Our mission at Seed Philly is to provide the Philadelphia region’s technology startup ecosystem with the resources necessary to sustain and grow innovative startups.
Seed Philly provides the tools for seed-stage tech entrepreneurs to become successful by encouraging key stakeholders in the community to collaborate. Through intensive data collection, education and mentoring, we’re building business intelligence that will make startups grow at a much more efficient rate, creating jobs and generating business for the entire community.
18 months of exhaustive research brought Seed Philly to where we are today: a 3 phase solution to solve the two biggest problems facing our local ecosystem: communication and funding. Together, the stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, investors, service providers and mentors, developed what we are now calling a Collaboratory—more than a dozen solutions grouped into three distinct phases. Each phase is designed to grow slowly over time and provide benefits to everyone involved.
- Online Community Directory & Best Practices Database
- Collaboration in a Centralized Offline Location
- New Funding Initiatives
Our Collaboratory is not an incubator or accelerator, but more of a pool of resources available to vetted members of the community. There’s no set time limit when access to the resources expire, and we expect members to give back before they take. That means that entrepreneurs and investors must be willing to share valuable data, mentors and subject matter experts must donate time to advise and teach courses, and service providers must sponsor before they can have access to potential new clients.
The Spark: A Mass Exodus and the Resulting Confusion
Seed Philly arose out of necessity. After noticing a dozen promising startups leave the region in 2010 citing the lack of resources, entrepreneurs and investors began to grow frustrated. The entrepreneurs knew the resources were here, but many didn’t know how to access them. At the same time, investors began asking where and how they could find more credible deal flow. They had money to spend, but didn’t know where to spend it.
At the same time we noticed an explosion of new resources – hybrid investment vehicles, incubator and accelerator programs and co-working spaces – begin to emerge in the cities where Philly entrepreneurs were going, validating the need for a more organized resource pool to support early stage tech startups here in the Philadelphia region.
The Beginning: Our Roots
Individually, a few different entrepreneurs began looking into how to solve these problems. Since our community is very connected, we shortly crossed paths and merged our efforts. Starting in October of 2010, we began a research study to determine what factors attributed to the success of seed stage technology startups. We set out to test the hypothesis that the Philly startup scene was suffering from a lack of seed stage funding, so we started at the source. We surveyed angel groups, independent super angels and VCs both large and small to determine what factors led to more successful portfolios. We looked at local and national portfolios. We tracked countless startups before and after accelerator programs. We researched…well, you get the point.
The team noticed clear trends-collaboration and education were key factors in creating successful companies, but there were also many intricacies involved, so we decided to dig deeper. For the next 6 months we held more than 250 meetings with the smartest people in the local community, asking them to identify their biggest problems and solutions to those problems.
A Clear Understanding of the Problems
The response was overwhelming: 90% of the people we surveyed reported either a communication problem or a funding problem as the biggest challenges facing our region, and 70% came back with both.
Next, we described our research findings to everyone we interviewed, asking them to talk with their business partners, clients and portfolio companies about possible solutions, and we come up with a list too big to count, but here’s a pretty good sampling:
- Facilitate cross-community interaction and education through a centralized location
- Develop a network for mentoring that benefits both mentors and mentees
- Maintain accurate data on people and companies within the ecosystem that benefits all who contribute
- Create efficient seed-stage funding to serve both entrepreneurs’ and investors’ needs
Finally, we held two dozen focus groups to narrow down that list of solutions and come up with a 3 stage approach to closing the funding and communication gaps.
- A vetted community directory, best practices database and online platform for educating, interacting and mentoring
- A shared office space and community clubhouse; including conference rooms, classroom space & room for mentoring meetings
- A new seed stage funding source
We realized that we already had many of the resources in place to help startups grow, but there was no one organizing those resources. We put out an open call for volunteers to help organize the effort and began to assemble a team, build software applications, collect data and search for mentors. By the early fall of 2011, we had the first pieces in place–we had incorporated as a non profit, filed for 501(c)(3) status, recruited over 100 mentors and identified a location. On January 1st, we began building out our offices, and within weeks launched the first Alpha version of the directory and database. On February 1st, literally 3 hours after the furniture was delivered to the office, Seed Philly held its first class- Windows Phone Development with Microsoft. Days later, we began interviewing potential tenants, and the first 3 startups moved in withing the month.
As the region’s very first Collaboratory, Seed Philly’s core strategy is decisively different than any other startup organization in the region. Our model delivers value to entrepreneurs through the collection of business intelligence data, education and collaboration:
- Expedites key Go/No-Go decision making and optimizes time & cost management
- De-risks hundreds of strategic scenarios to maximize operational efficiency & create an effective blueprint for growth
- Enables entrepreneurs to focus on what they do best: building and selling their products & services
- Access to Angel & VC funding
- Tap into our network of more than 50 investors
- Advice from 100+ mentors & subject matter experts
- Learn from the best in technology, design, marketing, legal, accounting & more
- Affiliate partnerships with incubators, accelerators & business networks
- Preferred access to events & speakers at many of the region’s business resources
- Diversified talent pool
- There’s no better place to find co-founders, hire employees or source vendors than from other startups who are facing similar hurdles
- Educational classes & seminars
- Hear success stories from prominent business leaders & learn the technical & business skills required to take your startup to the next level
- Focus groups & Fishbowls
- Share your expertise with other founders and learn to solve the problems your startup is facing
- Hyper-local business intelligence blueprints
- 18 months of research to track what works specifically in our region; we collect 200+ data points to provide your startup with a road map for more efficient growth
- Philly-area community directory
- Vetted, invitation-only membership ensures only the best startups; high-level mentors & investors stay engaged & motivated to help your business grow
- Shared office space for startups with member clubhouse, lounge & conference rooms in the heart of Center City
- On- the-spot help from fellow community members creates an immediate feedback loop; desks for entrepreneurs start at $325/month for qualified entrepreneurs
- Strategic corporate partnerships
- Let Seed Philly open doors for your startup with partners like Microsoft, Avaya, Comcast & more
- University & government partnerships
- Partnership programs make certain Seed Philly companies have access to student interns, university classes & support from the local government
- Year-round access to a vetted community
- Seed Philly’s Collaboratory doesn’t stop when the clock strikes midnight; before, during or after you enter an accelerator or incubator, become an active participant in the ecosystem