(Photo by Julie Zeglen)
After a month spent reviewing your suggestions for our yearly roundup of realLIST companies — plus a deep dive through our own archives — we can state this proudly and loudly: There is great promise in Philly’s tech ecosystem.
This is the first list of promising startups we’re putting together since Philly was passed over as a site for Amazon’s HQ2, a project that concentrated a lot of our attention and community resources for the better part of 2018. In the process, it looks like Philly might have learned a pair of essential lessons.
The first one reached far and wide: Any big undertaking to uplift Philadelphia’s stance in the global map of innovation is going to require the ability to cooperate. To set aside differences. To physically pull up as many chairs as possible around a massive table and finding the common ground needed to pursue big projects. A look at the Philadelphia Delivers campaign, which features a diverse cast of local players from all walks of industry, just makes it that much clearer.
In the postmortem of the final site selection came another big takeaway: The talent pool needs to be deeper for the kind of transformative growth Philly deserves. Ask tech education nonprofits like Coded by Kids, The ITEM or Hopeworks Camden and they’ll tell you a generation of technologists is underway. But will it be enough?
Our third, and maybe most crucial lesson, is the realization that the next tech behemoth to call Philly home won’t be lured here. It needs to grow here, elevate its employees here, pay its taxes here and let its impact stretch beyond just a few Center City blocks.
The 2019 cohort of realLIST companies represents a step in that direction. Our yearly list of startups we’ll be watching more carefully in the year ahead means hope and potential. They embody success stories we can kindly point to the next time someone asks: “Is there a tech community in Philadelphia?”
(BTW, this curated list is the direct result of Technical.ly’s approach to community journalism. If you found this information valuable, support our work by becoming a member.)
As a reminder, our realLIST abides by a few guidelines in order to help narrow an already impressive field. Companies must:
- Have been founded no earlier than 2016, a rule Technical.ly cofounder Christopher Wink established in his 2012 definition of a startup. The sunset period, unfortunately, leaves out some very real contenders. But the line must be drawn somewhere.
- Make the lion’s share of their revenue from a specific product offering. That means agencies were not in the game.
- Have not been through a significant exit event like mergers or acquisitions.
10. TrekIT Health
Based on the research work of founder Dr. Subha Airan-Javia, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the company offers a layer of efficiency tools for the healthcare space. It’s the second act of former CloudMine cofounder Brendan McCorkle, who serves as CEO in the Penn spinout.
Founder Brianna Wronko won over the pitch room skeptics and led her point-of-care diagnostics company to raise a $2-million round of funding last year. In 2019, it consolidated its lab and manufacturing space in a new Center City office, with plans to bring its tech to market following a series of clinical trials.
For cofounder Andrew Hoagland, an alum of RJMetrics and Sidecar, the company’s long-term potential rests in the fact that its addressing a pain point he’s familiar with: sourcing and picking vendors amid an increasingly noisy B2B landscape. The company recently joined Village Global’s Network Catalyst Program.
It was a 2018 of note for NeuroFlow, a veteran-owned business looking to provide behavioral health professionals with assessment and tracking tools. A $1.2 million raise towards of the end of the year, founder Chris Molaro said, will let the company catch up with demand.
Next month, MIT grad Adriana Vazquez’ company — an alum of both Y Combinator and Dreamit — will begin shipping its flagship products, automated pumping bras. The sales pitch? More comfortable, hands-free pumping with a sleek and futuristic design.
The esports talent developer, now operating two gaming hubs in Philly and Denver, will spend much of 2019 organizing a 10-city event series aimed at bringing more esports talent to the surface. A 2017 round of funding from Comcast Spectacor made much of its growth spurt possible. Yes, esports are still real.
Why is an avocado-based hair product company on a list of tech startups? Well, much of the success found by Muhga Eltigani’s company is tied to the internet. Social media helped Eltigani (who goes by @itsmuhga online) connect with a sizable audience, with an ecommerce platform helping the avocado-based products land on customer’s hands.
Founders of QuotaPath, a software platform aimed at sales professionals, raised a $1.5 million seed round led by Austin-based ATX Seed Ventures and angel investors. But it’s mostly the team that raises the early-stage venture’s profile, with cofounder AJ Bruno on his second venture. His first company, TrendKite, was just acquired in a nine-digit deal.
More and more, the measuring stick for whether companies are real or not is: Are customers buying? From AT&T to Bayer, more companies are using Amino’s blockchain-based platform to avoid getting conned out of their digital ad dollars. Led by a team of seasoned founders, the company’s team is on track for more growth in 2019.
It’s cofounder Robert Moore’s third rodeo in the data analytics space, this time with an idea he’d been mulling over for years. Backing from First Round Capital and San Francisco-based Village Global and the Slack fund signal a promising idea. Extra points for Moore’s role as an ambassador for Philly tech success stories.
Finally, a few honorable mentions (in no particular order):
- Strados Labs
- Sage Smart Garden
- Nth Round
Who did we miss? Tell us who’s on your realLIST.
Six months later, where are the 2020 RealLIST Startups now?
Curalate, one of Center City’s most prominent early tech darlings, has been acquired
Fintech startup Nth Round aims to help company leaders, employees manage their equity
Money Moves: These 8 Philly-area companies raised more than $118M total this spring
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