Even if you’re not a software developer, startup founder or data enthusiast, you’ve likely heard of Philly Tech Week.
In 2011, a tiny news startup launched an innovation festival in honor of Philadelphia’s tech community — with big plans for the now-annual series. We at Technical.ly celebrated 10 years of daily reporting on local economies in change this past February, and in 2020, we’ll celebrate 10 years of PTW.
A lot has changed in that time. The festival is a lot bigger, for one — up to 100 events and 11 days, with thousands in attendance. The week also actively includes makers of all kinds — tech entrepreneurs, yes, but also artists, advocates and other creators.
One thing that hasn’t changed? An uncanny ability to predict what’s coming down the line in local innovation. Whether you’re playing with app development or can’t get the office printer to work, this is a place to look at what’s coming. Here are nine times Philly Tech Week predicted the future, plus tips for where you can find similar events during this year’s series, happening May 3 through 11.
1. CITY GOVERNMENT WILL BE MORE RESPONSIVE (2011)
The inaugural PTW hosted the launch of OpenDataPhilly.orgy, a community-supported transparency tool developed by Callowhill-based software firm Azavea. That tool — and the open data movement in general — is going strong today and includes juicy, previously unreleased data sets such as city staffers’ pay. :eyes: This year there’s an array of good government, civic action and other do-goodery events, including the City of Philadelphia’s Data Driven event on Friday, May 6.
2. THE TECH STARTUP THAT HIT IT BIG (2012)
Startup SnipSnap won big at our Switch Philly demo event from judges then-Mayor Michael Nutter and investors Josh Kopelman and Ellen Weber. The couponing app eventually became an early Center City tech exit success. During PTW19, hundreds of startups will be on display, prominently at the Entrepreneur Expo organized by Philly Startup Leaders on Wednesday, May 8.
3. QUESTLOVE ON THE QUEST FOR FAME (2013)
Philly patron saint Questlove told the crowd at the Philly Tech Week Future of Music event that sometimes, you gotta build a reputation where you have the best shot of becoming the biggest celebrity — aka Philly — before moving somewhere bigger — aka New York City. The following year, The Roots became the house band of Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show.”Speakers ranging from big tech companies like Amazon and Google to tiny startups and many other creatives will be at the Introduced conference, which we at Technical.ly are hosting on Thursday, May 9.
4. THE BIG ARTSY COLLABORATION THAT EXPLODED (2014)
Our game of Tetris played on the side of the Cira Centre got named the world’s largest architectural video game display by Guinness World Records that June. The whopping 119,600-square-foot display outdid the previous world record: Pong on the Cira Centre, set during the previous PTW. This year, Philly Tech Week is kicking off as part of a collaboration with the Old City First Friday on Friday, May 3, as part of a partnership that just might go bigger still in 2020.
5. ELECTED OFFICIALS SHOW OFF THEIR TECH CHOPS (2015)
We called it when then-mayoral candidate Jim Kenney won the #PTW15 Mayoral Forum: “When it was Kenney’s turn to speak, he jumped straight into the importance of open data,” we wrote at the time. “It showed he knew his audience and that he had prepared.” Indeed, he took the election and has since spoken often about the importance of supporting the local tech sector. In the past, governors, FCC commissioners and congresspeople have also dropped by Philly Tech Week; it’s a local pilgrimage to the future.
6. TECHNOLOGY MUST BE BUILT WITH, NOT FOR (2016)
Philly is known for being diverse — and stronger for it — but 2016 highlighted more than ever that tech diversity is taken seriously here. For an example, just about half of Technical.ly’s Dev Conf speakers in 2016 were female or people of color. EvoXLabs hosted another of its evoHaX, a hackathon on accessibility, and there were events on youth STEM learning and people of color navigating tech communities, plus several meetups and awards for women in tech. It’s still the case that less than a fifth of all VC dollars go to women-founded companies and technologists of color are still the minority, but Philly tech is continuously and intentionally doing something about it. Consider checking out HUE Tech Summit for women of color this Friday, May 3.
7. ART IS STILL A BIG DEAL (2017)
Viral street artist Kid Hazo has been on the scene — and at PTW events — for a few years, but in 2017, he earned an art grant to create some live motion capture street signs for our closing party. Now if only we knew who to write the check to. Introduced’s Impact track features the session “Amplifying Civic Power: Using Art to Impact Change.”
8. CELEBRITY SCOUTING (2018)
Arlan Hamilton hadn’t yet been featured on the cover of Fast Company for her bold vision of venture capital support for underrepresented startup founders when she headlined our Introduced by Technical.ly conference last May alongside local investors. Her Backstage Capital org, despite some pitfalls, has since expanded to include a multi-city accelerator with one location in Philly. The only question is who you’ll meet at this year’s Philly Tech Week who might end up on a magazine cover.
9. IMPACT COMING SOON (2019)
This year, we’re as future-focused as ever — you’ll just need to attend to find out what the future looks like. Cannabis conference, anyone?