Startups

What happened to Philly Tech Meetup?

Four years, 4,400 members, four months of radio silence. With its founder MIA, a former pillar of the Philly tech scene appears to be crumbling.

A program called MarketReach America will bring 15-20 startups to the state to meet potential customers and learn regulations. The goal is to encourage opening an office here.

A new program is looking to help a group of medical technology startups from Israel enter the U.S. market through Maryland. MarketReach America aims to bring a group of 15-20 startups working in digital health and medical devices to Maryland to meet potential customers and medical institutions in the state. The University of Maryland, Baltimore, will also introduce experts in specific areas. During the two-week program, the founders and executives will also receive training on interacting with U.S. government research and regulatory agencies from iCorps instructor Bob Storey. These include Maryland-based agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and NIH. The program is being run by the Maryland/Israel Development Center, which is providing funding along with the Maryland Department of Commerce, UMB, the Israel Innovation Authority and the Abell Foundation, which provided a grant. “Our goal is to help Israeli entrepreneurs understand how to scale up in the U.S. market and ultimately establish a presence in Maryland," MIDC Chairman Alvin Katz said in a statement. Three startups will also get access to office space. It's an extension of recent work from the state to strengthen trade ties with Israel. We've previously seen Israeli companies landing in the state in the area of cybersecurity, with moves such as Cyberbit's decision to open its first U.S. training "range" in Baltimore. This program shows engagement in another area of tech strength for the state. "This new binational business training program is a great example of the kind of collaboration and partnership we strive to achieve to boost trade, foster entrepreneurship, and build on our long and proud shared history," Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement.

Philly Tech Meetup, a nearly four-year-old institution in the local tech scene, went dark about four months ago.

It billed itself as “the premier launching pad for tech startups in the Mid-Atlantic region, and one of the largest tech meetups in the USA.”

Founded in early 2011 by entrepreneur Rohan Mehta, the group held two meetups every month — startup demos and happy hours — and also hosted sporadic, ticketed “Fireside Chats,” often featuring out-of-market venture capitalists. The group has nearly 4,400 members and regularly filled the University City Science Center’s Quorum space, where it held its startup demos. In February, Mehta began charging $10 for the meetup.

Then, in April, Philly Tech Meetup stopped scheduling startup demo and happy hour events, without so much as a peep from Mehta.

The last public note we could find on the status of the meetup was on its Twitter account, which said, in May, that PTM would return at some point. Per this manual retweet, the account appears to have posted an update in June, but the original tweet has since been deleted.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js(PTM’s most recent tweet, from July 3, is unrelated.)

Advertisement

Mehta did not return multiple requests for comment. Other members of the tech scene also reported being iced by the PTM founder. “He didn’t want anyone else to take over [the meetup],” said one PTM volunteer who asked to remain anonymous. That assessment fits with what we’ve heard.

Rohan Mehta. (Photo via StartupWeekend.org)

Entrepreneur Bob Solomon reached out to Mehta a few months ago, when he noticed the lack of upcoming meetups, he told us. Solomon asked if Mehta wanted to hand over the reins to Solomon, or if he needed any help running the meetup. According to Solomon, Mehta said he was in New York and that he didn’t need any help.

Meanwhile, Trajectify owner Mike Krupit, who runs another meetup called Bootstrappers Breakfast, reached out to PTM co-organizer Cory Donovan about the status of PTM. Donovan said Mehta had been unresponsive, Krupit said. (Donovan, the manager of Interstate General Media’s Project Liberty Digital Incubator, declined to comment for this story.)

In May, Krupit, along with Donovan, Seed Philly owner Brad Denenberg and lawyer Eamon Gallagher, launched a similarly styled meetup, called Philly New Technology Meetup.

Aside from the extra word in the name, the meetup looks and feels the same: held at the same place, done in the same style (startup demos, plus a speaker, which veers from PTM’s original model) and even some of the same sponsors (law firm Duane Morris). Krupit said the new meetup was not meant to be competition; it was simply to fill a gap that PTM’s absence created, he told Technical.ly Philly.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

At some point, Mehta removed Krupit and his New Technology Meetup co-organizers Donovan, Denenberg and Gallagher (plus Duane Morris attorneys Rich Cohen and Kate Tepper) from PTM’s Meetup.com page.

“I am not sure what he was trying to accomplish,” Krupit wrote in an email.

philly new tech meetup

At a recent Philly New Technology Meetup. (Photo via Meetup.com)

So what happened to PTM?

It’s not clear. Mehta was secretive, said the PTM volunteer who asked to remain anonymous. He was working on a startup in New York, the volunteer said, and complained of the growing costs of running PTM, citing Quorum’s cleanup fee and saying that the support from sponsor Duane Morris was not enough. (Quorum declined to comment for this story.)

PTM applied for a city-backed StartUp PHL grant last year to fund a “program expansion” (and was selected as one of 20 finalists) but ultimately did not receive one.

The most we could find on Mehta is that in 2012, he ran an early-stage investment firm called Bulwark Ventures and a financial startup called cStack. Websites for both companies are in pre-launch mode. Mehta is the chair of the advisory board of a nonprofit focused on public health in Tanzania called the Kupona Foundation, according to a foundation official. Mehta declined an interview request with Technical.ly Philly in October 2012, saying, “There are too many other interesting entrepreneurs for you too (sic) feature. :-)”

-30-
Subscribe to our Newsletters
Technically Media
Connect with companies from the Technical.ly community
New call-to-action

Advertisement