It was a big winter for the first 3 startups in Project Liberty

April 1, 1015 | Technical.ly Philly by Juliana Reyes

At  the beginning of 2012, a Philly media company opened its doors to three startups.

It was an experiment: Could the legacy media company behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com invigorate the tech scene while also modernizing its own offerings? (The following year, the New York Times launcheda similar program.)

Four years later, Project Liberty, as its known, is in the middle of its sixth class of startups (they have yet to be announced). The program was initially funded for three cycles by a $250,000 Knight Foundation grant, which got renewed for $345,000 in the summer of 2013.

So, has the experiment succeeded? That remains to be seen, but here’s what we do know: those first three Project Liberty startups had a big winter, full of exits and fundraising. And at least two of them have had an impact on the region’s tech scene.

The startups — SnipSnapCloudMine and Versa — all joined Project Liberty fresh off completing DreamIt Ventures. (The DreamIt accelerator provided mentorship to the first three classes of Project Liberty and now, it supports the program “in any way that [it] can,” said DreamIt cofounder Steve Welch.)

This winter:

  • Center City couponing app SnipSnap was acquired by Toronto’s Slyce for $6.5 million. SnipSnap’s five employees are remaining in Philadelphia.
  • Center City mobile back-end CloudMine raised $5 million in a Series A led by local investorSafeguard Scientifics. CloudMine employs 16 and is currently hiring.
  • Sponsored content startup Versa, formerly known as ElectNext, was acquired by online petition site Change.org for an undisclosed amount. At the time of the acquisition, Versa no longer had a Philly presence. Its three staffers, including CEO Keya Dannenbaum, are joining Change.org.

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