FOHO: Fear of Helping out in the Philly tech scene

In Silicon Valley there is a popular term called FOMO (Fear of Missing out), meaning investors throw money at as many tech startups as they can because they’re afraid to miss the next Uber or Facebook. If only that were the case here in Philadelphia. Instead we have quite the opposite.  I am coining a new phrase today because I’ve realized it is just as ubiquitous in Philly as our cheese steak.

FOHO: Fear of Helping out.

What do I mean by this?  Let me start off by saying that I have helped a large amount of early tech startups here in Philadelphia, and as a result of my advising, suggestions, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and lean methodology strategies, I have directly impacted companies to the point where they have collectively raised over $3 million.   And this is several startups raising seed rounds not just one or two. My qualm is that once they have raised there round, I no longer get credit or get asked for help, I basically get thrown aside. It’s as if I never helped them out to begin with.  It’s kind of a slap in the face, one that I will no longer put up with.

On the other side of the fence, as some of you may or may not know, I recently launched a B2B revenue driven video platform. It is every investors’ dream.  A platform for businesses with a monthly fee, and the potential to scale nationwide or worldwide. But as my partner and I reach out for help, feedback, suggestions (although our close circle has been gracious enough to provide that), we are seeing a phenomenon that I like to call FOHO.

Since Philadelphia is a dry town (early stage funding is scarce), startup founders are afraid to help others because the result may be funding for the company they helped but not for their own company. Why devote your precious, valuable time to helping other founders to “pay it forward”, if you still haven’t raised one single seed round for your own startup?  I understand the philosophy of, “If your city is doing well then your company is doing well.” But that’s just not the case. If your company isn’t doing well, then your company isn’t doing well.  Saying that helping your city is helping you, is like saying that watching a basketball games helps an NBA player. When you watch a basketball game, do you bring home $10 million a year?

In order for Philadelphia to truly rise to the occasion, we need to change our investor culture to not only realize that FOHO is abundant, but that it is the barrier which is stopping us from growing on a global scale.  There is only so much an entrepreneur like myself can do to help a community, especially when that community refuses to help back.  If I had charged as a consultant for the hours that I have put into this city to help local tech startups, college students, small business owners, and even thriving companies, I would have made at least $1 million in fees (I’ve done the math).

Ironically, that is what I have resorted to more recently: charging for my time. I hope one day I can volunteer my services once again, contingent on my B2B “investor friendly” revenue driven video platform raising at least one seed round in this city of brotherly love.



Jason Sherman

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