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Building a Thriving Tech Scene in Philadelphia: Q&A with Curalate CEO Apu Gupta

Are ‘unicorns’ overrated? According to Curalate CEO Apu Gupta they are. When Gupta took a seat on the ThinkFest stage in 2016, no one expected the leader of a successful tech company to have that sort of response — after all, being valued as a billion-dollar business is what most successful startup ventures aspire to become. But to Gupta, his company’s value doesn’t come in the form of numbers, it comes in the form of people and the risks they’re willing to take.

And it must be paying off. Over the past three years Curalate has doubled in size and raised $27.5 million from investors. With fast growth and big bets being placed on Gupta as Philly’s tech pioneer, UnitedHealthcare and Philadelphia magazine sat down with Gupta to see what’s on the horizon for Curalate, and Philadelphia, next.

How has Curalate grown since your ThinkFest discussion in November?
Not only have we grown in headcount, we’ve also added an office in London. Our most important growth, however, comes from our ambitions. We’re fortunate to work with more than 800 of the world’s most-loved brands. We learn so much from these organizations and working collaboratively is key to shaping our belief that we can dramatically improve how their brands sell online.

What is your secret to evolving a business quickly but strategically?
Learn, synthesize, apply. We have a cultural bias towards experimentation we make no secret of the fact that we don’t have all the answers but we do have an incredible amount of agility. The result is that we are very good at trying new things and objective in how we interpret the results; this enables us to learn and grow without risking considerable capital in each experiment.

What could Philadelphia do better to foster start-ups and entrepreneurs?
We need to encourage audacity. Some of the biggest bets are going to have the greatest impact, but many of these ideas may seem crazy to people at first. The ecosystem of companies and investors focusing on the earliest-stage ventures here in Philly would be well served to focus less on early traction and more on the potential of the team and the concept.

What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ask yourself, ‘do I have confidence in myself to do this? Do I have someone I trust to partner with? Am I ready for a marathon, not a sprint?’

Innovation starts by serving the community, and the people, who inspire you to chase your passion. That’s why UnitedHealthcare is proud to shine a spotlight on Philadelphia’s forward thinkers and their outside the box ideas through the Innovation Series.To find out more about UnitedHealthcare, visit uhc.com/phillyinnovation.