The title of this week’s feature should be amended to “I Love My Jobs,” as Ellen Weber spends her days juggling the demands of multiple major roles. The entrepreneurship expert is the executive director of Temple University’s Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, where she’s an assistant professor of entrepreneurship. She’s also the executive director of the angel group Robin Hood Ventures, that’s fueling Philly’s startup growth. When Weber’s not in the classroom or working with portfolio companies, you can always find her in the startup community—promoting young entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs and pushing Philadelphia’s success stories out onto the national stage. Here she tells us about Philly tech’s most urgent agenda item and what men can do to support women in tech. She also gets into her reading list and what you’ll find her drinking at the bar.
I grew up in … Alexandria Virginia, home of Remember the Titans. Growing up in a multicultural community lead to many of my life choices.
The last book I read was … Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro Cremades – we are using it in my class “Get Your Idea Funded.” Also re-read Ask for It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever for my course “Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship.”
I don’t spend enough time … going to see fringe arts. I love watching new ideas in dance, comedy, theater and expression. Philadelphia has such a richness in the arts. On any given night you can experience something completely new and different.
Something at Temple you won’t find anywhere else is … sheer diversity. Of thought, experience, gender, age, race and social backgrounds. It informs everything about this school. Best example: when one of my students created a plan to bring solar power to Africa, he told me it was because the village he grew up in didn’t have reliable power.
Philly women in tech can support each other by … sharing their “binders full of women.” Bring business to each other, highlight each other, ensure women are considered for opportunities, and invest in women-led companies.
Men in tech can support women in tech by … being aware of their actions and its impact, ensuring that they are creating a gender-free process for hiring in their companies, and encouraging young girls to pursue technical careers through programs like TechGirlz.
Something most people don’t know about Robin Hood Ventures is … we’ve funded over 60 companies in the region, and continue to grow our membership. Most of our members are serial entrepreneurs who cover a wide variety of industries.
Having two jobs means … never getting to say “I’m done!” I’ve been delighted with the synergies between the two; Robin Hood provides a great source of mentors and advice to Temple entrepreneurs, Fox students have made great interns for RHV, and so much discussion in the community is about the interaction of tech and universities, so I have a ring-side seat. One great example of the synergy is Lia Diagnostics, which was a finalist in Temple’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, presented at our Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures forum, and then was funded by Robin Hood Ventures.
In ten years I see myself … even more involved in regional economic development. I’ve toyed with running for office, but I’m better behind the scenes than on-stage.
Something Philly gets right is … walkability and quality of life. So many places to walk to, so many different ways to get around, and so much to do!
My favorite meal of the year so far has been … its only February, but I’d have to say a sushi dinner I had with my two daughters.
I wanted to grow up to be … the first woman baseball analyst on TV.
A funny story as executive director of Robin Hood is … the time an entrepreneur was giving their pitch to me in an elevator without knowing that I was the ED of Robin Hood. When I told him – he said – OMG, that was my first real elevator pitch!
A difficult moment at Fox was when … a beloved professor and colleague passed away before his time. He is truly missed by his students and his colleagues.
The most urgent cause on Philly tech’s agenda is … our public school system. We need to invest in it to retain tech workers in the city, and we need to invest in it to make sure that we have a high-performing workforce. A lot of tech jobs do not require a college education – why aren’t we providing more tech training in schools?
The university’s role in bolstering Philly’s economic development is … providing an educated and job-ready workforce, creating jobs through our entrepreneurial and tech transfer innovations, and educating professionals already in the workforce with a portfolio of specialized degrees and programs.
In 2017 I’m looking forward to … the construction of our entrepreneurial co-working space and introduction of new funding sources for Temple entrepreneurs.
My drink of choice is … a sidecar or Penicillin. Philly takes its mixology seriously!
A big lesson I learned in 2016 was … the positive impact of exits and the need to cheer the Philadelphia brand outside the region.
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