Tuesday night was the Business and Entrepreneurship portion of a two-week event series called State of Young Philly hosted by the sprawling and popular Young Involved Philadelphia. (The event series closes this tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 1, with its showcase.)
I reported on this week’s entrepreneurship event for Technically Philly, through whom we co-sponsored the event.
The night, held at CBS 3 Studios north of Center City and drawing upwards of 60 young professionals, featured a half-hour panel discussion on the state of business in Philadelphia today and a half-hour breakout session in which smaller groups discussed actionable steps about improving the entrepreneurship climate here.
To close the event, panel moderator Bernie Dagenais, the former editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal and now CEO of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, assessed that the sentiment seemed to be that public schools and the perception and practice of the city’s startup scene needs the greatest focus to grow Philadelphia’s business climate, but there was more to it.
A handful of important thoughts I took away from the panel discussion didn’t make it into my TP story, so I wanted to share them, which I will below.
First, I’ll say that the best suggestion of the whole night for the retention of talent came out of one of the group sessions in my opinion. The concept?
Promote love interests for entrepreneurs. Encourage young business students and startup stars to fall for homegrown talent to keep them attached. In true Philly form, come for the schools, stay for the love.
The answer to the chicken and egg question of rich entrepreneurship might involve entrapment.
Below, I share a few take aways from the panel that are worth noting.
KEVIN DOW, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, COMMERCE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
- “We have a tax structure that is not conducive to business. Anything with tech in the name — clean tech, green tech, high tech — is just not welcomed by how our city handles its taxes.”‘
- The Nutter administration has failed to win over public support because its greatest successes have come in “wonkish” areas, like transferring economic development programs from the “bean counters” of the finance department to Dow’s commerce department, he said.
KERRY RUPP, ENTREPRENEUR, DREAMIT VENTURES
“People don’t think about Philly really. I’ve spent a lot of time in Austin and Seattle and this is now my third time in Philly. When I tell people from there that I’m back here, I don’t really think I ever get a negative response — people just don’t think of it. Once I say Philly, they say ‘oh yes, I’ve been meaning to go there,’ or ‘oh, I’ve been there and really loved it,’ but Philly just isn’t on that short list, one of the cities that people just say, or talk about their startups. Now, that’s a lot better than having negative things, but it means… there’s work to be done.”
DAVID CALABRESE, INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, THE MARKET MATCH
- “This isn’t a place to advance your career,” David said. “We don’t have the businesses to support and grow top talent. We don’t have those top level media companies or clean and green tech companies that could attract that real impact. People stay here because they are loyal to the city or to their family. There aren’t many product managers or top executives from Fortune 500 companies who can spin off a startup that gets traction.”
- “Money follows talent, talent follows money. So where do you start?”
- “Philadelphia needs to pick one focus, to become really known for one area, one industry, one place that they really support and have the talent and the resources.”
PAT GILLESPIE, BUSINESS MANAGER, PHILADELPHIA BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES UNION
- More than 900 people have gone through the buildings and trades union workforce development apprenticeship program.
- One Liberty Place, the skyscraper that in 1987 broke Philadelphia’s gentleman’s agreement by exceeding the height of City Hall, was pushed to be so tall as means to recover a shortfall in revenue by Rouse & Associates, the famed development company led by Will Rouse, who died in 2003.
AHSAN NASTRATULLAH, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, JNA CAPITAL
- There are smart policies to work with retaining and attracting businesses that aren’t being done, he said. The city could have put more pressure on Comcast to get more in their deal to keep the company in Center City, he said, instead of “giving away the store.” Moderator Bernie Dagenais clarified that Comcast didn’t get everything they lobbied the city for and, while they were giving benefits, they are paying taxes in a way that the Cira Center isn’t.
- Entrepreneurship is contagious, he said. He cited his development of Liacouras Walk on Temple University’s Main Campus. As they were finishing that development, Bart Blatstein and other developers were moving on their own projects.