Jen Devor and Chuck Sacco help entrepreneurial students in Philadelphia prepare for new careers leading and building startups—especially when they don’t have a traditional business background.
Mentioned In This Episode
Announcer: From 2820 Radio in Philadelphia, it's The Build, conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators about their dreams, their triumphs and their challenges. Joe: Students. Over the past few years, we've seen a surge in the number of students launching their own companies instead of just hitting the job market after graduation. However, itâ€™s not always easy when a new CEO hits the boardroom without the experience of climbing the corporate ladder. In Philadelphia, colleges and universities have partnered with nonprofit groups to help ensure that students build the skills they need to launch strong businesses. Jen Devor leads an initiative to help college students land internships in both large firms and small startups. Serial entrepreneur, Chuck Sacco coaches students at Drexel University on how to pitch to investors and how to validate business ideas. Together, they're here to examine some big wins from student companies and internship programs and on how to convert that success into long-term growth for the Philadelphia region. Itâ€™s the story of campus Philly coming up next on The Build. Announcer: The Build is made possible with support from 2820 Press, providing business consulting and content strategy services to customer obsessed companies nationwide. More information at 2820press.com. Joe: It's The Build. I'm Joe Taylor joined today by Jen Devor and Chuck Sacco. Welcome. We're talking today a little bit about something different than what we usually talk about on the show. Most of the time, our guests are entrepreneurs who are in the process of building a business for the first or the second time. Today we're talking a lot about the state of entrepreneurship on the student side. We've actually seen a trend here in Philadelphia, folks coming through an undergraduate network and wanting, expressing this desire to actually get involved in the startup scene and entrepreneurship. Let's just bring everybody up to speed. Jen, you're with an organization called Campus Philly. Tell us a little bit about your work there. Jen: Yeah. Campus Philly is a nonprofit, economic development organization that was founded in 2004 out of the Mayor's Office of Education and several other economic development organizations like the Economy League and Innovation Philadelphia. At first, it was really our job just to make Philadelphia appealing and attractive to young people as they come here for college. I think in that time, only 28% of students that came here for school were staying after graduation which of course is a huge loss to the economy. Since our work and the work of other organizations like Campus Philly, that number has increased drastically and that was based on our last survey in 2014. Jen: Now that students want to stay here and Philadelphia is a much different city than it was back then, it's very appealing, our focus has really shifted into helping students find the opportunities that they fall in love with Philly and they just can't think of being anywhere else after they graduate. We do that through civic engagement, volunteerism, introducing them to arts and culture. We really find that internships is the stickiest thing that keeps them here. Especially internships in the summer, 71% of students who have had their summer internship in Philadelphia stay after graduation because they get to see what it's like to be a professional here. They get to go to Center City Sips. They get to travel as a commuter on SEPTA. They get to build their professional network. A lot of our focus has gone into that over the last few years. Jen: My role is director of partnerships. I help anyone that's interested in partnering with Campus Philly, whether it'd be those arts and cultural organizations or nonprofits, getting students involved with civic engagement or employers who are looking to build their talent pipeline. Joe: Chuck, you've been involved on the other end of the spectrum as an entrepreneur yourself and you've moved through that into a phase where you're actually teaching other entrepreneurs. Tell us a little bit about your journey. Chuck: Yeah, it's been an interesting one. I've been fortunate to be part of six startup companies, and my journey in academia actually started with my last startup when I was doing my masters degree at Drexel University. We started another technology company. We incubated it for two years at Drexel University. While I was on campus got to know some of the faculty and staff and got involved with teaching entrepreneurship initially as an adjunct and then three years ago, Drexel received funding to form a brand new freestanding school of entrepreneurship. With that, I had the opportunity to join the team and start a new venture, essentially a new school inside a very large entity. Chuck: We've had a fantastic time in building out a new program that helps teach entrepreneurs not only the process of starting a company but also helps develop their skillsets, the entrepreneurial mindset is how we talk about it. There, we're helping students better understand opportunity, recognition, risk mitigation, learning from failure, building teams, building a strategy for your life. We really look at entrepreneurship in those two realms, both the process as well as the mindset. We've had now about 65 students who are majoring entrepreneurship at Drexel through the new school of entrepreneurship. Chuck: I also run our incubator which is our workspace for students. Essentially it's the startup lab if you want to think of it like that. Students as they are in the classroom and learning about entrepreneurship and learning what it means to be an entrepreneur, we give them then the physical space to actually come and try to start something. It's just a fantastic space for them to really explore what it means to get something started. Joe: Tell me a little bit about at what point in the process do you see students identifying themselves as entrepreneurs? Are they coming in as first-year students with that idea in mind or does something shift and they show up as juniors and seniors wanting to get involved in programs like these? Chuck: It's a very interesting mix. To be honest with you, when we formed the school three years ago, we didn't really know who was going to show up in our doorstep that would classify themselves as an entrepreneur. I think we've seen 2% or 3% has evolved. 1% is that student is coming in as a freshman and he's chomping at the bit. He or she really wanted to get something started, maybe has already started the business. We have one freshman who she's 16 years old and already owns a company, has already started another company, just incredible, the skillsets coming in. Chuck: We see other students who are going to be more exploratory. They're interested in entrepreneurship. Maybe they don't know quite what they want to do or where they want to start. We see that type of student just maybe explore, maybe will join a team of an existing student entrepreneurship team. Chuck: Probably the other percent, and this also fits well with the mission of the School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel, is the student who has domain expertise in something. Maybe it's computer science, it's engineering or biomed or let's say they're big into fashion merchandising or retail merchandising, and they want to start something and they're coming in with a certain set of skills. Chuck: We can help students at any of those levels, no matter really what they're working on. We'll help develop the student who is just very quizzed about entrepreneurship and doesn't know where to start or we'll work with the student who has an idea, already has something, has some skillsets and wants to get something launched. Joe: Jen, what's the distinction between the skillsets you're developing as a student in the classroom versus what you bring out in an internship? Jen: I think it's really just theory and practice. In your schooling, you learn the history and the formality of certain topics, but when you're in internship, you really get to know what it's like to be a real professional and you learn the team building and the networking and really those soft skills I think that you really only gain through first-hand experience. It's really interesting to see students at their beginning of their internship towards the end and that transformation from student to young professional. Joe: Tell me a little bit about what happens to a student as they try to balance those sets of roles. A student who's leading a startup, small team, making a lot of decisions, and then they go to an internship and they may be fourth, fifth, sixth level down on the totem pole. How do you see students navigate the differences in those roles? Jen: I think that's where mentoring as part of an internship really comes into play. You can have a student who, as you said, has their own startup on the side and is running things and is really holding a CEO title and then has to go to their internship where they're now part of a team; they're lower on the team. There could be some initial frustration but I think with the right mentorship and the right person making sure that their experience is meaningful and that the student is taking away real true pieces of information that will help them develop professionally really makes a difference. Jen: I also think too that students have an eagerness to learn, and by putting themselves in a position where they are running their own startup, I think they start to see that there is so much more out there, so much learning to take on. They're very receptive to putting on that other hat when they're at an internship. Chuck: One of the things that we aim to do at Drexel because Drexel is a co-op school, meaning when you come to Drexel, you're very purposely going to be working. If you come for the five-year program, you're automatically going to be taking three six months in work rotations through the journey. What we tell our entrepreneurship students is to leverage those co-op experiences, which essentially are internships, paid internships, leverage those in a way that lines up with what you want to do as a startup. For instance, if you want to do something let's say in the electronics space and you have got an idea for a startup, well, you should take one of your co-ops then in a company or an industry that lines up with that. Chuck: We'll certainly encourage them to do that, as well as get experience in both big companies and small companies. An incoming student doesn't have the perspective of maybe what it is like in a specific industry. We say, Go work for a big company in that space. Go work for a startup in that space and get that perspective and then it'll help you get much more rounded and lined up with ultimately the goals of what you're aiming to do or certainly what you might do in the future. Jen: It's a great way to of course learn what you want to do, but it's also a great way to learn what you don't want to do either. Chuck: Absolutely. Jen: It's a really safe environment for that. I think it doesn't have to be restrictive to just what you want to do career-wise but also how you want to lead, how do you want to be a leader? By having an internship and getting to watch other people lead is really an incredible experience. Chuck: I think that what you don't want to do really becomes more important than what you do want to do. Joe: Thinking about leadership and mentorship, when you partner with companies for placements, what are some of the things that you have to do to get mentors ready to be effective in their roles? I think especially in some organizations, we still have that misconception that internship equals free labor, right? The past couple of years have taught us that to really get the most out of it, you have to do a lot more. Jen: Yeah. Just to address the paid versus unpaid internship, by offering an unpaid internship, you really limit the talent that's going to be applying to your internship in skillset, in diversity because the reality is not everyone can afford an unpaid internship. That's just something I think everyone is trying to push now, is really a true paid internship. I think the employers that do offer them get so much more out of the experience. Jen: As far as making it meaningful for students and offering that mentoring, I think something as easy as just a regular weekly check-in is really important. It also helps you as a manager stay on top of the work that's going on. Sometimes you have a student especially at a startup that can just take a project and run with it. You want to make sure that you're offering not only the guidance that they need but you're also staying in the loop as well. I think expanding the interns' network is really important. Take them to networking events, to conferences, introduce them to people that you know are great leaders in the community so they can start to build and expand their own personal network. Joe: Tell me a little bit more about how you see the university system evolving to meet the needs of this kind of entrepreneurial students. This wasn't an option at all when I went to school in the 90s. The career path was you go from your degree program into an unpaid internship. Maybe if you're lucky, you get hired by that place and you work your way up. I observed Drexel, Penn, Temple, a number of organizations here in Philadelphia that are very, very eager to see their students launch companies. How did that evolve? Chuck: I think it's been driven for a number of reasons. It's actually interesting that you say that, that wasn't an option for you because I've had conversation multiple times a week with alums and other individuals like, Man, I wish this program was there when I was a student. Even some of our graduating seniors who The Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel is only three years old so some of our students will be graduating soon. They haven't been able to take full advantage of it yet because of where they are on their college career and they're like, Where was this when I started as a student? Chuck: I think the genesis of it is in a couple of areas. One is because of technology and technology has enabled everyone I think to think more entrepreneurially. Technology is upending companies and industries, and university recognize that it's very, very important for individuals to leverage technology in a way that is going to enable them to have fantastic careers. Chuck: Globalization also comes into play in that respect. Therefore, industries say, Universities say that, look, the world is changing. The workforce is changing. Gone are the days when you graduate college and go to work for the same company in the same industry for 30 or 40 years. That probably doesn't exist anymore. Matter of fact, the US Department of Labor says that students graduating today from college will have somewhere between 10 to 15 different jobs by the time they're 40 and probably 3 different industries. The world is changing and it's probably never going to go back. Chuck: Being the entrepreneur of your life then becomes increasingly important now. I think that's what university is recognizing that we have to help students be more entrepreneurial no matter what they do. Even if they are going to be an engineering student, odds are pretty good they, at some point in their life, are going to be maybe part of a startup, are going to have to start something, are going to have to really create a new strategy for themselves. Universities again recognizing that, want to bring the entrepreneurial mindset, skills development and training to students and give them the opportunity to learn what it means to be the entrepreneur of your life. Chuck: For those students who do want to start something on their own, again help them with that, give them the academic training but then also give them the support services, the incubation space, the coaching and mentoring, ancillary skills development, access to funding which becomes another part of what universities are looking at. How can we help fund some of these students' startups? Just give them the opportunity to explore and try these things. Joe: What are some of the companies that have come out of that incubator space and what are some of the impacts that they're making in Philly and beyond? Chuck: Across Philadelphia, across the region, we have a number of amazing student startups that have developed in recent years. I'll point to one specific one, but it's only one and it's just coming out of Drexel but again, from all universities, we're seeing some amazing startups. As an example, I have a student by the name of Christopher Gray who created a scholarship search app called Scholly. Chris is a Drexel student. He recently has transitioned out of Drexel, had been graduated. Chuck: He created this scholarship search app out of need, out of necessity. A poor kid from Alabama, wanted to come to Drexel, couldn't afford to come to Drexel and scoured the earth for scholarships and found for himself $1.3 million of scholarship and turned that database essentially he created manually into an online database with a mobile app on the frontend and then started to distribute that through the app stores. Chuck: He has since raised money in Shark Tank. He raised money from the City of Philadelphia and other funding sources, entered a number of competitions and won all of them. Just a fantastic idea and a fantastic entrepreneur who's now off to the races in terms of trying to build this into a much more comprehensive platform not only for students to be able to search for scholarships but also providers of scholarships to be able to give them a better way to manage those scholarships and the processes, the application processes behind them. Again, it's just a great example where out of need, out of necessity, solving a problem, something really good developed. Joe: Tell me a little bit more now, shifting gears, about Philadelphia. What specifically do you think is attracting this kind of entrepreneurial talent to our region versus just going out to Silicon Valley or up to New York City? Jen: I think we probably both have a lot to say about this. Joe: Yes, absolutely. Jen: I think for one, it's a very affordable cool city so that's going to attract people that are more inclined to think creatively, be innovative and really have a fire in their belly to start something. I also think too that the startup community that's in existence here already, these professionals, maybe their startup is facing out of the startup phase or they have multiple startups, they're so welcoming especially to college students. I think it takes students a little bit of courage to get on the subway or get on the train, to go off campus, to go to an event like Philly New Tech Meetup or Philly Tech Week. Once they are there, they are like celebrities. People love to meet students that also either have an interest at working at startups or that have a startup of their own. I just think it's a very welcoming, friendly environment. Chuck: What's happened in Philadelphia over the past four, five years has just been amazing. The resources that are available to startups, it's an example of just density, of interactions, as Jen mentioned, just more and more people interested in coming to Philadelphia, staying in Philadelphia, a large number of Millennials. All of that helps a lot. It's also about the individuals in the ecosystem that have just done great things to support it. We have great working spaces. We have great networking groups. The city of Philadelphia has come in, in a big way and has helped. Comcast has come in a big way in the past couple of years and has really helped. We're just starting to see more and more interactions and more and more of these opportunities. Chuck: Compared to when I started my last company, the number of resources available to us are just amazing. I think you can get to a networking event nearly every night related to either tech or social entrepreneurship or something else that you're interested in. The coding community, the hacking community is great here. I see a large number of technical and coding events. Chuck: Again, I think the university has really helped in terms of brining many students into the city. Part of our job as a university, as Jen said, is get them out of the four walls of their university and get them to these things. I certainly do that on a regular basis, is try to find ways to get our students to go to events. I say that if you're not going to at least one external event a week then you're missing an opportunity. Jen: I'll just add, too, I think there's a lot of opportunities for students who maybe aren't on the traditional path for entrepreneurship. Maybe they're a liberal arts major or a psychology major, science, etc., to get those entrepreneurship skills, to get the coding skills. There's Girl Develop It. There's the various startup leader boot camps. Technically, Philly does a great job fair called Network that also has an educational component to it. I think that it's a very not only welcoming but really encouraging environment. Joe: Tell me a little bit about both on the internship side and on the academic side the startup community famous for iterating really fast, run fast, break things, right? Academia tends to move at a much different kind of pace. How do you reconcile how quickly some of the startups and even the large and midsized companies you may place internships at with what actually shows up in things like a professor syllabus or a textbook that might feel to be behind? Chuck: Universities are certainly changing and adapting because they have to. They are moving faster and really I think trying to get ahead of things. In the field of entrepreneurship, because we are by definition entrepreneurial, the faculty and staff that we tend to attract, at least in Drexel's case but I know my peers at the universities, are people that think very entrepreneurially, that think more adaptively. We're looking at the practices of tools and platforms such as lean startup as a way not only to teach entrepreneurship but also how we think about starting. Chuck: A good example of that. When we started this new school of entrepreneur at Drexel, we certainly knew we had to think entrepreneurial because we were designing something on a set of assumptions but now we have to watch what's happening. Who's the type of student that comes in? How does the coursework line up? Are we moving quickly enough in terms of teaching very relevant and interesting topics? We certainly are. Chuck: I think some fields in academia might be a little more conservative and a little slower to adapt, but certainly I think when it comes to entrepreneurship, business in general and many of the fields. When I worked with let's say the biomed school or the engineering school at Drexel, it's so adaptive. Everything is moving so quickly and they really look forward to working with us and very entrepreneurial-minded students and trying to move things along faster. Jen: Yeah. Now there's actually a group of higher ed entrepreneurship directors and faculty and professionals that have come together to really start to cross-pollinate their students off different campuses, the different startup ideas, ideally leading to students from different campuses coming together to form their own startups. With the work that Campus Philly does in higher ed, I think for a long time, a lot of different groups, us included, have really tried to bring these students who have this entrepreneurial spirit, who have these startups together under one roof in a big way. It's been very challenging. The work that Chuck and Ellen Weber from Temple and Linda Ross and Kimble Byrd from Rowan University in New Jersey and there are so many others have done, they've done it. I think it had to stem from the schools and it's starting to be on a roll now. Do you want to just Chuck: Yeah. Exactly, Jen. I think this organization that Jen mentioned, that's the Philadelphia Regional Entrepreneurship Education Consortium that we put together starting about a year ago. The individuals who are in it are people who are in some way associated or running entrepreneurship programs at various universities. When you look around the room in that group, there are certainly people that have come more from the academic background, but I'd say the majority of us are people that have been entrepreneurs or involved with entrepreneurship in a very direct way. I think that's a nice mix that we can bring the academic elements with experiential elements. Chuck: Entrepreneurship is really probably, much more than many areas, it is much more about putting something into practice very, very quickly, learning what works, what doesn't work. Just by those principles, I think we all think and act that way and are thinking about ways in terms of how can we continue to make this region seem to be a better hub of entrepreneurship for university students? Joe: One of the things that Philadelphia has been known for, for 100 years is its manufacturing heritage and its heritage in the industry of energy. We had oil here for so long. We had pharmaceutical, manufacturing. Ther's a lot of shift in where the jobs are. How do universities respond to the needs of nontraditional students, folks that may be coming in, in their 40s or 50s or even later to come back to this idea of let's study how to actually launch a business or find a place in this new economy? Chuck: At Drexel and in the Close School of Entrepreneurship, we've actually created minors in a couple of areas that really is then tied to this industry focus. For instance, we have energy and sustainability as a minor in our entrepreneurship program. We have healthcare innovation as a minor in our entrepreneurship program. We recognize areas that Philly is strong or growing and not only to our undergraduate students but ultimately in the future when we start to offer graduate programs look to attract these individuals who maybe they want to start something new in their field and maybe they're in the healthcare space and they want to start something new or they want to innovate better with inside the four walls of their company. Chuck: We're increasingly like that at those types of programs and helping entrepreneurs, somebody who's working as an entrepreneur inside the organization, learn a lot of the same tools and techniques and capabilities that we're teaching our undergraduate students really around things such as when I have an idea, how do I take it forward in a very capital efficient way? How do I validate the opportunity? How do I design a minimum viable product and test that in the market? We're trying to bring a lot of those same capabilities to bear for let's say the older student as well as the undergraduate student. Chuck: We're also working with, and this is just with Drexel as many universities in Philly and around the country, working with faculty members who have those domain skills, that domain expertise in various industries again such as healthcare, such as energy. We run a number of programs to really help faculty think about commercialization and what does that mean to their research and their ideas? It's fantastic to work with them because they're the smartest people in the room. We have the opportunity to really often think about how can they get their ideas out of the lab and into the real world? Joe: The commercialization thing is fascinating to me as well because it used to be this very clear wall between the academic work and the business side. What I'm observing now, universities actually encouraging the faculty to not just spin up a business out of their research but actually to house that business in some way inside the university. Whatâ€™s the impact of that on Philadelphia's innovation and academic culture? Chuck: I can talk to that. It's amazing again not just at Drexel but in many universities. Pennsylvania has a very vibrant program in terms of developing faculty entrepreneurs. Temple is doing some great work too. At Drexel specifically, I can talk to something that Drexel is developing and planning called the Innovation Neighborhood. The Innovation Neighborhood will be built out in a parcel of land that's over by 30th Street Station that will bring together corporations, faculty researchers, students. It'll be residential space, retail space, co-working space. Chuck: The idea is to again provide opportunity for lots of great collisions of ideas and to have opportunities generated out of that and to really open up the faculty and the research world to all of these new opportunities. We think by building great spaces and building great programs that we're going to enable much more of that commercialization happen in a very active way as opposed to let's say maybe in the past in a much more passive way. Yes, it's very purposeful that we need to do a much better job with taking the research out of the lab and getting it into the world. Joe: It strikes me that one running theme of what we've been talking about is that even though a lot of the companies that we work with are doing things with technology, online spaces, social media, but the consistent key to success actually has to do with getting together in a physical space and interacting with people. How do you get students ready to interact in the real world with mentors and peers especially now that we've got a full generation of folks coming through who have maybe spent more time online than in person? Jen: That's something that is a sweet spot for Campus Philly I think. There's definitely that online component when you're searching for a job or you're searching for an internship. We even have our own job board, I'll give a plug, at campusphilly.org/careers that's specifically designed for students looking for internships within the Greater Philadelphia region. That's really just the start of it. Jen: I think from the employer side, they're really looking for students to have that personality that will fit within their team and to see the resume come to life and can this person really truly talk to the things that they're saying that they're an expert in or that they're interested in? Jen: From the student component, office culture is becoming increasingly more important. Just as much as the employers are interviewing them, they're interviewing the employers. That's really something that can only be done in person. Jen: Campus Philly really does a great job of creating these very curated, in-person networking opportunities for students to come together, not only meet each other which is very exciting for them to see other people doing what they're doing on different campuses, but also to meet the employers and get a feel for what the employers have to offer them. We do work with about 35 different colleges and universities in their career service offices to do. We come on campus and do soft skill trainings. We do networking 101s. I've practiced shaking hands with probably a million different students in the last three and a half years I've been with the organization. Jen: We do a lot of email prep too leading up to our events. We let students know everything from what to wear, what bus to take from their campus to get downtown, what to expect. We give them blank business cards that they can fill out and use that to exchange. At our events, we actually encourage students to send their resumes in advance so they don't have a copy of it in front of them as they're networking with employers. It just creates a really unique experience for the student to. A lot of times, it's their first time networking. I'm doing air quotes. You can't see that. They're on the spot. They have to think fast. They have to make a great first impression. It's something that students are eager to learn. Jen: I think there's a misconception that the word networking is old and boring and students don't want to network. They want to connect and blah, blah, blah. You can call it whatever you want. It's still networking. It's still the same old thing. Students are really eager to learn that, especially in the startup space too because they're going to have to be pitching. This is a great entry level way for them to practice that. Joe: I have to come back to this. You're teaching the students how to shake hands properly. Jen: Uh-huh (affirmative). Joe: What's the right handshake in a work environment? Even though this is radio, we'll have to describe it. Jen: It's eye contact. It's wearing your name tag to the left so when you shake hands, there's no obstacle in the way. It's just a firm handshake. Joe: Are folks coming in too hot or not strong enough? Jen: Honestly, it's probably not strong enough. I think it's just a confidence builder. I'm sure when we were all 18 or 19 or whenever we were first starting networking, you never know what to do. It's awkward, but that's what we really do. We teach students to embrace the awkwardness. Joe: I think in terms of embracing the awkwardness, there's nothing more awkward than the first time I think you pitch to somebody, right? Jen: Uh-huh (affirmative). Joe: What are the things that you feel like students have to come away from this experience and knowing what to talk about when they're in front of a potential investor? Chuck: I organize lots of competitions. We have an idea pitch competition coming up pretty soon at Drexel. We certainly try to help them think ahead a little bit in terms of what's the room, what's the setup, what space are you walking into? Who's the audience? Physically, where are you going to be? What's the audience expecting to hear? What story do you have to tell? I try to get them to think about not only the elements that are pitched which will vary depending on the type of pitch but also the sequence they put those elements, how deep you go into any one of those elements, but also try to turn it into a story? What story are you telling? What's your backstory? How do you make this interesting and relatable ultimately to your audience? Find ways to help them tell a great story essentially. Joe: Philadelphia's investment community is notoriously conservative compared to Silicon Valley and other parts of the world. Does that make it harder or does that actually give students a leg up when they're learning how to pitch? Chuck: It's a little of both. I think this area take a bad rap for maybe the conservatism of capital, but increasingly, there are more and more pockets of capital that are available and more opportunities for students to get and pitch. I think investors here recognize that we're competing against other regions and for talent and we want to keep that talent here. I certainly have seen more and more pitch opportunities and more and more ways for students to get in front of potential investors. Chuck: Investors all look for the same thing. They're looking for really well-validated ideas that have maximum opportunity. As long as you have thought ahead of that a little bit, it doesn't matter where you are in the development of what you're doing. It could be just an idea, but if you've done a really good job in terms of validating where you think that idea is and where you need to go, you're going to have a great conversation with an investor. You may not be investor-ready today but it's going to set yourself up for the future. It's pitch early and pitch often and get out there and begin to build your network as soon as you start to have a level of credibility around your idea that you can stand up and look someone in the eye and say, I've got something. I'm passionate about it, and I'm ready to go and I need your help. Joe: What's working and what do we want to see more of in terms of attracting and retaining talent in Philadelphia? Jen: I think what's working is connecting the students to basically everything that the city has to offer off campus. I think the campus life experience is such a huge, important part of their college life, but as they start to think about what's next in their future, finding out the different neighborhoods in Philadelphia and where are the great BYO restaurants? What are the top networking events that they need to go to? What's great about this city is that our networking events, they usually always have beer if you're 21 and over, soft pretzels. I think those are the two staples, and really great conversation. It's a really warm, friendly, inviting environment for students. Jen: I think this generation and I guess any generation of young people in times before are pretty nomadic anyway. I think it's unrealistic to think that people are going to stay put in Philadelphia forever, but there's so much opportunity to offer young people at least while they're getting started and launch their career. By starting to explore these options early on, that's really where their network begins to grow. In Philadelphia, that's such a huge, important thing. We are a very, very big, small city. We know everyone in it. Jen: I think that when it comes to jobs and internships and getting in front of investors and getting the resources you need, it very much is about who you know, but at the same time in Philadelphia, you can get to know those people on your own without having real strong roots here very quickly. That's something that definitely Campus Philly tries to offer our students, is the opportunity to go from student to citizen and to unlock this hidden city. Joe: Real quick roundup. What do you think is the most special thing in Philadelphia for each of you? Jen: I guess the community which is a pretty broad way to put it, but community to me is really important. The moment that I fell in love with Philadelphia was when we won the World Series. I am not a baseball fan at all. I heard we got a touchdown and we made it. That's great. When we won the World Series, I was a young professional. I was working at a startup, a startup advertising agency. Our office closed for the day and we all rushed downtown together. The subway was packed. I was with my friends who were two feet in front of me and there were so many people between us in that two feet. I could not get to them. Everyone was smiling and hugging each other. It just was this really beautiful moment where, as different and diverse as Philadelphians are, we were all the same that day. Jen: I think that moment has been and will continue to be recreated at different milestones and different big things that we experience as a city. I think Pope Weekend was certainly one of them and that Open Streets Movement that's moved on from that since then. It's just the community and the people here I think that is just so lovely. Chuck: It's interesting. We at Drexel are going to be the host school for a major entrepreneurship education conference that will be coming in January 2017. Prior years to this conference, it's all been in Sun Belt cities. We put in the bid and we got selected. The conversations with our peers at the universities, they're like, well, Philadelphia, what's happening in Philadelphia? It doesn't seem like a great place. We start to give them the data and the statistics and the number of great lists that we're on in terms of food and retail. Chuck: I think one I'm most proud of in what Philadelphia has done in the past number of years is create great spaces, create great events, create great opportunities, encourage great entrepreneurs to start working here and to stay here. I think by just creating many of these elements, we're giving everyone an opportunity to experience the city. Through that experience, it's like, hey, this is a cool place. I want to stay here. I want to do something that that's interesting and I can do it. As Jen said, it's very accessible. You don't have to go too far and go and do too many things to probably meet most of the people that you need to meet in order to get something done, which is great. Chuck: The cost of living. We've had student entrepreneurs head out to Silicon Valley and they really grapple with the challenges of cost of living. They run through their capital so much more quickly. Philadelphia ends up being a great place to stay obviously. Even the East Coast, you have access to a lot of other great opportunities. I think ther's a lot of great reasons to be proud of Philadelphia and for students to want to not only come here but to stay here and start something. Joe: Beyond move to Philadelphia, what's one piece of crucial advice you would give to someone who's thinking about, at any age, creating a startup for the first time? Chuck: There's a lot of pieces of advice. It's really about testing your assumptions. It's really about out of the gate not building something but to start selling before you build and really get that market validation early. We can build anything. The risk isn't in building something. The risk is does somebody care? Do you have a customer on the other side and is the problem you're solving or is the need so deep and so frequent that this thing is just going to fly off the shelf or do you have much more of an uphill battle? Chuck: I'd constantly challenge whether it's a student or an older startup that's getting their - A person who maybe have more work experience, get going, it's the same thing. You've got a whole bunch of assumptions and if you don't work hard to validate those assumptions upfront, you're going to struggle because you're going to burn through your very limited resources very quickly, whether it's people, time or money. They're scarce when you're a startup and you have to be very, very efficient about them. Jen: I guess just for students in particular who are thinking of having a startup, really just put yourself out there. Go to events. Email and follow up with the people that you met. If they don't email you back right away, try again. Just put yourself out there. Be proactive. Be the squeaky wheel. I think it'll really pay off, especially in a city like Philadelphia. Joe: Jen Devor, Chuck Sacco, thanks so much for stopping by The Build. Chuck: Thank you. Jen: Thank you. Joe: The Build is a production of 2820 Radio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our producer is Lori Taylor. Our associate producer is Katie Cohen Zahniser. Our talent coordinators are Katrina Smith and Gizem Yali, and our post production team is led by Evan Wilder at FlowyAudio in Detroit. My name is Joe Taylor, Jr. Thanks for listening to The Build. Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Build. We hope youâ€™ll share this series with your friends and provide us with feedback on the iTunes Store.