Truth be told, when we hit “Publish” on the first realLIST in 2017 — a group of companies we deemed “real” or promising — we didn’t expect the return-on-investment to be so high.
We saw the slate of companies we watched throughout last year, both as an experiment and an exercise in future-gazing, find its way to the heart of the discussion in Philly’s tech ecosystem. realLIST startups launched products and raised millions of dollars to build out their operations. They shone on the global stage and partnered with Fortune 500 companies. They worked with government institutions and won awards.
In one way or another, they all showed us they were real.
And sure, some of the companies we picked had good odds at being successful: some were started by experts in their field or offered an original solution to the problems they tried to fix.
For the 2018 list, as me and editor Zack Seward argued back and forth over the nominees, the first thing we noticed was that there were no absolutely obvious No. 1. Our pick for the top slots reflects a mix of potential for success, good outcomes in 2017 and that certain ethereal quality that makes a startup at least feel real.
(By the way, this informed analysis is a keystone of the community journalism we produce at Technical.ly. If you find this information valuable and unique, please consider becoming a member.)
To narrow the field of interesting, promising startups, we stuck to the same few rules laid last year. Companies must:
- Have been founded no earlier than 2014, a sunset period Technical.ly cofounder Christopher Wink established in his 2012 definition of a startup. The sunset period, just like last year, knocked out a couple legit contenders.
- Make the lion’s share of their revenue from a specific product offering. That means agencies were not in the game.
- Companies that haven’t been through a significant exit event like mergers or acquisitions.
It is with a mix of great curiosity, hope (and a healthy dose of skepticism) that we present the realLIST Class of 2018:
A Fishtown-based delivery startup founded in 2016 that offers a “farm-to-table marketplace” from a database of over 100 local food suppliers. It got our attention by landing a partnership with Postmates to help the New York company source the goods for its Postmates Fresh service.
9. Tern Water
Founded by Egyptian-born engineer Mohamed Zerban, the startup is working on a smart faucet that tracks water quality. Last year, it launched a water quality test kit aimed at the consumer market.
In 2017, the Center City helmed by RJMetrics cofounder Jake Stein saw its customer base grow. In the first weeks of 2018, it announced its data platform had become HIPAA-compliant, opening its door for a previously-untapped network of clients.
A spinout company from the acquisition of Ticketleap in 2017, the company offers local businesses a technology platform that lets them offer subscription programs. It’s cofounded by former Ticketleap top brass Beah Burger-Lenehan and Tim Raybould.
Famous for that pic of Mayor Jim Kenney using its futuristic-looking headset, the company’s technology tracks biometric data to help mental health professionals. It raised over a million dollars last year.
Dreamit alum Keriton, founded by Penn grad student Vidur Bhatnagar, created a breast milk management system aimed at prenatal intensive care units.
Based out of Washington Square, LeagueSide connects youth sports leagues with sponsorship opportunities from big brands. It delivered a compelling pitch and was crowd favorite at the 1776 Challenge Cup.
Founded by researcher Amanda Christini, the startup scored a watershed deal last year to build a National Institutes of Health. Ongoing partnerships with health care organizations like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia solidify its longterm viability.
With immigration projected to stay at the front and center of the political discussion, Borderwise — makers of an online legal services platform — stands to gain great notoriety. In 2017, national press picked up on its move to help those affected by the DACA rollback and travel ban.
In 2017, this adtech company stepped away from the Curren-c name and came out of stealth with a major round of venture capital raised to build its blockchain-enabled platform. Industry recognition and early client traction (along with soaring interest in blockchain) bode well for the company in 2018.
Finally, a few honorable mentions:
Tell us who’s on your realLIST.
This Philly-founded fitness startup is giving free services to Mount Sinai workers
Employee Cycle’s HR podcast looks at reducing stress in the time of coronavirus
Ballard Spahr is now offering free legal advice to the biz community
You might not be booking any flights nowadays, but how about ‘dream travel’?
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