• Josh Sevin
Categorized As:
Business Growth

Why Philly Tech Week Matters

How to sum up the Philly Tech Week that concluded this past Sunday?


Not an easy thing to do given that this 10-day celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia took a quantum leap in its third year, attracting more than 18,000 participants. The 110+ plus events that took place across the city and region from April 19-28 ranged from thought-provoking to problem-solving to downright whimsical. I counted at least 30 panel discussions on topics spanning social entrepreneurship, technology transfer, digital inclusion, women in technology, and more. There were hackathons aplenty, with NASA staging an international space apps challenge, a 'news hackathon' (e.g., using civic data to engage communities), and the fifth edition of Philly Startup Weekend. And there was just outright fun with two nights of Pong on the Cira Centre, fighting robots, and a closing party at the Navy Yard that sold out with 800-plus attendees.


So Philly Tech Week – relentlessly and spiritedly organized by the folks at Technical.ly Philly – has evolved into a many-splendored thing and built a solid audience. But what does it do for our region? I’d wager three big and important things:


It establishes and strengthens a sense of community. Perhaps the most obvious, but all of these events bring together the broad diversity of individuals driving tech enterprises and initiatives in our region. The result is hyper-charged community- and relationship-building within a sector that relies heavily upon both for creativity, innovation, and support. Ample opportunities to meet and connect with the people powering our maturing tech ecosystem – college students, wannabe and established entrepreneurs, technologists, VCs, researchers – exist both within and across events.


It helps define exactly what Philly’s tech sector is about. For a region that would benefit from more in-depth understanding of its strategic growth sectors beyond “eds and meds,” the roster of events itself brings into focus which tech sub-sectors or issues generate the most heat and attract talent in Philadelphia – whether it’s the growth of mobile app firms, strengths in health care IT, or efforts to close the digital divide.


It helps change the story and perceptions about what Greater Philadelphia’s tech sector is and can be – both within and outside of our region. Current energy around building and promoting Philly as a tech and entrepreneurship hub may rival that of the actual entrepreneurs building businesses here. Mayor Nutter chose Philly Tech Week to take a delegation to New York City to promote our tech and entrepreneurship scene, and Select Greater Philadelphia organized a tour for foreign journalists to spur coverage and help shape understanding and perceptions abroad. Those “retail” efforts to sell Philly’s tech story were complemented by the launch of two new video series that aim to do the same – a set of 60-second pitch videos by area entrepreneurs posted at Philly In Focus and the Developing Phillyweb series about the rise of Philadelphia’s innovation community.


Philly Tech Week ends up directly advancing two of the priority strategies identified in the World Class Business Growth GPS as crucial to spurring long-run job growth and wealth creation in our region – strengthening our entrepreneurial networks and marketing existing success stories. There are a lot of ways to waste money on feel-good festivals and solid grounds for questioning their return on investment, but this one is both on to and helping to build something in Greater Philadelphia.


Of course, for the folks at Technical.ly Philly, telling our region’s evolving tech and innovation story is a year-long affair. I look forward to seeing how much further we’ve come by the time PTW 2014 comes around.