The challenge for Philly Startup Leaders’ new board

Nearing the 10-year mark, here's what the community expects from the nonprofit going forward.

Meet PSL's incoming board.

(Courtesy photo)

Full disclosure: Technically Media CEO and Publisher Christopher Wink will become a member of the PSL board effective Jan. 1, 2018. He was not involved in this report.

At Thursday’s Founder Factory, the yearly conference of entrepreneurs and technologists, Philly Startup Leaders president showed the crowd an amazing graph:

It detailed the flow of startups that lead up to the launch of realLIST honoree Amino, by way of its founder David Bookspan and its connection to a handful of Philly orgs inside a tech ecosystem with little degree of separation among its members.

“My favorite part about this graph is how much its missing,” said Moore, who became president of the organization in April. “It’s amazing how big this map really is.”

Moore’s actual point wasn’t the fact that Philly tech can’t pass the Kevin Bacon test, but that the growth of a tech ecosystem relies on a cycle of maturing companies that can grow and begat others. Helping move that cycle along should be, the exec said, one of PSL’s goals.

But, per the community’s own demand, there must be more to the discussion, as the nonprofit learned in October, when its former executive director Yuval Yarden stepped down amid backlash over Yarden’s remarks on a controversial panel on diversity and inclusion.


“A startup community — no matter how vibrant — that is not diverse, inclusive, equitable, and representative of the city where it exists, is a failure,” said Moore. With that manifesto statement in mind, the nonprofit announced a new board lineup, including a special advisor on diversity and inclusion.

Here’s the new board:

So what’s on the to-do list for this new board?

The addition of a special advisor on diversity would help meet the first ask from community member Bruce Marable, CEO of Employee Cycle: making sure all of the events are more diverse and inclusive. Marable would also like to see the nonprofit ensure there’s more connection to investors and help raise Philly’s profile on the national stage.

“I hope to see PSL be actively engaged in driving social good inside and outside of technology and providing resources to Philadelphia companies to aid them in that goal,” said Erica Windisch, cofounder of IOPipe.

(Read Windisch’ challenging speech to the tech community and the organization itself from October.)

Mikey Ilagan, accessibility specialist at Think Company, tasked the nonprofit with expanding its vision of inclusion in tech.

“Diversity and inclusion is great but there seems to be a lot of focus on race and gender in tech, near and far,” Ilagan said. “That is good and should definitely continue but I’d like to see PSL (and everyone else in tech) also be a driver for including people with disabilities. My challenge? How are you going to do that, PSL?”

A targeted approach to its mission is also on AnneeLondon CEO Rachel Benyola’s mind.

“To build on my first point, I would subsequently challenge PSL to recruit mentors from both inside and outside the city that have experience in building companies in industries based directly on the list of startups currently in the city,” the founder said. “There are too many nuances to industries that go overlooked when we try to give general advice to all startups.”

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