It’s Happening: Benjamin’s Desk Merges With 1776

On stage at Philly’s 1776 Challenge Cup pitch competition. Courtesy photo.

Philly-founded co-working network Benjamin’s Desk has announced that it will merge with Washington, D.C.-based public benefit corporation 1776. Both organizations say the merger will help them better meet their top goal: funneling more support and resources to entrepreneurs across the Northeast corridor.

Benjamin’s Desk cofounders Anthony Maher and Jennifer Maher will lead the organization’s daily operations as co-CEOs, and 1776 cofounder and CEO Evan Burfield will become executive chairman of the combined incubator network, which will operate under the 1776 brand. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“Five years ago, we couldn’t find the right combination of resources to grow our family’s real estate startup, so we built them ourselves,” said Jennifer Maher. “In 1776, we’ve found kindred spirits who understand the impact entrepreneurs can make when they have resources, mentors, and inspiring spaces in which to work.”  Read more »

A Philly Expat Returns From Silicon Valley to Talk Funding for Entrepreneurs of Color

Scene from the Black & Brown Founders Project’s first conference held in March 2017. Founder Aniyia Williams (R) in conversation with a guest speaker.

It’s October, and I’m still reeling from the idiocy of the Google Manifesto. And just this week, a new report smacked me with some reality that I wasn’t ready to hear. You know that pesky race gap that exists across far too many professional fields and sectors? For the tech industry, that gap is only worsening, and that’s despite the heightened attention on it, the new research shows. And for entrepreneurs of color, resources (think: capital and mentorship) for jumpstarting their own ventures remain scant.

What to do? One founder believes entrepreneurs of color should focus on building a tight community, one that’s constantly disseminating knowledge, resources and best practices. It’s why that founder, Aniyia Williams, started the organization Black & Brown Founders Project and why she’s bringing the group’s conference from Silicon Valley to Philadelphia next week.  Read more »

Here Are Philadelphia’s 2017 EY Entrepreneurs of the Year

Philadelphia’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award winners. Photo via Twitter (Jennifer Koniuk)

Philadelphia’s entrepreneurs were recognized at the Kimmel Center Wednesday evening at the 2017 Greater Philadelphia Area EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards gala, and 11 walked away with the coveted Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The winners, innovators at the helm of some of Philadelphia’s top businesses, were selected by a panel of previous winners and local business leaders. Along with the awards given out in the competitive categories, David Jaindl of Jaindl Farms was the recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Achievement award, while Nick Bayer, the founder and CEO of Saxbys, received the Social Entrepreneur award for his continued engagement and impact within Philadelphia, EY said.

Read more »

Free Library to Help Entrepreneurs Make Better Pitches

Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian via Flickr.

The Free Library’s Business Resource and Innovation Center wants to teach Philly entrepreneurs a thing or two about pitching.

Next week, the Parkway Central Library will launch the Pitch Corner, a new resources and space for innovators where they can hone their business pitches and strengthen elevator pitches about their assets and aptitudes. Entrepreneurs can record their pitches in front of video camera and large backdrop in the space, and they’ll be able to re-watch the pitch to improve their performance.  Read more »

How the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship Is Building a New Class of Philly Business Leaders

Sudan Green explains his group’s ideas to the class during January's session.

Sudan Green explains his group’s ideas to the class during January’s session.

When I walked into the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship’s third session one snowy Saturday morning in January, I was immediately greeted by the word hustle. It was written across the T-shirts of some of the program’s entrepreneurs, and the group chanted “Ay hustllllle” several times that morning to voice their enthusiasm.

The 24 entrepreneurs, clustered around the couches of the city’s Pipeline co-working space, were tuned into a lesson on the business model canvas, a template for fleshing out brand-new ventures. They spent hours thinking up value propositions, potential revenue streams, and their dreamt-up businesses’ cost structures. But the IHHE isn’t the average boot camp for entrepreneurs. In fact, this is Philadelphia’s first business incubator program intentionally geared toward young people who are often overlooked by existing educational and business communities — applicants who didn’t go to Wharton or have a venture capitalist for a relative. Here are four things I observed about the IHHE that prove it’s building Philly’s next generation of business tycoons. Read more »

The Biggest Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Airbnb’s Success

Leigh Gallagher photo by Christos Karantzolas

Leigh Gallagher photo by Christos Karantzolas

How did three young guys disrupt the hotel industry and create a company that’s now worth $30 billion?

That’s the question at the heart of Leigh Gallagher just-released book, The Airbnb Story. Gallagher, a Media native and editor at Fortune (she’s appeared twice at Philly Mag’s ThinkFest), tells the behind-the-scenes story of how the company’s founders, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, took the germ of an idea and, in less than a decade, built a corporation that has millions of passionate fans and a valuation that’s now larger than that of Hilton and close to that of Marriott. Gallagher, whose first book was 2013’s The End of the Suburbs, chatted with me about the Airbnb phenomenon – and what entrepreneurs and business execs can learn from their success. Read more »

The City’s “Call for Ideas” Is a Call to Address Poverty

iStockphoto.com | f11photo

iStockphoto.com | f11photo

What if a solution to Philadelphia’s high poverty rate exists with its entrepreneurs?

The city wants to find out.

Through round five of its Call for Ideas grant program, the city’s Department of Commerce is calling on all entrepreneurs to submit their ideas for how they can use the city’s open data to solve poverty.

“We see entrepreneurship as a pathway out of poverty,” said Archna Sahay, the city’s director of entrepreneurial investment. “Poverty is the base for so many of the issues in the city — violence, a weak education system, homelessness, hunger. All investments into these issues must address poverty.” Read more »

Shark Tank Says It Should Really Get to Philadelphia More Often

shark tank 4

Shark Tank casting call at XFinity Live! Photo by Fabiola Cineas. 

The critically acclaimed ABC show Shark Tank made its way to Philadelphia this weekend, with an open casting call at XFinity Live! in South Philadelphia and calls at Temple University and The Wharton School.

Shark Tank’s supervising casting producer Scott Salyers says he’s happy they came.

Read more »

Curalate CEO: Kenney Needs to Support Tech Community

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Mayor Michael Nutter was a staunch supporter of Philadelphia’s local tech scene. He helped launch StartupPHL, a seed fund and grant program that invests in early stage companies. He’d frequently come to tech events, have a beer and discuss issues with tech founders. To Philly outsiders, he’d brag about N3rd street, a stretch of North 3rd where plenty of tech companies are headquartered.

Will Jim Kenney be just as supportive? In a recent report, Technically Philly said the new mayor and the tech community are in that “awkward, getting-to-know you phase.” Will he keep showing up at events? Will he continue learning about the city’s budding tech economy?  Read more »

Death of a Startup Company

Brian Dragotto (left) and Nick Yap.

Brian Dragotto (left) and Nick Yap.

Just a few years ago Nick Yap and Brian Dragotto had high hopes for their social media app Toboggan, but the 21-year-olds have now realized that the startup world can be an unforgiving place.

Toboggan offers “social points” to users that get the most likes on their photos or videos — and people can cash in those points for real prizes. The platform also curated content on leaderboards to display its most engaging photos or videos. Read more »

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