The first Monday and Tuesday of spring break, March 11th and 12th, eight students from different backgrounds visited Philadelphia in order to learn more about the entrepreneurial environment and the mentality behind startup leaders. The event, called the Philly Immersion Event, was sponsored by the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, an organization that focuses on thinking like an entrepreneur. The goal behind this event was to introduce students to company founders in the Philadelphia area and learn more about what company founders accomplish every day.
The group first met with Bethany Edwards, co-founder of Philadelphia-based startup Lia Diagnostics. Edwards developed the first flush-able pregnancy test, a zero-plastic, compostable, and discrete way to test for pregnancy. Despite lacking a formal scientific education, Edwards was committed in learning about the at-home pregnancy test environment, and how she could disrupt the space with her innovative product. Edwards discussed the bootstrapping and problem-solving skills required in order to start a company.
Students visited Quorum in University City, a drop-in co working space and collaboration center that helps young upstarts network and host event. Quorum is just one of the facilities that hosts flexible space, advanced technology, and an entrepreneur-centric community in the Philadelphia region.
Jeff Friedman, co-founder and co-director of OpenAcessX, discussed his various roles, including working for the City of Philadelphia, Microsoft, and Public Financial Management. He discussed the mindset of public officials, and how different government bodies can adopt a startup-mindset in order to solve civic problems and improve city life. Additionally, the demonstrated reverse-problem solving, posing a problem and having a community of problem solvers attack it in an open-source environment.
UC Alumnus Emmett Cawley ’18 later hosted the group at Cambridge Innovation Center, a collaborative co-working space that focuses on lab space and work spaces, and offers a public space for collaborative work and free WiFi.
Tuesday, March 12th started with a visit to Comcast/Lift Labs, a subdivision of Comcast’s huge operations that helps startups elevate their ideas through an immersive experience offering startup know-how and access to leaders in media, entertainment, and connectivity.
Pipeline Philly, a collaborative work space that has real estate properties in Philadelphia and in Miami, demonstrated the different types of companies that utilize a co-working space. A panel of entrepreneurs, including Melissa Lee, founder of the GREEN program, which sends students abroad to learn about renewable energy, and Tayyib Smith, a partner at Pipeline Philly, discussed how they navigated the entrepreneurial scene and gave advice to entrepreneurial undergraduates.
The final host, CEO Morgan Berman of MilkCrate, discussed how startups can spend time identifying their goals after they launch. Berman found that she had a useful skill and could identify potential customers. She spent the next year building a company with said skill-set and providing a valuable service, helping nonprofits and foundations build apps and websites to connect to a broader audience. The importance of learning about entrepreneurship in Philadelphia spreads beyond the classroom. The group took lessons and skills from entrepreneurs like advanced problem-solving, grit, and determination. The Ursinus core questions, including “what should matter to me” and “what should I do,” are at full play for entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. Students saw first-hand how CEO’s are answering important questions and making critical decisions about what should matter and what leaders should do.