This month in history: Remember when Venmo was a Philly startup? - Philly


Feb. 7, 2019 2:00 pm

This month in history: Remember when Venmo was a Philly startup?

For Philly's 10th anniversary, we're digging through the archives. And we found a tech giant's humble beginnings in Rittenhouse Square.
Venmo’s old logo looks … familiar?

Venmo's old logo looks ... familiar?

(Archive photo)

For’s 10-year anniversary, we’re diving deep into the archives for nostalgic, funny or note-worthy updates. This is part of a year-long series.

In 2009, a blog called began to chronicle the budding tech ecosystem growing in Philadelphia.

And sure, while updates from the better-known Comcast or the University of Pennsylvania had their space, the blog excelled at covering the rising cadre of companies that were the lifeblood of the tech community: like video-sharing platform RedLasso, or mobile payments company Venmo.

Yup, you read that right. In case you didn’t know, the story of Venmo — that app you likely used a bit ago to settle a bar tab — begins in Philly.

It was at a Philadelphia jazz show that founders Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail — both Penn grads who met when they were randomly assigned as roommates — came up with the idea of using your phone to purchase MP3 songs with less friction. A couple of years later, (as it came to be known) was sharing frequent updates on Venmo, including a promising rollout of its new mobile apps.

“Venmo has released new iPhone and Android apps which integrates Foursquare and Facebook locations, stats on usage, a more accessible recent transaction list, and a referral program that offers $1 per friend that signs on,” wrote cofounder Brian James Kirk in a column called Startup Roundup, on Feb. 23, 2011. “Venmo is also mum on reports that Accel Partners recently listed Venmo as one of its portfolio companies. An email to the company was prompted with links to its already reported funders, $1.2 million in seed funding led by RRE Ventures.”


From an office at 2038 Locust, in ritzy Rittenhouse Square, the company kept working on its product until 2011, when it relocated to New York. Venmo would go on to land millions in venture capital funding and ultimately get acquired by BrainTree for $26 million. Once PayPal bought BrainTree a couple of years later, Venmo became PayPal’s sister app of sorts.

Now, don’t write this piece of nostalgia off as the lament of missed opportunities. Think of this more as a salute to the ecosystem that made the formation of Venmo possible. The company was able to raise key seed funding while being based in Philadelphia, and Magdon-Ismail’s last gig before he went full time on Venmo was director of engineering of another well-known Philly-based company: TicketLeap.

Sure, Venmo staying in Philly would have been great. But, through the years, we’ve told the stories of countless other startups that were born in, stayed and thrived in Philadelphia. We also began curating a yearly list of very real companies making local moves. Those looking for a symbol of maturation in the local ecosystem should look no further.

P.S. Wanna celebrate our 10th with us on Tuesday, Feb. 26, and snag a sweet hoodie? RSVP to the party below:

RSVP for's Anniversary celebration


For the next bit of Philly tech nostalgia, what’s your favorite story through the years? Tell us here:

Companies: Venmo

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