US embarks on new chapter in technology revolution

The United States is entering its second chapter of the technology and digital revolution according to J.D. Harrison, senior director, Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Harrison spoke to 220 attendees on Thursday at the 2017 Economic Development Luncheon presented by the Pottstown Hospital and TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Harrison said that while the first chapter of the digital revolution saw significant changes in retail, entertainment, and media, many things have not changed such as how we vote, how we fill out forms at the hospital, and our experience at the DMV.

He said we are now embarking on the second chapter, which will “increasingly be defined by startups and technologies that address the real problems in areas like healthcare, education, energy, infrastructure, smart cities and cybersecurity.”

It will change how we get back and forth to work, how our children learn in schools, and how we interact with the world.    

“These next great startups - the ones that are going to create these technologies - are going to fundamentally change the world around us,” Harrison said. “They’ll take on some of the most urgent and universal problems that we all deal with and the ones that we really haven’t figure out how to disrupt and change and move into the 21st century.”

Harrison shared the results of the “Innovation That Matters” study that looks at the health of startup communities in 25 American cities – including Philadelphia. The study assesses which cities have best positioned themselves to capitalize on the shift to an increasingly digital economy by nurturing and supporting what the study refers to as “next-wave startups.” 

The study looked at four industries: health, energy, education, and smart cities, and based the rankings on six factors: access to capital, connectivity, start-up culture, start-up density, talent, and industry specialization. 

Philadelphia placed third (from eighth place last year). Mayor Jim Kenney is credited with actively supporting a startup culture and helping to funnel more sources to local entrepreneurs through programs such as StartUp PHL, and its public-private economic development corporation that provides funding and mentorship to entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. 

Boston and San Francisco’s Bay Area ranked one and two.

The most significant weakness the study found was the level of connectivity and the quality of relationships with key stakeholders such as universities, investors, and industry leaders within the same sector from the local economy – key cheerleaders and mentors.

“That’s just not sustainable … this isn’t going to happen in a vacuum. And these startups and entrepreneurs, these nascent ventures are going to need support, advice, and partnerships,” Harrison said. “I would say this is the takeaway from the research this year.”  

Harrison said that although the Tri-County area was not a part of the study, he believes all the ingredients are there -- such as great universities and a vibrant and diverse population -- to capitalize on this new shift. 

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