Philly Startup Leaders holds “fishbowl” to refresh, reinvent itself

The group has had an identity crises of late.

Acting president Chris Cera addresses the PSL Fishbowl

Chris Cera will be the first person to tell you: Philly Startup Leaders is at a crossroads.

The acting president and chairman of the board of directors, Cera is one of the group’s original members. Founded in 2007 by Blake Jennelle and nearly a dozen of local entrepreneurs after a magazine called Philadelphia a “technological backwater”, Philly Startup Leaders has had an identity crises of late, amplified by the departure of president Jameson Detweiler.

To help refresh Philly Startup Leaders, its existing leadership held a “fishbowl” last night at the Univeristy of the Arts to solicit feedback from members.
In his introduction, Cera offered a brief history of the organization and its struggles to define its goals and live up to its manifesto, repeatedly touching on the “pandora’s box” of who the group should consider a member. After the introduction, the roughly 60 attendees broke into six groups to offer solutions to a specified set of issues that included membership, sustainability, communication and content.

Solutions varied but most ideas touched on who should and should not be a member, with the debate mostly focusing on the role of service providers. Some suggested ideas and notes:

  • New members have to be “sponsored” by existing members
  • New members will be required to volunteer
  • The group should start over, kicking out all current members and beginning a new membership application process
  • Have tiered membership for founders, service providers, investors and others
  • Refresh the current PSL mailing list and start over
  • Keep membership open and let the community define itself
  • “Themed” happy hours and other events for different types of members
  • An official mentorship program
  • One attendee pointed out that the group has nearly 1000 members yet only 60 came to the fishbowl event
  • A paid executive director

At the close of the event, Cera implored those that had shown up to stay involved and help offer solutions to keep the group moving forward. He promised to visit these ideas in the next month.

You can see all suggestions on the event’s Yorn page here.

Companies: Philly Startup Leaders

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