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.

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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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