8 ways to make Philadelphia more innovative: Young Involved Philadelphia presentation

The annual State of Young Philly event series from Young Involved Philadelphia featured two economy-focused events at which I spoke.

One was a series of lightning presentations last week and a second was a panel discussion Tuesday night that was followed by breakout groups.

Some takeaways below.

See my presentation slides below.

  1. Regional differentiation — Philadelphia needs a way to differentiate itself. I’ve identified social entrepreneurship as an option, for which we could build mission into all the work we do, in business, art and nonprofit. “In Philly, we give a damn.”
  2. Celebrate our identity — Introduce newcomers to our common set of facts so we retain what is special and unique about us. “Be stewards of what is different about this place.”
  3. Make money — Profit models sustain efforts, impact, philanthropy and innovation, and civic minded wealth creates sparks and sustains innovation. “Don’t hate rich people.”
  4. Rethink wealth — Creating wealth by traditional business means is vital to our success, but we also need to think about being more inclusive. “Discover new ways to support our communities.”
  5. Export culture — A healthy knowledge economy should have a surplus of goods to send elsewhere, as I’ve written before. “Bring solutions to other communities with Philly in mind.”
  6. Create a legacy — This is long term, so our work should be focused on work for the future and creating families of impact on our city. “Think about how your children will continue your work.”
  7. Celebrate our successes — Cheer and promote the good work we are all doing, something that we as a city we aren’t very adept at doing. “Every day, spread the word about what work is being done here.” 
  8. Consider the broad region — The American Northeast is the historic, dense, transited, urban hub of the country, from D.C. to Boston, with Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York in between. “Connect the world’s most powerful corridor, with Philly in mind.”

Tuesday night, I was asked to briefly assess the region’s entrepreneurship community (in five minutes!) and then led a group discussion about actionable steps to improve its impact.

Entrepreneurship: building businesses and creating jobs in Philly, technologies allow for scale but not exclusively in that space.

  • Strengths: universities, well-built infrastructure and communities; proximity; network; huge region for customers and support; Philadelphia identity
  • Weaknesses: Resistant to early-stage investment; Tying our businesses to solving problems, diffuse business growth regionally rather than focusing on dense corridors; not a clear regional differentiation (social entrepreneurship, other); perceived tax structure issues
  • Opportunities: more and more people want to live here; vibrant U.S. corridor; big, affordable media market
  • Threats: We could focus too narrowly on technology entrepreneurship, huge divide between privileged and enormous poverty; education, education, education; lack of national identity and we lose out internationally

In our Entrepreneurship breakout groups, our team identified three broad efforts that needed focus: (1) education, bolstering strong public school options and better connecting its strong university network, (2) making more potential entrepreneurs aware of the assets that exist here and (3) offering more early-stage support in various sectors, in addition to technology.

Our broad solution was to think of how other sectors need incubation and hubs like the Science Center and the Enterprise Center for technology.

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