Philadelphia’s Urban Core Having a Tech Moment

Philadelphia Aerial Skyline

Tech is having a moment, and in Philadelphia, the community engaged in that moment is congregating around the city’s urban core. This was the message Christopher Wink (CLA ’08), Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, delivered when he spoke with law students enrolled in Professor Jonathan Lipson’s Transactional Skills Workshop, a course in which students represent fictional parties throughout the simulated formation and financing of a tech-based venture. Wink, a journalist and one of the foremost observers chronicling the emergence of urban technology communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, focused his talk on the Philadelphia tech community and the roles young professionals can play in its continued development.

Wink stressed the important role that members of a local tech community play in the success of individual companies and, in turn, the impact local successes have on the resiliency and evolution of a market. For example, Wink suggested that the strength of a local technology community and its ties to an industry or industry segment are some of the key factors that drive founders’ decisions on where to locate their nascent businesses. In Philadelphia, Wink identified companies focused on healthcare IT and social entrepreneurship as areas that could develop into regional strengths.

Additionally, Wink explained that younger and less experienced people have become entrepreneurs as the barriers and costs associated with founding a company have fallen.

Wink emphasized that young companies’ ties to the broader entrepreneurial community are likely more important than ever, and encouraged young professionals interested in working with tech entrepreneurs to become active community members by attending events such as “meet ups” and “hack-a-thons”. In Philadelphia, Wink noted that these community-building events, as well as much of the tech scene’s recent development, are happening around the city’s urban core, a fairly recent development here.

Wink explained that during the 1990’s, Philadelphia’s regional tech scene largely emerged in the city’s western suburbs, clustering around companies like local legend Safeguard Scientifics in Wayne. However, the hub of the region’s technology community soon shifted to Philadelphia’s urban core as greater numbers of the young, educated workers that tech companies need to succeed chose to live closer to the city’s center. As the location of young talent has shifted, other parts of the local tech ecosystem—including capital—have followed. The nationally-recognized venture capital firm First Round Capital, for example, relocated its regional offices from Conshohocken to a location just off the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in 2012. Additionally, Safeguard Scientifics recently announced that it was moving its headquarters from Wayne to Radnor, in part to be closer to a Regional Rail line and the Philadelphia International Airport. Wink has helped facilitate this shift through his website, Technical.ly Philly.

Technical.ly Philly, which Wink co-founded with fellow Temple University graduate Brian James Kirk (SMC ’08), is the original site in a network of locally focused technology news sites spanning the Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. markets. The site covers Philadelphia’s tech and entrepreneurial community as well as the civic and social issues affecting its development and success. Additionally, Technical.ly Philly organizes regular community meetups and special events, including Philly Tech Week, a weeklong, citywide celebration of technology and innovation. Details on this year’s Philly Tech Week, which runs from April 17—25, 2015 are available here.

Wink concluded his talk by re-emphasizing the importance of relationships to tech community members and the key role that these relationships play in the development and resiliency of urban technology communities. “People like people,” Wink told the students. For him, local technology communities are here to stay.

Christopher Yaracs is a third-year student at the Temple University Beasley School of Law. During law school, Mr. Yaracs was selected as a Law & Public Policy Scholar, and served as a member of the Temple Law Review and an executive board member of the Moot Court Honor Society. Following graduation, Mr. Yaracs will begin his legal career in Philadelphia as an associate with Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel, LLP where he will focus his practice on banking, corporate law, and civil litigation. Mr. Yaracs holds a B.A., with high distinction; Phi Beta Kappa from the Pennsylvania State University.