Meet 3 Penn startups using Radian Apartments as a young startup hub - Technical.ly Philly

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Jul. 15, 2014 11:30 am

Meet 3 Penn startups using Radian Apartments as a young startup hub

Three startups with cofounders from the University of Pennsylvania are being built this summer inside the Radian Apartments, a modern, gray building in University City. All three say they're sticking around to be closer to each other.
The Radian Apartments at 3925 Walnut Street in University City is rented by many college students, including a handful of tech founders.

The Radian Apartments at 3925 Walnut Street in University City is rented by many college students, including a handful of tech founders.

(Image courtesy of the Radian Apartments)

Students at the helm of three startups decided against office space or summer travels in favor of working on their companies from a University City apartment tower. Their motivation, they said, was the close proximity to each other — and other young founders.

The three cofounders of pre-launch collaborative writing platform Escalate.us are sharing an apartment at the Radian — no matter that one is in enrolled in school in Ohio and another in central New Jersey.

The Radian is modern gray apartment building with retail on the ground floor, built into a two-story cement foundation anchor by popular watering hole City Tap House. It is managed by a private Texas property management giant and while it has no official ties to Penn, it caters almost exclusively to a student population. Founders of the now-exited cobrowsing company Firefly also once used their apartment as a makeshift office.

Benton Turner, a rising Penn sophomore, along with his Escalate cofounders Diana Liao of Princeton and Jonathan Sun of Kenyon College, plan to spend the summer building out their product. Sharing an apartment is especially convenient, Liao said, because the three typically work remotely, given their distances during the fall and spring semesters.

Coming together in University City is speeding the development process, she said. The startup will launch publicly in October.

Initially called NoterietyStudyUp is a website that allows students to buy and sell class notes, hire an on-demand tutor or access an online library.

Cofounders Arjun Jain and Adam Elkassas are putting school aside for the upcoming year to concentrate on expanding StudyUp’s reach to at least 100 colleges. Since its launch late last year, the business has gotten roughly 2,000 users at Penn and 200 library subscribers.

The two cofounders work and hold meetings out of their apartments or in one of the building’s study spaces.

Two seniors at Penn spent the past school year working from home to grow their retail analytics company — though they sometimes forgo the Radian for collaborative space at the nearby First Round Capital offices.

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The software they’ve developed re-purposes security footage to quantify how many visitors a store has, tracking patterns at checkout lines and how quickly customers are processed by cashiers. These numbers, cofounder Yash Kothari said, can help store owners run their businesses more efficiently.

“That information is really powerful,” Kothari said. “Offline retailers have access to so much data, so by providing this information, we can quantify the customer experience.”

Kothari and business partner Pranshu Maheshwari began seriously focusing on Prayas Analytics in September. Growing their company near a college campus has been advantageous, they said, because of the year-round abundance of student talent.

“Over the summer, there are still a bunch of students sticking around, so it’s much easier to recruit people and dig into our own network,” Kothari said.

Maheshwari leads the technical development of the software, while Kothari deals with marketing and clients. Their current clientèle include three early-stage companies and a retailer with more than 1,000 store locations.

While Prayas Analytics is spending more time at First Round for a new network, Kothari likened the Radian to more traditional entrepreneurial coworking spaces.

“We talk to a lot of people at startups in Philly and ask them for advice,” he said. “There’s a bit of a community here, where people are always willing to help each other out.”

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