The Best of Philly Innovation

Over the course of the last year, I have had the opportunity to cover my hometown, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. The Plug chose to focus on Philadelphia to highlight the abundance of excellence emerging from the city’s burgeoning Black tech and innovation ecosystem.

These are a few of my favorite stories:

Why are Black Founders Headquartering Their Startups in Philadelphia?

This is one of the first theses I investigated when I joined The Plug. With everything around us going virtual, I wanted to understand why exactly founders were setting up shop in Philadelphia when they could operate anywhere in the world. I myself have worked remotely while the rest of my team is based in Atlanta. The short answer I received from the founders I spoke to is there are mentorship and networking opportunities through accelerator programs in Philadelphia, the cost of living is comparably lower to other large cities and the pandemic expanded how investments are secured.

New Food Tech is Coming in Hot to Philly

This piece was an interesting way of converging the past, present and future. I spoke to a culinary historian who told me about Black women in Philadelphia pioneering the practice of fast food vending by selling pepper pot soup. Now, Philadelphia is home to startups that are leveraging technology to transform the food industry. An accelerator program for food innovation even launched in 2022 and I believe Philadelphia will become a hub for food tech. 

How Building a Business is Art: Artist Collectives are Making Spaces for Creatives in Philly

Although this piece wasn’t focused on technology, I had a lot of fun reporting on Black creatives who created businesses out of their love for art. In the last few years, a handful of agencies, artists’ collectives and co-working spaces, as well as a combination of these concepts, have popped up in Philadelphia to support the city’s creatives, and Black entrepreneurs are at the helm of creating these spaces.

Using Tech Upskilling and Access to Employment as a Framework to Reduce Recidivism

The development of this piece was serendipitous. I had been wanting to do a story around leveraging tech to reduce recidivism and was looking for a way to connect it to Philadelphia. Black & Brown Founders held a conference in October 2022 in Philadelphia where I spoke about how to gain your venture visibility in the media. One of the audience members came up to me afterward seeking advice. He is the principal of the De-Carceration Fund, which invests in and supports innovative enterprises working to alleviate the suffering caused by the U.S. criminal justice system. The piece eventually expanded to highlight five organizations using upskilling and employment access to address recidivism. 

The Connect Wants Philadelphia to Become a ‘Mecca’ for Black and Brown Talent

This piece exemplifies the importance of community — it is a feature on The Connect, an initiative to retain Black and brown millennial talent in the city through a professional community for people of color. The president of the organization shared a lofty set of goals including making Philadelphia a hub for remote work and advocating for policies to reduce wage taxes. I am excited to see Philadelphia in fact become a “mecca” for Black and brown talent. 

A Growing Psychedelic Community in Philadelphia 

One of my favorite things about this piece is the details that didn’t make it into the copy. The three co-founders of Philadose, a company aiming to ethically disrupt the wellness industry, started the venture after learning about their shared connection with psychedelics in their personal healing journeys. I learned a lot about the founders but also about psychedelic-assisted therapy and somatic breathwork.

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.