Start-up businesses thriving in Philadelphia, Nutter says

February 19, 2014 | philly.com by Claudia Vargas

Just before Mayor Nutter addressed the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce at its annual luncheon Tuesday, he celebrated the new office space of a Philadelphia start-up company that nearly doubled in size in the last year.

RJ Metrics, a tech firm that helps businesses analyze their data and has more than 250 clients including Hootsuite and Threadless, is an example of a company that can “start in Philly, grow in Philly and stay in Philly,” Nutter said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Dozens of young professionals mingled around a fancy breakfast spread at the top of the Weidner Building on Broad and Chestnut Tuesday – RJ Metric’s new home to fit its 46 employee base and more – as RJ Metric’s CEO Bob Moore offered remarks alongside the mayor.

Moore, who cofounded the firm with Jake Stein in 2009, called the Philadelphia start-up scene a “rekindling of the entrepreneurial spirit of the city.”

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Start-up Opens Digital Door for Students with Autism

February 17, 2014 | Philly.com by Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA One of the hottest start-ups in the city sprang up in an unlikely place – a fourth-floor classroom at South Philadelphia High.

In between lesson plans and parent conferences, teacher Michele McKeone has attracted some major buzz, along with sizable grants from the University of Pennsylvania and the Milken Family Foundation, attention from national media, and a start-up-of-the-year prize at the Philadelphia Geek Awards.

Autism Expressed, her fledgling business, teaches digital skills to students with autism. It is the first program of its kind on the market, experts believe, and one McKeone hopes will modernize special-education services.

It began in a way familiar to many teachers. She saw a need in her classroom, so she filled it.

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Entrepreneur Works aims to help female business owners

February 10, 2014 | The Philadelphia Tribune by Ayana Jones

A new initiative aims to help women-owned businesses gain access to capital and mentorship.

Entrepreneur Works, an organization that provides loans and support services to local entrepreneurs, was selected as the Philadelphia loan partner for Elizabeth Street Capital — a Tory Burch Foundation and Bank of America initiative.

The Elizabeth Street Capital initiative aims to foster economic independence and strengthen local economies through job creation and community revitalization. The initiative is designed to provide early-stage women entrepreneurs in the United States with access to low-cost capital, mentoring support and networking opportunities to grow their businesses, creating communities of women entrepreneurs.

“When we started our foundation, we understood that women entrepreneurs need access to capital as well as access to business networks, and by partnering with Bank of America, we are thrilled to be providing help to women across the United States. The combination of loans, mentoring support and peer networking expertise opens up new opportunities for women looking to build and grow their businesses,” said Tory Burch, founder of TBF.

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Philly’s ‘Super-Group’ Startup Accelerator Targets Urban Problems

January 5, 2014 | Forbes.com by Anne Field

Attention social entrepreneurs focused on public safety: You can apply to a new Philadelphia-based accelerator that recently won a $1 million grant.

Called FastFWD, the “super-group” accelerator was formed by the City of Philadelphia, along with  GoodCompany Group, a nonprofit, social enterprise accelerator in the city, and the Social Impact Initiative at the  Wharton School, after winning Bloomberg Philanthropies 2012-2013 Mayors Challenge, along with four other cities. (They included Providence, Chicago, Houston and Santa Monica).

The Mayors Challenge awards grants to cities that come up with innovative, entrepreneurial ideas for addressing urban problems.  Some 335 cities submitted proposals.

Why public safety? Basically, over a period of six months, researchers at Wharton surveyed a handful of potential challenging areas to focus on. After interviews with more than 75 experts, they concluded that public safety  was “fundamental to other problem areas,” says Garrett Melby, co-founder and managing director of GoodCompany.  Accounting for more than one-third of Philadelphia’s budget, according to Melby, it also involves a larger portion of local discretionary spending than, say, education. They also broke the problem into four categories–”built environment”, “recidivism”, “community violence” and “enabling technology”–and nine sub-categories, including neighborhood surveillance, vacant lots, re-entry employment for ex-inmates, and effective technology, among others. (Here’s more about the areas).

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DreamIt Ventures gets new home, $3M investment

December 11, 2013 | Philadelphia Business Journal by Zenovia Campbell

DreamIt Ventures has a new headquarters. The startup accelerator is moving to theUniversity City Science Center in a partnership with Drexel University. The second and third floors of the Science Center building will transform into an “innovation hub” in April 2014. In addition to housing DreamIt Ventures, the 17,500 square foot space will also have space for local entrepreneurs. Drexel’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center, which opened last fall, occupies the Science Center’s first floor.

Also announced Wednesday was Drexel’s $3 million investment to DreamIt Fund II, a fund for aspiring entrepreneurs. While the company hopes to raise $30 million, DreamIt Co-Founder David Bookspan declined to comment on the amount raised to date.

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Full day in Philly for Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian

December 2, 2013 | Newsworks by Zach Seward

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is on an epic book tour: five months, 150 stops. On Monday, Philadelphia hosted three of those stops: a tech breakfast with local executives, a pizza-side chat at First Round Capital and an early evening event at UPenn. The man knows how to hustle.

“I want to just help these startups be great,” Ohanian said at the day’s second stop. “A conversation with a successful founder isn’t necessarily going to change your life, it isn’t necessarily going to give you the light bulb that makes your company 10X or whatever it is, but hopefully it’s helpful. And that’s the kind of atmosphere I expect at a place like this.”

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Apply for second round of city’s Startup PHL grants, with brain drain focus

November 15, 2013 | Technically Philly by Juliana Reyes

If you had $25,000, how would you fight brain drain in Philadelphia?

Now’s your chance to put that idea into action. The city is looking to fund projects that will connect students with the local startup scene as part of its second round of Startup PHL grants. It’ll accept other types of projects, according to a release, but will have an eye toward those that aim to keep students in the city by exposing them to the tech scene.

Apply here by Dec. 13.

The city will choose four to eight projects and award them grants of under $25,000. It’ll come from $500,000 that was dedicated to the Startup PHL “Call for Ideas” program.

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Entrepreneurs and startups will be eligible for Innovate in PA funding

October 10, 2013 | Keystone Edge by Elise Vider

The state has officially launched its new Innovate in PA program to accelerate high-wage job growth by supporting entrepreneurs and startups.

At a recent visit toInnovation Works’ Alpha Lab, Gov. Corbett said, “With 98 percent of new jobs in Pennsylvania coming from startups and small emerging growth companies, Innovate in PA is a common-sense approach to economic growth. Innovate in PA’s investments will help forward-thinking companies inspired with vision to become household names, turning Pennsylvania into the next Silicon Valley.”

Innovate in PA, effective as of October 1, will offer $100 million in deferred tax credits to insurance companies in the state to raise funds over multiple years. The funds raised will be directed to the Ben Franklin Technology Development Partners, three Life Sciences Greenhouses and the Venture Capital investment program.

CHOP launches tech transfer partnership with Osage University Partners

September 30, 2013 | Technically Philly by Juliana Reyes

One of the main challenges behind spinout companies is “finding dollars to move the companies forward,” said Ellen Purpus, head of CHOP’s Tech Transfer Office. The partnership with Osage, which invests exclusively on startups that are commercializing university research, aims to help that.

The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania has announced a partnership withOsage University Partners that aims to increase the amount of investment behind its tech transfer spinout companies.

Like other tech transfer offices, the one at CHOP, started in the early 90s, looks for businesses that can partner with the hospital and turn its research into products — that can mean anything from vaccines to medicines to research tools. It does about seven to ten licensing deals a year, said Ellen Purpus, head of CHOP’s Tech Transfer Office.

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Silicon Valley investment firm places bet on Philly business-intelligence startup

September 24, 2013 | philly.com by Michael Hinkelman

Robert J. Moore, 29, of Society Hill, is co-founder & CEO of RJMetrics, a Center City business-intelligence software firm. The fast-growing start-up helps e-commerce companies quickly analyze data to make smarter decisions. In May, RJMetrics landed a $6.5 million investment from Trinity Ventures in Silicon Valley.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for RJMetrics?

A: My co-founder [Jake Stein] and I worked at a venture-capital firm in New York in 2006-07. My job was to help them decide on good investments. So I manually analyzed all data about a company’s customers. I saw an opportunity to do this via the Internet.

Q: What about start-up funds?

A: We decided to build the business ourselves and moved back to Philadelphia because it was more affordable and we had roots here. We started in 2009, and it was just myself and Jake. In January 2012, we raised our first outside money, $1 million, from angels, including a customer and local investors.

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