the kind we normally talk about: when Philly loses college grads to other cities. This program targets college students who grew up in the area. Comcast is calling it “Home for the Summer,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and it’s part of the company’s efforts to cultivate talent and spur activity in preparation for the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, which is currently under construction.

The five college students who are part of the new Comcast program are also rotating between venture-backed Philly startups RJMetrics, Solve Media and Artisan Mobile.

In the past, local tech leaders have complained that Comcast has been largely invisible when it comes to the city’s grassroots tech scene.

But Comcast seems to be fighting that perception, with mixed results.

In January, the telecommunications giant announced plans to build a second, taller skyscraper, including, among other things, space for startups. In April, it sponsored Philly Tech Week 2014 (which, full disclosure, Technical.ly organizes), hosting 1,300 people for its headline event at the Comcast Center. Now the company is running an internship program with three Philly startups.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

When explaining the internship program, Comcast’s Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz drew (social media) fire for being quoted in the Inquirer as saying: “Comcast can’t staff that [new] building and then for the next 50 miles around it, there is a wasteland and a lack of activity.”

Those on Twitter and the walled-off Philly Startup Leaders listserv took issue with many parts of the Inquirer story, resenting the suggestion that the Philly tech scene was nonexistent.

“And if one more person says (and I hope it is taken out of context), there is no tech community in Philly, I will scream,” wrote TechGirlz founder Tracey Welson-Rossman, also noting that it’s easy to misconstrue out-of-context quotes in a news story.

Companies: Artisan Mobile / Comcast / RJMetrics / Solve Media

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