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How Philly Startup Leaders is keeping its community connected virtually

PSL's head of programs, Jaclyn Allen, says the nonprofit is hearing that entrepreneurs are looking for info on resources, mentorship, COVID-19 relief and pivoting right now.

Philly Startup Leaders' final Founded in Philly accelerator meeting of 2020. (Image via twitter.com/startupleaders)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Community Building Month of our editorial calendar.

When someone new to Philly’s tech and entrepreneurial scene asks how to get involved, fingers usually point toward Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), one of the best-connected groups for new founders in the city.

The nonprofit, run by Director Kiera Smalls and Head of Programs Jaclyn Allen, hosts multiple events a year like Founder Factory and Entrepreneurs Expo while offering programing through its two accelerators for founders.

This May, we’re focusing on community building. But when an entire city’s biz scene has to go virtual, how does an org that’s based in making connections continue its momentum?

Luckily, much of the PSL community already existed on Slack, where thousands of folks can connect virtually in its various channels, including #events and #jobopenings.

And when this reporter asked Allen about what needs and questions they’re hearing most often from founders who are trying to build their businesses during a time that’s uncertain both economically and health-wise, she said it’s boiled down to information around resource sharing, mentorship, COVID-19 relief and pivoting.

Additionally, financial questions have focused on how to navigate the process of applying for and receiving various loans, such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“There’s a ton of discussion on our private CEO Group around which banks are the most responsive and timely as it relates to getting support as soon as possible,” Allen said in an email.

https://twitter.com/startupleaders/status/1255568833898840064

The org has had to take its regular programing virtual, like its Founded in Philly accelerator that just graduated its 2020 cohort last week. Allen said PSL leadership was proud of how the cohort handled the switch to virtual, saying they didn’t skip a beat and were able to maintain some consistency, despite crazy circumstances.

“They were still able to rely on each other, on us, and on a variety of speakers and mentors,” Allen said. “Naturally, you miss out on the serendipitous interactions that happen in-person, but the silver lining is that this cohort shares a unique bond of facing this challenge together, and we are all looking forward to reuniting.”

And to continue to help entrepreneurs grow their networks and lean on others in the community for advice, PSL has introduced a virtual mentorship resource, a page on the org’s site currently listing more than 80 mentors who have offered to donate their time and energy to connect with founders.

“There are so many experts in this community that are willing to help and many founders in need of that help,” Allen said. “Our role is to connect these two parties, and that is one thing that has not changed due to COVID-19.”

The virtual mentorship page lists folks ranging from CEOs to digital marketers to engineers to founders to business consultants to legal experts. Those interested in connecting with one of the mentors can do so at their listed preferred contact method (usually email or Slack) to set up a time to talk.

“It was the least we could do to maximize opportunities to connect virtually, and a reminder to our entrepreneurs that if they need help, simply ask for it,” Allen said.

Companies: Slack / Philly Startup Leaders
Series: Community Building Month 2020

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