10 Philly Startups to Watch in 2017, According to the Biggest Tech Leaders

Collagestartups

As we said farewell to 2016, BizPhilly put a call out to the tech community: Which local startups are you most excited about for 2017? That call was answered with overwhelming excitement for what’s ahead in Philly’s innovation space. Here are 10 startups to watch in 2017, according to the Philly tech community.

Stitch
stitchLAST

When Philly’s wildly successful data analytics startup RJMetrics was acquired by Magento Commerce in August 2016, Stitch spun out of the deal. The company evolved out of RJMetrics’ “Pipeline” product, which provided data infrastructure and consolidation services to clients. The product was beta-tested under RJMetrics for more than nine months and these services are now offered to clients like Booktopedia, Instapage and Philly’s Guru. We’ll be watching Stitch for several reasons: Jake Stein, who cofounded RJ Metrics, is leading Stitch as CEO. He’s definitely learned a thing or two about data SaaS after jumpstarting RJMetrics (once one of Philly’s fastest growing startups) back in 2008 and raising more than $20 million from investors in San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. Stitch is backed by the same investors as RJMetrics—August Capital, Trinity Ventures and SoftTech VC. And less than six months after their August launch, the company passed 100 paying customers. That’s more than five times faster than RJMetrics grew. Read more »

Q&A: Healthcare IT to Enter an Intense Period of Innovation in Philly

From left to right: David Luk, principal at Safeguard Scientifics; Scott Nissenbaum, chief investment officer at Ben Franklin Technology Partners; Tom Olenzak, managing director, strategic innovation portfolios at Independence Blue Cross at PSL's Founder Factory. Image courtesy of Safeguard Scientifics.

Left to right: David Luk, principal at Safeguard Scientifics; Scott Nissenbaum, chief investment officer at Ben Franklin Technology Partners; Tom Olenzak, managing director of strategic innovation portfolios at Independence Blue Cross at PSL’s Founder Factory. | Image courtesy of Safeguard Scientifics.

Last week, three of the Philadelphia region’s biggest players made a major announcement at PSL’s Founder Factory. Philly’s veteran venture firm, Safeguard ScientificsIndependence Health Group, the parent company of Independence Blue Cross; and venture firm Ben Franklin Technology Partners announced a $6 million funding initiative to support local, early-stage health IT startups over the next four years. The digital health startups selected for funding can receive anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million, and will also be mentored by the partners as they grow.

The initiative is an effort to “fuel Philadelphia’s innovative digital health ecosystem,” the partners said in a release. BizPhilly sat down with David Luk, a principal at Safeguard, to find out exactly why this initiative is being launched now and what it means for Philadelphia’s digital health landscape moving into 2017. Luk also shares why the team decided to focus on early-stage startups, a shift from Safeguard’s usual Series A and Series B financing. Read more »

How to Make the DNC Innovative? Get Curalate On Board

From left to right: Andrew Binns, DNCC Chief Innovation Officer; Kelli Klein, DNCC Digital Director; Apu Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder of Curalate; Mayor Jim Kenney | Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

From left to right: Andrew Binns, DNCC Chief Innovation Officer; Kelli Klein, DNCC Digital Director; Apu Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder of Curalate; Mayor Jim Kenney | Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

This year’s DNC in Philadelphia will be the most innovative Democratic national convention to date, the host committee says, and that’s thanks in part to the popular, fast-growing Philadelphia-based startup Curalate.

The DNC host committee announced today that Curalate, the image monetization software company, is an official technology provider for the convention, joining other technology leaders like Microsoft, AT&T, and LG, also official technology providers.

In its fourth year of business, Curalate captures the visual content or images of its clients like Staples and Urban Outfitters on social media platforms like Instagram and connects the images to the products pictured within them. With Curalate’s technology, for example, a user on Pinterest can click on an image of a dinner table spread from Crate & Barrel (a client) and be linked to where they can find and purchase the items online. Read more »

Curalate CEO: Kenney Needs to Support Tech Community

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Mayor Michael Nutter was a staunch supporter of Philadelphia’s local tech scene. He helped launch StartupPHL, a seed fund and grant program that invests in early stage companies. He’d frequently come to tech events, have a beer and discuss issues with tech founders. To Philly outsiders, he’d brag about N3rd street, a stretch of North 3rd where plenty of tech companies are headquartered.

Will Jim Kenney be just as supportive? In a recent report, Technically Philly said the new mayor and the tech community are in that “awkward, getting-to-know you phase.” Will he keep showing up at events? Will he continue learning about the city’s budding tech economy?  Read more »

Death of a Startup Company

Brian Dragotto (left) and Nick Yap.

Brian Dragotto (left) and Nick Yap.

Just a few years ago Nick Yap and Brian Dragotto had high hopes for their social media app Toboggan, but the 21-year-olds have now realized that the startup world can be an unforgiving place.

Toboggan offers “social points” to users that get the most likes on their photos or videos — and people can cash in those points for real prizes. The platform also curated content on leaderboards to display its most engaging photos or videos. Read more »

College Startup Leaders Show Their Stuff at Pitch Contest

Winners of the College Pitch Philly contest.

Winners of the College Pitch Philly contest.

From an app that aims to transform college meal plans to virtual-reality training to conquer public-speaking fears, the innovations on display at Wednesday night’s College Pitch Philly student business pitch competition were nothing short of impressive.

I served as a judge in the contest and the entrepreneurs blew me away with their passion and ideas. One CEO, Nate Matherson, claimed to already have more than $30,000 per month in revenues for his company LendEDU, which allows users to compare up to 12 different student loan lenders to get the best deals. And he wasn’t even a winner, despite an awesome presentation.  Read more »

10 Weeks After Shark Tank, PiperWai Hits $1.3 Million in Sales

Jess Edelstein (left) and Sarah Ribner. They co-founded PiperWai and will be on an upcoming episode of Shark Tank.

Jess Edelstein (left) and Sarah Ribner are the co-founders of PiperWai.

There’s nothing quite like the Shark-Tank bump, something Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner know all too well as revenues for their natural deodorant company topped $1.3 million just two short months after appearing on the show.

Their company, PiperWai makes natural deodorant, which they argue is much better than Tom’s or other brands because it uses charcoal, which is super-absorbent and not harmful to sensitive skin. On a tense episode of Shark Tank, Edelstein and Ribner got $50,000 from Barbara Corcoran for a 25 percent stake in the company.

Shark Tank will air an update on PiperWai this Friday, Feb 26 — and there’s plenty to talk about. Not only did the company break the million-dollar revenue mark, it’s also reached deals with 70 independent retailers and increased its social media following by nearly 10,000 across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Read more »

Why Campbell Soup is Betting $125 Million on Startups

Campbell Soup Co. headquarters in Camden, N.J.

Campbell Soup Co. headquarters in Camden, N.J.

How does a 147-year-old food company reinvent itself in the face of a seismic shift in the way people eat? Partner with young, innovative startup companies disrupting the space.

For the past few years, Campbell Soup has been on a mission to become a healthier food company as people are looking for healthier, less processed food items. In 2012 it acquired Bolthouse Farms (makers of juices, bagged carrots and salad dressing), and in 2013 it bought Plum Organics (organic baby food and kid snacks). In 2015 it acquired salsa, hummus and dip maker Garden Fresh Gourmet for $231 million.

But this week the company added a new tactic to its arsenal — a $125 million venture capital fund. Read more »

Inside Mt. Airy’s New Immigrant Entrepreneur Co-Working Space

Mayor Jim Kenney attended the formal opening of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub on Feb. [tk]. Photo | Brian James

Mayor Jim Kenney attended the formal opening of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub on Feb. 4. Photo | Brian James

The following statements have become truisms:

  • Small businesses are the greatest engine of economic growth in America.
  • Immigrants from abroad have played a major role in the revival of many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Mt. Airy in Northwest Philadelphia is not a neighborhood in need of revival — it remains an attractive and desirable place to live with a healthy commercial district — but the people in charge of keeping it that way saw signs of distress on the horizon and have their eyes on the long run.

Armed with a Knight Cities Challenge grant, Mt. Airy USA has formally opened the Immigrant Innovation Hub this month. Read more »

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