When you think of technology hubs, Silicon Valley and a few other regions come to mind, but Philadelphia may not rise to the top of your list. However, it’s no secret to those of us in tech that the region is not only tech-friendly, but also provides a great atmosphere to build a business. As Philadelphia continues to develop economically, new opportunities are opening up for a burgeoning Philadelphia-based technology industry. These changes, combined with a strong presence of talent and resources, are creating an attractive commercial ecosystem ripe for technology, innovation and growth. Now is the perfect time for tech companies to establish themselves in Philadelphia and capitalize on this region’s success.
One of the significant factors driving new opportunities is the growing influx of young professionals choosing Philadelphia. This region has long been a renowned education center with more than 90 leading universities, but has faced challenges retaining graduates. However, new demographic data suggest a shift in this trend. A study by the nonprofit, Campus Philly, found that 48 percent of non-native Philadelphians said they were staying in the area after graduation, a significant increase from 29 percent in 2004. And with 27 percent of Philadelphia’s population now made up of millennials, the city has a new vibrancy. This ever-changing workforce will create new opportunities. It’s no surprise that Philadelphia has been named one of the top 10 innovation-centric urban areas in the nation.
Philadelphia is rising to the opportunity, making great strides to provide the infrastructure and support necessary to continue to attract and retain innovators. Throughout Philadelphia, developers are establishing affordable office spaces geared towards entrepreneurs and startups. Co-working spaces are becoming the norm with Pipeline, Industrious and the soon-to-come WeWork Philly to name a few.
In the heart of Center City, the designers of the mixed-use East Market project are constructing an entire office building to attract creative firms and technology companies downtown. The Wexford Science + Technology and the University City Science Center are planning a $1 billion development with the goal of crafting an innovation hub to contend with the likes of Cambridge and other international centers of education, sciences and technology. These developments are fostering tech innovation hubs around Philadelphia. With more than 30 co-working offices, startup incubators and accelerators welcoming tenants, it has never been this easy to find a startup space in the City of Brotherly Love.
Universities are investing in state-of-the-art collaborative spaces as well. Temple University’s Fox School of Business has established an Innovation Lab providing a space and support system for student teams of entrepreneurs or consultants working on new ventures. This lab has fostered a creative space for students to test and develop new ideas.
Philadelphia has also developed a strong support network of local business leaders and investors. Organizations such as the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) are working to advance the city’s technology leadership by actively bringing entrepreneurs and investors together. As chairman of the board for PACT, I have seen the impact of such an organization firsthand.
Through public funding initiatives such as StartUp PHL and investors — such as NewSpring Capital, Osage Ventures, First Round Capital, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners — entrepreneurs with smart business models have greater access than ever before to resources, mentorship, and funding to expand their enterprises. Philly Tech Week, which just celebrated its fifth and most successful year, is just one example of how the surrounding business community is loudly expressing its support of this city’s technology sector.
Equally important, Philadelphia is at the center of many industry sectors undergoing rapid technology disruption, creating huge drivers for innovation and growth. Healthcare and financial services are great examples of local industries embracing innovative technological solutions to change the way in which they operate and engage with their partners and customers.
All in all, this intersection of a young creative workforce, growing regional support and market opportunity makes Philadelphia a great place to build a business. I’m proud to be a part of it and look forward to Philadelphia’s future as a vibrant technology hub.