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Start. Stay. Grow. event gathers start-up helpers to stop brain drain

Correction appended

The Mayor of Philadelphia has one pitch for all you entrepreneurs out there, and it all has to do with where start-ups should start:

“We are America’s original start up city, the birthplace of one of the most audacious start up ideas in history,” Mayor Michael Nutter said at the Wednesday night event Start. Stay. Grow., where 125 young attendees came out to meet and hear from some of the leaders in the start-up community in the city.  “The United States of America. It started right here.”

Morgan Berman, founder of MilkCrate, a company that aims to help people live more sustainably, told the crowd one of the most important things a budding entrepreneur can do is to reach out, because the city contains “hotbeds for collaboration and sharing [that] are really helpful.” Berman added that the tech scene in Philadelphia is “amazing.”

Quianna Enang, a recent MBA graduate of Philadelphia University, said that she feels “Philadelphia is really open to entrepreneurs and helping us and wanting us to grow and stay here. It just motivates me.”

Enang, who is originally from Brooklyn, NY, said she is part of the wave of young millennials moving into the city, but, unlike some, she wants to stay in Philadelphia. Her goal is “to have my own business, to start it here and stay here.”

But the city was not always viewed as such a young or friendly place for start ups. In 2004, only about 29 percent of students who went to college in the region decided to stay. That number has since jumped to 48 percent, according to a study by Campus Philly released in 2010. Nutter said, ‘historically, Sometimes those folks have had to go somewhere else, to take their idea and get funding, whether it was because of venture capital or lack of access in the marketplace…they went to other great cities in America. Well, we wanted to stop that, quite frankly,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Part of getting people to stay lies in the money and resources. The city has tried to offer that in creating Startup PHL, an organization which partners with First Round Capital and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to invest in new start ups through two funds: an Angel Fund and a Seed Fund. Each is aimed at companies at different stages in their development.

The other part of getting people to stay is the network or, the buzzword of the night, community.  Carlos Vega, founder of Tesorio, one of the three start ups which received money from the Angel Fund, said the tech community in Philadelphia “is the real reason why we stayed here.”

“This is a budding community,” he added.

But the real question that comes out of tonight is can Philadelphia become the next Silicon Valley. A recent ranking by Entrepreneur listed 7 of the “hottest” start up places in the U.S. based on factors like housing cost and income tax. Philadelphia was not on that list.

But perhaps it’s not about the numbers.

“We can not afford to do nothing. It’s a greater risk doing nothing…because this is what it takes,” said Alan Greenberger, the city’s deputy mayor. “Cities compete with each other. They attract talent. If you want to be the city that can compete then you’ve got to aggressively promote yourself.”

Correction: An editing error introduced information from an earlier Start.Stay.Grow. event into this story; it has been removed.

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