Philly looks to attract tech buzz, entrepreneurs

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.

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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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How these real estate developers used open data to find new business

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.

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Healthcare entrepreneurs who see value in house calls win top prize at startup weekend

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…

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PennApps Fellows wins $25,000 grant

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].” …

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SevOne’s satellite office expands into new Center City space

March  20, 2014 | Technically Philly  by Juliana Reyes

One year after it opened its satellite office in Old City, Wilmington, Del.-based IT management company SevOne has moved its Philly-based development team into a bigger space to accommodate growth, according to a release.

SevOne initially opened a satellite development team in Philly as a pilot to see if the city location would help the company attract talent, a spokesman for the company said. It worked.

The new 6,500 square foot space in Center City’s Land Title Building at Broad and Chestnut Street can fit up to 55 employees. SevOne currently employs 30 in its Philly office, which makes up about 11 percent of its 270 total employees. It also has another other satellite development office in Boston.

It’s the first news we’ve seen of a satellite office outgrowing its original space — might the same happen for satellite offices of suburban tech companies like Bentley Systems and the newly-acquired Fiberlink?

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City to bankroll internships, workshops to boost Philly tech scene

March 20th, 2014 | WHYY Newsworks by Zack Seward

The city of Philadelphia is bankrolling tech internships and workshops, using a series of grants to local firms.

“What we wanted to do was really look carefully at the integration of students and universities with the startup community,” said Alan Greenberger, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for economic development.

The five grants total $124,000. It’s the second round of grants to flow from the mayor’s $500,000 Startup PHL Call for Ideas fund.

City officials say the program is meant to both boost local startups and retain young tech talent with the lure of paid gigs. Greenberger says the renewed focus on college-age workers drew from experience with a similar program funded by the first round of Startup PHL grants.

Two outside observers say this influx of funding is likely to be a worthwhile investment…

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See the 5 winners of City of Philadelphia’s ‘Call for Ideas’ grants

March 20, 2014 | Technical.ly by Juliana Reyes

The second set of the city-backed StartupPHL ‘Call for Ideas’ grants focus on training and retaining talent in Philadelphia. The grants were created “to support the culture” of the Philly tech scene, said city Commerce Director Alan Greenberger in an interview last month.

Full disclosure, as listed below, Technical.ly applied for and, in partnership with another community group, received one of these grants. This reporter was not part of the process.

According to a release, the awardees, which were announced today at SevOne’s new Center City Office, include:

  • PennApps Fellows Internship Program: $2,500 per student participant to support a local program connecting student interns from across the nation to Philadelphia based companies for a 10-week internship during the summer of 2014.
  • Philadelphia Fashion Incubator: $25,000 to create a series of monthly seminars, panels and interactive workshops focused on the business of fashion for the design community.
  • Zivtech Developer Boot Camp: $24,000 to teach a six-week developer bootcamp to a class of 30 participants.
  • NextFab Fellows Coop Program: – $25,000 to support four co-op fellowships. Students will receive training and materials while gaining experience working for NextFab companies who struggle to find talent.
  • Technical.ly / Philly Startup Leaders: $25,000 to create and execute a series of eight workshops to better connect the PHL tech community to universities and students. (Find coverage of the event that sparked this idea here)

*Full Disclosure: Technical.ly applied and won a Call for Ideas grant. This reporter was not part of that process.

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