As Philly’s presence at SXSW comes to a close this week, it’s time to recognize the women who championed Philadelphia at the conference all week long. Whether they are a company founder, a leader in Philly’s tech scene or a city liaison, these women traveled to Austin and elevated Philly’s name. Some spoke on panels and worked the tradeshow, while others networked with creatives from across the country to share what Philly has to offer and to learn. Here are 14 women who amplified Philly at SXSW 2017 and their takeaways from the conference and reflections on their work.
Yuval Yarden, executive director, Philly Startup Leaders
“It’s awesome to see the growth of this initiative from a small initiative that we hoped would pan out to 250 Philadelphians down at SXSW. It’s an honor and privilege to bring this group together and the support we’ve received both financially, strategically, and logistically has been incredible.”
Michelle Silberman, founder and CEO, Chocamo
“I think SXSW is incredible for women because even as a food entrepreneur from Philly, I can come just for the environment and inspiration from the people I’m surrounded by here. It’s amazing to see the growth of Amplify Philly from 100 people last year to 250 this year. I think that says something about the collaboration about what exists in the Philly ecosystem.
Tracey Welson-Rossman, chief marketing officer, Chariot Solutions
“The [Philly] startup scene has grown so much. Chariot Solutions has been in business for 15 years this summer and what we’ve seen over the last 15 years has just been amazing. It used to be very concentrated in the suburbs and a little siloed. What we saw starting about 7 years ago was that there was a way for smaller companies to be accepted in the tech scene. Everything wasn’t coming from large companies. What I’ve also seen is the growth in the support system over the last 10-15 years, even more from when we had started.
Archna Sahay, director of entrepreneurial investment, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce
“From SXSW I’ve learned that diversity in tech and venture is a conversation we must continue to have. In Philly. In Austin. Everywhere. I went to a number of events at SXSW that were diverse by nature and many that were not. There were a series of events that were held for HBCUs that were some of my favorite. We must continue to be intentional about being inclusive until we no longer have to. With the Mayor’s attendance, Philly’s presence at SXSW was elevated to a new level. Industry leaders we met took notice and understood that the Mayor is serious about promoting Philadelphia as a hub for innovation and technology. We hope to see more traction around tech companies choosing Philadelphia to expand into, more venture capital dollars flowing to our tech companies and more talent taking up residence in our city. Given the uncertainty of the federal funding climate, we have a responsibility to seek out new sources of funding and innovative, fiscally sound solutions for our citizens’ needs. This is where public private collaborations become even more necessary and where having the tech community at the table when making such decisions becomes a priority.”
Laurie Actman, chief of marketing and communications and program officer, Penn Center for Innovation:
“It’s been really rewarding exhibiting at SXSW. I think we’ve built a lot of momentum within the universities around the Penn Center for Innovation’s mission and agenda around making Penn much more accessible and easier to partner with to get our ideas into the market. SXSW was an ideal platform for us to proactively collaborate and seek partners among Penn to participate here to showcase the innovation happening at the university”
Rakia Reynolds, president, Skai Blue Media
“Aside from all of the food, massive activations, and parties, as a third year SXSWer I’m seeing more social activism and social entrepreneurship integrated into all things technology than I’ve seen in previous years. For example, two years ago I saw brands talking about more of the gaming side for AR and VR and this year there were more discussions around how VR and AR can help solve world problems. As the new face of small business for Dell, I got to talk to media and entrepreneurs about the importance of technology for the growth of small business. This year I had the pleasure of leading a mentor session and being apart of the official SXSW app, which gave me more ways to engage with speakers from around the globe who are interested in some of the same things I am. Since SXSW, is a multi-sensory conference that not only celebrates technology and innovation, it helps to set the tone for what our trends will be next year, so it’s great for entrepreneurs to collaborate and discuss what they’re working on in their respective fields. As the Entrepreneur In Residence for Visit Philadelphia, I was absorbing how other cities are using technology doing to brand their culinary and entrepreneurial scene. I’m going to bring home some ideas around content creation, AR, and the social enterprise side of things.”
Lauren Cox, manager for communications and press relations, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce
“For the city, it was really important for us to be at the table and get a whole group of different companies down here. It’s important for us from a point of inclusion and diversity that we have different folks representing different industries as well as making sure we have women entrepreneurs down there. This year we have more women founders down here than ever before at SXSW and Philadelphia is all about that sense of diversity so having that represented here was extremely important. When you walk around our booth you can see almost all of them are being anchored by women and that makes me very proud to be from Philadelphia and part of this activation.”
Tiffanie Stanard, founder and CEO, Stimulus
‘This was my second year speaking at SXSW, and I go because there aren’t that many conferences that bring together everything that I do — technology, media, entertainment and entrepreneurship. This year I spoke on the Brand and New Media Future panel presented by Shopgate and Kwolia with sponsors like Coca Cola to offer new entrepreneurs advice. A difference this year is the fact that cities like Philadelphia are creating specific city-like experiences at the conference. The impact of SXSW is the opportunity for entrepreneurs to spark their creative juices by meeting and experiencing the culture of other cities. When I am in one city too long my creativity becomes stagnant. Attending SXSW opens the doors for partnerships with the common goal of placing community and city benefits at the core of our missions.”
Yasmine Mustafa, founder, ROAR for Good
“We came over last year as a test to see what the interest would be. Amplify Philly gave us a little spot in their booth and gave us the opportunity to get feedback from customers on our product. This year we’ve grown up and have our own booth. The difference has been staggering and we would not be here today if it wasn’t for Amplify Philly and what they were able to do for us last year to show us that there was interest and demand for what we’re building”
Danielle Cohn, executive director of entrepreneurial engagement, Comcast:
“We’re very proud to be supporting the Amplify Philly movement here at SXSW. Our team showcase our new Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs, with our flagship location opening in the new Comcast Technology Center in 2018.”
Karen Hogan, co-founder, Biorealize
“With the products we have, we’re able to bring more people into the field of biology and design. Traditionally, women have not participated in this arena for a whole variety of reasons but one of the things I’ve found is we have a lot of girls at a very young age self identifying with art and design but being told that they aren’t smart enough to do science. We know that they absolutely have the creativity and knowledge to participate in this space. So we’re designing a company that allows scientists and designers to work together. Scientists can generate the knowledge, like myself, and then download that knowledge and design commercial applications with it so we can make real changes in the world.”
Bethany Edwards, co-founder, Lia Diagnostics
“Lia Diagnostics has invented the first biodegradable, flushable pregnancy test. Lia was designed for women who value privacy and sustainability. We’re at SXSW representing our company, the Philadelphia universities that we graduated from, and the city’s increasing dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Felicite Moorman, co-founder and CEO, StratIS Access Energy & Automation
“We’ve launched our smart city company entirely from Philadelphia and with the help of the business community and companies like Comcast, you really couldn’t get a better place to start.”
Kristina Jenkins, digital content director, Visit Philadelphia
“The SXSW experience has been immense — I have to give kudos to Visit Philadelphia for sending me to represent and to the Amplify Philly team for its huge coordination efforts. One of the unifying themes at SXSW — no matter the conference track — is “what’s next?” For Philadelphia and for innovators like Visit Philadelphia, having a presence at the conference offers the opportunity to claim a place in the conversation about the future of our industry. We just launched a new virtual tour, and not only did I have the chance to share some of that content with conference attendees at the trade show, but I was also able to check out how other organizations are using 360º photography and virtual reality. Apart from my sweet “The Future is Female” T-shirt from a Twitter brand activation, I’m bringing home a ton of takeaways for Visit Philly. I’m particularly psyched to test out new ways to share live video and to incorporate feedback about how people who have never been to Philly interact with our new virtual tour (spoiler: they think it’s pretty cool). I’m also taking home the knowledge that I had the chance to speak on the same stage that hosted Mick Fleetwood.”
Rachel Zydyk is a program coordinator for Philly Startup Leaders. Additional reporting by Fabiola Cineas.