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Philly is one of those great, underrated cities: Forbes Editor Randall Lane

Ahead of hosting the first "Under 30 Summit" at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Forbes Editor Randall Lane talks about why it's happening in Philadelphia — and shares a discount code for Philly readers.

Disclosure: is a media partner for the Forbes Under 30 Summit, and this post is part of that relationship.
Randall Lane knows that New York City has its share of former Philadelphia residents who use food to keep their ties to this place alive. But Lane has a better story than they do.

For his 40th birthday six years ago, he found someone on Craigslist willing to pick up six-foot hoagies from the iconic Koch’s Deli in University City and drive them to New York.

“Now who else is doing that?” he said.

After growing up in New York’s Westchester County, Lane was able to break the Penn bubble during his undergraduate days, spending a summer covering the Third Circuit District Courts for the Associated Press. His first job out of college was writing for the Wall Street Journal when they still had a Philadelphia office. If you go to Koch’s Deli even today, you can find a review he wrote for a now-shuttered men’s business magazine Lane co-founded called P.O.V.

In August 2011, Lane became the editor of Forbes, the iconic, near century-old business news publication. Since then, the 1990 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania has been experimenting with ways to refresh the brand. One of the publication’s most successful projects has been its own spin on a familiar idea: listing up-and-coming leaders.

But the “30 Under 30” lists from Forbes, said Lane, were different from the very start.

They were international and focused on tapping into a new era of youth-crazed entrepreneurship. This January, Forbes will unveil its fourth list, and each year, said Lane, his staff’s reporting uncovered a future billionaire — Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom in 2011 and Tumblr cofounder David Karp were listed before their big exits.

This month, the Forbes Under 30 Summit will bring hundreds of those listed and others to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for conference programming and inspired networking.

Request access to the event Philly readers have access to a special, two-day $99 rate (Oct. 20-21, 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.). Use voucher code “TechPhilly” for this big discount.

The Nutter administration has been vocal in its support of the Forbes summit, angling for it to become another prominent, annual event anchor that puts Philadelphia in a wider conversation. (Think of it as Made in America but more buttoned up.)

Forbes didn’t contact any other cities to locate the event, Lane said, because Philadelphia meant nonstop flights and short train rides for most of the summit’s invitees. An aggressive and supportive recruitment strategy by the Nutter administration, with a shout-out to Desiree Peterkin-Bell, also helped.

In May, Mayor Nutter joined Lane on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to promote the series, with the segment basically becoming a commercial for Philadelphia.

For Lane, who is very much part of New York media circles but who often cites his fondness for Philadelphia, the combination of the two elements seemed logical. Come to be among other Under 30 visionaries, but get the chance to be exposed to a city that is on the cusp of greatness too.

“As a fast growing city for Millennials, this makes sense” said Lane. “Philadelphia feels like a city in ascent.” Philly spoke with Lane about the event series and how he’s watched entrepreneurship change in recent years. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


Why is now the right time to be growing another Under 30 list?

There has never been a better time to be a young entrepreneur. Technology and the digital revolution has made being young an advantage over those who are older. That really was never the case.

In the past, it was about being wiser and more experienced, the one with more contacts. But today those who grew up digitally native, their minds don’t work the same way. No group has ever been better positioned than young entreprenuers right now. They’ve started so young that the time horizon on the careers is unlike nothing we’ve seen before. These people are going to lead for the next 30 to 50 years.

So is this a rare moment or are we changing leadership expectations? As your Under 30 nominees age, will they be passed by other younger people too?

The answer to that depends on technology. If something as fundamental as the Internet were to happen again — let’s say it’s communication by way of just thinking — then you might have it again. But if it remains evolutionary, not another revolution, if it’s just another phase, then they will grow up and remain leaders for the next generation. This could be an entirely new era of who will be driving the economy and these conversations.

If you have to pick one thing from the summit’s agenda to see, what is it?

From [Oculus Rift inventor] Palmer Luckey to [Pakistani education advocate] Malala, there is a lot of pretty remarkable things happening.

But I’ll say that I’m ready for the $400,000 “Pressure Cooker” [a Shark Tank-style entrepreneur pitch event in front of investor Steve Case, among others] to take ideas into action. There’s a good chance that it could be a Philly entrepreneur who will end up with Steve Case as equity investor with no dilution. That’s a free prize, a real game changer. To get people up there, in front of 1,000 people, that’s high drama.

What trends in technology and entrepreneurship are you seeing that might shape future Under 30 lists?

Two things come to mind, and they’re both different ways people are thinking about things, not just one idea from one company.

It’s entire movements, like the sharing economy. With Palmer Luckey and Occulus Rift, these are paradigm shifts. Palmer is going to bring the Oculus to Philly, not just for a keynote, there’s going to be a demonstration of it. How technology is changing and creating entire different sectors.

It’s also the decentralization. It’s not just about Silicon Valley anymore. There are great startup ideas in Philadelphia, in the Research Triangle, in New York, everywhere. And we’re here to help encourage that.

Companies: Forbes

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