Philadelphia Goes Transparent—With Its Data

City’s chief data officer hopes making data public can create a new mind-set about city government

April 21, 2016 | The Wall Street Journal by Matthew Kassel

As Philadelphia’s chief data officer, Tim Wisniewski, 28, holds a fairly new job title. He helps publish the city’s data—employee salaries, crimes and property assessments, among other things—for public consumption on the Web.

It’s all in the spirit of transparency and spurring civic innovation. Since Mr. Wisniewski took over in 2014, he has seen a number of promising outcomes, he says.

In a recent interview, he discussed open data and how it might shape city life going forward. Edited excerpts follow.

WSJ: What can Philadelphia’s people get out of all this open data?

MR. WISNIEWSKI: You can look at the stuff that’s right in front of you, and then you can look at the broader picture. There’s a niche business here in Philadelphia, for instance, that repairs windows on historic properties. It existed before open data, but it took the data that the Licenses and Inspections Department put out on window violations and combined it with the Historical Commission’s list of historic properties. It found historic properties with window violations and sent them a letter saying, “Hey, we can help you with that.” And now we have a business that is making money, and our properties have fewer broken windows.

WSJ: What’s the broader picture?

MR. WISNIEWSKI: Open data brings us toward a more open government: knowing what it does, who it is, how it works…


The City of Philadelphia wants to play matchmaker

The city’s new RFP board plans to feature gigs from universities, utilities and large corporations. First up: PGW.

April 20, 2016 | by Juliana Reyes

The city’s Commerce Department launched an RFP board to connect startups with anchor institutions that “might not have the flexibility internally to try new ideas to solve problems,” said the Commerce Department’s Rebecca Lopez-Kriss. She means: city agencies, utilities like PGW or PECO, universities or large corporations, organizations that aren’t as connected to the local tech scene.

The first pilot listed is from PGW, which is looking for an app that can pull in location-based data. It’s free to post a pilot.



April 18, 2016 | Startup Grind by Joshua Davidson

I’m running one of the fastest growing app development companies in the United States. We’ve been around for almost seven years and have helped launch over 160 applications around the world.

Here is the best part. We aren’t based in San Francisco.

We’re not in Silicon Valley.

We’re not even based in California.

No, we’re based in the City of Brotherly Love, the place where cheesesteaks are king and we bleed green.

Our home is Philadelphia.

You see, over the past few years, I’ve become frustrated by the lack of love for the Philadelphia tech scene. It’s not just a deafening silence, but clear disrespect for this incredible city. Philadelphia is often overshadowed by its big brother an hour and a half north – New York City. You’ll hear about Boston, even Washington DC, but you don’t often hear about Philly.

It’s time to change that.

1. Philly has tons of smart, eager talent

You’ve got the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University. That’s not all.

There’s also Saint Joseph’s University, the College of Philadelphia, and La Salle University.

The hits keep on coming: Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia University, and Villanova.

And I’m sure that some of these schools may ring a bell (pun intended). Here is the coolest part: they are all in or near the city. In fact, most of these schools cluster in one part of the city called University City.

Philadelphia doesn’t just hold a ton of students in one concentrated place: they’re keeping them too. Back in 2015, Philly Magazine reported that, between 2006 and 2014, Philly added 120,600 millennials into the city. That’s a staggering 41.2% growth.

Talent is here, and the talent is staying. With incredible nightlife, endless food options, Penn’s Landing, Rittenhouse, Center City, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and Manayunk, incredible talent is choosing to work and live in Philadelphia. This creates an environment of young professionals hungry to join your growing startup.

2. Philly offers great networking, coworking and funding opportunities

Heard of Philly Tech Week? No? You have a lot to catch up on. One of the biggest tech events in the country, this year is expected to draw more than 25,000 attendees. This is our SXSW: an event hosted across the entire city for a full week, full of meetups, workshops, conferences, keynotes, mixers. It’s an entrepreneur’s paradise and turns the entire city into one giant playground.

Not a big enough event for you? How about Startup Grind’s Philadelphia chapter? TEDxPhiladelphia? Forbes 30 Under 30 Conference? WordCamp Conference? You’re not about to run out of things to do.

Of course, if events aren’t your networking style, maybe you’d like working alongside smart people at one of the most beautiful coworking spaces around. WeWork is here, but they’re not the only ones. Benjamin’s Desk is one of the most fantastic coworking facilities in the entire world – with one hell of a view, too. IndyHall is one of the original coworking spaces, too. Then there’s Venturef0rth, NextFab, Walnut Street Labs, Seed Philly, Project Liberty, and Devnuts. Don’t forget about the incredible amount of cafes in Old City, Northern Liberties, Center City, and Fishtown.

Perhaps networking on grinding out work isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you’re more focused on raising funds. Understandable – and Philadelphia delivers. Philly is home to First Round Capital, as well as Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Dorm Room Fund, Robinhood Ventures, Startup PHL, and Dreamit Ventures – just to name a few.

3. We’re near the shore, the mountains and other major cities

You are an hour away from being on the beaches in New Jersey. One hour away from skiing and snowboarding in the mountains. It’s just one hour to Six Flags Great Adventure, Dorney Park, Hershey Park and lots of other attractions. You can be in New York City, Baltimore, or Washington DC in an hour and a half, too.

Philadelphia is smack dab in the middle of everything. Companies can easily attract talent to relocate, and once you’re here, it is easy to handle business travel across the whole east coast.

Don’t forget, this is the startup city of America after all. History is everywhere. One minute you can be walking by one of the most state-of-the-art skyscrapers in the world. Next minute, next to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the first bar ever opened in the United States.

4. You’re not in an oversaturated market

Perhaps one of the biggest assets for a growing startup, Philadelphia’s market isn’t saturated. The perk to an underrated entrepreneurial scene is the ability to make a name for yourself, separate yourself from the pack, and become a thought leader in the market.

But act fast, because Philadelphia’s tech and entrepreneur scene are growing – fast. There is no better time to make your move, before Philly become cluttered, saturated, and competitive. Move now, and by the time this happens, you’ll have already made your mark, becoming a shining example leading Philly’s growth, and the definition of success in this incredible city. That’s an opportunity that most other cities will no longer give you.

5. You’ll be among other major Philly startups

When you do make a splash, you’ll be in good company. Introducing your startup colleagues:DuckDuckGo, Seer Interactive, RJMetrics, Whose Your Landlord, Linode, Technically, Benjamin’s Desk, and of course my company, Chop Dawg – (*cough* shameless plug *cough*). Point being, the market is validated and companies are growing at a rapid pace here. Philadelphia has already proven to be a great foundation to attract talent. But above all, it’s an incredibly close community in which everyone wants to see each other succeed.

6) You won’t break the bank here

Perhaps the most attractive thing for young startups and growing companies: this city is affordable. Housing isn’t expensive. Rent isn’t unreasonable. Everything is walking distance. Public transportation is great. Uber is widely available.

You’re near everything and have everything you want in one place. If it isn’t, and you’re the healthy type, you’ll find bike lanes on almost every major road. There’s easy access to the sports stadium, too, and lots of free parks and public space when you get there. Philadelphia will give you one of the best bangs for your buck, both as an entrepreneur and as a resident. Not many major cities in the States can give you that.

7. You’ll love The Wawa

For those that live in the area, this is self-explanatory. For those who never have heard of Wawa before, imagine the convenience store of your dreams. That’s a Wawa and they are everywhere in this great city.

8. You’ll get the hard-hustling East Coast mentality

Perhaps above all, Philadelphia brings you into an East Coast mentality. It’s that fast-paced, agile mindset you associate with New York City’s busy streets – just without the busy streets.  The fact is, Philadelphia is full of go-getters. We’re not ashamed to get our hands dirty with blue-collar work, and bring that grit into building global, white-collar-staffed companies. We understand here that things won’t be easy – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. We all have each others’ backs. After all, that’s what it means to live in the City of Brotherly Love

Get to Philadelphia Already

At the end of the day, Philadelphia is the 5th largest city in the country. It’s also the 3rd densest, and the 6th largest metro region.

It’s full of smart people, with over 100 colleges and universities in the region. You’ll find 13 Fortune 500 businesses that call this city home. They’re joined by 5,100 IT businesses in this area alone.

It won’t break the bank. The average rent for an office is only $28/sq ft.

But you’re not trapped here: Philly has one of the top 15 busiest airports in the entire world, and the 3rd busiest train station.

You’ll be in good company, too. Besides the growing startups we already mentioned, Philly has seen three major tech exits for a combined $3.9 billion.

Philadelphia is quickly popping onto the radar. Hell, I’d argue for a lot of you, it already has. This is the time your startup, your company, or even you individually should considering joining this movement and relocating to Philadelphia.

This city is growing and changing, and brilliant, like-minded individuals like you will continue to put it over the top.​

Original Sauce

Drexel game designers win $10K top prize at Intel University Showcase

The team of eight students accepted the award at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

April 13, 2016 | by Albert Hong

After their advisor, Dr. Jichen Zhu, rejected a handful of pitches for the game they’d create for their senior project, Drexel student Andrew Lichtsinn and his classmates didn’t have much confidence in one of their new gameplay ideas: a “dynamic splitscreen” that would change the size of players’ screens as they suffered damage in the game.

So the students, which call themselves 51st and Fire, were surprised when Zhu heard the idea and immediately gave them the go-ahead to develop the concept further into a game.

That game is Mirrors of Grimaldi, and it won first place for Best Gameplay at the Intel University Games Showcase on March 17 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.


Temple students are throwing a startup showcase next week

It’s the school’s first What IF Innovation Festival. The event also features a handful of Philly technologists.

April 12, 2016 | by Albert Hong

Tim Mounsey, a senior entrepreneurship major at Temple, wants to answer this question: What if students from all of Temple’s 18 schools and colleges got together to discuss and collaborate on new, innovative projects?

It’s why he came up with and organized the inaugural What IF Innovation Festival, a two-part event at Temple on Tuesday, April 19. It’s free and open to the public.

The first part of the festival, dubbed the Tower Takeover, will take place at the Bell Tower from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. where 40 exhibitors will be showcasing their technologies, businesses, music, nonprofits and art. While many of the startups come from Temple students and alumni, like Neha Raman’s award-winning customizable nail polish startup, other startups like Earl Knight’s social media analytics platform GoBabl will also be present.

Following the showcase, a series of lightning talks will be held at Mitten Hall from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The list of speakers includes Venture for America CEO Andrew Yang, Independence Blue Cross (IBX) Innovation Director Michelle Histand and Philly Startup Leaders President Brock Weatherup. There will also be an hourlong networking session afterwards.

The festival is the culmination of an eight-month process for Mounsey, his marketing team and Rosalie Shemmer, the director of Temple’s Career Center, which provided funding for the event along with IBX and Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.


Coded by Kids is hosting Philly Tech Week events at rec centers in marginalized neighborhoods

With the help of a Philly Tech Week microgrant, the coding education nonprofit is bringing Philly Tech Week outside of the normal Center City fold. Here’s how you can get involved.

April 12, 2016 | by Juliana Reyes

Many people, including Mayor Jim Kenney, are talking about how to make the tech scene’s opportunities reach beyond the “creative office spaces” in Center City and the labs in University City.

Here’s one way: bring Philly Tech Week to city rec centers in low-income neighborhoods and ones that are predominantly black. That’s what Sylvester Mobley, the founder of coding education nonprofit Coded by Kids, is doing.

Mobley said it’s the organization’s way of bringing the tech scene into neighborhoods that are often overlooked by the tech scene at large. We awarded the group a Philly Tech Week microgrant for the series of events.

There are three events in three recreation centers across the city — in North Philly, Southwest Philly and East Mt. Airy. They’ll be doing brief intro to coding workshops, plus a “Meet the Philly Tech Scene” portion, where tech groups will talk about who they are and what they’re working on. See the agenda for each event here.


Coded by Kids is looking for both volunteers and organizations that want to present at the events. Here’s info on how to get involved, as per Coded by Kids spokeswoman Maggie Deptola:

Individual volunteers can send an email to with the name of the session and location they are interested in. Volunteers will be required to attend a volunteer orientation held at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center (740 South 17th Street, 11th Floor) on Saturday, April 23rd from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. Volunteers can participate in as many sessions as they’d like, but will be expected to commit to at least one, one-hour session.

Interested organizations can send an email to with a slide deck (max 10 slides) describing their organization and fill out this doodle poll with the dates and times members of their organization can present. Organizations should send their slide decks no later than April 20th, 2016.

Original Sauce

PRESS RELEASE: University City Keystone Innovation Zone Expands to Old City, N3rd Street Startup Community

Eligible Startups will have Access Up to $100,000 in Sellable Tax Credits Annually

March 23, 2016 – Contact:  Ajeenah Amir

PHILADELPHIA– Today Mayor Jim Kenney and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, alongside The University City Keystone Innovation Zone (UC KIZ), announced that the UC KIZ has received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to expand its existing boundaries to include the growing tech community in Old City, including the area along N. 3rd Street, known as “N3rd Street.”

“The expansion of the UC KIZ is an incredibly important development for Philadelphia’s startup community,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.  “The inclusion of Old City will bolster the already exciting growth of tech companies we’ve seen on and around N3rd St. We’re committed to helping Philadelphia’s innovation community flourish throughout the City, and tools like KIZs are a big part of that equation.”

As a result of the expansion, a new swath of companies in Philadelphia’s growing innovation ecosystem will be able to access up to $100,000 annually in sellable tax credits. The DCED could award as much as $1.2 million in tax credits to newly eligible companies within the expanded zone in 2017. Many KIZ Tax Credit awardees invest those funds in new employees, while others purchase equipment to further develop and commercialize products and technologies.

“We need to nurture the talent pipeline that exists in Pennsylvania from higher education to business ownership by providing as many opportunities as possible to support their efforts,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin. “We are thrilled with the success of the KIZ program and are extremely excited with the increased opportunities available in Philadelphia through the expansion of the UC KIZ.”

Pennsylvania’s Keystone Innovation Zone Tax Credit is a fundamental component of the KIZ program. Up to $25 million in credits are available each year to eligible companies. Companies without tax liabilities can sell their tax credits themselves or secure a third-party, independent broker to sell the credits on their behalf.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are thriving all across Philadelphia – from University City and uCity Square all the way to N3rd Street,” says Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., MBA, President & CEO of the University City Science Center, which serves as the fiscal agent of the UC KIZ. “Thanks to this expansion, the UC KIZ will be better equipped to accommodate and support the cluster of tech startups in Old City while helping to attract and retain even more early-stage companies in Philadelphia.”

Twenty-one startup companies in the UC KIZ received a collective $1.8 million in tax credits awarded by the DCED in 2015 as part of the KIZ Tax Credit Program. Over the last 10 years, 48 UC KIZ companies have benefited from almost $8 million in KIZ Tax Credits.

“Our recent KIZ Tax Credit award will help our company retain two software developers” says first-time applicant John Nosek, Founder and Vice President for Research and Product Innovation at Guiding Technologies. “Also, these tax credits meet requirements for matching National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR Phase IB funding, which enhances our chances of obtaining much larger NSF SBIR Phase II and Phase IIB funding.”

About the University City Keystone Innovation Zone

The University City Keystone Innovation Zone was established in 2004 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority as a Keystone Innovation Zone, a geographically designated zone designed to create a “knowledge neighborhood” that develops technology business communities by aligning talent and resources.  It is a partnership of BioAdvance, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, the University City Science Center, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and The Wistar Institute.. UC KIZ partners are committed to working together to ensure that life sciences and information technology opportunities are developed and supported to maximize the potential of university research, start-up companies and international companies seeking to locate in the region.  The Science Center serves as the administrative and fiscal agent of the UC KIZ.

For more information about the University City Keystone Innovation Zone, call (215) 966-6156 or visit

Philly Tech Loved SXSW. SXSW Loved Philly Tech Back

Tracey Welson-Rossman’s report from the networking trenches of SXSW’s “Philly Alley.”

March 22, 2016 | Philadelphia Magazine by Tracey Welson-Rossman

The Philadelphia tech and startup scene made its way down to Austin last week for South by Southwest — better known as SXSW. As an interactive-focused conference-turned-festival, SXSW is one of the largest gatherings of leaders and organizations spanning the technological, design and creative realms.

For the first time this year, a concerted effort has been made to spread the message of Philadelphia’s growing tech culture and the vibrant innovation coming from our region — and what better place to do so than right at SXSW. With that goal in mind, a solid group of Philadelphia’s tech leaders decided to head south and represent the great things brewing in Philadelphia’s emerging tech scene. So, why, exactly, did 10 companies and close to 200 Philadelphians (including Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, Zivtech, my own Chariot Solutions, and others) decide it was worth the time, effort, and money to make the trek to Texas?

I asked Yuval Yarden, program director for Philly Startup Leaders, and one of the driving forces behind the push to spread the word, what she felt the main goal of organizing this coalition was. Yuval summed it up well: It is time for the Philadelphia region to to a better job telling our story.

“We feel SXSW is the best opportunity for our tech community to tell its story since Philadelphia is becoming known as a tech and innovation hub, housing not just software companies, but all types of technology,” Yarden said. “We love that there have been many articles as of late touting Philadelphia’s music, culture and restaurant scene, but we want to make sure Philadelphia is also known for its startups. We are here to discuss why Philadelphia is a great place to start and grow a tech company.”


TBT: Why You Should Start a Company in… Philadelphia

March 15, 2010 | Fast Company by Laura Rich

When you look around the country, you see that second-generation entrepreneurs play a big role in thriving communities. They serve as mentors, cheerleaders and early capital sources. Philadelphia is an exception to the rule. Because despite a Web 1.0 legacy of hits like CDNow (acquired by Bertelsmann in 2000 for $117 million), (acquired by eBay in 2000), e-commerce company GSI ($1.55 billion market cap) and VerticalNet (valued at $12 billion in 1999), the city is mainly driven by first-generation entrepreneurs and few of them have hit a serious scale or impact yet.

But what Philadelphia’s current startup scene lacks in experience it makes up for in enthusiasm. Blake Jennelle, a self-appointed leader of the community, founder of Philly Startup Leaders and a serial entrepreneur (Anthillz, TicketLeap), calls it a “self-help ethos.” That sounds about right for a place known as the City of Brotherly Love.

Josh Kopelman, managing partner at First Round Capital, spoke with about what makes Philadelphia’s startup scene unique.

What makes Philadelphia a great place for new businesses?

You know, it’s called the City of Brotherly Love and I actually think they mean it when it comes to startups. Philly is small enough and intimate enough that most of the entrepreneurs actually know each other. There’s an unbelievable sense of community.