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Tech Notebook: Upcoming Philly Tech Week Not Just for Geeks

If you've never been to a technology-related event in Philadelphia before, don't be surprised if that changes before the end of the month.

From April 25-30, there will be around 50 technology related events taking place around the city as part of the first annual Philly Tech Week. The series was envisioned by the three journalists from Temple University who are also the founders of Technically Philly.

With a model similar to Philly Fringe, any group or organization could submit their event to Technically Philly for inclusion on the Tech Week calendar. The diverse nature of the individual event organizers has created a series with a wide scope and potential reach.

Of course there are many events for the technology geek - including a tech quizzo, a 3-day Emerging Technology for the Enterprise series, and a video game showcase. But there are just as many events that have applications particular to tangential industries. Whether you're a non-profit board member, a musician, an educator or a journalist, there's an event during Philly Tech Week that is designed for your industry.

The Open Access Philly task force - consisting of city officials, small business owners, and community representatives - has seen the week as central to its planning. A formal announcement launching OpenDataPhilly.org will be made on Monday at WHYY. The site, created by GIS firm Azavea, will serve as a central repository for city-oriented datasets. An all-day civic hackathon presented by Tropo ends the week, with prizes being awarded to the most useful applications built using the newly cataloged data.

Many time slots during Philly Tech Week have heavy competition, with Tuesday evening being the most notable. Competing against Technically Philly's own showcase of startups (called Switch Philly) is Augmented Reality Check: Seeing the Future Now, an event that investigates the future of art and technology at the Art Museum. Hackerspace Hive76 and bilingual technology site Tek Lado also have events at the same time.

According to Technically Philly co-founder Chris Wink, the ultimate goal for Philly Tech Week is to connect the "various, varied, altogether beautiful' technology community. In his opinion, the series will be a success if tangible things are created or unveiled that make people's lives better, and if Tech Week becomes a brand that people can point towards to show the strength of the technology community in Philadelphia.

Tech Week coincides with the last week of the Philadelphia Science Festival and the last week of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Many of the events on the Tech Week schedule are cross-listed with the Science Festival..

Entrepreneur Expo Showcases City's Newest Businesses
On March 31, a couple of hundred people gathered at the University of the Arts to take part in the 3rd annual Entrepreneur Expo.

Companies paid a fee to show off their efforts to an interested audience, which included Mayor Nutter and a few City Council members. Businesses ranged in stage from pre-release pitches to products with tens of thousands of users.

In an eight minute keynote, Nutter emphasized the importance of small businesses for the city's economic recovery, pledging to help, support, and "stay out of the way" of startup growth. He cited a simplified tax structure and streamlined processes as ways the city could help.

Among the promising early stage companies were OhanaRama and mealtik. Ohanarama produces a family-friendly online gaming environment that works through the web or Facebook. Mealtik allows users to sell home-made foods to hungry residents. Launching on the day before Entrepreneur Expo and having a plate of cookies at the ready guaranteed mealtik a steady crowd throughout the event.

In addition to the newcomers, there were also relatively established efforts that have started to pull in considerable revenues since their inception. Amphetamobile, a company that produces mobile and iPad apps in the educational space, and RJ Metrics, which creates visuals for large scale data sets, were in this group.

The event was organized by Philly Startup Leaders. Event Director Gloria Bell explained the benefits of the event for the participating companies: "From a chance to perfect their pitches and exhibits to the networking, they receive a well-rounded opportunity to move their companies forward".

Philly Startup Leaders will try to keep the momentum going in April, holding a talent matching event on April 26th during Tech Week.

Making Art on the Web
By their nature, artists are imaginative people who create compelling work full of thought and movement. But many gallery artists lack the requisite knowledge to translate their work to the online space.

Open Web Studio has stepped in to address that need.

Meeting on the first Monday of every month at coworking space Independents Hall, Open Web Studio is a forum where artists with web questions can get the technical assistance to make their inspired vision an online reality.

The format of the meetings vary, but always include a mingling/work session where artists can ask questions of web developers and designers. Topics range from setting up visually appealing blogs to creating 3D panoramic movies.

The event is organized by Kelani Nichole, who is a curator at art studio Little Berlin and a member at IndyHall. Nichole says the goal is to help artists "understand the medium of the web" - to appreciate and incorporate both the advantages and limitations of the online space in their work.

The next Open Web Studio will take place at IndyHall on May 2, and address the topic of how artists and curators can use the web as an extension to an exhibit.

SALAS SARAIYA reports on the technology community for Flying Kite. Though he's had a license for more than a decade, his next car will be his first. He loves Philly for its micro-brews, roof decks, and independent spirit. Connect with him through twitter @salasks. Send feedback here.


Chris Wink

Sean Blanda

Brian Kirk

Old Reliable

Crowd at the Entrepreneur Expo (courtesy of Gloria Bell, Entrepreneur Expo)

All photographs (unless otherwise noted) by JEFF FUSCO

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