Meet the Philly Start-Ups Leading the Entrepreneurship Era
Medical | University City
The Pitch: Getting people with autism to get online.
Five years ago, people thought Michele McKeone was crazy for trying to teach her autistic students at South Philadelphia High School how to use email. Now, she counts the Philadelphia School District as a client. Last July, with a team of educational advisers and developers, McKeone, 31 (who is also still teaching), launched Autism Expressed, a subscription-based software system that teaches digital literacy to individuals with autism—literacy that McKeone considers a basic life skill in our Web-based world. The program, which can be used by both parents and institutions, presents a series of video lessons—like, for example, Facebook etiquette and what sensitive info you should never post online.
Make or Break: The program has snagged recognition that includes being named the 2013 Geekadelphia Start-Up of the Year and a $20,000 prize from Educational Services of America.
Business | Old City
The Pitch: Editable apps.
A mobile app-editing platform seemed like such an obvious idea to Bob Moul, 49, and Scott Wasserman, 44, that they were convinced somebody else would put out a similar product before their 2010 launch. Artisan Mobile’s technology allows businesses to update existing apps without having to overhaul them (or resubmit to the Apple store)—meaning companies can experiment with design and product placement to increase revenue. Rue La La and Golf Center have used Artisan services.
Make or Break: Artisan is now supported by $7 million in VC money and has filed patents for its technology. Moul’s place in the local start-up scene is notable: The current president of Philly Startup Leaders, he has worked with Mayor Nutter to launch StartUp PHL and guest-lectures at Wharton, Drexel and Temple.
Medical | Conshohocken
The Pitch: Big Pharma clinical trials head to the cloud.
Zikria Syed, 46, cut his teeth at Microsoft before he and co-founder Matt Walz, 38, dreamed up NextDocs in 2006. Their company provides cloud-based file sharing services to (mostly) pharmaceutical and biotech outfits. Now companies can seamlessly, efficiently and securely compile, track and comply with FDA regulations for clinical trials and the like. Clients include AstraZeneca, Bausch & Lomb, Abbott Laboratories and St. Jude Medical.
Make or Break: They recently secured a $13.5 million round of funding, and for the fourth year in a row were Microsoft’s “Life Sciences Partner of the Year.”
CareCam Health System
Medical | West Conshohocken
The Pitch: High-tech Obamacare compliance.
There’s a race to develop the high-tech system that health-care institutions will clamor for. Enter CareCam, a company set to launch in 2014 that has developed an impressive interactive program, vHealth, meant to reduce hospital readmission rates. The gist: Videos and post-treatment care plans are uploaded to a patient’s smartphone, and feedback is captured remotely—so doctors can chart your biometric readings and know if you took your meds after you’re discharged.
Make or Break: CareCam has a Midas-touch entrepreneur in CEO Hal Rosenbluth, 61, who sold his family’s travel agency to American Express in 2003 for a reported $350 million dollars, then co-founded a system of walk-in health clinics, Take Care, that Walgreens bought in 2007.
Real Food Works
The Pitch: Healthy meals delivered from local restaurants.
After watching Forks Over Knives, a documentary about the importance of whole and plant-based foods, Lucinda Duncalfe, 50, completely reordered the way she and her family ate. She promptly lost 15 pounds and had less joint pain and newfound energy. Eager to share this way of eating, she launched Real Food Works, a subscription-based meal-delivery business. Here’s the twist: Restaurants prepare the meals to her guidelines, so consumers get a variety of cuisines and flavors coming out of real kitchens, and chefs can generate revenue during the times they have a full staff but not a full restaurant—collaborative commerce in action.
Make or Break: Duncalfe has the chops—she’s a serial entrepreneur whose last company, which dealt with anti-spam software, sold for $28 million. Her track record, in combination with a winning idea, recently won her $200,000 in funding from an equity investment made by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and Josh Kopelman’s First Round Capital, as part of StartUp PHL, an initiative by the Nutter administration to support local start-ups.