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 start-up ecosystem in Philadelphia," said Weatherup, 43.
Formal announcement of his two-year volunteer gig came Thursday afternoon at Founder Factory, a typical PSL meet-up for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and investors.
Also "galvanizing" the crowd, he said, were guest speaker 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, perhaps best known for those giant decal likenesses of athletes that devoted fans affix to their walls.
Then he moved here six years ago to right the struggling PetFoodDirect.com's online sales operation. Weatherup cranked up the site's media component and e-commerce, rebranded the parent company pet360.com, and 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, Weatherup decided "enough." It was "time to reacquaint myself with my wife and 11- and 13-year-old daughters, and to dive back into the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community."
The local start-up scene has "more going on than observers and even participants like me are aware of," he said. "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 that 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 start-ups."
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 other's successes," he said, "because that builds excitement for everyone. New talent, new opportunities come out of that."
The group sports a six-member leadership team - chaired by Artisan CEO Bob Moul - and a staff of 10 who steer the group's events and marketing, host educational "boot-camp" sessions ("Philly Startup Leaders Bootcamp"), and lead a major talent retention program. Group membership numbers about 2,000. Backers include Morgan Lewis, First Round Capitol, and Startup Philly.
Weatherup said his ultimate goal is to make Philly Startup Leaders unessential, obsolete.
"Success should be that there is no PSL. There isn't a 'start-up community' in San Francisco or Boulder. It's just part of the ecosystem, and we're getting there, at the precipice of Philadelphia being fantastic."