Philadelphia’s startup scene has undergone a boom in the past five years – and the tech community is finally gathering the data to quantify its growth.
Part field guide and part map, WeWorkInPhilly.com serves as a central directory of the city’s many startup opportunities, digital companies, investors and coworking spaces that creators hope will forge new connections between entrepreneurs.
“Today, it’s really difficult to know what’s the totality of all the startups and companies that even exist in the area, much less where are they and are they hiring and that type of thing,” said Bob Moul, president of industry affinity group Philly Startup Leaders and CEO of mobile company Artisan.
“So on the one hand, [the site] is a resource for the community, and then on the other side, once we have all that information, it’s obviously a great promotional tool for us as a community,” he said. “Now we can articulate, ‘Here’s how many startups there are, here’s the cool industries they’re working in and they’re hiring these kinds of people.'”
At the time of its launch on Monday, the map already featured 318 organizations across the city. Among them is coworking space Indy Hall, whose co-founder Alex Hillman was instrumental in the site’s creation.
“I saw an opportunity to build something simple that was for the people who work in Philly to find out more about each other,” Hillman said in an email.
He hopes it will make a permanent contribution. “The thing I want to make sure of is that whatever we’re doing, we’re playing the long game,” he said. “Short term growth is nothing without long-term resilience. Whatever we’re doing now I want to make sure is making a lasting impact.”
WeWorkInPhilly.com‘s map is community-edited – in the vein of sites like Wikipedia, users are encouraged to add and modify information. The ethos of collaboration is a hallmark of the tech scene in Philly and beyond.
“It’s a ‘co-op-etition’ because we’re very competitive, as well,” Moul said. “Everybody wants to have that success story. But you won’t find anybody who’s not willing to lift a hand, give some advice, help connect people – whatever is needed – and I think that is a bit unique compared to other industries.”
Hillman agreed. “Collaboration and competition are just two sides of the same coin,” he said. “Even with competition, you can’t be competitive by yourself.”
Identity over geography
Both Hillman and Moul said that Philadelphia’s creative culture base and balance between an affordable quality of life and plentiful business opportunities are big draws for entrepreneurs.
But Hillman also spoke about an intangible quality embedded in the city’s entrepreneurial community and the goods and services they produce.
“Being ‘in’ Philadelphia is more about identity than about geography,” he said. “As the creative, technology, and business community in Philadelphia continues to flourish, it’s common for stories to unfold and begin to spread through our city, region, and the world. If being ‘in Philadelphia’ isn’t part of those stories, everybody loses.”
“Our goal is for this guide to help stories about the creative, technology, and business community to be told with Philadelphia as a part of the story. Simultaneously, we can make it easier for people to find someone or something that inspires them that’s in their own backyard.”