New Opportunities for Philly’s Emerging Web3 Community

Key Insights:

  • Philly Startup Leader is launching a blockchain accelerator for Philadelphia-based founders.
  • UPenn’s Wharton School recently launched an executive education program on the metaverse economy.
  • Experts predict the metaverse and blockchain are projected to grow exponentially in the next decade. 

Two new programs are debuting in Philadelphia for Web3 enthusiasts looking to break into the space or build on existing ventures: a Philly Startup Leaders blockchain accelerator and a metaverse business certification at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Web3 space, a decentralized internet that incorporates concepts such as blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies and the metaverse, is rapidly growing. 

The metaverse could be a $13 trillion market by 2030 with five billion users, according to Citi, while blockchain is expected to boost global GDP by $1.8 trillion by the same year, according to PwC — and Philly has taken note.

Philly Startup Leader blockchain accelerator 

Philly Startup Leader (PSL), an organization supporting founders by founders, is launching its first accelerator on blockchain for MVP-stage founders this fall. 

The program is running in partnership with DeFi Philly, a Web3 community in Philadelphia, to support founders with building existing prototypes.

“We saw an opportunity to create accelerators in emerging sectors where especially underrepresented founders in Philadelphia are already making great strides,” Beth Lawrence, PSL’s director of programs and events, told The Plug. “We feel that they can lead the next generation of founders.” 

The 12-week virtual program includes weekly two-hour sessions focusing on different subject matters such as marketing, scalability and fundraising. Experts give presentations in their area of expertise and then participants have an opportunity to workshop business challenges in breakout rooms. PSL worked with DeFi to select speakers with “legacy in the space” who can serve as teachers and mentors.

“On one hand, there are people from some of the most innovative Web3 companies in the world that live here, or are moving here, which we’ve seen at our weekly DeFi Philly events,” Drew Mailen, co-founder of DeFi Philly and founder of BountyBase, said. “On the other hand, you have all of this raw talent that is just starting out their journeys as entrepreneurs.”

Lawrence said PSL partnered with DeFi after PSL’s executive director attended DeFi’s 2022 conference and was impressed by the speakers, co-founders and attendees. Lawrence was also struck by the level of interest in DeFi Philly’s weekly meet-up events and had a positive experience after attending one. 

“There’s a lot of appetite in the space for more resources and more opportunities to get more visibility for founders and so blockchain was a natural fit for our next industry focus accelerator,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence believes that what sets the program apart is the emphasis on peer-to-peer learning. Participants are assigned accountability partners within the cohort to encourage community building. 

The accelerator also wants to be accessible to diverse founders. It costs $25 to apply with a $250 to $500 sliding scale participation fee per startup.  

“We believe that removing barriers is the way to usher in new ideas and a new age of innovation,” Lawrence said. 

Wharton metaverse business certification 

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania recently launched an online program, Business in the Metaverse Economy, which looks at the technology and trends shaping the metaverse and how they can be leveraged by firms and creators in the coming years.

It is designed to be an introduction to the space and is the first executive education program in the world to focus on business opportunities associated with metaverse technologies. 

Unlike the PSL accelerator focused on early-stage founders, the course is open to all, with participants ranging from financial analysts and tech consultants to CEOs — but the cost is exponentially higher at $4,500. It runs for six weeks with a suggested eight-to-10-hour commitment per week. Upon successful completion, learners receive a certificate from Wharton.

The course is taught by a mix of professors and industry professionals. Cathy Barrera, a partner and founding economist at Prysm Group, an economic consulting firm that specializes in emerging technologies, is the industry lead. The program will look at six industry case studies including topics like metaverse application to B2B and the consumer experience in augmented and virtual realities.

“We realized that despite all of the excitement about Metaverse, and all of the companies investing and building in the area, there really wasn’t a good resource to go to for someone who wants to understand what this space is and what it means in particular for business,” Kevin Werbach, the course’s academic director, told The Plug.

It is a follow-up to another online Wharton program, the Economics of Blockchain and Digital Assets, which launched last year to introduce topics including blockchain protocols, valuations and investing, and decentralized finance.

Because the industry is rapidly changing, Werbach believes the benefit of taking an academic course is the speakers who have experience in a range of industries and provide insight on the application of metaverse technology. 

“Our thought is ultimately that’s going to be more valuable than just talking to people who are operating in the technology world and know that space because a lot of these general principles are broadly relevant,” Werbach said. 

Alesia Bani

Alesia Bani is a writer and journalist from Philadelphia and The Plug’s Innovation Reporter covering the Black tech ecosystem in Philadelphia. She previously worked for the Institutional Diversity office at her alma mater Temple University and has a background in reporting on identity, DEI and local government.