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Why I chose the Philly region, but not the city: takeaways from IMPACT 2012

At Wednesday's annual IMPACT 2012 Venture Summit Mid-Atlantic, the question was why Philadelphia?

Speakers on the "Why the Philadelphia Region?" panel, from left: Moderator AJ Jordan, chairman of IMPACT 2012 Venture Summit Mid-Atlantic, QlikTech CEO Lars Bjork, LifeShield CEO Michael Hagan, Renmatix CEO Michael Hamilton, Philadelphia 76ers CEO Adam Aron. (Photo by Philly)

The title of the panel said it all: “Why the Philadelphia region?”

But at Wednesday’s annual IMPACT 2012 Venture Summit Mid-Atlantic, while we watched three suburban CEOs and Philadelphia 76ers CEO Adam Aron speak, the main question on our mind was, “Why not Philadelphia proper?”

Here’s what the panel said:

Lars Bjork, CEO of Radnor-based, publicly-traded business intelligence firm QlikTech“It wasn’t about taxes,” Bjork began, adding that it was largely a coincidence that he chose Radnor over Philly when deciding on a new headquarters for his Swedish company. Radnor also seemed more convenient for international visitors, he said, though he bemoaned the fact that the Main Line lacks a great hotel.

Michael Hagan, CEO of Yardley-based home security company LifeShieldHagan said his employees already lived in the area and he didn’t want to disrupt their lives by relocating.

Michael Hamilton, CEO of King of Prussia-based biofuel startup RenmatixRenmatix sources materials from around the King of Prussia area, so it made sense to be there, Hamilton said.

Adam Aron, CEO and owner of the Philadelphia 76ers: “There’s a very simple answer to your question,” Aron told us after the panel of what he thought would make it easier to increase the flow between the ‘burbs and the city. “Two more lanes on the Schuylkill Expressway.”

Below, we detail four other takeaways from the panel at the two-day conference hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.

  • Location can set you apart. “If we’re a disrupter in our field,” said QlikTech CEO Bjork, “why go to Silicon Valley?”  Bjork said New York City was too expensive, and Boston was too traditional. Today, QlikTech has offices in Boston, New York and Silicon Valley. Still, Bjork said, “This is our center of gravity. We don’t regret it.”
  • “Money will chase a good idea.” That’s what Renmatix CEO Hamilton said, and he knows from experience: Renmatix counts Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins as an investor. The CEOs seemed to agree that location wasn’t inherently tied to money. “What you need is talent,” Bjork said.
  • Capitalize on the universities. Take advantage of the wealth of talent at local universities by creating relationships with the schools, said LifeShield CEO Hagan. That way, you have access to the “best and the brightest” before they flee the city post-graduation.
  • “Invest in your people and they’ll stay with you for life.” That’s Hagan’s belief on how to keep your employees happy.
Companies: LifeShield / Philadelphia 76ers / QlikTech / Renmatix

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