ThinkFest Preview: Ajay Raju Wants Philadelphia to Be a World-Class City

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Ajay Raju doesn’t think small. He has ideas about building his law firm, storied Dilworth Paxson, into something new and different on the legal scene. He and his foundation have launched a new initiative, the Germination Project, aimed at turning today’s most talented teens into Philadelphia’s next group of leaders. (Read more about the project here.) Mostly, he has notions of transforming Philadelphia into a city that is second to none. On the planet.

“I’m sure in my belief that what’s around the horizon is an opportunity for our city to reform and reshape the contours of our potential,” he told Philly Mag’s John Marchese in a profile published last spring. “Why can’t we? It’s a blank slate. If you can be a magnet to attract the best and the brightest, you have a real winning shot. I want Philadelphia to be the Ellis Island of the new global corporate community and City Hall to be the new Statue of Liberty.”

That kind of lofty talk has fueled speculation that Raju would one day like to be mayor. Whether he wants to be or not is an open question, but you can hear more of Raju’s ideas for Philadelphia at next month’s ThinkFest, where I’ll have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about everything from art and philanthropy to why Philadelphia’s business community needs to become a stronger voice in our civic issues. Will some of what Ajay Raju talks about seem out of reach? Maybe. But our city needs dreamers – desperately – and this is a chance to hear from one of the most compelling voices in town.

Join us on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business for a day of the city’s smartest people sharing their biggest ideas. Read all of our ThinkFest 2014 previews here, and buy your tickets today.

Join M. Night Shyamalan, Christina Weiss Lurie, William Hite, and More at ThinkFest 2014

thinkfest-2014-preview-headshots-940x540

To state the obvious: Philadelphia is not a city that has a reputation for innovation. (See: bus tokens.) But while we might not have the collective cash of Silicon Valley or the in-your-face flash of New York, this town is filled brilliant people who dedicate their lives to inching things forward, to discovering better ways, to thinking without limits.

That is what ThinkFest is all about.

For the third year in a row, we have asked some of the most interesting people in town to share their big ideas, to challenge our perspectives, and to inspire us. There isn’t a particular theme of ThinkFest, rather everyone who is presenting has done something that keeps our city moving in the right direction. (Perhaps even closer to Metrocards!)

ThinkFest is on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business. Among the highlights:

  • Superintendent William Hite reflects on what he’s learned and shares what he wants to do next
  • Emma Fried-Cassorla, who founded Philly Love Notes, will tell an inspiring story about the power of positivity and how it changed her life
  • Penn prez Amy Gutmann sits down with 6ABC anchor Jim Gardner to talk about what it’s like to be the city’s largest employer
  • M. Night Shyamalan — Philly’s coolest celeb — and his equally impressive wife, Dr. Bhavna Shyamalan, discuss their unique take on creating leaders through philanthropy
  • Flash performances curated by cutting-edge institution FringeArts

See the whole lineup and purchase tickets at phillymag.com/thinkfest. (Psst: Early bird ticket sales end on Friday!)

ThinkFest Video: Introduction


Philadelphia magazine President David Lipson, and Editor Tom McGrath, kick off ThinkFest 2013, an event based around the ideas and innovations of Philadelphia’s business community,

ThinkFest presents a challenge to the audience; a challenge to make the event personal, to inspire yourself into doing that one thing you’ve always wanted to do. Talks mixed with entertainment create an event that is sure to spark inspiration and help make Philadelphia a better place. As McGrath puts it, “our idea here is not just to feed your head but to feed your soul a little bit.” Check out this video to see what ThinkFest is all about and what to expect from the event.

ThinkFest Video: Leigh Gallagher


Philadelphia native, journalist, and self proclaimed suburbologist, Leigh Gallagher, gives an informative talk about the major changes happening to the suburbs.

The American dream is at a pivotal point of change, as families abandon long commutes from their white picket fence suburban communities to move closer to the city. Thoughts from the public on suburban living from the public such as “dying slowly, one day at a time”, do seem a little dramatic—but it’s not all bad. “It’s not really the end of the suburbs, it’s really the beginning of something new, and there are more options.”

Big names in construction are beginning to notice this changing trend, and are now trying to deliver the best of both city and suburban living.

ThinkFest Video: Josh Kopelman


The growing start-up community in Philadelphia is a major point of interest in this interview with First Round Capital founding partner, Josh Kopelman, and Philadelphia magazine editor, Tom McGrath.

Spending 25 years in Philly, Kopelman feels that it is not until recently that he considered Philadelphia a place where he works in addition to a place where he lives. He explains why within the past 5 years, Philly has taken a turn for the better and become a competitor in the financial ecosystem. Kopelman also asks young entrepreneurs their opinions on starting a business in Philadelphia, and shares a story about how his undergraduate office manager got his company a free photocopier for a year.

ThinkFest Video: R. Eric Thomas


Playwright and stand-up dramedian, R. Eric Thomas, shares a life-changing moment of creative enlightenment through meeting his personal idol, Patti LaBelle.

Living in Baltimore and considering himself “creatively bankrupt,” he went against his better judgement and moved to Philadelphia, even though his preconceived notions of Philadelphia were entirely based off of the opening rap montage of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as well as the positively apocalyptic Avenue of the Arts shown in the movie Philadelphia. The city he now calls home is responsible for “waking him up” to a creative side he considered long gone until he found the innovative community he longed for through the nonprofit organization, First Person Arts.

ThinkFest Video: Pig Iron Theatre Company, Pt. 2


“What kind of world would you like to live in, in 200 years?” Benjamin Franklin asks the big questions, but would you expect anything less from one of our Founding Fathers? Using audience suggestions, the Pig Iron Theatre Company embraces the challenge of making a thought provoking play in only two and a half hours.

See how addiction to mobile devices, Ben Franklin and public transportation weaved their way into a pop-up play that will make you question everything from cyber-dating to the possibilities the future holds, all while encouraging you to “Think-Festively”.

ThinkFest Video: Pig Iron Theatre Company, Pt. 1


“As actors, this is our job to say today I’m going to be somebody else, I’m going to see the world from a different perspective, I’m going to (hopefully) learn to widen my view and maybe make some innovations.”

In their 18th year making all-original plays, the Pig Iron Theatre Company is working to redefine the theater experience by challenging the audience’s expectations. Taking typical expectations of the average play-going experience, Pig Iron actors challenge those assumptions by asking questions, changing perspectives and, of course, breaking some rules here and there.

Co-founder Quinn Bauriedel, enlightens us to how we can adopt the innovative Pig Iron way of “challenging the ordinary” in our own lives.

ThinkFest Video: Frank Lee


Remember that game of Pong on the Cira Centre? Frank Lee helped create that Guinness Record winning, world’s largest video game. As Associate Professor of Drexel University’s Media Arts and Design program, he is hoping to take the isolation out of technology, and recreate the social and physical interaction we used to have as kids through his unique game designs.

Watch this talk to understand just how he plans to transform the world of gaming and see some clips from his biggest successes yet—the largest video game in the world and a very poorly played game of Tetris.

ThinkFest Video: Tracey Welson-Rossman


“The next Steve Jobs will be a girl.” That’s the motto of TechGirlz founder Tracey Welson-Rossman. Yet there is still a major lack of women in technology.

According to Welson-Rossman, the technology industry is not utilizing a key part of the workforce—women—and in order to see a change, it is up to each of us to think about how we can support the girls and women in our own worlds. Find out how TechGirlz is mentoring young women and teaching them to turn the tables on the technology industry.

« Older Posts