Looking for Philly’s Next Big Start-Up?

At Technically Philly we’ve written nearly 1000 posts covering the technology community here in Philadelphia. If you paged through our archives, you would come across hundreds of local companies, each with something innovative to offer the city and the world.

However, in the rare circumstance that you do not have hours to look at TP’s back archives, let us help you take an easier, much more fun approach: Switch.

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Forget Snookis, Old City is Overrun with Techies

Philadelphia magazine’s September feature by Richard Rys documents an Old City in transition—and not a pretty one. A neighborhood once thriving with artists, entertainment and prominent restaurateurs turns into a bad episode of Jersey Shore on weekends, the writer contends.

But that’s not the Old City we know. By day, the historic neighborhood has become something of a Web development and technology startup haven. Earlier this year, as city technology leaders prepared Philadelphia’s bid for Google’s ultra high-speed broadband Internet pilot, it was Old City that was chosen as one of the city’s potential technology hubs, for the diverse technologists that live and work there.

Here’s our look at what still sparkles in Old City…

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The Top 12 iPhone Apps by Philadelphians, For Philadelphians

Great news for all the iPhone-addicts out there: Philly’s ever-increasing number of techies has been up to more than just taking up all the seats at your favorite Wi-Fi café. They’ve been busy developing truly Philly-centric apps, from the genius (SEPTA travel, local concert information and traffic reports) to the just-for-fun (zombie braining and saving kittens).

Some of these Philly finds may take a little digging through the app store, and with tens of thousands of apps to choose from, who has time for all that? Well, we do! Get those downloading fingers ready for these 12 awesome iPhone apps by Philadelphians, for Philadelphians.

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Techgirlz Hopes to Bridge Gender Gap in Philly Tech

If you have ever been to one of the dozen weekly technology events around Philadelphia, you likely have quickly noticed that the room is often largely filled with men.

“I’ve been in tech for 15 years and I’ve never been in a room full of women,” says Techgirlz co-founder Anita Garimella.

To help bridge the gap, a handful of local women have created Techgirlz, a new organization that hopes to solve the gender gap in Philadelphia’s technology community. According to Techgirlz, most girls begin to dial back the pursuit of subjects like math and science in middle school. Technology jobs are often viewed as only involving computers or programming, something the group says turns off many young women.

“Technology isn’t just about coding,” says fellow co-founder Tracey Welson-Rossman. “It’s media, it’s setting up a business and it’s impacting every part of our lives. You need technology in any field you’re going into.”

Techgirlz has recruited some of the area’s top women in tech, including 123linkit founder Yasmine Mustafa and Sibyl Lindsay, VP of Sales and Marketing at Xipwire to discuss tech with roughly 30 students at the University City Science Center on September 25th for Techgirlz Unite, the group’s first event.

Techgirlz hopes the event can inspire and educate young women about the technology jobs that have creative components that typically appeal to young women.

“When there’s a lack of women, you have no model,” says Welson-Rossman. “You just can’t project yourself in a carrier unless you see someone like yourself in that career.”

After judging the success of Techgirlz Unite, the group says it will begin planning other events to reach out to the city’s middle school students.

“This program will have many metamorphosis,” says Garimella. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

TECHNICALLY PHILLY is a news site that covers technology in the region. The site covers startups, investment, government policy, Comcast, social media and all that is Philadelphia tech. Read more at technicallyphilly.com.

Philadelphia’s 10 Most Influential Twitter Users

Some people count how many friends they have, and some people count the value of their friendships. In the world of social media, it’s no different.

We can precisely measure just about everything online, and so it should surprise no one that as social media has boomed, so have the comparisons between Facebook friend counts and Twitter followers.

But there’s a nuance that raw numbers can’t show. There’s quantity … and then there’s quality.

It’s easy enough to track who are the most followed Twitter users in Philadelphia, but everyone is trying to figure out how those figures measure in influence — or ‘resonance.’ Who are the biggest Philadelphia voices in the Twitter conversation? We’re not talking about spam accounts with big follower numbers, but those people who you should be following, whose opinions matter and whose tweets are being heard.

Which Philadelphia Twitter users matter most? By incorporating standard metrics like follower counts, communication total and update frequency — in addition to actual power, background and title — we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Tweeters that every Philadelphian should be following.

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Philly Is “Gigabit City” (with or without Google)

Last week, Google thanked the 1,100 applicants who entered its Google Fiber for Communities contest, an initiative to test high-speed, next generation broadband — known as ‘gigabit’ fiber — that is up to 100 times faster than current average household Internet connections. As we’ve written in this column before, Google plans to wire between 50,000 and a half-million households with gigabit, an experiment which could have broad implications for technological innovation and national broadband policy.

The thank-you was but a tease for Philly’s technology community, which, as part of the City’s application to the Google Fiber for Communities contest, created “Gigabit City,” a repository where folks brainstorm specific projects that may be possible with gigabit technology. Like everyone else, they’ll have to wait until Google announces the winners in the fall, but City of Philadelphia Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank isn’t sitting around. He’s turned the city’s application into an opportunity to engage Philadelphia around next-generation broadband policy.

In the process, he’s been able to push the city’s telecommunication heavies  — Comcast and Verizon — to consider Philadelphia’s future.

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Philly 311: There’s No App for That

Last week, while the City of Philadelphia was busy celebrating the country’s 234th birthday, another anniversary passed by with little fanfare. July 5 marked three months since the city announced it was developing its own 311 iPhone application to allow citizens to access city data on the go. It also marked the day the application was two months late.

In an April 5 announcement, Division of Technology chief Allan Frank said the application would be available in May, yet there’s still no sign of it on the city’s 311 site or in the App Store.

While we’re certainly on board with city government embracing new technologies, there were several alternatives to the city developing the application itself that would have sped up its development and saved precious taxpayer dollars.

“We need to be less focused on managing servers and more focused on serving citizens,” said Councilman Bill Green in a phone interview with Technically Philly about the 311 application. Green says the city could have cheaply crowd-sourced the application development using a service like Force.com.

In building the application itself, the city showed that it didn’t even perform a simple Google search to weigh other options. Philadelphia is not the first city to attempt a 311 application, nor is the 311 department the first city department to bring its data to a mobile platform. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Read more »

Tourism On Your Phone: Why It Matters To Philly

With tourism, it’s all about where you are. Exactly where you are.

In Philadelphia, the past month has seen a wash of mobile geo-location tourism applications launch in and around the Cradle of Liberty. Trends say those deals and the mobile tools they employ today will help to profoundly reconfigure how tourists experience this ‘greene country towne‘ in the future.

City tourism officials announced with great fanfare last week a mobile app that puts users onto competitive ‘treks,’ sending them throughout the city to find and explore and earn points for what they find and how they find it. Philadelphia is the first city to use the platform, developed with SCVNGR, a now Boston-based company with roots at Princeton and Drexel universities.

In May, a deal was announced between  VisitPA and geo-location social media powerhouse Foursquare, offering users digital badges for checking in at locations across the state in one of three categories: dining, buying and museum-going. Visit Bucks County has also launched a Foursquare deal, and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is starting to play there too.

Then in early June, the Fairmount Park Art Association unveiled its multi-platform Museum without Walls, in which visitors to the Ben Franklin Parkway can dial a phone number and choose to hear professionally produced oral histories about the city’s public sculptures. Read more »

Tech Transfer: Why It Matters and How Philly’s Making It Better

As we approach our nation’s birthday this weekend, let’s give a nod to another Philadelphia first: The University City Science Center. It’s the nation’s oldest and largest urban business incubator, providing physical space, resources and funding to help startup companies and university researchers commercialize new technologies. With 31 university partners across the region, the Science Center is no stranger to technology transfer, the process that allows university research to be commercialized for greater public benefit.

It’s also at the center of a national debate over whether tech transfer encourages or hampers the creation of tech startups.

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Philly Geeks: The Scene That Gives Back

In February, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and non-profit employees gathered at a coworking space in New York’s Tribecca neighborhood to chat “Social Entrepreneurship:” businesses that focus as much on social good as the bottom line.

Halfway through the event, organized by Philadelphia’s Good Company Ventures, an audience member asked what city should serve as the center of this social entrepreneurship movement. A surprising number people immediately responded, “Philadelphia.”

It’s no secret that most large America cities are vying to be “The next Silicon Valley.” This typically means a focus on early stage technology and Internet startups, some of which—hopefully—become large employers drawing lots of young, highly educated taxpayers.

While Philly has no shortage of people clamoring for an effort to remake the city into a “Philicon Valley,” recent trends indicate that the city’s entrepreneurial community is busy carving out a different niche in the nation’s technology environment: startups focused on social good, not just the bottom line.

This isn’t an uphill battle, the city is home to some of the leaders in the field of Social Entrepreneurship. Here are some of the local players working to use technology and business to make Philadelphia—and the world—a better place:

Good Company Ventures – The Center City-based incubator nurtures business that focus social good in addition to profits. In its second year, previous grads include BlackGold Biofuels a Philly-based startup that converts sewer waste into usable biodiesel. Good Company is also spreading the idea of Philly as the center for this social business movement holding launch events in New York.

Murex Investments – Working closely with Good Company (partner Jacob Gray is on GCV’s board), Murex is raising a $50 million fund focused exclusively on companies that fall within the “social good” category.

Geeks Who Give – Not a startup, but a group of local techies headed by Kara LaFleur working to organize events like food drives and video game nights to collect school supplies. Last year the group worked to provide mentors for Philadelphia Futures and took advantage of social media and local watering holes to organize successful fundraising events. Read more »

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