Philly Tech Week panel: How do we strengthen our startup scene?

Get as many players in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as possible; stick them in a room at the Navy Yard; have them throw out ideas.

That was the plan at a Philly Tech Week event Friday afternoon, which featured about a dozen “lightning talks” from a who’s who of Philly-area investors and entrepreneurs.

The question was this: “How do we strengthen entrepreneurship in the Philadelphia region?”

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania was the organization doing the asking. The 30-year-old initiative of the state’s economic development arm is a major force in early stage investment.

Alan Kraus, the director of IT investments at Ben Franklin, was one of the speakers at Friday’s event. Since 2001, the organization has pumped more than $30 million into over 150 IT companies in the Philadelphia area.

If there’s one thing Kraus wished more people knew about the local tech scene, it’s this: “That it’s very vibrant.”

Especially over the last five years, he says.

There’s a community of IT startups in Old City. There’s tech incubators cropping up left and right. Suburbs such as Conshohocken are seeing continued activity.

“All of that was not evident when I first started [in 1998],” said Kraus.

But, he says, something is still missing in the region’s IT space.

“Big software companies that can acquire other companies,” said Kraus. “Our companies get acquired; they go work at the big company, that might be in California or wherever; and then, when they break off, they break off in California as opposed to here.”

Greater Philadelphia supports an increasingly vibrant community of IT startups. (Health-care IT and mobile are two particularly hot sectors, says Kraus.) But some elements are still lacking.

There’s always next year.

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