Three Philly Startups Raise a Combined $8 Million

Guru, PeopleLinx and Apprennet just scored big bucks.

From left: Michael Idinopulos of PeopleLinx; Emily Foote of Apprennet; and Rick Nucci of Guru.

From left: Michael Idinopulos of PeopleLinx; Emily Foote of Apprennet; and Rick Nucci of Guru.

The Philadelphia tech scene has been on fire recently, with three startups announcing that they’ve raised a combined $8 million in investment capital. Here’s a look at each of them:

Guru: $2.7 Million

Rick Nucci is no stranger to the startup world. Not only is he the co-founder of Boomi — which was bought by Dell in 2010 — he’s also the president of Philly Startup Leaders, an organization that holds meetups, tech events and keeps the community connected.

Nucci’s newest venture is Guru, a service that helps businesses simplify internal knowledge sharing. Take a corporate sales team for example. They’ll likely need fast, expert-verified answers on the fly (like during sales calls) and detailed product knowledge that isn’t easy to find (without taking a while to look up or bothering someone who knows.) So Guru makes all the info easily available and makes sure it’s frequently verified by the experts.

The business model was impressive enough to secure a $2.7 million investment round led by FirstMark Capital, Salesforce Ventures and MSD Capital (led by Michael Dell.) Guru actually secured the funding in 2013 but kept it quiet until now when it formally launched the company. So far, it’s got 200 companies using the product, 11 employees and has gone through half of its investment cash. Nucci and founder Mitchell Stewart are still majority owners, although Nucci wouldn’t disclose specifics on the ownership structure.

The plan is to expand its team over the next six to nine months, hiring people in sales, marketing and customer experience — and grow its customer base into the thousands.

Nucci and Stewart leveraged their networks to gain their first clients, and leveraged their knowledge of Philly’s growing tech ecosystem to find talent.

“People say it’s hard to find good talent in Philly for tech startups. That’s just not true. We built a really good team really quickly,” he said. “People genuinely like to work and live in this city, that makes this an attractive place where you don’t need to raise as much capital to run a tech startup.”

PeopleLinx: $3.5 Million

PeopleLinx is a Center City-based company that provides social sales software tools to create more touch points between sales teams and their clients. It counts Prudential, Comcast Business and the even the NBA’s Sacramento Kings as customers.

The company just secured $3.5 million in funding from Osage Venture Partners, Mission OG and Greycroft Partners. (The company declined to disclose how the equity has been divided up.)

The new funding will go toward developing PeopleLinx 4, a new upgrade that guides sales professionals through using social media and other channels to engage their buyers, prompting them to do certain things — like favoriting a client’s tweet or emailing a news article with a note.

“A lot of sales people don’t really understand the new world of engaging buyers, etiquette and ethics,” said Michael Idinopulos, chief marketing officer. “Even sales people who do understand it need to be reminded because they’ve got a lot of balls in the air. This helps the sales people stay on top of it all.”

The funding will also go toward raising employee headcount from 25 to the 30s by early next year.

ApprenNet: $1.8 Million

Back in May, ApprenNet made headlines for a very tragic reason. It lost CEO Rachel Jacobs in the Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. But the company has picked up the pieces, merged with Handsfree Learning of San Francisco and named Handsfree co-founder Paul Freedman CEO. (The deal was in the works long before Jacobs’s death.)

On Tuesday, the company announced that it raised $1.8 million in a seed round with investments from 1776 Seed Fund, University of Virginia’s Jefferson Education FundPENN’s Design Studio and others.

ApprenNet has as cloud-based online soft-skills development platform used by people in the industries like teaching, hospitality and health care. It’s currently used by 50 of the country’s largest pharmacies, retailers and colleges, the company says.

The 16-employee ApprenNet plans on doubling its headcount in the next year, particularly in the areas of product development and customer outreach.

Although it merged, don’t expect to see the company flee to the West Coast anytime soon, said COO Emily Foote. She noted that “we’re very committed” to staying in Philly.

“By expanding our team, we’ll be able to meet demand from prospective clients faster, and we’ll be spending more time getting the word out about how we can help both universities and employers,” said Foote. “We’re excited to grow.”