Meet ThinkFest’s Start-Up Winner: Relay Network

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One of Philadelphia magazine’s choices for coolest start-ups, Relay Network, won the popular vote at this year’s ThinkFest, earning them the coveted title of start-up of the year. As a mobile technology company founded in 2010, Relay aims to close the gap between businesses and consumers by providing one-on-one direct communication, all via cell phone.

Relay has put customers in touch with companies in health insurance, retail, financial services and more. Eliminating pesky customer service hold times and granting immediate service on secure networks, this sounds like the ultimate consumers dream.

We spoke to Relay Network CEO Matt Gillin about his company’s recent ThinkFest success.

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M. Night Shyamalan: Is “Fierceness” the Middle Ground in Philly’s Education Conundrum?

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Of the two big themes that ran through last Saturday’s Philadelphia magazine ThinkFest at the Kimmel Center, improving education is probably the bigger challenge facing our city and region than encouraging entrepreneurship and technological innovation.

And the people who have made it their business to dissect what’s wrong with our elementary and secondary education system in order to set it right went after each other — well, maybe not “went after,” but certainly expressed sharply diverging views — in the panel discussion on education in Philadelphia.

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ThinkFest 2013 Instant Social Media Recap

That’s a wrap for ThinkFest 2013. Check back here later in the week for extensive coverage, and check the #ThinkFest hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+ to continue the amazing discussion.

Here’s but a taste of what happened at ThinkFest over the past week:

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Chris Matthews on Christie: He Has “Blood” in Him

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Yesterday, Chris Matthews summed up New Jersey–and America’s–love affair with Chris Christie thusly:

The Reagan Democrats are alive,” Matthews said. “They’re working class, middle class, mostly Catholics—I’m just saying, it’s a fact—ethnic people, people who came two or three generations ago. They tend to be very, very patriotic. And they like reality. They don’t like Al Gores. They don’t like people like [Michael] Dukakis. They want real people with blood in them. People that talk with attitude.”

Come to the Rittenhouse Hotel tonight to hear Matthews, the keynote speaker of Philly Mag’s ThinkFest. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a Q&A with Matthews and Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath.

ThinkFest Snapshot: Mark Headd

We’re rounding up the reasons Philly Mag readers should not miss ThinkFest, our week-long event connecting the brightest minds and most innovative ideas in Philadelphia. 

mark-headd-400Data and technology have been, and remain, crucial parts of Philadelphia government. As the city’s chief data officer, there are few as informed and educated on this topic as Mark Headd, who will be taking part in a panel discussion with Michelle Lee of Textizen, Michelle Schmitt of Maneto Mapping and Analysis, and Christopher Wink of Technically Philly entitled, “The Open Data Revolution: How It’s Transforming Philadelphia.”

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ThinkFest Snapshot: Bill Green

We’re rounding up the reasons Philly Mag readers should not miss ThinkFest, our week-long event connecting the brightest minds and most innovative ideas in Philadelphia. 

Bill Green

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Coming from a family of Philadelphia politicians (his father and grandfather were Congressmen, and his father served as mayor of Philadelphia), Bill Green has become known as an “idea guy” in his role as Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large.

Green has strong roots in Philly; he was born and raised here then attended Penn Charter and UPenn Law. He is most proud of his work in lowering business taxes in Philadelphia by more than $150 million in five years and passing legislation that requires foreclosure within one year.

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ThinkFest Snapshot: Video Game Designer Frank Lee

We’re rounding up the reasons Philly Mag readers should not miss ThinkFest, our week-long event connecting the brightest minds and most innovative ideas in Philadelphia. 

Drexel's Dr. Frank LeeDrexel University has a keeper in associate professor Frank Lee. Not only does Lee teach in the digital media program at Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, he is also the co-founder and co-director of the Drexel Game Design Program, which has been named among the top 10 game design programs by The Princeton Review.

Lee created the program because he wanted to make the best game design program in the world, and although he says we are not quite there yet, his efforts to become the best continue: This year, Lee was named Hacker of the Year and awarded Geek Story of the Year at the 3rd annual Philadelphia Geek Awards for his project “Pong on the Cira Centre,” or as Lee calls it, “World’s Biggest Pong” (video below). He also founded the Entrepreneurial Game Studio, which helps Drexel students create their own gaming companies, in hopes of expanding the video game industry in Philadelphia.

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ThinkFest Snapshot: Wayne Kimmel

We’re rounding up the reasons Philly Mag readers should not miss ThinkFest, our week-long event connecting the brightest minds and most innovative ideas in Philadelphia. 

Wayne KimmelWayne Kimmel‘s title is founder and managing partner of SeventySix Capital, but that only scratches the surface. Entrepreneur, venture capitalist and volunteer, Kimmel has titles and awards from multiple boards and organizations, including being named one of Philadelphia magazine’s “Smartest People in Philadelphia” in 2012. Wayne’s latest fund, Bread, was acquired by Yahoo in October, which marks the company’s third “exit” in 2013.

With fellow business tycoons at coworking space Benjamin’s Desk—otherwise known as start-up central and a hub for like-minded professionals to collaborate in Philadelphia—Kimmel will be sharing tales from his experiences on the start-up scene. The panelists will  discuss the art of creative collaboration and what we can expect from Philadelphia’s greatest innovators in the future.

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ThinkFest Snapshot: Josh Kopelman

We’re rounding up the reasons Philly Mag readers should not miss ThinkFest, our week-long event connecting the brightest minds and most innovative ideas in Philadelphia. 

Josh KopelmanWho better to hear from about the current state and trajectory of the emerging Philly tech scene than from serial entrepreneur Josh Kopelman? Kopelman was the brain behind successful start-ups like Half.com, TurnTide and, most recently, First Round Capital.

While an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, Kopelman founded his first business, Infonautics Corporation.

Three start-ups later, First Round Capital, a Philadelphia-based venture capital firm, is among the first to invest in the Startup PHL Seed Fund, a system intended to help provide innovative Philadelphia startups with investment capital.

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