You determine success by what goals you set. The mission of Philly Tech Week from the very start six years ago was to create an entry point for others to discover the community of technologists and entrepreneurs bubbling up in Philadelphia.
So this annual, community-supported calendar of events celebrating technology, entrepreneurship and innovation in Philadelphia will have a role for as long as those subjects warrant local on-boarding. Led by us at local tech news network Technical.ly, some 50 partners put together 150 events during a 10-day period ending this past weekend. And though we’re still collecting survey results and feedback from attendees, organizers and supporters, the early feedback I remains consistent with past years: (a) the collective calendar brings more people out to all our events and (b) the attendees include community-regulars and, just as important, people trying to better understand how to join in.
When that stops, that’s likely when PTW (and events like it) cease to matter. What does change each year is what stands out to me as particularly telling or representative from the calendar. That’s where I’m often most proud.
PTW launched as a battle cry from a small community news group aiming to bring together the disparate corners of its coverage area.
For the first few years it was a question of scale. Now it’s a question of focus.
This local niche community has already shown it can do scale: this sixth annual PTW had a 750-person Startup Crawl (in the rain), a 3,000-person outdoor kickoff (after being rain postponed again), a 1,500-person Entrepreneur Expo and a 1,200-person ticketed closing party. (Never mind the rain cancelled block party 🙂
This is what a local news org looks like today: Thanks to a special team and community for @PhillyTechWeek #PTW16 pic.twitter.com/hUIxCL6vOJ
— Christopher Wink (@christopherwink) May 7, 2016
Now it must also focus into impact — starting small again and then likely finding ways for that curation to grow. With 25,000 people attending 150 events, it was time for narrowing the scope into a level of seriousness — including some events that didn’t even make it into that public calendar.
Here are some examples:
- Stakeholder meetings: For years we’ve hosted heavily curated stakeholder meetings, a trend that continued this PTW with a private breakfast inside the under-construction forthcoming headquarters of a relocating cloud hosting company. These are tools to connect an ever changing assortment leaders and crucially to introduce new ones. [40 people]
Kicking off our Stakeholder Meeting with a full house at the beautiful raw space that will become @linode's new home pic.twitter.com/mw5jPEbmLr
— Technical.ly Philly (@TechnicallyPHL) April 28, 2016
- Youth outreach meetings: Though we’ve had events like this before, Coded By Kids, the youth software-training nonprofit of which I’m a board member, did it better than ever. Founder Sylvester Mobley coordinated three overviews of the local tech community for youth groups at rec centers in underserved communities. The Mayor visited one, which featured one of our reporters talking to a high school basketball team about entrepreneurship. [35 people]
Thanks @PhillyMayor for coming to hang out with us while we taught kids to code in N Philly yesterday! #PTW16 pic.twitter.com/kAi9a3Gywn
— Coded by Kids (@codedbykids) May 2, 2016
- Industry-focused conversations: Setting aside the more general “tech” or even “mobile” conversations of years ago, I’ve seen more increasingly niche conversations come to the PTW calendar. This year we brought together a meaningful group of leaders in the region’s burgeoning health IT conversation to keep them on message and to educate ourselves.
- Curated business development meetings: We got eight big companies to agree to choose meetings from a list of relevant local startups who wanted to meet with them. We vetted and curated the meetings and put them together for short 10-minute conversations during the week. The pilot went smashingly: we’ll do more of these.
No doubt the big events make better for marketing and photos. They have their place for access and introductions. But when a community gets big enough, curation is perhaps even more important. I’m proud we had a healthy collection of such events during this PTW. I know there will be more.