If you ask those involved in building and maintaining those communities — like universities, law firms, accelerator programs, economic development groups, coding bootcamps and corporate entities — several common themes arise. They include access to funding and business resources; mentoring, education and knowledge sharing; opportunities for networking; and interpersonal connections.
It can be incredibly difficult to start and grow a company without those elements, but there’s no single solution that works for every startup. Likewise, each region’s community has its own strengths and challenges, so these programs and activities take different shapes depending on what the local needs are.
For the month of May, Technical.ly’s reporting has explored the theme of State of Local Tech for our editorial calendar. For some additional perspectives, we asked our Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder companies the following question:
How does your org participate in and support the local tech community? What does your org see as the biggest strengths and challenges of your local tech community?
Here are some replies from their teams, and if you like what you see, follow the links to companies’ Directory Pages to learn more and explore ways to connect.
“Ballard Spahr actively engages in and supports the local tech community through various initiatives. One of our flagship programs is BASE, our startup accelerator, which has successfully attracted student founders from across the country for the past decade. Additionally, we host a plethora of networking events that bring together professionals, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to foster meaningful connections and collaborations. For example, on June 15, we are hosting a founder/investor mixer at Philly’s K’Far, at which investors and founders will get to know each other over a friendly backgammon competition. While building these connections in the ecosystem is important, we also work with entrepreneurs on alternate fee arrangements to ensure that every startup, including nascent startups, have sophisticated legal counsel for the most important aspects of building a solid foundation for their ventures.” — Kimberly Klayman, partner
“For the last 20 years, we’ve been staunch supporters of Philly’s software user groups, as well as local organizations like Hopeworks and ZipCode Wilmington that are providing hands-on tech training to underrepresented groups. We also host affordable developer events like our annual Philly Emerging Tech conference, or our Tech Training for Women series.
When talking about the city’s size, many people describe Philly as ‘big, but still walkable.’ A similar sentiment applies to the tech community here in Philly: It’s big enough to provide all the benefits of a world-class city — a robust startup ecosystem, a wide variety of companies using technology for their products or services, a growing number of meetups — but still small enough that you recognize faces and form real connections. This results in a uniquely tight community, which is a major strength.” — Tracey Welson-Rossman, chief marketing officer
“One way Delaware Prosperity Partnership enhances the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies is by helping to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem. In Delaware, this community consists of startups to large companies in key segments: life sciences, chemistry and advanced materials, financial services, and manufacturing. DPP has made a concerted effort to leverage our resources and partnerships, local and national, to have a greater reach within the entire innovation community.
One outcome that these partnerships have led to is the creation of the DPP-led Startup302 funding competition, a community-organized pitch contest based in Delaware but open to companies from across the region and beyond that focuses on startups led by founders from underrepresented groups. The annual competition, which offers nondilutive cash grants as prizes, is open to early-stage, venture-scalable companies in the tech and science sectors that are led by founding teams that include women, Black, Latinx, Native American and/or LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. Generally speaking, Delaware is one of the most inclusive and diverse communities in the nation, and DPP is proud to support and facilitate the launch of tech startups and careers here.
DPP works closely with its partners to elevate Delaware as a tech hub through its partnerships with entities like the Tech Council of Delaware. DPP sees strength in the fact that Delaware has an inclusive and diverse workforce that pulls from four different states to support large and small businesses. The challenge is that Delaware has long relied on its large corporations like DuPont and JPMorgan Chase to anchor its innovation ecosystem. Our startup tech community as a whole is nascent, but growing, and it will continue to take time for the envisioned future to come to fruition. But concerted efforts are being made to ensure that Delaware is a recognized tech hub. According to the Tech Council of Delaware, 19,000 tech professionals are here working across all three counties — making Delaware a sought-after location for companies to establish themselves. In addition, as a state, Delaware has the second-lowest business cost in America at 25% below the national average, which makes it a game-changing location for tech companies to invest in. Many of the amazing companies leaning into technology that call Delaware home — such as Discover, JPMorgan Chase, DuPont and FMC — have supported Startup302 from its inception because they feel that startups and small businesses are vital to the foundation of Delaware’s economy and that a key part of their own work is to encourage and invest in entrepreneurship in the communities they serve.” — Erica Crell, innovation manager
“Philadelphia is a city that offers an incredible environment for businesses to grow and succeed. What we see here in Philadelphia is a business community that draws upon the strengths of the region — technology, healthcare, life sciences and the like — and that offers significant opportunities for men and women of different backgrounds and expertise to pursue new business ideas, lay the foundations for these companies to begin operations and to see them evolve beyond initial operations and succeed. At Morgan Lewis, we believe that those here in the Philadelphia technology community are some of the best and brightest in the global marketplace. We work with clients to help them on a daily basis, from inception to exit, whether it be securing funding; protecting their intellectual property rights; or advising them on creating safe and diverse workforces. Additionally, we are an active sponsor and supporter, formally and informally, of numerous organizations and efforts that support the local startup ecosystem. Our team is deeply immersed in the local business community and committed to continuing to support their efforts.” — Brian Slough, of counsel
“NEXT powered by Shulman Rogers is very actively involved in supporting the local startup tech community. We are innovating the way that legal services are priced (fixed price packages), delivered and serviced for startup companies. We also sponsor a number of events that help connect startup companies to each other, to investors and to other service providers. Throughout the year, we provide free webinars throughout on topics that are relevant and important to growing and de-risking startup companies.
The biggest strength of our local tech ecosystem are the people — their vision, passion and commitment to support each other and the community. The biggest challenge is accessing capital and great people to join your team given the venture markets and competition for talent.” — Anthony Millin, founder of NEXT powered by Shulman Rogers, venture capital partner and serial entrepreneur
“As Maryland’s economic engine for technology startups, TEDCO provides funding opportunities and a variety of business resources to entrepreneurs and startup businesses in the technology sector. These funding opportunities and resources include the Social Impact, Seed and Venture Funds, as well as the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub, Network Advisor program, and much more.
Through these opportunities, we have been privileged to see the ambition, innovative thinking and determination that Maryland entrepreneurs possess — three traits that continue to strengthen the state’s tech community as we work through the challenges of creating a more inclusive, diverse innovation ecosystem throughout the state.” — Troy LeMaile-Stovall, CEO
“The Science Center is constantly evaluating and evolving our work to meet the changing needs of the local tech community. Today we offer that support through a variety of interventions including access to capital and technical assistance to aid the commercialization of promising new healthcare technologies. We also recognize that the success of Philadelphia’s growing life sciences and tech industries hinge on our ability to both bring promising technologies to market and fulfill the talent needs of growing companies. We all must introduce, train and mentor students and adults across Philadelphia so everyone can benefit from these thriving sectors.” — Kristen Fitch, senior director of marketing
“The BioPark is a cornerstone of Baltimore’s life science and technology industry. We’ve been around since the early days and have always been deeply involved with the organizations that lay the foundation for the industry to flourish here. We work with our academic partner, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), to deploy initiatives and programs that support inventors, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes as they advance and grow in Baltimore. Some of our offerings provide very direct, tangible benefits — like free or reduced rent so a company can focus on advancing their work rather than paying for the space they need to do so. Other times, what we provide to a company is less tangible — knowledge and connection to the people and programs that will help them bridge a gap or take the next step.
The biggest challenge facing Baltimore’s life science community is space. Today, our current development project, 4MLK, is the only spec life science building in development in the state of Maryland. 4MLK, will bring 230,000 square feet of space online in the next year, but we’re already looking beyond that because we know it won’t satiate the market demand.” — Jane Shaab, executive director, University of Maryland BioPark; associate vice president for economic development, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Want to help change the state of your local tech ecosystem? Check out all the Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder companies here, and find out about their missions and cultures.
P.S. If you’re curious about Technical.ly’s services for your own org, find more info here and connect with us.
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