It's time for serial entrepreneur Brock Weatherup to both "pay back and pay it forward," he says.
So he's taking on the title and responsibilities of president for Philly Startup Leaders, seasoned hands who "facilitate the growth of the startup eco system in Philadelphia," Weatherup detailed.
Formal announcement of his two year, volunteer gig was to happen Thursday afternoon at Founder Factory, a multi-faceted PSL meet-up for CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors. Also "galvanizing" the crowd, he said, would be guest speakers/CEOs Anthony Bucci of RevZilla, the motorcycle gear mega-merchandiser, and Justin Goldman of Zoomer, "the Uber for restaurant delivery." Both operations are headquartered at the Navy Yard.
Weatherup's first claim to fame was Fathead, a leading brand in the sports/entertainment licensing world maybe best known for those giant decal likenesses of athletes that devoted fans affix to their walls. He moved here six years ago to right the struggling PetFoodDirect.com on-line sales operation. Weatherup cranked up the site's media component and e-commerce, rebranded the parent company pet360.com then sold the bundle last fall to PetSmart for "$160 million in consideration, all cash."
After nine months of commuting to PetSmart corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, Weatherup decided "enough." It was "time to to reacquaint myself with my wife and 11- and 13-year old daughters, and to dive back into the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community."
The local startup scene has "more going on than observers and even participants like me are aware of," he shared. "There are common complaints that raising capital is an issue, that there aren't enough high profile success stories, that there's a talent drain of recent grads. But when you actually talk to entrepreneurial leaders, you learn retaining talent isn't an issue here; the drain is worse in Boston. There's venture funding and support – First Round Capitol, Blackstone" (recent purchaser of Philadelphia Financial Group), "the University City Science Center . . . and just look at what Comcast is doing to facilitate startups."
Philadelphia entrepreneurs do need to rally round the flag, he suggested - to connect, feel and act more like a community. "Let's be more excited about each others' successes, because that builds excitement for everyone. New talent, new opportunities come out of that. "
Weatherup's ultimate goal, ironically, is to make Philly Startup Leaders unessential, obsolete. "Success should be that there is no PSL. There isn't a 'startup community' in San Francisco or Boulder. It's just part of the eco system. And we're getting there, at the precipice of Philadelphia being fantastic."