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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Mayor Nutter Announces Startup PHL Angel Fund Investment in Gencore Systems

Philadelphia, March 27, 2015 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that the Startup PHL Angel Fund has made a $100,000 investment in Gencore Systems, a software company based in Philadelphia founded by a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The growth of a vibrant startup economy is one of the most exciting developments to take place in this city over recent years and my Administration is proud to do all we can to continue to promote Philadelphia as one of America’s top startup cities,” said Mayor Nutter.  “Through Startup PHL and a range of other initiatives we are providing the resources and support system to help exciting companies start, stay and grow in Philadelphia.  Thank you to our partners at PIDC and First Round Capital for making this work possible.”

Gencore Systems offers a non-intrusive, network-based application performance management solution that provides deep-insights into service delivery and user experience of cloud applications, and helps troubleshoot performance bottlenecks in a proactive manner. The Gencore solution is compatible with both private and public cloud setups, as well as data centers that deploy state-of-the-art Software-defined Networking (SDN) technologies. The company is a spinoff from the University of Pennsylvania, and has incorporated award-winning research into its products.

“We are excited to receive the Startup PHL investment, and plan to use the funding to continue product development, and enhance our product through our ongoing pilot deployments with customers,” said Gencore Systems founder Boon Thau Loo.  “Gencore Systems is delighted to be in Philadelphia. We have been able to benefit from a steady stream of engineering and business talent from local universities. Moreover, the community here is close-knit, and we have always been able to get advice from other entrepreneurs when approached. We look forward to growing the company here in this city.”

Startup PHL is an initiative between the City of Philadelphia, PIDC, and First Round Capital to support the growth of startups in Philadelphia.  The Startup PHL Seed Fund and Startup PHL Angel Fund are partnerships between PIDC and leading venture capital firm First Round Capital to make investments in Philadelphia-based startups.  Gencore Systems is the seventh company to receive an investment.

“We’re thrilled to be investing in a company with such deep roots in Philadelphia’s academic community, and are extremely excited to see what lies in store for Gencore,” said Josh Kopelman, Partner at First Round Capital.

The Startup PHL Call for Ideas is a grant program managed by the Department of Commerce providing grants to initiatives or organizations that are supporting startups and entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.  The program has provided ten grants to date investing $217,400 in Philadelphia’s startup community through a range of organizations such as Startup Corps, Philly Startup Leaders, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Campus Philly, and the Philly Dev Camp.  An announcement of additional grants is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

To learn more about Startup PHL visit www.startupphl.com.

Penn faculty startup raises $100K from Startup PHL angel fund

March 26th, 2015 | Philadelphia Business Journal by Lauren Hertzler

A startup that spun out of the University of Pennsylvania’s computer science department just raised $100,000 from the city’s Startup PHL angel fund.

Penn computer science professor Boon Thau Loo and a group of graduate and undergraduate students founded Gencore Systems about a year ago. They spent years researching how to analyze huge volumes of network and cloud traffic, and built a product out of it.

Gencore is a software that allows companies that use public cloud infrastructure, such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, to monitor and understand how well their applications are performing in the cloud. It’s unique, Loosaid, because it’s “completely non-intrusive.”

“It provides detailed application performance metrics, yet requires no code modifications to existing applications or add performance overheads,” he said. “This makes it easy to install and adopt.”

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Mobile backend startup CloudMine picks up $5M

March 3, 2015 | Venture Beat by Jordan Novet

CloudMine, a startup that sells a cloud service for operating mobile apps and websites, is announcing today that it has picked up $5 million in new funding.

CloudMine offers several components for mobile developers to tap, including object storage, push notifications, load balancing, and mobile analytics. Such things can come in handy for companies that wish to build or expand their mobile presence but don’t wish to own the physical infrastructure for new apps to run on.

Of course, this area has proven interesting to investors, who have backed startups like Kidozen, Kii,and Kinvey, while enterprise software vendors have partnered with or even bought some startups with mobile backend services. Red Hat last year bought FeedHenry, for instance, while VMware relies on Kinvey’s service to deliver a mobile backend in its vCloud Air public cloud…

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Startup with needle-free way to draw blood raises $5M

February 5, 2015 | Philadelphia Business Journal by Lauren Hertzler

Velano Vascular announced Thursday that it raised $5 million in Series A funding.

The investment round was led by First Round Capital, which co-invested in Velanolast year with Startup PHL (a $6 million seed-fund initiative created by First Round and the PIDC).

Other Velano investors include Safeguard Scientifics and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as Philadelphia outsiders White Owl Capital (New York), Kapor Capital (California) and Griffin Hospital (Connecticut).

The Philadelphia and San Francisco-based company, which is just starting to come out of the woodwork, has created a needle-free method for drawing blood from hospitalized patients, ultimately “bringing compassion into care,” said its co-founder and CEO Eric Stone. Stone founded the company with Pitou Devgon, who invented Velano’s technology. …

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Spark Therapeutics Goes Public

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, whose research the company is based on, owns more than half of the company’s shares.

January 30th, 2015 | Technical.ly by Juliana Reyes

Spark Therapeutics went public on NASDAQ today, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one big winner.

The startup, based on a decade’s worth of research at CHOP, raised $161 million with its initial public offering, pricing 7 million shares at $23 each. But then, the share price ballooned to $43, raising the company’s value to nearly $1 billion,according to an Inquirer report. That made the 4.9 million shares owned by CHOP — that’s 53.44 percent of the Spark shares — worth as much as $220 million. (Obviously, this could fluctuate.) CHOP committed $50 million in the fall of 2013 when the company was formed. CHOP CEO Steven Altschuler is chairman of Spark’s board.

Spark Therapeutics is a pre-revenue company that aims to cure rare genetic diseases like types of hemophilia and blindness. Its ticker symbol is “ONCE,” referring to the company’s aim of curing, not just treating, these diseases, the Inquirer reported.

Spark raised a $72.8 million Series B led by Silicon Valley investors Sofinnova Ventures last year, and its 50 employees work out of a 28,000-square-foot office at the University City Science Center’s new 3737 Market Street building.

“Our foundation as a company has been born of the work done in West Philadelphia,” CEO Jeff Marrazzo said last fall at the 3737 Market Street ribbon-cutting. “We want to be an example of a company that can not only have its past here but also its future.”

Marrazzo (the son of WHYY CEO Bill Marrazzo) owns 380,000 shares of the company, now worth around $16 million, the Inquirer reported.

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5 notable Series B financing efforts from 2014

December 19th, 2014 | Philadelphia Business Journal by Lauren Hertzler

As the year comes to a close, these five Philadelphia technology startups can look back on 2014 with pride. They all successfully raised Series B financing rounds, a massive accomplishment for a growing business.

When a startup meets significant milestones, it’s likely to secure a Series B round, if it’s going the investor route. The financing round before Series B is Series A, understandably.

  • In June, Curalate, which has had consistent growth in its product’s offerings, raised $8.6 million from longtime investors New Enterprise Associates, First Round Capital and MentorTech Ventures. Vayner RSE, social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk‘s venture firm, also joined in on the funding for Curalate, a 2-year-old analytics and marketing suite for Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.
  • RJMetrics unveiled in September that it had raised a massive $16.5 million, led by Silicon Valley-based August Capital, which has invested in a slew of successful businesses like Microsoft, Skype and Sun Microsystems. RJMetrics’ co-founder and CEO Robert Moore said the new funding would go toward accelerating the analytics platform’s product development and continuing customer growth.
  • Aclaris Therapeutics is a dermatology biotech company that raised $21 million in a private stock sale in October. The Series B venture capital financing followed the company’s completion of a phase-II clinical trial that yielded positive results for its lead product candidate, A-101, which is being developed as treatment for a common type of skin tumor known as seborrheic keratoses.
  • Earlier this month, Zonoff announced that it raised $31.8 million. Last November, Zonoff entered into an agreement with Staples to provide the software platform that powers Staples Connect, a home automation solution found in hundreds of Staples retail stores today.
  • LiquidHub, a systems integrator and technology consultancy that works with businesses to improve customer engagement and drive growth, announced a $53 million investment led by private equity firm ChrysCapital in March. The investment supports LiquidHub’s development plans — including more strategic mergers and acquisitions (like the one with Foundry9 in October.)

SAUCE

Bootstrapping a Venture Capital Fund

December 19, 2014 | The Huffington Post The Blog by Jon Gosier

“We decided the best way to get into the venture space was to establish our own small fund. With a fund we could collectively share the risk of investing and the burdens of legal compliance, the costs, and the necessary due diligence. We could also leverage more capital than any one of us could on our own. For instance, some of us had dabbled in angel investing before but were only doing about one or two deals per year. The fund could invest in upwards of eight per year!

“So our group of nine eventually came together, each putting in a minimum of $10,000. Over the life of the fund we’ll have deployed between $300,000 and $500,000 in capital. Because we were the third cohort to go through the GS10K program in Philadelphia we named our fund to honor the circumstances, Third Cohort Capital.”

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New accelerator is solely for firms with a female founder

November 23, 2014 | Philadelphia Inquirer by Diane Mastrull

In Greek mythology, she is the goddess of war and wisdom. In Philadelphia’s University City, Athena is a more earthly vessel, taking shape to make warriors of female entrepreneurs.

DreamIt Athena is a rare business accelerator, exclusively for companies with at least one female founder.

Announced this month and accepting applications until Dec. 8 at https://app.wizehive.com/appform/login/2015philly, the program to help women turn their ideas into fundable businesses with growth potential will launch in February with its first cycle of participants, a minimum of four companies. A second cycle is planned for spring 2016.

To qualify, applicants must have technology-based products or services with large market opportunity…

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Startup PHL Keeps Local Investments Flowing with New Angel Fund

November 14, 2014 | Flying Kite by Alaina Mabaso

On November 12 at Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab,PIDCFirst Round Capital and the City of Philadelphia announced the launch of the Startup PHL Angel Fund.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger, who spoke at the event, said that many people have asked him whether investments like this are a risk the City should be taking.

“The answer is simple,” he said, speaking to a large crowd of local startup leaders, packed with aspiring millennial entrepreneurs. To continue transforming Philadelphia into a notable draw for the country’s best ideas, “we cannot afford to do nothing.”

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