Venture for America brought this startup to Philly and now it's staying put - Technical.ly Philly

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May 27, 2015 12:33 pm

Venture for America brought this startup to Philly and now it’s staying put

A trio of Venture for America fellows are behind Compass, a company that helps small businesses build websites. The founders are among the first in Venture for America's accelerator to decide to stay in Philly.

Taylor Sundali (left) and Mike Wilner, cofounders of Compass.

(Courtesy photo)

Mike Wilner wants to make it easier for small businesses to build websites.

That’s why he cofounded Compass, something in between the do-it-yourself pace of Squarespace, which he says can offer too much freedom, and the expensive and sometimes grueling process of working with a web dev firm, which he says isn’t ideal for small businesses.

The Baltimore native describes it as TurboTax for websites. The company pairs each project with a Compass “Pro,” who designs the website, and they’ve developed software to automate the process leading up to the build. Websites start at $700. Compass isn’t competing with agencies, they said, because agencies often want bigger projects.

Wilner, 24, was inspired by his father, who turned to him for help building a website for one of his side hustles — making videos for small businesses. It was his father who told him that there was a market for this kind of thing: he knew lots of business owners who needed websites but didn’t know how to go about it. Compass has built 20 websites so far and have another 20 in development.

matt fulton

Matt Fulton of Compass. (Courtesy photo)

Wilner and his cofounders Taylor Sundali, 25, of Ketchum, Idaho, and Matt Fulton, 24, of Denver, Colo., are all fellows with Venture for America, a nonprofit that places recent college grads at startups in fledgling tech scenes. Wilner and Sundali spent about a year working for startups in Detroit, while Fulton worked as a developer for Cincinnati startup Roadtrippers, until this spring, when Venture for America launched an accelerator for fellow-led startups and shipped nine founders to Philadelphia for the three-month program.

compass meditate

Team Compass meditates. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

The team recently decided to put down roots in Philly — Sundali and Fulton recently signed a lease on an apartment in Queen Village, along with two other Venture for America fellows placed in Philly. They’re one of the first companies in the accelerator to choose to stay.

They chose Philly for its “diverse business community,” which gives them a wide range of customers to focus on, though they have customers across the country. While they have customers in Detroit, it didn’t make sense to go back, they said, because the downtown is still underdeveloped. Plus, Wilner added, it’s close to his hometown of Baltimore.

Compass works out of First Round Capital’s University City office, where Sundali and Fulton are known to take daily meditation breaks, though in the warmer months they’ve taken it outside. (Full disclosure, Technical.ly has office space at First Round Capital.) They’ll be working out of the space for the rest of the summer.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's associate editor after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • DaveVoyles

    Great to see that VCs and funders are driving startups towards Philly

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