Hello Article 19 listeners, my name is Marty Molloy. Today’s podcast was
recorded live on August 4th at this year’s PHL innovation picnic put on by Ben
Franklin Technology Partners. What we did here was we were just grabbing folks
off the lawn to spend a little bit of time talking to us about their work and
the importance of supporting a vibrant technology scene in Philadelphia. You
will hear background noise, but I think you’ll agree that the energy of talking
live and unscripted is well worth it. Now, one other note: Accessibility
doesn’t take center stage as it does in our usual episodes, but it runs through
each of the conversations. So, we’re just gonna go ahead and let the tape roll
through all of our guests, one after the other, but I wanna let you know who
you’re gonna hear from. So, our first conversation starts with Catherine
Sontag, and she works with Witty Gritty, and Witty Gritty was the organizers of
the event. She made sure everything was running smoothly throughout the day.
Then we hear from Jason Bannon, who’s a Vice President with Ben Franklin
Technology Partners, talking about the history of the event, as well as where
they’re going in the future. Our next conversation will be Nick Spring, who’s
intellect and great professional history will be on full display, talking about
his newest venture, BioVeras. We move on to Evan Harden, the second, at the
moment, most famous Harden in Philadelphia, but his energy, his entrepreneurial
spirit as a creator is very much something you wanna stick around and listen to.
And then finally we finish with Philadelphia hometown boy Brendan McGuire,
who’ll be talking about his company Wipfli. We’re really excited about all of
the guests who stopped by our booth and talked with us throughout the day. But
let’s go ahead and get these conversations started. We’ll see you on the other
side. Welcome to Article 19. This is a very different Article 19. I feel like
we’ve been doing a few of those recently. We are outside recording live at the
Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners PHL Innovation Picnic. I’m here with my
old co-host Michael Mangos. Hello Michael.
Hello. What’s going on? This is pretty amazing. There’s people flipping
frisbees, and cups falling down, and people getting wet. This actually looks
like a lot of fun.
People cheering. It’s great. It is about 4,000 degrees.
Yeah, 4,000 degrees, and people in the sun have been doing a cornhole
tournament, which is pretty unbelievable.
Surprise the bags aren’t like exploding and fire in the middle of the air.
Yes. They–well, they leave the hand as a whole bean bag, and they land as
an incendiary missile.
Well, we’re gonna find out all about all of the folks that are here at the
Innovation Picnic today. I hope to talk to all of the different companies and
talk a little bit more about what Benjamin Franklin Technology’s Partners is
all about and what they’re up to. But as always, we will sneak in good
inclusivity, good accessibility conversation. We are also, for those listening,
we have a table under a tent, so we’re out of the sun, thankfully, and there’s
a bit of a breeze.
It’s sort of a hot wind.
But we’ve got some pieces about the Sierra Tamman 360, as well as other good
Tamman swag on the table, but we’re hoping to get a lot of folks to come up and
tell us about their company, tell us about what they have going on, find out
how much they know about accessibility. We’ll do a bit of a different kind of
three questions and go from there.
Yeah, I’m glad you said that, because I think for me, what’s so interesting
is, we talk about innovation, and so many people in business don’t think about
accessibility as a piece of that innovation process. They may see it–if at
most, they see it as a compliance requirement, or an aspirational goal.
Just one more thing I kind of have to maybe check off the list.
Yeah, if they even know that it exists. And I think what’s really cool is
having all these innovative companies here or companies that are in the process
of innovation, or the process of innovation as we’ll debate later. I think it’s
gonna be really interesting to find out who here is actually thinking about and
Sure. And not in a way–I definitely don’t wanna do it in a ‘gotcha’ way.
You never do, by the way. I–you’re very good at that. But I do wanna build
some awareness, and a lot of what Article 19 has been about from the very
beginning is having conversation that can build awareness around all of the
kinds of issues and intersections with digital accessibility. You know, I’ve
been thinking about you a lot recently, because today, actually on this day–so
for anybody listening to this a year from now, it’s just whatever day you’re
on, I finished the book Haben, by Haben Girma, and I have to give a giant
shoutout to her. Someday I hope to meet her. But my big takeaway, my headline,
and this is why I bring it up now, is I went into the book thinking Haben
Girma, the first deaf blind woman to graduate from Harvard Law School, a woman
who has climbed mountains, and glaciers, and is an international speaker on
educating people about digital accessibility and inclusivity. And I left the
book being not that impressed. And what I mean by that is, she’s sure a
remarkable woman, but it’s not about inspiration. It’s about the fact that when
we remove barriers for people with disabilities, great achievements can happen.
And that was my takeaway. Not like, “Oh, this one remarkable woman was
able to overcome blah, blah, blah.” No. I think she hits home with her
book with the message that when we remove barriers, people with disabilities can
achieve things that people without disabilities can achieve as well. Anyway. I
just, I was really struck by that.
Yeah, absolutely. Look, it’s really not about the fact that a barrier has
been reduced, but it’s what do you do with that new freedom or that new
ability, right? And so, Haben’s one of those great examples of someone who took
her opportunity. You know, she credits her parents a lot for that opportunity,
you know, building that for her. But once they opened those doors for her, made
it possible for her to do some of those things, and then they had a community
around themselves, that helped open more doors and make things possible. She
did something with it, right? That’s the cool part. That’s the inspiring part
She should credit her parents and the ADA, and she talks about that in the
book, about how the American Disability Act created an environment in the
United States that wasn’t able to be found in Eritrea and other parts of the
world, and I think we should celebrate that. But then she talks about her
parents in a way that they were always afraid for her. You know, they brought
her here to allow her to have these experiences and to reach her full
potential, thanks to the ADA. But then it was, how do I break free, because
they were always like, “Well, what about–I’m so afraid for you, I’m so
afraid for you,” and she was always fighting against that. And I thought
that was particularly interesting. And how often do we find people without the
same disabilities as someone with a disability, optic disability? How often do
we artificially create barriers around, “Well, we just wanna make it safer
for you,” or something like that. You know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure.
Anyway, very fascinating, very fascinating. So, we have a lot of people to
talk to and talk about here at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners Innovation
Picnic, and we hope we can invite more people out of the sun and under our tent
to talk on this special Article 19 podcast edition.
I think we have a good chance of it, because we also have a row of trees
behind us that creates more shade.
Well, more importantly perhaps food and truck trucks, which is also gonna be
the draw. We’re hoping to get people who are in line.
Well, it’s just we’re live, because we’re live we can be telling people,
“Come over here.”
Yeah, that’s true. Well, it’s funny, I know the DJ folks can hear in the
background if there’s anything in the back. It’s a party atmosphere, so there
might be some noise that isn’t usual, but I used to work with her at Youth
Oh, wow, that’s so cool.
How fun is that?
So, I’m here with Catherine Sontag, principle organizer of the Ben Franklin
Yeah. Let’s–I like that title. Principal organizer.
Yeah. So, I wanted you to come over. Tell us about the picnic. It’s in its fourth
Yeah. It’s our fourth year, so it’s an awesome event. It’s really just a
time for the tech startup innovation scene of Philadelphia and beyond to enjoy
summer, let loose, have fun. Not a time to like talk about, you know, work, or
have panels. So, it’s really just a time to celebrate the work we’re all doing.
And it’s organized by a lot of great like community partners. We’ve got Ben
Franklin Technology Partners, PACT, PIDC, Broadpath, University City Science
Center, and Philly Startup Leaders.
That’s so great. And so, you may not know the answer to this, and that’s OK.
Are you aware of any other type of community like this that comes together
outside of Philadelphia? I mean this feels very unique to me.
I mean I don’t. I can’t say, you know, I’ve done extensive research to prove
otherwise, but I feel like it is unique. I feel like Philadelphia’s a really
tight knit community, especially in this community of startups and folks that
care about growth, and Philadelphia doing bigger and better and more equitable
things. So, I feel like it’s fun to see all these companies come together and
have some lighthearted field games that they’re competing, just to get a chance
to take some photos, grab a drink, and so I do feel like it’s unique.
What are–not sort of the innovation picnic goals, but what are some of your
goals for today? Like what did you–what would define today as a success for
Oh, for me personally, I would have loved it to be 10 degrees cooler. I am
not a weather person though, so oh well. Success, I mean it’s happening right
now. There’s a huge crowd. We haven’t gathered together since 2019. It’s
feeling like things are back, happening, you know, or kind of everyone’s
comfortable convening again, which feels really refreshing and, you know, as I
say it, I get a little emotional. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd
of this size together in person.
That’s so great. Now, a little birdie told me, that of the field games that
we have, we have some things that are very sort of standard, right? I mean
you’ve got your cornhole, and there’s a dunk tank over there, which looks very
inviting right now. But I heard you’ve invented some of–there are like
Catherine, from her brain, invented games out here today. Can you tell us about
one or two of those?
Sure, yeah. So, we’ve got some standard cornhole, badminton, water balloon
toss stuff, but we had to get a little creative. So, we had one where you’ve
got stacks of cups that you must knock off with a frisbee. I, myself, am
terrible at frisbee. So, I was like, “This’ll be fun or awful for some
people.” Oh, there goes Alex chasing one of our inflatable beach balls. One
of the challenges for that was to take those foam water squirters you play in
the pool with as a kid, and you had to kind of like curling style use those as
a team to get a large inflatable beach ball across the finish line, so.
It is so great. And there is a great deal of cheering going on, so I think
your games have been supremely successful, so well done there.
Yes, and so one team will receive a six foot trophy that they, I hope they
can get in their car.
It is a very large trophy.
It is very obnoxiously large.
And there’s great food, and drinks. So, if you were to improve, I don’t know
how you would, but if you were gonna improve on something for the fifth annual
Innovation Picnic, what would be something you’d like to see besides obviously
the 4,000 degree weather?
Oh, you know, if one thing we really wanted to do that we couldn’t quite
swing this year was like some–you know those inflatable obstacle courses?
You could do like an inflatable slip and slide, inflatable course. I had an
inflatable course for my 30th birthday party, so I’m nostalgic for those.
This is really great. I love the fact that–I mean the–I think it is very
rare. And the reason I asked that first question of bringing different
companies and people together in a professional setting. But it’s not a
meet-up. There’s no pressure. It’s just a chance for people to come, build
community, hang out with great food, fun games, and this, I think, is a way of
defining Philly. I mean I think that’s kind of a little bit of what Philly is.
We can be very professional, but we can have a lot of fun doing it too.
Absolutely. I feel like a lot of events, there’s a lot of pressure to like
get business cards, or meet 10 new people, and you can do that here, but like
also you can just like casually meet someone in a food truck line, or just hang
with people you haven’t seen in a while, so it’s good vibes.
Come hang out on a podcast.
There you go.
Shout on the podcast with Marty.
Enjoy the tunes. We have an awesome DJ over there, DJ Zuri. I’m blanking.
She has a DJ name. I’m blanking on her name.
It’s D33K or it’s something–
DJ Geek. It’s DJ Geek.
It’s DJ Geek.
It is DJ Geek.
Oh, that’s why it’s three, yes. Yeah, that makes sense.
Yes, yes, DJ Geek. Anyway, Catherine, thank you. Thank you for all the work
you put into this.
We really appreciate it, and we’re glad to be a part of it.
Thanks for being here Marty and Tamman.
So, I am here with the man of the hour. The Executive Director of the
Philadelphia Chapter of Ben Franklin Technology Partners. I’ve ruined that
already. Jason Bannon, tell us who you are and why you’re here.
Thank you. I am the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Ben
Franklin Technology Partners. My CEO, Scott Nissenbaum, has a big footprint
here, so I just follow along wherever he stomps.
Sounds great. And you were my introduction to Ben Franklin Technology
Partners, but can you tell us a little bit more about what it is and what you
Alright. So, the short elevator pitch is, we are the most active seen early
stage investor in technology focus enterprises in the Philadelphia region, but
we are a non-profit. Our sense of returns comes as much from companies that
plant roots here, hire people here, bring tax dollars to Philadelphia and the
Pennsylvania suburbs around it, and grow more companies, and grow more
founders, and grow more technologists, and keep that cycle growing. That is
what we consider returns.
That’s amazing. And I’m imaging there’s a lot of wins. I mean you’ve got to
have so many stories of just some. Is there one that just jumps off at you
right now? Maybe it’s an alumni that you’re just so proud of and–
There are so many wins. At this event today, one of my favorite stories is a
company called Roundtrip that figured out a way to leverage the infrastructure
around ride sharing and use that to get patients to their doctor’s appointments
on time. They connect insurance companies, care providers, and patients in a
way that make sure that they are preventing further cost from down the road of
missed appointments. They get people to the doctor on time. And it’s a
fantastic idea. It’s a simple thing, but it does such great work. But we have
companies like ‘ROAR for Good’ that have been developing personal safety
technology. Right now, they’re focusing on personal safety for people in the
hospitality industry. It’s a tremendous challenge that the people that take
care of the places we stay, when we spend time doing things we love, they are
often at risk unfortunately. So, they are working on personal safety devices
that are taking care of them. I mean those are two small examples that come to
mind. Not to mention the fact that we have companies in our portfolio that are
reducing the time it takes to get people the proper mental healthcare they
need. They’re developing new therapeutics that are developing new medical
devices, that are literally making lives better. Not just, you know, air quotes
‘making lives better,’ as in bringing jobs and revenue. That’s all great, but
there are literally people that are coming away from a better experience by the
companies that we’re able to put capital into and give support resources to,
and I love that.
So, if there is someone right now who has an idea, and they always wanted to
strike out on their own and be that entrepreneur, what do they need to do to be
able to come to Ben Franklin Technology Partners? How does someone find you and
get started within your cohorts and funding and [inaudible sounds like: extern
Well, you know I’m gonna recommend that everybody comes to this PHL
Innovation Picnic that’s here, right?
That’s a plug. But really what the picnic was designed to be was a convening
of all the people and organizations that anybody would need to connect to get
plugged in. But also, to have fun doing it. I mean I recommend events like
this, but every one of the organizations that are represented here, because
this is a community planned event. There are six organizations behind the
planning of it. There are nine organizations that sponsored this year.
Everybody who is a part of it–this is like a one-stop shopping thing for
people who want to get started in tech based entrepreneurship in the
Philadelphia region. That’s the way we put it together. When we put this event
together, it was really put together to be a venue for the people that wanted
to get started in understanding how to break into this technology and
entrepreneurship community of Philadelphia. So, we run this with a number of
other organizations that are doing this work. It’s six organizations that are
pulling it off. It’s another nine organizations that sponsor it. This is
designed to be the day to come out to meet everybody who you could possibly
wanna meet to put together your path for entrepreneurship, to actually find and
connect with the people that you might want to talk to tomorrow, next week, two
years from now, ten years from now. Everybody who you would wanna connect with
to find a way to make your idea into a sustainable business, as long as you
wanna do it here, because everybody here who is at this event believes in
Philly passionately. They believe in it whole heartedly and they love it here.
And this community has been going–look, this is the fourth year we’ve run this
event. Talk about standing on the shoulders of giants. This was a continuation
of a number of events that have run in the community for a long time.
Predecessors to organizations like PACT, and one of the original investors in
town, Safeguard, used to run a thing like this. We continued it on from where
Philly start-up leaders had it going, from where Philly new tech meet-up had it
going. We all decided that we can combine efforts and make a bigger, easier to
manage event. Well, hell with easier to manage, but when you gotta dunk tank in
the midst, you know, right? I mean you gotta do things like that. We gotta
switch it up and make it different every year and add something a little bit
more to add a little bit of fun. But there’s been one bit of consistency about
this. Everybody here likes to have beers, and eat good food, and have a good
time, so the good time was a big part of it. Everybody here wants to support
other causes to keep it going. So, consistent with this event, 100% of the ticket
proceeds have always been focused on raising the next generation of founders.
This year, it’s about supporting Coded by Kids, which runs fantastic–
Such a great organization.
Yeah, I’m so glad. I agree. I’m glad you guys know about them.
Because they have been doing great work to run coding programs and
technology programs in Philly schools. They’ve been doing it for a long time.
And Coded by Kids–Coded by Kids founder, Sylvester Mobley started an
initiative, and he and his team started this initiative called One Philadelphia
that is really focused on making sure that Philly is building a continuity of
pipeline to help underrepresented founders make sure that they have a clear
path too, because venues like this have not always looked the way it looks this
year and needs to keep progressing. The dynamic of the audience needs to keep
shifting to reflect what’s going on in the city, what’s going on in the region,
and this event is hopefully about continuing that. But One Philadelphia and
Coded by Kids have always been focused in doing that work. We are thrilled that
we get to help them out with it this year.
That’s fantastic. And I think you just answered this question, but I wanna
maybe perhaps allow you a chance to put more, find a point on it. This is the
fourth picnic. What do you really wanna see in the fifth picnic?
Oh, what do I wanna see in the fifth picnic? Hopefully, I wanna see, like
anybody else, I wanna see a pandemic not make us so afraid to make events like
this big. Now, to be fair, we had more than 400 people out on a day like this,
and that’s a big commitment to anybody to get out, even though this is a safe
venue, it’s out on a lawn, this is, you know, a couple of football fields in
size. Everybody’s having a good time here, but they are committed. They
understand that the time that they’re gonna spend here is worth their while.
That makes me feel good. If we can continue that next year and make sure more
of the community feels safer to come out, that’s gonna be a success for me next
year, because the first time we ran this was in 2017, but this is only the
fourth annual. And taking those two years off, it’s like, we have so much good
momentum that we have been building that we would love to get back to. The
companies are doing good work. The community is doing good work. If everybody
can just lean in a little and keep it going again, that’s what next year
success will look like more next year.
I love it. I’ve been really struck because I’ve had those conversations
today, on air and not on air. I mean feeling like I’m connecting to people,
Marty, it’s a stacked deck. We made sure that those people were here. Sorry
No, very much appreciated. But the fact is, we’ve talked to very young
people, people who are more experienced and senior, men and women, people of
color. It really is a diverse mix of people. And I think it is very
representative of Philadelphia, and I think that’s a tribute to you, tribute to
the organizers, and the work they’ve done to build this.
I will tell you that there are board members of many decades of experience.
There are founders that just found out about organizations like PSL, that all
are here for the first time, and they get to bump into each other. That’s what
this is about, and I love it.
I love that this episode is going to make those colleagues of ours who don’t
live in Philadelphia, as well as all of our other listeners who are not in
Philadelphia want to come to Philadelphia and I, you know. I mean I think
that’s honestly a big part of what this day is all about. I mean I’m looking at
giant Connect Four’s and still people hanging out in the bar, and we get the
dunk tank going. It’s so many fun games happening here today. I think it’s just
been really, really great. Is there anything about Ben Franklin Technology
Partners that you were hoping I’d ask you that I didn’t ask you?
Is there anything about that I was hoping you would ask?
Such a not a fair question, I know. I’m sorry. It’s me turning the interview
on its head and said, “Do the work for me.”
That’s right. Now, what I will say is, the thing that people most ask and
they’re most shocked by is the fact that I tell people that there’s never a
wrong time to talk to us. There may not be a perfect time to talk to us to get
investment, but there’s never a wrong time to talk to us, because some
companies, some founders, some entrepreneurs have a different sense of what success
means to them, and we have different ways of supporting different audiences and
different and different founders in that regard. So, there’s never a wrong time
to start the conversation. There can be better times to actually pursue
investment, but there’s never a wrong time to start.
So, I have a really hard hitting question for you actually before we get to
our last question. And if it’s not fair, we’ll just cut it.
One of our guests today, I asked them a question about what makes
Philadelphia special, and he talked about the frothiness of Philadelphia’s
innovation community, and I love that term. I’m all about it. But he went on to
talk about what he wishes Philadelphia still had, which is, he said, “It’s
amazing for start-ups, it’s amazing for innovation.” He thinks it’s one of
the best places in the world, but it doesn’t have the next level funding. Do
you see an opportunity for Philadelphia, you know, gotta go to New York, gotta
go to San Francisco, whatever? Do you see an opportunity or a landscape where
Philadelphia will eventually allow for some of that second and third level
funding for innovators?
I do, but more importantly what I also see–how about this for a fact. And
that’s why I loved that you asked this, because this is not a hard one to
answer. Philly is one of the top five markets that investors in New York, the
Valley, and Boston are interested in. Like year over year, we swap spots with
places like Austin as to which city they are more interested in, whether it’s
us or Philly. So, the thing I would say to entrepreneurs that maybe don’t
believe there’s enough capital in Philly, is look at all of the other markets
that are thriving that also believe there’s not enough capital in their market
and understand where it is best for you to do your business. And when your
business is right, the capital will follow. The capital goes where there are
the best ideas and the best opportunities. And look, the capital can live in
San Francisco and be spent on Philly based companies. There are great thriving
companies in this house today, here, still here after a number of hours,
because they like having beers with this crowd, founders of some great
organizations that did none of their fundraising in Philly but believe
passionately that their business needs to stay located in Philly. So, the
answer I would say is, don’t worry about the capital that is here. Worry about
what are the characteristics that make it worth for you to build your business
here. Focus on what it’s gonna take to keep your people here, to keep them
happy, to keep them enjoyable, and keep them enjoying their experience and
growing, because every company I talk to believes passionately that this is the
place to do it. So, don’t worry about the capital that’s not here, because
there’s plenty of capital other places that believe in you being here. That’s
what I would say.
As a Philadelphian, that is so great. OK, so one of our traditions on
Article 19 is that we ask all of our guests who come on for a recommendation of
something that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed recently, and from any media. What
recommendation do you have for us and our listeners?
Alright. So, I’m gonna say this: It’s hard to say and enjoyed, but I took
great value from this, because I consider myself a night owl. I consider myself
a fan of a good cocktail. I’ll have a beer every now and again. But the book
that I have read in the last year that I most love that has turned my life in a
different direction, turned my daily habits in a different direction, is ‘Why
We Sleep,’ by Matthew Walker. And it is very interesting in the fact that this
gentleman who wrote this book has done a compilation of all the different
angles regarding the importance of sleep, and good sleep habits on a daily
basis. So, I’m a runner, and I consider exercise one of the best things that
regulates my sleep and my daily health, but I’m not getting the most out of my
runs unless I can get a good solid seven to nine hours of sleep. I’m not doing
the best work unless I can get that good sleep. If I am not eating right, if I
am not making sure that one beer a day doesn’t become three beers on the
weekends, that’s messing up my sleep. And I will say to you, that that made a
big difference in my daily life. It wasn’t a happy lesson to learn, but I am
thankful for it. Can I say to you that at this point in the summer I probably
need to reread the book again, because events like this are–maybe they’re
about more than a drink or two. That kind of advice could be helpful. But it is
a good one, and I recommend it to anybody. Anybody who has struggled with sleep
and has struggled with the reason for, you know, understanding how to
prioritize this in their life. It’s one of my best reads of the year. I will
tell anybody to read it instantly.
I love it. I love this event.
Having said that, I know I’m usually exhausted at the end of this thing, so
sleep’s not gonna be a problem tonight.
As you should be actually. So, well-earned I would say. Well, thank you.
Thank you for coming on, spending a few minutes with us.
My pleasure Marty.
Thank you for letting Tamman be a part of this.
This is really–
You guys made this happen. We don’t get to have this fun unless Tamman
supports it, so I am so glad you are here.
Well, we will be here again, that is for sure, if you’ll have us, so.
Love it, love it.
Very good. Thank you so much. Let’s keep the conversation going and we’ll
talk to you very, very soon.
Please Marty. Thank you. Excellent.
So, I’m here with Nick Spring. Nick, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Oh, hi Marty. Thank you very much indeed. Yeah, so my background is that I
originally started off in the UK, I can say that from my accent, in London,
England. I studied life sciences as an undergrad degree and business as a post.
Worked for Merck all around the world for about 23 years, and then really got
into the innovation scene about 2005-ish, where I left Merck and started my
first company, which was actually fully backed by Ben Franklin Technology
Oh, that’s great.
Yeah. And we had a successful growth, that company. Sold it to Sanofi,
dabbled around with a few other companies, and right now I’m COO of a company
called BioVeras, which is a gain, backed by my good friends over at Ben
Franklin, so they’re very, very nice.
That’s fantastic. It worked once, let’s go back, see if it can get it again.
So, couple of questions around that. One, it must’ve been quite a decision to
leave a company like Merck. I mean this giant pharma company that was probably
fairly comfortable at the time, to start your own thing. How did you make that
leap to start your own thing? How did you make that leap to start your own
Oh, it was sort of a multi-factorial situation. Being with Merck for 23
years, worked all around the world. Brilliant company. Loved every moment of
it. Started off actually around the health division, helping dogs, cats,
horses, pig, sheep, cattle, you know, get better from illnesses, so did that
for a while. And then I transferred into the human health division, you know,
with vaccines and things, got really interested in that. But really, a number
of circumstances came together. It’s one of those moments where I was sort of
saying, “Well, what am I gonna do next? Where do I go from here.” So,
I always thought, “Well, I can always get back into big pharma if I wanted
to, but I really would like to have a go doing something myself,” so I
left. And also, my kids at the time, three daughters, who’d all had head lice,
and nothing worked against it, so I had this idea for inventing something that
would really work, and that’s the Genesis [inaudible sounds like of Topaz
00:28:36], the first company.
That’s fantastic. So, you’re with BioVeras now. You’ve started this new
Tell us a little bit about that.
Oh, Veras, I’m sorry.
That’s OK. It derives from sort of a time in a pub, dreaming up a name for
the company and–
Where the best names come from.
Oh, yeah. Bio veritas means truth in biology. And what we’re doing in this
company is very different from the previous one. So, it’s basically a software
company, but we have developed a block chain based platform where you can
gather clinical data in an immutable form, and ultimately will lead on to NFTs,
so that you can have indisputable data being produced for trials, which means
you’re going to get pharmaceuticals, med devices, biologicals produced far more
quicker, far more efficiently, and getting so people that really need these
lifesaving therapies, much more quickly. So, that’s what we’re trying to do,
and we’re very successful at it right now.
Wow. Wow, alright. So, I will not pretend you’re already a little bit over
my head. I understand just a little bit, but I’m imagining that, and it makes
perfect sense why we faster, but will you run into obstacles with different
countries then, not being OK with the speed at which some of those medicines
and vaccines or whatever will be created?
No, not really. I think actually most medical systems are looking to make
themselves more efficient. And in fact, you know, the pandemic recently proved
it doesn’t take 10 years to produce a vaccine. You could actually do it in a
year. So, no, I think anything that makes things more efficient, delay a
systems, makes it more accessible for everyone, is really the way the world’s
moving. And you’re even seeing things like, you know, the metaverse is now
called, happening, and that’s gonna be really based on block chain. So, you
know, you’re gonna see the whole Internet transfer into a completely new
technology, which is much more efficient, much quicker, and delayered. It gives
actually people more power.
I would imagine not only the efficiencies for the medicines themselves, but
the block chain giving a sort of truth or belief that people have more faith in
what is being created then.
Yeah, you nailed it Marty. It’s all about trust. And you know, this has
nothing to do with crypto, by the way, which sort of proves the thesis that
block chain can work. This is all to do with having trust in data that hasn’t
been manipulated, it hasn’t been massaged, it hasn’t been, you know,
fortunately put in. You can trace every piece of data right back to its origin
and every single movement along the block chain. So, it’s gonna create a brand
new world, a revolution new world for drug approval.
That’s so amazing. So, back to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for a
minute. You know, you’ve worked with them now a couple of times.
I mean what is it that they do that is so important, and why did you come
back to them after having success before? What were you looking for?
Well, I’ll give a shout out to a few people here. I mean I’ve worked with
Ben Franklin very heavily since 2005 when I came in my first company. What I
love about them is, that they act as a fantastic reflection and very objective
assessment in what you’re trying to do. I found them very good for multiple
points of view. The coaching they can give, the objectivity they can give, say
around a business plan. The fact they will actually back what they say by
putting money into your company, and they’ve been a very strong guide all the
way along the lines. So, I’ve dealt with Scott Nissenbaum who’s now heading the
whole thing up. Jen Hartt was on my first board. She’s now managing director
here. She’s brilliant. [inaudible 00:31:48], he too is around and helping us.
So, they’re very involved and in a very good way. Some investors you can have
in companies sometimes can be a little bit painful. They’re criticizing you all
the time. These guys are very effective at saying, “Look, hey, if you
realize this, but have you thought of doing that?” And that’s what I find
fantastic about them. And they’re always there for you. And they run fun events
like the Innovation Picnics. It can’t be bad, can it?
Yeah, no doubt, and it’s fantastic. Alright, so two more questions for you.
One is, why Philadelphia? You’ve been all over the world. What makes
Philadelphia so unique for great innovation?
Actually, you hit one of my soap boxes. I think Philadelphia’s fantastic.
I’ve actually given talks here and overseas, back in the UK and in Europe,
about how this particular ecosystem is fantastic getting things going. My only
wish for Philadelphia is, I really wish we had a second or a third level of
investment who are very good at start-ups, who are very good at innovation, but
when you get to the serious money, you gotta go to New York, San Francisco, all
the usual suspects. But it is a very, very frothy environment. You’ve got lots
of academics going here, you got world class sciences, you got cell biology
happening at an incredible rate. It’s a wonderful place.
That’s fantastic. Now, I don’t get a chance to talk to folks originally from
the UK very often, so my last question for you, before we get to your
recommendation for us is, tell me why Tottenham Hotspur will win the Premier
League this year?
Well, that’s a very good question, but completely misguided. [laughter] And
actually because you have to understand something. So, I’m actually in North
London now, and we have two teams in North London, one of which is fantastic,
and the other one totally be shown the door, if not, the English Channel. And
the true team for North London is Arsenal.
Oh, you’re breaking my heart.
And the one that people don’t really know, if they know nothing about
football, they often latch into is Tottenham Hotspur. There’s nothing hot about
Oh, it’s killing me. You’re killing me. Alright, very good. So, finally, as
tradition on Article 19 we ask our guest to give us a recommendation for
something they’ve been into recently. What, give us one recommendation to our
Well, actually, interesting enough, one of the sidelines I did for 10 years
was actually a professor down at the University of Sciences, doing on their MBA
programs. And I’ve read a lot of books over the years that have helped me form
companies and help people form companies. And it’s probably two that spring to
mind that are worth looking at. One’s by a guy called Cutler, which is called
[inaudible sounds like: Mark C 00:34:07] Management, and that’s just brilliant
about how to identify audiences for your products, so you sell them, because
all companies have to sell something sometime. And the other one actually who I
think is especially good for start-ups, is a book called ‘Scaling Up,’ and
that’s just fantastic, because it takes you from everything, from one or two
people right up to 500 plus, and what you’re gonna do really at each stage. So,
they’re the two recommendations I make.
I love it, I love it. Nick, thank you so much for spending some time with us
Oh, thank you very much indeed Marty, bumping into you this beautiful day
and I hope you’re gonna have a great time. I certainly had a great time on your
podcast. I appreciate it.
Appreciate it. Thanks.
Thank you very much.
I’m here with Evan Harden, OG.
There we go.
As we just said, the second most famous, but soon to be first most famous
Harden in Philadelphia. Evan, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m by trade a performance coach. So, I’ve started out in fitness and
physical fitness, and then also incorporated hypnotherapy, so working with the
mind for an all-around performance, enhancement experience working with
athletes and professionals alike. But as far as company wise, what I do is
called the National Bar League. So, I have people from around the world
competing in what you would say is a mix between gymnastics and parkour. So, I
have these outdoor pull up bars, and people will come out and you’ll have one
guy go up, do a bunch of tricks that look like gymnasts, but on an outdoor pull
up bar, on a metal one. And somebody else will go and they compete, and we have
scores, and rankings, and all those type of things.
So, is this something that was born in Philadelphia or is this a worldwide
So, I wouldn’t take complete credit. I would say it is global, it’s very
global. I was very early on in it to where the competitions aren’t
necessarily–what I do, it wasn’t how it started. So, I entered where I was
inspired by athletes already doing things, but as I started to get more
involved, I actually became a spearhead of the movement. I have an outdoor
fitness park built in South Philadelphia. I work with the Philadelphia Eagles
Connor Barwin. And people can go out there for free, workout, practice your
tricks, practice muscle ups, and you don’t need a gym membership, and it’s free
for the community, and we could also have events there and people can compete
and all that.
So, I have so many questions. We could be here for a while, so settle in.
So, alright. I first wanna go to hypnotherapy.
My only experience with that is many, many years ago, decades ago, my mother
quit smoking using hypnotherapy. Nothing else worked but hypnotherapy. But I
know there are a lot of people that might be listening that have no idea what
that really means or entails, and I–honestly, I was a kid. I don’t really
know. I just know she went through a process of what I remember as relaxation.
But can you tell us a little bit more about what you do in that space.
So, that is interesting about, you say about relaxation. So, what I do is
get people into a point of focused relaxation. It’s kind of for–nowadays,
people say focus and you kind of feel tense, like you should be laser beaming
through with your eyes through something, where it’s actually the very
opposite. When your most focus is probably when you’re doing something you
really love, right? And say for instance–
Like flow, right?
So, flow, that is your focus state, when you’re nice and relaxed, you know
what you’re doing, and I put people in that state to where I can work directly
with the subconscious mind, so you’re in a flow transtate, and I can help you
with the information and plant the seeds in your subconscious mind to help you
with whatever you want to accomplish. Similar to quitting smoking, but only I
don’t necessarily like those things. I’m more so improve focus, improve
confidence. Things that can improve your discipline, things that can help you
on your own achieve those type of goals.
So, this might be a little bit out there and it’s totally fine if it’s a no,
but in what you’ve done in your coaching, have you ever worked with someone who
had a physical disability of any kind?
Yes, many a times.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
So, honestly, I have a disability. So, I was shot when I was 16. So, I
currently live with a bullet next to my spine.
Oh, my gosh.
And so, part of me starting calisthenics, the National Bar League, was me
retraining my body through functional, no weights, just calisthenics, training
that helped me become an actual competitor myself, and I’ve won competitions myself.
So, and I started training at 25. I was shot at 16. So, working with people of
disabilities is actually something I enjoy, because through the process of
utilizing functional fitness through calisthenics, there’s so much you can do
to become more mobile or more athletic. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs do a
pull up more than–pulling with your wheelchair on, strapped to you.
So, I mean as–it’s just amazing what I see. I’ve seen 70 year old guys on
top of the bar throwing themselves. My business partner’s 40. He does the same
things on the bar I do. So, to see the longevity in it, to work with people who
may think that they can’t do something, I actually kind of prefer it.
Yeah. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. OK, so coming back to–and it’s the
Bar League, right? Is that what you said?
National Bar League.
National Bar League.
Or NBX for short.
NBX. Where can people find that if they just wanna find you on online, find
more information about that?
You can Google my name, Evan Harden, it comes up pretty easily, or follow on
Instagram at OG_fitness. I basically have everything up on there, the National
Bar League’s at. We have tons of videos online. We’re actually in the process
of throwing our next event, probably coming next year, a bigger event. We’ve
been throwing events for like the last 10 years all over Philadelphia. Again,
we have people all over the world that come out and compete from New York,
Jersey, California, Russia, Germany. It’s really amazing to watch these people
do it. I hope to see you guys. Can see some videos yourself. So, yeah, that’s
what we do. That’s where you can kind of find us and follow us there, and to
keep updated on our next event.
So, you don’t strike me as somebody who stays still for very long. So, what
else is cooking for you? Like I would imagine you’re building this
international organization right now. I should ask actually, are you working
with Ben Franklin Tech Partners?
So, not at the moment. I graduated from Philadelphia Start Up Leaders
Accelerator Program, the ethical entrepreneurship. I’m close with PACT, so I
work with those guys a little bit. For the most part, it’s been a lot of my own
hustle. A lot of pounding the pavement, walking, knocking on different doors.
Who wants to sponsor. Red Bull sponsored us before and it was just me going
into the office and saying, “Who does what, who can I talk to.” That
was mostly the hustle that got me to this point to be able to–actually, I do
speaking for some of the events for PSL, for Philadelphia Start Up Leaders, so
that’s how I end up here. Just always circulating and involved.
I think that’s so great. And I think it speaks, and we’ve talked to a couple
about this. Philadelphia’s unique. One person used the term ‘frothy,’ and I
loved it. It was sort of like this mixing and frothiness of the innovation
space in Philadelphia, which I really dig. So, one of the things we do on
Article 19, and this conversation wasn’t nearly long enough, we’re gonna have
to bring you back for something that is much more formal, is we ask our guests
to give us a recommendation of something they’re into right now. And it could
be from any media or anything that you’ve been into.
Alright. No, I’ll show my more–I read a lot of Manga. I’m into anime. I
grew up on it, Dragonball Z, from everything. All the little ones, I love it.
And there’s a–I think it’s called Manhwa because it’s coming out of Korea. And
it’s called Solo Leveling, or Leveler. Either way you’ll find it. If you’re
into Manga and Manhwa, and you’re looking for my one recommendation, I would
say read that, because it’s really good. Like I literally ordered my own books
from South Korea. So, I had to order them off, what was it, Pinterest, or Etsy.
Etsy. So, I found somebody who had the copies, and I ordered. That’s how good
it was, and I just waited till they came in, shipping fees and all that.
That is so amazing.
Yeah, so it was–that would be my one recommendation.
Well, I got to tell you Evan, from like just two minutes talking to you, I
was like, “I love his confidence, his bluster about being the soon to be
first most famous Harden in Philly,” but man, you’re already there.
I dig it man. I really wanna keep talking with you, so.
Yeah, let me know. We can do a part two. I would appreciate that.
I’ll dig it. Let’s do it. Alright, thanks man. So, welcome back to Article
19. I’m here with Brendan McGuire from Wipfli. Brendan, I’m so glad that you
joined us here on Article 19. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
So, I’m from Springfield Delaware County, so I’m born and raised
I grew up locally, went to Penn State. Lived in Toronto, Canada right out of
school for a year, which is a fun experience. Then I have been into data
management analytic space for a little over 25 years. Started a company called
Waypoint Consulting 16 years ago, and we were acquired by Wipfli this past
February. So, now I’m a principal at Wipfli, just focusing on data management
That’s so cool. So, folks can find you and so I don’t forget, what’s
Just as it sounds. Super easy.
Yeah, it gets–sometimes people call it Wipfli, but it’s Wipfli.
Wipfli. I dig it.
It’s a family name. It’s a 90 year old business, blew over a half a billion
dollars in revenue, over 3,000 employees. We do have employees also in India.
So, yeah, it’s a really cool fast growing company that is privately owned.
That’s so great. And so, for your journey, coming out of school and being in
this space, how did you fall into it? How did you fall into this data space?
So, coming out of Penn State, I was recruited to work in the technology
which is right be–I graduated in ’95, and it was right before Y2K. I think
they were just trying to find bodies to get in there. So, I went to Toronto to
do that, and quickly became more of a business development. I was good with
clients, and that meant growth, so I got, went to the sales side. And at that
point, I joined a data management analytics firm. At that time, it was called
Decision Support Systems, and then it became Data Warehousing, and now it’s
sort of back to Decision Support. It’s called Business Intelligence over the
years. It’s all about helping customers identify the data assets they own and
making use of those. So, my journey has been very much along those paths. Now,
Wipfli is a tax accounting and technology consulting firm. So, we were acquired
to bring a lot of more methodologies and talent to bolster the data and
analytics capabilities that exist within Wipfli.
That’s really, really great. And so, I’ve heard for a Philadelphia boy like
yourself, you have a couple of high profile clients. Are you allowed to mention
any of them on the pod?
Yeah, I mean we’ve worked with a lot of great companies in Philadelphia over
the years. And currently right now we’re working with companies like Cubesmart.
It’s a great company. Recovery Centers of America is a great company. I’ve
worked in the Philadelphia region for years. Customers, bank–
Philadelphia Eagles I heard, maybe?
Philadelphia Eagles. They’re a great client of ours, yes. Sorry, I–
This is Philadelphia. We can’t not have a–we can’t not talk about it.
Yes, yeah. I should probably mention that, yeah. They’re one–in fact, we
just had a client event at their training camp on Tuesday. So, we brought some
clients to it, and it was really cool. We were literally on the field for
That’s so cool.
Great experience. If you’re an Eagles fan, it was really neat.
Yeah, that is really neat. And so, what sort of tools are you using at
Wipfli? I mean I’m curious, because I can imagine that, you know, places like
Cubesmart or the Philadelphia Eagles–I mean you’re talking about mountains of
data, right? I mean, so how does a company like Wipfli work through some of
that data and make it meaningful for your clients?
So, it’s not so much a tool approach, even though we do work with tools.
It’s about understanding their business processes, understanding decisions
they’re making every day, every week, every month, every quarter, every year,
saying, “How are you making those decisions? Are you making those
decisions with data, or is it just observations, gut feel?” So, we go
through that process first and foremost, is understanding their business
process and how the data assets they are capturing can be leveraged. From
there, there’s a plethora of tools. Microsoft has Synapse, Azure, SQL, and the
Cloud. There’s tools like Snowflake. Those are data management products or
platforms. And then you have tools like Tableau and Power BI, those are some of
the leading data visualization products. But we never go into it leading with a
tool. We actually ask our clients, “Have you made investments in
products?” If they have, we look to leverage that investment.
Sure. Oh, that’s great.
Because the fact of the matter is, most of these tools today, it’s not about
the tool, it’s about what you build with the tool.
Brendan, that is something that we talk about constantly, and it’s a really
interesting intersection between Wipfli and Tamman, because the tools can only
get you so far. But we are a human centered company. We are a tech company
ourselves, but it has to be about the human intervention. So, when you’re
looking at digital accessibility, we use all sorts of tools. But if you don’t
have the individuals being able to interpret that, analyze, creating road maps,
helping people see past just the tool, then it will never reach its full
Absolutely. And what’s really neat about the space that we’re in–so I got
started in the data management analytic space with companies like Bank One and
Capital One. Like they were the first companies to really break into data
warehousing and then–because it was a big investment. You had to have the
financial stamina to build something out and to deliver something. Now, with a
lot of these cloud based data tools, with the cost of entry, it’s a lot less
expensive, and therefore mid-size businesses, small to mid-size businesses can
leverage these platforms. They don’t have to build the infrastructure for it.
They can bring data in from their CRM, from their ERP, from their financial
systems and have a more enterprise view, and it’s not a million dollar project.
You know, they can get in for a pretty low cost.
So, last question before I get to our recommendations. What’s next for you
and Wipfli? I mean where are you guys headed in the short to intermediate term
We’re really helping a lot of small to mid-size businesses as we–we’re kind
of like Deloitte of the mid-market. Like we focus on the 20 to 400 million in
revenue type of clients. And so, we are doing a lot within the way of road maps
for companies that size. Helping them to identify, again, what data assets are
available. We are continuing to drive more to the cloud, right, because cloud
data management is a big part of what we’re doing, and we’re looking to
continue to grow out our geographic presence, so yeah.
That’s awesome. I lied to you. I have another question. What brought you
guys out to the–yeah.
It’s funny you asked that. So, within Wipfli, we go to market by industry,
right, so you align to an industry. Doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in
that industry, but you spend time educating yourself within the industry
trends, what matters in that industry. So, one of the industries that I focus
in is tech. The number of tech clients that I’ve worked over the years,
startups and there’s a couple things that are really important to tech
customers. It’s evaluation metrics, it’s attaching analytics to their solution,
right, because a lot of times when these tech companies sell solutions or sell
their product, they commit to some level of reporting analytics, and it’s often
like the last thing in the product development road map. And therefore, they
commit to it, they sell it, and the client buys on and is like, “Where’s
my analytics,” and that’s like a kind of, “Oh, we gotta do
this.” So, I’m part of this tech group and, you know, we’re just looking
at local things we can do. Someone forwarded this event to me. I went onto the
website to just kind of attend, and I saw, hey, we can enter a team, right? So,
it was a picnic event here today. So, it is a picnic event here today. So,
talked to a couple of my colleagues in the tech group and we decided that
there’s seven of us here throwing frisbees, and bean bags, and it’s cool, man,
it’s fun. It’s a good chance–listen. COVID stunk, right, it was terrible.
So, this is cool. You get out to meet people, have a good time and have a
I love it. So, we end every interview on Article 19 with a series of
recommendations. I’m gonna torture you with one question. I’d love to hear,
what one recommendation would you have for listeners right now of something
you’ve been reading or listening to? Any media. Don’t worry about it. What is
something you’ve been into recently?
I’m gonna come back–I’m gonna stay with the sports theme, I think. I’m not
gonna necessarily recommend a book or a podcast or something of that nature. I
just think sports is a great place where a lot of people can come together
right now. It’s lot of anger out there. I’m not saying anything new here, but I
think sports can be fun. So, now obviously, you pick a team, right, but you
Well, the Eagles fans are never angry, so that’s fine.
Well, no, no. I’ve been a season ticket holder for many years, sitting in
the 700 level. But we had this event the other day, at the Eagles training
camp, and one of my best clients is a die-hard Steelers fan. She grew up in
Pittsburgh and she’s not afraid to show her colors, right?
They never are.
And, you know, it’s–they are. They’re great though. That’s why I think
Philadelphia people respect Pittsburgh people so much. But I really think just
riding around college football, riding around pro football, riding around
sports, it’s fun. I’m looking forward to it. I have teenage kids and it’s a
great place to be instead of watching the Echo Chamber News Networks these
Nice to bring people together. I really like it, a lot like the Innovation
Picnic here. Well, Brendan, thank you so much for hopping on man.
Thanks, it was a pleasure, yeah.
I really appreciate it.
Appreciate you having me.
Alright, thanks much.
Thank you Ben Franklin Technology Partners for allowing us to record and be
a part of the picnic this year. We were so excited to be there. Thank you for
the investment, the education, the support that you bring to the Philadelphia
tech scene. I also wanna thank all of our guests who came by the Tamman booth
that day to talk to us. Those of you that made it onto the pod, as well as
those who shared stories and didn’t make it onto this episode. We loved hearing
from you and getting energy about the work that you’re doing around the
community. Partnerships make everything we do possible. We cannot build the
inclusive web without all of us working together. So, keep listening, keep
advocating, keep talking about accessibility in your work and in your life. If
you like what you heard today and wanna explore more about digital
accessibility, inclusivity, or to schedule a time to talk with us, you can find
the whole Tamman team at Tammaninc.com. That’s T-A-M-M-A-N-I-N-C.com. Or you
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