State of the Region: Greater Philadelphia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Supports Global Reach

Kait Lavinder, for GPA -- Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, University of Pennsylvania, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, City of Philadelphia, University City Science Center, and many other organizations in Greater Philadelphia believe in a common mission: to make Philadelphia a world-renowned city. Global thinkers converged at Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia this past week to attend an event hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC) and Select Greater Philadelphia. Business leaders met at State of the Region: Innovation and Entrepreneurship to discuss how to cultivate an internationally acclaimed Philadelphia.

Select Greater Philadelphia’s 2013 Regional Report led the conversation. The company is dedicated to attracting businesses to Greater Philadelphia and expanding those already established in the region. Its report suggests that Greater Philadelphia already possesses the necessary resources and attributes to attract global attention. President and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia Thomas G. Morr highlighted vital findings: Greater Philadelphia is situated in a prime location between New York and Washington, the cost of living is low, the region awards more professional degrees per resident than anywhere else in the United States, it is among the nation’s top five research and development centers, and its education and medicine sectors are world-class.

The concentration of universities in the region headlined much of the subsequent discussion. After Morr, five panelists took the stage to relay their opinions about bringing business to Greater Philadelphia. All five are founders, presidents, and/or chief executives of their respective companies. And all agreed that the wealth of knowledge concentrated in the area’s universities is a major asset.

Frank J. Lee, Ph.D. is the Founding Director of Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio and the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Drexel Game Design Program. He is also the brain behind 2013 Philly Tech Week’s “The Grandest Game of Pong on the Planet.” Expanding upon the importance of universities, Lee says the model of providing a single company with a large sum of money to relocate does not sustainably grow cities. Instead, he advocates for a focus on college students and a movement to encourage these students to build businesses when they are young. Once their businesses begin progressing, Lee hopes these individuals will choose to stay in Greater Philadelphia.

Startups form industries, and developed industries attract big businesses. Chief Business Development Officer of Comcast Cable Samuel Schwartz explains that is why Comcast wants to do as much innovation as possible in Philadelphia. He says, “The extent to which we can keep successes here in Philadelphia is going to lead to future success.” Founder and CEO of DMi Partners Patrick McKenna supports Schwartz’s statement by proclaiming, “I’m a big believer in Philadelphia.” He posits when others see the successes of Greater Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial and business community, it encourages them to explore the city and surrounding counties for themselves.

Greater Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem strives to create and retain businesses in the region. According to the 2013 Regional Report, Greater Philadelphia is home to over twentyfive incubators and accelerators. CEO of CD Diagnostics Richard Birkmeyer, Ph.D. notes this region has had several angel funds that help entrepreneurs get started.

Co-founder and President of Connectify Bhana Grover exclaims, “It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in Philly.” This is due to the angel funds, a proliferation of shared spaces to exchange ideas, advanced business development services, and a large community of investors. Grover continues, “We’re not going to be New York and we’re not going to be Silicon Valley, but we’re going to be awesome with what we’re doing here.”

Following the panelists’ declarations of optimistic forecasts for Philadelphia’s future, featured speaker Lori Greiner asserted, “Philadelphia is a great city. I consider it my second home.” Originally from Chicago, Greiner admits to the audience that she commenced her career as a playwright. But after feeling regret from witnessing her ideas brought to market by other entrepreneurs, she decided to give innovation a chance. An earring organizer placed Greiner on the path to success. She now works as a celebrity QVC Host and a Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Echoing the panelists, Greiner applauds Greater Philadelphia’s shared workspace initiative. She states, “I see a lot of growth in Philadelphia. And I’ve seen the city change for the better.”

The five panelists, Greiner, and the State of the Region audience concur Greater Philadelphia is in the process of becoming a preeminent world destination. Fostering entrepreneurship and innovation will attract businesses and people to the area. And Greater Philadelphia’s vast network of entrepreneurs, investors, and world thinkers is expanding its global reach.