Comcast‘s LIFT Labs Accelerator, a three month-long program that brings startups from across the world to the corporation’s Center City HQ, has convinced a Brooklyn-based media subscription startup to put down roots in Philly.
NICKL, a startup that sells group subscription services for news outlets, started in Brooklyn about two years ago. Initially the startup sold white label software, but when the team started at LIFT Labs in July, they heard a greater need for something else.
Sumorwuo Zaza, founder and current CEO told Technical.ly Philly that after hearing from Comcast employees that there wasn’t a great way for teams of employees to share a subscription to news outlets, he and NICKL’s two other full-time employees switched gears.
“The idea came up after we interviewed Comcast employees, which has honestly been one of the shining points of being here,” Zaza said.
Through the accelerator, they developed NICKLPASS, a service that allows for a group of users to bundle a subscription service to various outlets. A team of 10 people can have a group membership to a news outlet for a discounted rate, instead of each person having their own account.
Zaza and the rest of the team (which also has four part-time contractors) have worked to get NICKLPASS deals with various publishers and area companies, and have acquired 200 paying corporate customers. The service currently operates as a Chrome browser extension.
The three full-time team members each moved to Philadelphia for the accelerator, and fell in love with the city. Zaza said that the sense of community he’s felt has been one of the larges attractions to moving NICKL’s headquarters to Philly.
“It has a small town feel in a large city,” Zaza said. “I’ve met people meeting at bars or in Ubers who are literal strangers who have offered to help, who have given me their number and told me to call them. And there’s something really special about that.”
The NICKL team will be able to work out of the LIFT Labs space until the next cohort moves in for 2020’s accelerator. After that, Zaza said they’ll look for an office space in the surrounding area.
Along with proximity to Comcast to develop the product, Zaza said Philly’s lifestyle ultimately makes him most excited to stay. He touted the city’s walkability, food scene and appreciation of work-life balance, even in a startup atmosphere.
“We’re working hard, but when you step outside to go home, people are relaxed, and it feels like there’s another phase of life going on,” he said.
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