When I first moved to Philadelphia after living for more than a decade in technology hubs all over the world, I could not find a start-up scene. Philly’s brainpower had been leaving for other cities.
Over the past three years, a huge shift has occurred as the city has been creating some initiatives to help. More significantly, community leaders and groups like the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce have been working in silos to build something — but something that needs cooperation.
Mayor Michael Nutter’s economic mission to Israel was the next step, one that showed him how the “Start-Up Nation” developed, how to keep the brainpower local, and what environment is needed to bring Israeli companies to Philadelphia. The goal of the Nov. 7-11 mission, in which I participated: How to make Philly the next start-up city.
The first step towards understanding Israel was to sit with Ron Huldai, the mayor of our sister city, Tel Aviv, and learn the fabric and DNA of Tel Aviv and the Start-Up Nation. It was great to see both cities start to work together directly more than 100 years after the city’s founding in 1909 by 66 families on the sand dunes outside Yafo.
As an entrepreneur, business owner and investor who focuses on high-tech and Israel — with most of my clients outside Philadelphia and 60 percent of them in Israel — I felt for the first time that I may actually be able to stay in Philly.
Philadelphia is finally taking start-ups seriously. City officials learned on the mayor’s trip that the real way to build such ecosystems is to figure out what needs to be done. And that was exactly what they did.
It was not until Sunday, late in the mission, that I saw the mayor’s aggressive business agenda start to unfold. His goal has been to build a “start-up nation” similar to Israel’s within Philadelphia, learn what it would take to entice companies to establish offices in the city, and understand what many parties would need to do to make it happen.
The delegation had a long day, starting with a meeting at Pitango, where a group of venture capital firms discussed what it would take to get companies to the Philadelphia area. Later activities included visits to Microsoft Accelerator; The Library co-working space; Aleph, one of Israeli’s newest VC funds; eBay Israel; and The Junction.
The mayor also urged Israeli officials to keep the Israeli consulate open in Philadelphia, which will play a huge role in helping transform the city in which our country was founded into a city like Tel Aviv, which founded the Start-Up Nation.
This may have been one of the most-important economic missions to help to propel Philadelphia into becoming the next great start-up city. With the mayor, the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, venture capitalists and individuals working in the start-up and Israeli communities, together we can make this happen.
Josh Cline, an executive board member of the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, is president of the The Cline Group, a marketing and communications agency in Philadelphia and Tel Aviv; and managing partner of INE Ventures.