8.16.2012

Things That Make Me Happy, the "Eat Your Heart Out, Silicon Valley" Version

This article, about Josh Kopelman moving his First Round Capital offices to University City, makes me so happy on so many levels.  Josh is a 1993 graduate of my alma mater, the Wharton School of Business, and the founder of such notable startups as Infonautics, Half.com, and TurnTide.  Now he's a full-time venture capitalist through First Round, which is located in West Conshohocken but is moving its offices and its space for entrepreneurs to 40th and Locust (just five blocks from my house!). 

While still at Half.com, Josh was kind enough to bring me and my youth entrepreneurship program participants into his office to pitch a business idea he thought my students could run, which was to sell excess inventories of books, CDs, and DVDs through his site.  It was a great experience for the students, in inventory management (having to keep tabs on thousands of items) and online commerce (I joked in the late 1990's that we were one of the few profitable dotcoms).  For lessons, of course, it's hard to beat making money, and my students soon learned that when they were sloppy or slow, it ate into their end-of-month share of the proceeds (I'll never forget the self-policing between the students, such as "hey man, quit slacking; you're eating into my profits!" or "You mislabeled that DVD, so now we have to return it - out of our pocket!").

Josh was very charitable with his time, his team's time, and with various physical resources (an initial pile of items, a bunch of supply management resources like bins and shelving), and continues to do many charitable activities to this day.  But his move to U City, I'm sure, comes from a shrewd awareness that success in his world is about talent.  And where better to locate than in a city (where young talent gravitates nowadays), in Philadelphia (which, in addition to being a big city in its own right, is proximate to NYC and DC as well), and University City no less (Penn, Drexel, Science Center, USP, and the list goes on). 

No disrespect meant to the people and institutions in Silicon Valley, where I'm from, but talent demand may outstrip talent supply, since there are so many tech behemoths and relatively few universities.  Stanford and Berkeley are top-notch, of course, but on the East Coast, there are 10 times more institutions of similar heft within the same proximity.  Might First Round's move to U City eventually lead to Google considering a Philadelphia office?  Might First Round help birth the next Google? 

All I know is that in the world of innovation, clusters of smart people matter, and it's hard to beat U City as a location from that vantage point.  Josh Kopelman has made another smart move.  Big win for Philly and for U City as well.  Big smile for me, too.






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