Philly chapter of socially-minded Investors’ Circle is biggest in U.S.

May 28, 2014 | Technically Philly by Juliana Reyes

With nearly 30 members, the Philadelphia chapter of Investors’ Circle, a national angel group that invests in social entrepreneurs, is the biggest chapter in the country.

The local chapter started in 2009 and was the first of its kind, said IC-Philadelphia president John Moore. Investors’ Circle was traditionally a group of angel investors spread throughout the country. They’d meet twice a year on each coast for two days of startup presentations. Now, cities like New York, Raleigh and San Francisco are following Philadelphia’s lead and building up local chapters of their own.

“This is one way that Philly is teaching the rest of the venture world,” said Moore of the group, which meets monthly to hear pitches from local companies.

IC-Philadelphia has invested $3 million in 10 companies since its launch,including sustainable laundry service Wash Cycle Laundry, sponsored advertising startup ElectNext (now Versa) and women’s financial literacy siteDailyWorth. Those companies have gone on to raise $22 million, Moore said. The group only considers companies in a two-hour train ride radius (that would put D.C. in, but Boston out).

Why create a group that focuses on investing locally?

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A Tale of Two Startups: Reducing Recidivism, Reviving Vacant Lots

May 25, 2014 | Forbes by Anne Field

Semi-permanent, modular structures to make crime-prone vacant lots safer. A tablet-based system to provide self-driven education to inmates and, as a result, reduce recidivism.

Those are just two of the  ten social enterprise startups in the Philadelphia-based FastFWD accelerator that recently held their pitch day, each adopting an unusual approach to improving public safety.  I recently wrote about the accelerator.

Let’s start with SHIFT_DESIGN. Started in 2009 , the five-employee Philadelphia company designs sustainable outdoor products using three systems: green roofs, “living walls”—basically, green roofs  that are walls—and rain water capture. The enterprise really got its start in 2010, when it was part of a GoodCompany Ventures accelerator program. (Founder Mario Gentile is an architect, not a businessperson and the experience helped him put together a business plan; GoodCompany is one of the organizations involved in FastFWD).

For FastFWD, the team focused on building modular mini-buildings that can be easily turned into semi-permanent structures in vacant lots. (All materials are made in or near Philadelphia).

What does that have to do with public safety?

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Vistar Media: why this NYC adtech startup’s tech team is based in Philly

May 7, 2014 | Technically Philly by Juliana Reyes

The beginning of a startup is “a huge software problem,” as the cofounders of venture-backed adtech startup Vistar Media put it.

That’s why Mark Chadwick and Michael Provenzano wanted to hire engineers in a city they were comfortable in. That city was Philadelphia. It was the place they learned the ropes of running a startup, while working at Invite Media, the Center City online advertising company that sold to Google in 2010 for $81 million.

Today, Vistar Media’s six-person engineering team is based in Rittenhouse Square, while the rest of their team (eight staffers) is based in New York City. They’re currently hiring in both cities.

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