|Award Category:||Community Connected Campus|
|Submitted By:||University City Science Center|
Quorum helps transform concepts into companies and move ideas forward. Through interactive programming, open work areas and high-tech event space, Quorum provides the foundation for entrepreneurs to meet, collaborate, and build community. An initiative of the University City Science Center, Quorum leverages the Science Center’s 50-year history of bringing together innovators, scientists, resources and entrepreneurs to accelerate technology commercialization and economic development in the Greater Philadelphia region.
The Science Center launched Quorum in 2011 as a “clubhouse” for innovation, to bolster the region’s entrepreneurial capacity and commercialization activities. Quorum serves as a gathering place for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect with scientists, researchers, investors and resource organizations. Quorum has become a unifying force that has contributed to and validated the Science Center’s reputation as a dynamic hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the region and beyond.
Quorum provides its users with dynamic work and meeting spaces, targeted programming and access to a range of mentors, executives, and diverse science, technology, business and non-profit groups. Collaborative work is fostered through the Quorum Lounge, an open-access, high-tech workspace where entrepreneurs find more whiteboards than walls. The Quorum event space attracts an array of community groups, connecting like-minded thinkers and doers.
Since opening in 2011, Quorum has hosted more than 26,000 visitors. Over 500 events have been held in the Quorum space, and a growing number of entrepreneurs depend on the access and availability of the Quorum Lounge for growing their startups.
In recent years, a large number of co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators have popped up in and around the Philadelphia metropolitan area, providing low- cost space for entrepreneurs to build and grow their companies. In addition, Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen an explosion of organizations focused on supporting and rapidly growing the region’s startup community. However, prior to Quorum, the Greater Philadelphia region lacked a central gathering place for innovators and entrepreneurs to share ideas, learn about best practices, and negotiate deals. A 2007 study of the state of technology transfer in the region, conducted by the CEO Council for Growth (an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce) recommended the creation of a venue “to serve as the ‘clubhouse’ for innovation in the region and provide programming to attract researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to the venue.” The University City Science Center volunteered to help solve this problem, and consequently Quorum was born.
The Science Center launched Quorum to bolster the region’s entrepreneurial capacity and commercialization activities by creating a neutral meeting ground for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect with scientists, researchers, investors and resource organizations — and gain access to business-building advice. Quorum serves as a unifying force that has contributed to and validated the Science Center’s reputation as a dynamic hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the region and beyond. Quorum leverages the Science Center’s 51-year history of bringing together innovators, scientists, resources and entrepreneurs to accelerate technology commercialization and economic development in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Since opening in 2011, Quorum has hosted more than 27,000 visitors and raised more than $1 million in its Open the Doors Campaign. Over 500 events have been held in Quorum’s event space, and a growing number of entrepreneurs depend on the access and availability of the Quorum Lounge for growing their startups.
Quorum’s offerings can be described in three categories: the event space, the lounge, and the suite of programs, all of which support Quorum’s mission of facilitating connections that grow ideas into companies. Physically, Quorum is a neutral meeting ground for Greater Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community. With
3,500 square feet of event space and an urban loft feel, Quorum has become an ideal venue for a diverse array of meetups, workshops, receptions and conferences from groups around the region. With its high-tech capabilities, flexible layout and panoramic views of West Philadelphia, the conference room has become the venue of choice for groups like the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, Philly Tech Meetup and its successor, Philly New Tech Meetup, one of the largest monthly meetups convening entrepreneurs, coders, investors, founders, and more for pitch sessions. Organizations like the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Entrepreneurship program regularly host receptions and networking events which bring new visitors to the space and support chance encounters and new opportunities to meet others.
The Quorum Lounge, a crucial component of Quorum’s offerings, was built to offer the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community an informal place to meet, work and grow their ideas. The Quorum Lounge operates as a free, open access, “first come, first serve” space for entrepreneurs without the commitment of a desk or the burden of a cost. Serendipitous encounters are welcomed and expected, prompting Quorum’s motto “You Never Know Who You’ll Meet.”
Through the Science Center’s history, we learned that providing physical space benefits entrepreneurs, but bringing in additional resources like programming and networking opportunities boosts their chances of success. Quorum programming connects startups to the resources they need in a supportive format. Quorum’s event lineup includes small-group conversations with investors, interactive pitch perfecting sessions and more (detailed below).
The Coffee & Capital program brings one investor each month to Quorum for an informal and highly interactive Q&A session over coffee and light refreshments. Audience size is limited to approximately 20 entrepreneurs and scientists, to encourage participants to ask questions and get advice on funding and investor relations.
The monthly Quorum Office Hours program brings experts in law, accounting, human resources, sales and marketing to Quorum to meet one-on-one with entrepreneurs, answer their questions and offer targeted advice. Entrepreneurs complete an intake form prior to the meeting, allowing participants to get straight to business when the Office Hours session begins.
The monthly Lunch for Hungry Minds series focuses on highlighting excellence in regional academic research. Topics range from life science and energy, to materials sciences and IT, to anthropology and the history of science. Speakers include researchers from a number of colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Smart Talk gives start-up and growing companies a look at best practices and business strategies from industry leaders in the region. Past programs have focused on successful entrepreneurs, media relations, marketing, managing growth and pitching to investors.
How to Talk to Money gives startup and growing companies a sense of what angels and VCs are looking for – what to say first, second and third, and how to break through the wall of skepticism. Using a unique, hands-on approach, this program covers the 30-second pitch, the 10-minute pitch, the information the slide deck should and shouldn’t include and, most importantly, how to keep the investor interested in the information being presented.
When Quorum opened in 2011, there were no comparable places in the region (or country) that provided exactly what Quorum was providing. As Quorum continued to grow in numbers and awareness, there was a need to reevaluate how we measured and understood our view of its impact. While the quantitative measures – over 500 programs and more than 27,000 participants – were impressive, they were not as indicative of Quorum’s impact as the stories behind the numbers. These stories have validated our mission of connecting startups to resources that will help grow their ideas into companies. Following a successful 2013 in-depth survey of the Quorum community users and their experience, we took it a step further in 2014. Through individual in-depth meetings and interviews, we reached out to the Quorum audience directly to gain perspective on what Quorum means to them and how it helps their businesses or careers.
What we found was beyond our expectations. Three startups that used the space regularly had formed partnerships and mentoring relationships among themselves, and created a tight-knit community within the lounge. Actively looking for funding, these companies notated specific connections they made with investors and experts that helped them get to where they are today. One startup company contracted with the technical cofounder of another startup to build their online platform, and all three actively share inspiring videos, educational events and their successes and challenges on a regular basis.
These discussions opened our eyes to the wide variety of connections and successes these startup companies were making during their time in Quorum. Our first Quorum “graduate” came at the end of May 2014 – an active Quorum lounge user and event attendee, Setvi, a startup company focused on creating a sales platform that integrates different file types into one presentation. Setvi was invited to participate in a digital incubator and received funding and their first investment after several months of working out of Quorum, growing their company and finalizing their product.
We are consistently working on keeping Quorum’s offerings relevant and fresh. With our just-released marketing campaign, we are able to revisit our outreach strategies and communications with the community.
In the summer of 2012, because of the success of Quorum, the Science Center was invited to launch Quorum programming as part of the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The US Department of Energy established the EEB Hub, led by Penn State University, as an Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster (E-RIC) in 2011.
The goal of Satellite Quorum at The Navy Yard was to support a specialized community of entrepreneurs by offering programs that plugged them into the clean tech and advanced energy retrofit sectors and connected them with the people and resources necessary for them to grow their startups.
Through this initiative, we validated the Science Center’s belief that Quorum’s offerings are valuable in a variety of sectors and locations, and that the program can be replicated and is flexible enough to accommodate a wide spectrum of needs. Consequently, the possibilities of expanding our flagship Quorum and its offerings are well within our reach. While the pilot phase of Satellite Quorum has closed, the lessons learned have taught us the key resources needed for implementation of expansion – clear and defined messaging, collaborative and active partnerships with strategic organizations, and operating as an integrated program within an organization. The Science Center’s strong partnerships with area universities, city organizations and companies provide several opportunities for collaborative work in the region, and a growing network within the country provides promising leads for such additional expansion.
Quorum plays a unique role in Greater Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem. Thanks to the combination of dynamic and interactive programming, networking opportunities and a high-tech venue, Quorum is giving entrepreneurs a reason and a place to convene and build a community. Entrepreneurs leave Quorum with sound advice and the connections that can help accelerate a concept, a company or a career, and they continue to return because of the community they have built. Attendance numbers, expansion of the program through Satellite Quorum and over $1 million raised in sponsorships validate the value that Quorum is bringing to tech- based economic development in Greater Philadelphia and its potential as a job creator.
UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Santa Fe on September 29-30, 2014. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.