August 15, 2014 | Philadelphia Business Journal by Lauren Hertzler
On Wednesday, I wrote that First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund in Philadelphia was getting ready to announce some more investments.
News broke Thursday that Prayas Analytics, a startup run by two seniors at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, received $20,000 in funding from the student-run venture firm.
Prayas Analytics is an analytics company that provides brick-and-mortar retailers with store operations-focused data. Basically, its technology monitors what is happening in stores (how long customers are standing in line, for instance) by analyzing surveillance video footage, which then prompts the formation of statistical models. The models can be used to better store operations and customer experience.
Prayas Analytics’ co-founder Pranshu Maheshwari said the startup recently completed its pilot with a Fortune 200 company, which isn’t being identified. The company has also agreed to continue to work with Prayas Analytics longer term, he said.
Maheshwari, whom I chatted with Friday by phone (he’s in India visiting with family), told me he and his work partner Yash Kothari have been using the $20,000 to help pay for developing the technology and other resources.
Backed by investment firm First Round Capital, Dorm Room Fund invests in student-run companies. It recently had its first exit company– Firefly– in June.
July 24, 2014| Philadelphia Business Journal by Lauren Hertzler
Zoe Goldberg, a soon-to-be senior at the University of Pennsylvania, has summer plans quite unusual for a typical 21-year-old.
Instead of turning her brain off for the remainder of her last summer vacation, she’s spending five weeks in an intense website development camp, dubbed Philly Dev Camp, run by Zivtech and Neomind Labs.
Philly Dev Camp, which kicked off this week in a Zivtech workroom, is made possible from a $24,000 grant from StartUp PHL, the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation initiative. The camp’s goal is to train interested individuals, and ultimately create a group of talented Web developers, who can boost the city’s tech scene.
“I always hated my job before coming into this field,” said Jody Hamilton, Zivtech co-founder and chief technology officer. “And this is such a good job. There’s demand for this job, it pays well, you can work in Center City in a nice office, it’s creative, you work with interesting people. There’s nothing bad you can say about these [Web developer] jobs.”
The only missing piece, Hamilton continued, is finding people with the right skills to do the work.
June 13, 2014| Technically Philly by Max Ufberg
Mayor Michael Nutter was out making the tech rounds Friday, stopping by four different startup offices — ranging from social media entrepreneurs to medical sales — to offer up words of encouragement, field questions from tech employees and cut a few ribbons.
The four companies — Arcweb, OneTwoSee, Medical Guardian and PeopleLinx— shared little in common, except for a high growth rate: three of the four visits were to commemorate new or increased office spaces, while the fourth stop, at PeopleLinx, offered a more informal setting for discussing the city’s startup scene.
Nutter’s tour started with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the offices of mobile app specialists Arcweb, which recently moved from coworking space Indy Hall into an office at 2nd and Market Streets.
“The is a community that we pay a tremendous amount of attention to,” Nutter said to a packed room of employees and observers, many of whom enjoyed free food and beer afterwards. “You’re bringing people to the city, creating this entrepreneurial, startup, tech-savvy hub that Philadelphia is and will continue to grow.”
June 12, 2014 | SFGate.com by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tech enthusiasts know Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Alley in New York.
But what about Silicon Philly?
The City of Brotherly Love has become home to a growing and tightly knit community of entrepreneurs at the same time media giant Comcast plans to build a second skyscraper downtown with the potential to house thousands of corporate tech jobs.
Local officials have taken note on many levels, from allowing the startup corridor of N. 3rd Street to be renamed “N3RD Street” (Get it? Nerd Street?) to launching funding opportunities like StartUpPHL. And don’t forget that time people played Tetris on the face of a 29-story office building.
“We’re seeing an explosion of activity and investment in innovation and technology,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. He planned to cut ribbons at two new tech company offices Friday and visit two others to highlight his commitment to nurturing the industry.
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?
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?
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.
April 28, 2014| Technically Philly by Juliana Reyes
Streamline Solutions used to drive around neighborhoods to find run-down houses to rehab. But last July, the South Philly development company realized the city had released reams of data on property violations, like which homes had broken windows or rodent infestation or were in danger of collapse.
Why not use that data to find houses to rehab?
The company hired a software developer to build a tool for them that used the city’s Licenses and Inspections API, which offered a real-time feed of data about property violations.
Since then, Streamline has identified about 100 properties each month that it hopes to purchase and fix up, said Dhanraj “Danny” Phagoo, the Streamline staffer who led the project to use the city’s data. Identifying the properties is one thing, but finding the owners and purchasing the property is another. Streamine has been able to purchase between two to five properties that it found through L&I data per month, Phagoo said.
Still, the city’s open data has been important to Streamline’s business.
March 31, 2014 | MedCity News by Stephanie Baum
The idea that you can develop a concept for a company and launch it within 48 hours is at the heart of Startup Weekend. When you add healthcare to the mix it becomes a lot more challenging but no less interesting. Philadelphia hosted its third Startup Weekend for healthcare at Venturef0rth over the weekend.
Elliot Menschik, who was one of the judges to review the 12 team pitches, heads up shared workspace Venturef0rth and is a managing partner for healthcare with DreamIt Health, DreamIt Ventures’ health IT accelerator. He said it’s the longest running StartUp Weekend for healthcare in the country. About 14 cities have since hosted their own version of the event. Duke University is planning to host one in August.
The top team this time around was OnCall. The group of young physicians and developers think patients who value in-person visits would be willing to pay extra for doctors, physical therapists, or counselors to come by their homes…
March 25, 2014 | The Daily Pennsylvanian by Laura Anthony
The PennApps Fellows Internship Program just got $25,000 richer.
PennApps Fellows, a new internship program launching this summer that will bring 10 students from all over the country to work at Philadelphia startup companies, was one of five winners of the second round of grants awarded by the Philadelphia Department of Commerce’s Startup PHL Call for Ideas.
These awards, which are intended to support entrepreneurship and student engagement with Philadelphia’s tech community, will grant up to $500,000 in total to help jumpstart local startup projects.
“We fit that almost perfectly,” Engineering sophomore and PennApps Fellows co-founder Fabio Fleitas said. “We want to get people to come here to work on Philly startups and grow the Philly startup community and entrepreneurial community [through PennApps Fellows].” …