For High-Tech Success, Go South By Southwest, Young Woman

Through March 20, Yuval Yarden will promote the Philadelphia tech scene at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

Through March 20, Yuval Yarden has taken Horace Greeley’s 19th-century maxim about where a young man should go to make his name and fortune, and applied it in a very 21st-century way. To promote the Philadelphia tech scene, the 24-year-old startup facilitator made the journey to the nation’s pre-eminent innovation and trade show, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The festival offers media presentations, music showcases, film screenings, panel discussions, trade shows and global networking opportunities.
Yarden is leading an initiative called StartupPHL Presents: Amplify Philly SXSW Edition, which will promote Philadelphia as a hub for startups, music and technologies created in the region. More than 30 companies and organizations joined musicians and nonprofit partners in Texas including RJMetrics, Cloudmine, Picwell, Eventuosity, Oz, Zivtech, Arcweb and Chariot Solutions.
Yarden’s presence at SXSW is a reflection of just how important Philadelphia’s growing tech scene has become in the area. In recent years, the focus on supporting startups in the city has increased significantly, from major corporations such as Comcast and Independence Blue Cross investing in innovation, to the continued growth of grassroots efforts such as Philly Startup Leaders, N3RD Street and Philly Tech Week.
“We really wanted to highlight Philly on a national level,” Yarden said. “We wanted to make sure that people know that it is a place where tech and innovation are thriving and where people can build their business, be a musician and do their work in a manageable cost of living with a ton of resources. We want to promote Philly as a place where millennials can have a good life.”
In conjunction with Amplify Philly SXSW Edition, the city will relaunch, a site designed to serve as the gateway to tech in Philly. It originally launched in October 2012 to highlight the Startup PHL initiative — a $6 million public-private venture fund managed by First Round Capital — and the Call for Ideas, a grant program to fund innovative proposals that support Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community. The relaunch will include resources and incentives for companies starting or moving to Philadelphia, students, job seekers and media.
Yarden told the Exponent she believes most people from Philadelphia don’t attend the event because it costs between $650 and $1,500 just to register. She went in 2014 for the first time with a startup called Glass- U and invited her friend Dave Silver to come and help. She and Silver met at Temple University, where she was Hillel president her senior year and he was a member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi. Silver, who works for RECPhilly, came together with her organization to start the initiative. 
About 70,000 people attend the conference each day, where there are booths representing companies as well as cities and countries such as Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Israel and Japan. She and Silver realized they had to return.
“Dave said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’ ” Yarden explained. “It’s really overwhelming and it’s hard to navigate. You always feel like you missed an opportunity because there are so many things. We just need more people considering Philly when they want to grow their business. Nationally, people don’t think Philly when they think tech.”
They are already planning for next year and plan to attend for the next three to five years.
Yarden’s passion is business and technology, and she credits her success to her Jewish background. Her mother, Na’ama Yarden, is a Jewish studies teacher at Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood and the education director at Congregation Or Shalom in Berwyn; her father, Josh Yarden, is a curriculum consultant.
She attended Perelman Jewish Day School and Camp Galil in Ottsville, which taught kids about peer leadership. Her commitment to tikkun olam and being active in Judaism continued as she got older. Yarden did the Satell Teen Fellowship for Leadership and Social Activism her senior year of high school. She stayed even more Jewishly involved in college by teaching Hebrew school at Society Hill Synagogue, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel and Congregation Rodeph Shalom while at Temple.
After graduating college in 2013, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue a career as an educator. While she does still substitute at Hebrew schools occasionally, she loves being in the startup world.
“I had no clue I wanted to be working in startups,” she said. “I didn’t even know they existed. I’m going to watch the community grow with my career — that’s an inspiring thing.”
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