Philly Tech Week: PPRA Presents "City of Brotherly Bandwidth"

Layla El Tannir, for GPA -- To open “City of Brotherly Bandwidth,” a panel discussion presented by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association at the Comcast Center (170 JFK Blvd.), each panelist introduced themselves and spoke about their roles in Philadelphia’s tech scene and beyond. There was Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer for Comcast, Darren Hill, co-founder and CEO of WebLinc, Alex Hillman, founder of Indy Hall, Elliot Menschik, director of DreamIT Health, Rick Nucci, president of Philly Startup Leaders and Danielle Cohn, vice president of marketing and communications for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The panelists spoke to a diverse group of people, some of whom were their close friends, industry professionals or students involved in the tech movement. Others were new to the tech scene and hoping to deepen their understanding.

Nucci is part of the “Maker’s Movement,” an interest that sees him living, working and playing in places known for innovation. He shared something he had learned about the night before at the "Beacon and Lively Project," another Philly Tech Week event. It dealt with the idea that fashion is followed by technology and led to the creation of a stylish, technologically savvy cuff called The Beacon. The cuff’s Bluetooth connection syncs it with a user’s phone and notifies them with alerts. These notifications can have specific colors, patterns and vibration intensities which are customizable by the owner. The battery lasts five days on a single charge and is water resistant.

Hillman explained that the concept behind Indy Hall is to bring people together from all different industries like technology, academia, and architecture to find a common theme that connects them to Philadelphia. He sees Indy Hall as “a clubhouse for a club” and describes Philadelphia as, “the most sustainable model for co-working space.”

The environment that Indy Hall (22 N. 3rd St.) is supposed to create is one where people share ideas and move and work more dynamically, collaborating as a team to grow Philadelphia. Hillman explained all this while wearing a green hoodie with “N3RD ST.” emblazoned in bold white lettering. The moniker is a play on “N. 3rd St.,” which symbolizes the tech business corridor from Old City to Northern Liberties. A resolution was recently introduced to officially recast the stretch of N. 3rd St. from Market St. to Girard Ave. as “N3rd Street.”

The panel also discussed an overview of Philadelphia’s tech scene. Each panelist was keen on figuring out how to get city residents involved in telling Philadelphia’s tech stories to a broader audience. They discussed some of the public relations challenges that growing companies in Philadelphia face and they debated which channel works best for generating awareness and interest of the city’s technology companies.

In closing, Cohn posed an interesting question. “What is your dream headline for Philadelphia?” she asked.

Hillman was the first to answer, essentially speaking for everyone on the panel. “Philadelphia has the best ratio of quality of life to business opportunities,” he said.

Everyone in the room seemed to agree with his answer. It is that balance, so unique to Philadelphia, which makes it the most ideal place for innovation and growth to take place. Hillman’s advice to the people in the room was to slow down.

“More is not better, better is better,” he said, arguing that Philadelphians should take their time to get to know people genuinely, which will help them find a new competitive edge.

“It is an authentic city, with a depth of diversity and deep roots in innovation,” Nucci added, before making a request of the audience to support the community. “Get in the zone, immerse yourself in the industry and gain an appetite for what is going on around you.” 

Menschik, who is an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania, threw in some advice to students and staff lest they forget the importance of face-to-face interaction among the city’s technological developments.

“Get off campus, network with other humans who you wouln’t usually network with,” he said. 

Photo courtesy of Uwishunu.