Earlier this year, the city Commerce Department announced the first winners in the Startup PHL Call for Ideas competition. Six winners were selected from among 100 applicants to receive about $20,000 each. The city said it would invest in any creative ideas with promise.
The first Startup PHL recipients include Startup Corps, for a high school students' entrepreneurship program, and the Enterprise Center's Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, which will host a series of workshops to help 25 food entrepreneurs expand their businesses.
The city has also announced a $6 million joint venture with First Round Capital, a leading venture-capital firm, to invest $500,000 in 12 Philadelphia-based business start-ups over the next three years. Other start-ups financed by First Round Capital include Web search service StumbleUpon and TaskRabbit, an online marketplace.
Although the city's investments may seem small compared with the billions managed by major venture-capital firms, efforts to get up-and-coming business people to stay in Philadelphia for a while are important. As start-ups hire more employees and establish business connections in a region, the cost of relocation becomes increasingly prohibitive.
AdMob, Invite Media, Milo, and Warby Parker are all young companies founded in Philadelphia that left town for California or New York, depriving this city of their combined market value, which now exceeds $1 billion.
There are more than 300 tech start-ups in Philadelphia now. Although most will fail, some will grow to hire hundreds of employees and generate millions of dollars. With its premier educational institutions, hip neighborhoods, and affordable prices, Philadelphia should be able to keep more of the next generation of start-ups home.