Events / Philadelphia

Ignite Philly packs Johnny Brenda’s again

The kinda-sorta biannual event featured sixteen presenters lecturing on topics ranging from making our power grid smarter to music made by laptops to a camp that teaches young women how to form a rock band

Ignite Philly 3 packed Johnny Brenda's to near-capacity. (Photo by Christopher Wink)
Edit: Added and edited links.
On a beautiful clear night in May, listening to a lecture is the last place many people would want to be.

Tell that to the 250 people crammed into Fishtown bar Johnny Brenda’s for the third Ignite Philly. The kinda-sorta biannual event featured sixteen presenters lecturing on topics ranging from making our power grid smarter to music made by laptops to a camp that teaches young women how to form a rock band. And that’s without mentioning Viddler’s proposed cure for male-pattern baldness.
The Ignite format gives speakers five minute slots where their twenty PowerPoint slides must rotate every fifteen seconds. The result makes it hard for any presenter to belabor a single point, and audience members get a taste of a vast array of topics in a short time span.
After the jump we hand out some awards, give a small hint of the 45,276 pictures we took and tell you how comedian Mitch Hedberg was involved.
Best Overall: Unbreaded by Ben Kessler and Jeff Vogel. For one, we respect any presenter that can enjoy a sandwich on stage and still not miss a beat. But it was the right mix of entertainment, information and charisma that makes Unbreaded our top pick. The two presenters expressed their love of sandwiches and mused over the finer points of sandwich critiquing, with such ground-breaking judgments as, yes, the burrito is a sandwich.
Kessler and Vogel also went through the history of a few of the more popular sandwich styles and even threw in a good “that’s what she said” joke for good measure. See our coverage of the growing blog.
Most interesting presentation: Pneumatic Tubes by Molly Wright Steenson. Wait, you’re telling me that before the telegraph we were way on our way to those Futurama-like tubes? Steenson blew our minds with a detailed history of the information transportation system that wasn’t. Although, Chris Jurney of Relic Games was a close second.

Johnny Bilotta and Dave Martorana of Two Guys on Beer

Johnny Bilotta and Dave Martorana of Two Guys on Beer

Funniest Moment: Two Guys on Beer by Johnny Bilotta and Dave Martorana. As Technically Philly readers probably know, Martorana and Billotta love beer so much they dedicate a weekly video podcast to the stuff. When it came to the portion of their presentation where they had to demonstrate their love for beer, the duo showed a clip of a handful of women screaming about shoes and then cut to a shot of them in a liquor aisle mimicking their high pitched yelping while jumping up and down like a Price is Right winner.
Two grown men acting like 14-year-old girls? Gold.
Robert Sandie of Viddler

Robert Sandie, president of Viddler

Cleverest sales pitch: Cure male pattern baldness by Rober Sandie. The Viddler owner spent 75 percent of his presentation detailing the social harms that male pattern baldness presents. For example, according to Sandie, roughly 30 million children are not born every year because bald men have a hard time with the ladies. Sandie then went into his own personal plight about how working at Viddler has caused him so much stress that he is shedding follicles by the day.
So how to best cure Sandies “illness?” Use, of course. A successful Sandie is a Sandie with hair. Clever, sir.
Kendra Gaeta of KidsMoney

Kendra Gaeta of Kids Money

Best performance: Kendra Gaeta of Kids Money. Gaeta’s speaking style was the best mix of hilarity and information. She had the timing� and unique speaking style of a female Mitch Hedberg, often mixing simple declarative statements with tiny fits of rage as she battled with the fifteen second timing of her slides winning over the audience along the way.
Boiling down the complex process of her KidsMoney digital allowance theory in five short minutes may have proven frustrating for Gaeta, but her chosen topic was noble, and her authentic delivery kept us watching and rooting for her.
Most academic: Pneumatic Tubes by Molly Wright Steenson. Not that there is anything wrong with good old-fashioned capitalism, but as much as Ignite is not supposed to be about selling something, most of the presentations involved … selling something. While “selling” could mean literally hawking a product or asking the audience to believe in a particular piece of research, Steenson was simply presenting about a topic that she just thought was cool.� And who would have known that the first pneumatic tube system in the U.S. started here in Philadelphia?
Of course there were notables who we failed to mention, however it was the five above that had us talking after we left. All presentations should be available online shortly for your own private award ceremony.
Tell us what you think below.
It must be said that there were a handful of presentation such as “4-D computing” and �You got your studio in my lab!� that either contained concepts too heavy for the Ignite format, or the speakers had a hard time trimming the fat of their ideas. That is not to say the topics were not worthy, however they seemed to be much more fitting for a slow-paced academic setting where statements can be elaborated on and expanded. Two hundred people crammed into a bar is a hard audience to go all metaphysical on.
Technically Philly will release all of our photos in a day or so as we battle the Flickr uploading and captioning gods.
Below is the complete list of presentations.

The “set list”

  1. �Getting Happier and� (Andrew Rosenthal of Happier)
  2. �Girls Rock Philly�� (Beth Warshaw-Duncan of Girls Rock Philly)
  3. �Who are these Viddler Guys anyway?� (Rob Sandie, co-founder of Viddler)
  4. �The Rest is Noise:� Intelligent Machines Will Transform The Music Industry� (Dr. Greg Wilder, CTO & Co-Founder of Orpheus)
  5. �Pictures of every single block� (Andrea K. Gingerich & Bob Cocozza of Philadelphia Grid Project)
  6. �Something juicy between two buns� (Jeff Vogel and Ben Kessler of Unbreaded)
  7. �Smarter Power is better power� (Jonathan Adams & Jen Doebler)
  8. �Beer. And Beer. And more Beer� (Johnny Bilotta & Dave Martorana of Two Guys on Beer)
  9. �You got your studio in my lab!� (Jenny Sabin & Peter Lloyd Jones LabStudio at Penn)
  10. �DIY instructions for a tool library� (Michael Froehlich of� West Philly Tool Library)
  11. Intermission with performance by 8Static
  12. �The original Tubes� (Molly Wright Steenson of Girl Wonder fame)
  13. �We want� Braveheart, not Renfest� (Chris Jurney of Relic Games)
  14. KidsMoney by Kendra Gaeta
  15. �Future Weather: The Future of Independent Film� (Jenny Deller, Director of Future Weather)
  16. �Better than strings and brass�� (Rebecca Fiebrink of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra)
  17. “4-D Computing� (Joe Raimondo)
  18. �How to Rock Karaoke� (Tony Bacigalupo of New Work City)

Two presentations that were originally announced were dropped; Gaeta and KidsMoney filled on slot.

Staff writer Christopher Wink contributed to this report.

Companies: West Philly Tool Library / Ignite Philly / KidZillions

Join the conversation!

Find news, events, jobs and people who share your interests on's open community Slack


Philly daily roundup: Jason Bannon leaves Ben Franklin; $26M for narcolepsy treatment; Philly Tech Calendar turns one

Philly daily roundup: Closed hospital into tech hub; Pew State of the City; PHL Open for Business

Philly daily roundup: A better coffee supply chain; Philly Tech Week returns; Apply to Pennovation Accelerator

A biotech hub is rising at Philadelphia’s shuttered Hahnemann Hospital campus

Technically Media