How ‘Philly Who’ became one of the city’s most popular podcasts

The show has proved so successful that the host quit his day job.

Kevin Chemidlin (left) records an episode of his podcast "Philly Who?" with guest William Tyrone Toms.

Kevin Chemidlin (left) records an episode of his podcast "Philly Who?" with guest William Tyrone Toms.

Courtesy Matthew Altea

Updated 11:17 a.m.

When software developer Kevin Chemidlin attended the SXSW conference in Texas last winter, he met dozens of impressive Philly people there. Then he began wondering why he’d had to travel thousands of miles to hear success stories from his own city.

Back home, he decided to start a podcast, thinking other Philadelphians might also want to get to know their citymates and experience those swells of local pride.

“I really wanted to hear a show that highlighted the doers, thinkers and performers of Philadelphia,” Chemidlin told Billy Penn. “I thought, why not give it a shot?”

Seems he had the right idea. Since launching in May, the podcast, “Philly Who?,” has become so popular that Chemidlin was able to quit his day job as a software developer. Along with some extra audio engineering work for a few other podcasts, the show is now his full-time gig.

So who are the personalities that helped attract such an audience to Philly Who?

So far, Chemidlin has featured folks like:

Since the show launched in May 2018, the first 20 episodes have had 10,000 downloads, Chemidlin said, and it enjoys a 5-star rating on iTunes. Each episode is about an hour long and features a one-on-one interview with each subject.

Chemidlin has recorded 20 episodes of "Philly Who?" so far.

Chemidlin has recorded 20 episodes of "Philly Who?" so far.

Courtesy Matthew Altea

To what does he credit the podcast’s success? He thinks the positivity has ripple effects. When it’s hard to find local success stories, he observed, the morale of the entire city goes down.

“Philly has this weird inferiority complex sometimes,” Chemidlin said. “People who live here and are from here are sometimes the most critical. So I’m trying to scream from the rooftops the incredible stuff we’re doing.”

Among Chemidlin’s guests was William Tyrone Toms, who founded the full service creative agency REC Philly. Its mission is twofold: to provide resources for local artists trying to build their careers, and to think up creative marketing strategies for businesses.

Toms, a self-proclaimed “avid podcast listener,” said high quality audio is a key factor in the Philly Who’s popularity, comparing the quality of Chemidlin’s podcast to that of NPR’s programming. Plus, Toms loves the idea of highlighting cool Philly people on a regular basis.

“There’s a ton of larger platforms and institutions in the media that are just missing the mark when it comes to telling the interesting stories that really matter, and really drive impact,” Toms said. “Where he’s going with the platform is something that’s much needed.”

In December, Chemidlin will record his first ever live episode, as part of a full-day conference by the Philly Startup Leaders, dubbed the Founder Factory. The live show will feature celebrity venture capitalist Josh Kopelman, and tickets are available online.

“I’m extremely excited to be doing a live show in front of such a large audience and with such a high profile guest,” Chemidlin said. “I wasn’t expecting podcasting to take the driver’s seat, but it has.”

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