Leaders emerge in transformational situations, and play an important role by enabling that transformation to take place. Such a leader is Christopher Wink, co-founder and editor of Technical.ly / Philly, an online news and events organization covering the burgeoning entrepreneurial tech community in the Philadelphia region.
Technical.ly / Philly differentiates itself by filling a void. Wink and Technical.ly co-founder Brian Kirk saw that the tech entrepreneurial community in Philadelphia was disconnected. There was no vehicle to enable people who had similar interests to learn about each other, so they launched Technical.ly to pull together the disparate areas of the tech community to make it stronger. Technical.ly does this through reporting on the news and people within the community. Wink and Kirk also saw a void in Brooklyn, Delaware, Baltimore and Washington D.C. and they have expanded their firm to cover the tech community in these locations.
The lifeblood of any firm within the entrepreneurial tech community is its ability to source intellectual property from other firms, and use it to build its products or develop its services. Technical.ly helps nurture this capability by helping firms connect with each other, exposing them to the capabilities of other tech firms within the community and what they are developing. Synergies emerge, and this strengthens the tech community and helps it move forward.
In April of each year, Technical.ly / Philly convenes Philly Tech Week to give people who identify with the tech community a chance to meet and discuss issues important to them. More than 100 events will take place this year from April 17-25. Technical.ly organizes more than 15 of the large anchor events during the week, including the large outdoor event on April 15 at Dilworth Park. Technical.ly partners with other firms on another 20 events, while some 70 other events are run by various technical and entrepreneurial groups within the Philly tech community. In the five years since Philly Tech Week was launched, attendance has grown from just over 1,000 to an expected 24,000 this year. Wink stated, “Philly Tech Week events each year represent a time capsule of the state of the tech community in Philadelphia.”
When asked about the entrepreneurial business model that is being created in Philadelphia and throughout the U.S., Wink said, “The 20th century economic development model was to grab big firms and court them away with tax incentives. The new economic development model is a lot of churn and burn volatility – one or two person companies, maybe they will succeed, maybe they won’t. Three kids in a basement … [working on an app] – three years later they have 10 people working for them.” Wink does not like for Philadelphians to dwell on where we rank on the lists of “best cities.” He stated that “our goal should be a better version of ourselves.”
I asked Wink about the mindset of entrepreneurs who are serial starters – those who move on to start new companies. He stated, “The day [when it’s time to move on from] …Technical.ly / Philly … we say, ‘Hey, we did great work, we are proud of what we did.’ When someone says they are stepping away from their business, instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ say, ‘Cool, what’s next?’ Many people are labeled by their view of whether the glass is half full or half empty. I ask, ‘What did you learn about the glass, let’s get another one.’” This is the positive, proactive attitude of successful people who see an abundance and not a scarcity of opportunities and possibilities, and who are out to change the world.
Steven Tang, president and CEO of University City Science Center, stated, “Chris is a vital asset to our innovation and entrepreneurship community. His vision and strategy for Technical.ly / Philly has strengthened our start-up community since its inception. This is symmetrical beauty that Technical.ly / Philly, a start-up company in its own right, has covered and magnified Philadelphia’s start-up community. It’s the ultimate ‘pay it forward’ success!”
At the end of my interview with Wink, I asked what matters to him, and why. He paused, and after much introspective thought said, “My life is easier because of the people before me, and the lives of people before me were made a lot easier because of the people before them. I am part of a Philadelphia community, a journalism community, a technology community. I want to make the communities that I am a part of better, and have fun while doing it. I want to make a difference.”
Wink is a passionate driving force for tech entrepreneurship in Philadelphia. He is fulfilling what is important to him – and he is making a difference.
Stanley W. Silverman is a writer, speaker and advisor on effective leadership. He is the Leadership Catalyst at Tier 1 Group, a firm of strategists and advisors for preeminent growth. Silverman is vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, a director of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and former president and CEO of PQ Corporation. Follow: @StanSilverman. Connect: Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.