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Find Your Future in Philadelphia

September 08, 2017

As the nation’s sixth largest city puts entrepreneurship front and center, its startup scene is percolating.

Philadelphia has long been known for an eclectic mix of history and hallmarks ranging from the Declaration of Independence and Liberty Bell, to the iconic cheesesteak sandwich, and sports teams like the Eagles and Phillies. Today, the nation’s second largest city on the East Coast has a new claim to fame: thriving business hub and startup incubator. Its success in launching new businesses shouldn't be a surprise. From a well-educated workforce to a strong, pro-startup business culture supported by government and major corporations, Philadelphia has all the key ingredients needed for a thriving startup ecosystem. Lively neighborhoods with plenty of affordably priced housing are proving increasingly popular with millennials, and the city’s well- established equity investment community is expanding to include more angel investors.

“It is starting from the top down,” says Julie Coker-Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Investment in Entrepreneurial Success

Long an innovator in education and life science—or “eds and meds,” as they are commonly described—Philadelphia is branching out to attract a broader base of businesses and new business founders. “What we’ve seen since the recession is a much broader growth in the startup community outside of what was traditionally life sciences-based R&D in our universities into a broader range of sectors and technologies,” says John Grady, president of PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation. “As some of the larger companies headquartered here—like Comcast and Urban Outfitters—have grown, those companies tend to drive startup activity around them.”

A Home for All companies

The regional presence of large enterprises such as Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, Pfizer, SAP, and SEI has been another crucial piece of the puzzle in growing Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, by many accounts.

Comcast—whose venture arm was recently ranked the number four corporate startup investor since 2011 by research from CB Insights—has played a major role. “We were a startup 50-plus years ago when Ralph Roberts started our company,” says Denice Hasty, chief marketing officer for the cable TV company. “Entrepreneurialism is at the heart of what we do.”

For the past two years, Comcast has sponsored Shark Tank and hosted casting calls in Philadelphia in 2016 and 2017, attracting more than 500 people to each. “Our goal is to provide small business owners and entrepreneurs opportunities to pitch the casting team of Shark Tank and give them a chance to achieve their business aspirations,” says Hasty.

Comcast Business has partnered since 2013 with the Philadelphia incubator and co-working network Benjamin’s Desk, providing a network that provides Ethernet, voice, and TV services at four locations in the city. The company also partners with Bunker Labs, a nonprofit that supports veteran-owned businesses. Meanwhile, business unit Comcast NBC Universal announced in March a multi-city initiative called Li Labs. Comcast plans to host a space for entrepreneurs in its tech center starting in early 2018. “Philadelphia is an up-and-coming place for tech startups,” says Hasty. “Our goal is to make it the Silicon Valley of the Northeast.”

With support for the city’s startup scene so strong on every front, that ambitious goal seems to be increasingly attainable. Through a combination of public and private support, Philadelphia’s startup scene promises to continue its growth trajectory and further fuel the city’s economic and population growth.

For more information on finding your future in Philadelphia, download the PDF.

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