Startups

Juno Capital will host a February pitch competition for the chance to join its portfolio

And win a $10,000 prize. The offshoot of talent agency Juno Search Partners is looking for startups that are "mission-driven disruptors."

Per Lloyd Adams, the company's local managing director, says Philadelphia put itself on an international stage as a finalist in the bid frenzy, but there's more work to be done.

There's a long, nuanced list of pros and cons to Philly's failure to attract Amazon's massive HQ2 project. The ecommerce giant's second headquarters project, which promised a long-term goal of 50,000 jobs for the winning city, ended up being split between Long Island City, N.Y. and Arlington, Va. After the cities were formally announced as winners of the bid on Nov. 13, Philly and Pennsylvania released the numbers behind the incentives package they pitched to CEO Jeff Bezos. All told, Amazon would have received $5.7 billion in long-term incentives to choose Philadelphia, more than twice the $2.4 billion in incentives it stands to gain from New York and Virginia. Ask SAP's Lloyd Adams — the managing director for the German software company's Eastern U.S. region, whose North American HQ is in Delaware County — and he'll tell you the decision wasn't about money: It was about access to talent, and that's an area Philly needs to work on. "The biggest learning for me is that the one thing [Philly] needs to lean into is the development and retention of talent," Adams told Technical.ly. "With a vibrant college and university programs that feed into the employer market, we need to better retain and develop talent." Adams' reasoning is echoed by Wharton School professor Robert Inman, who told PlanPhilly that no amount of money would have swung the Amazon bid Philly's way. It was, and still is, about access to highly specialized talent amid the company's increasing interest in the media sector and its interest in staying close to the hub of political power. Adams will also point out a pro of Philly's participation in the bid process: By making to the top 20, the city put itself on an international stage. It's a signal of growth, said the exec. "I think 10 or 15 years ago we wouldn't have been in the top 20 in a project like this," said Adams, a member of PACT's board of directors who's been at SAP since 1998. "It can only mean good things for the area in terms of future similar opportunities. It was an inflection point in Philly and there's a lot to learn from this." For SAP, which has 3,000 employees at its Newtown Square headquarters, what has worked when it comes to nabbing the elusive high-end talent? Adams says the company's retention rates are around 95 percent because of empathy toward employees. "We've put employees at the center of the process, and set up holistic programs that care for the whole person," Adams said.

New venture capital firm Juno Capital, an offshoot of talent agency Juno Search Partners, will host a pitch competition early next year to give early-stage startups the chance to join its portfolio and compete for a $10,000 investment.

Cofounders Mikal Harden and Vicki Sack launched the investing arm earlier this fall as a “thank you” to Philly and its business community, as Dylan Foley, the firm’s VP of strategy and third full-time member, told Technical.ly in September.

“They gained a lot from Philly and its business community and see this as their way of giving back and helping others find success,” he said.

And now, the company is putting out a call for early stage startups to apply for Innovate Philadelphia, a pitch event slated for February. Juno is looking for “mission-driven disruptors who are solving health, social, environmental and economic issues.”

Further application criteria include that the companies must be early-stage, for-profit enterprises with a current valuation at or below $5 million. They also must be located within 75 miles of Philadelphia, able to prove some degree of traction or have gone to market, and show post proof-of-concept with contracts, revenue, strategic partnerships or in another way. Applications for the pitch event will be open Nov. 16 through Dec. 16.

From the group of applicants, 15 companies will go through a phone screening, and a final five will be invited to present at the live pitch event on Feb. 5.

“The final five companies will virtually pitch their company to our panel of judges for the chance to join our portfolio of companies and secure a $10,000 investment,” the event page says.

Currently, Juno Capital has three startups in its portfolio: One, social media monitoring company LifeBrand, has also found success from a recent StartEngine competition and a glowing review from “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary. It’s joined by HR tech platform Employee Cycle, whose founder Bruce Marable is known for sharing his best practices from HR pros with listeners of his company’s podcast, and clinical-stage biotechnology company ImmunoGenesis.

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“Our city is one rich in history and brimming with resources and talent to support the startup community,” Harden wrote in a blog post announcing the VC firm’s formation in September. “And so, we’re doubling down on our love and investment by providing working capital for other eager entrepreneurs with big ideas, lots of passion and tenacity.”

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