In Philadelphia, 2023 saw a lot of AI-related news, huge raises for life sciences companies and preparation for historic digital equity funding, among other things. So now, as we do at the end of every year, we’re taking the time to reflect on some of the standout products and people from this year. (Check out the 2022 Technical.ly Awards winners in Philly.)
Technical.ly gathered nominations through our nominations form and looked at our own past reporting before narrowing it down to five entries per category. Take a look at the nominees below and submit your votes through Thursday, Nov. 30. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Invention of the Year
What product, project or release this year is best poised to change their industry?
- Answers — Guru Technologies released this AI tool in private beta in May and public beta in September. This tool allows users to ask questions and get answers sourced from content already on Guru’s knowledge management platform and connected apps.
- Founding Philly podcast — Zachary Brand hosts this podcast about startups and entrepreneurship. Each episode features a Philly founder or a prominent stakeholder in the local tech ecosystem. Since last summer, Brand has released over two dozen episodes.
- ROAR 911 panic button — ROAR launched a wearable panic button in June that sends the wearers’ location, site phone number and entry instructions to a 911 call center. ROAR focused its product on lone workers in the healthcare, hospitality and retail industries.
- HeyKiddo app — HeyKiddo’s app provides tools to assist parents and caregivers with supporting children’s development, wellness and mental health.
- PPA residential parking permit map — The Philadelphia Parking Authority released this simple, interactive map of residential parking permit zones in November, but it’s been a long time coming. The map will be updated monthly, but the PPA still encourages residents to refer to street signs.
Tech Community Leader of the Year
Who has most made this community better through coalition building, nonprofit work, access-minded initiatives, policymaking or other pathways?
- Sarah Bondzie — Bondzie is the associate investment and loan officer with The Enterprise Center (TEC). Bondzie led TEC’s first pitch competition, the Most Diverse Tech Hub Pitch Competition this year, which awarded $200,000 to local tech founders. Bondzie’s enthusiasm for supporting women and minority-owned businesses shines through her work with the pitch competition and other TEC initiatives, such as the TEC Seed Fund.
- Danae Mobley — Mobley is the COO of youth coding program Coded by Kids and the executive director of 1Philadelphia, a coalition of stakeholders focused on tech equity in Philadelphia. At November’s Innovation Weekend, Mobley announced 1Philadelphia’s commitment to raising $20 million for tech equity initiatives by 2026.
- Tony Green — Green is the chief scientific officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Green has been leading the charge for the Philadelphia’s region’s application for EDA Tech Hubs designation and applications for further recognition and funding.
- Sulaiman Rahman — Rahman is the CEO of DiverseForce, a talent firm focused on diversity. He also runs the P4 (Public Private and Philanthropic Partnership) Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence in Germantown, which is the homebase for DiverseForce’s Black and Brown Excellence (BBEx) Network, which he calls “a best-in-class, cross-sector Employee/Entrepreneur Resource Group.” DiverseForce is currently hosting an AI-focused professional development program called the GameChangers Accelerator at the space.
- Steve McLaughlin — McLaughlin owns the books and gadgets store Iffy Books in Callowhill. The store hosts as many as five events per week focused on tech, writing, art and social justice issues. He started the store in 2021 to bring back community events after COVID lockdown.
CTO of the Year
Who is leading groundbreaking technical work within their company or organization? (Similar titles beyond CTO were accepted.)
- Kostas Nasis — Nasis is the CTO and cofounder of the trading card platform (and RealLIST startups honoree) CollX. Nasis oversaw the launch of CollX’s new AI tool this year, and said he sees a lot of options for expanding AI on CollX’s platform in the future. Nasis has been the CTO of multiple companies in the past including SnipSnap and Amphetamobile.
- Amaya Capellán — Capellán is Pennsylvania’s new chief information officer within the State’s Office of Information Technology. Previously she worked in VP and director-level product management roles for Comcast, and as the VP of product and client success at former Philly company PeopleLinx. Capellán is focused on building a diverse and talented team in OIT and making it simple for Pennsylvanians to work with them.
- Mike Remaker — Remaker is the CTO of Mural Health, the 2022-founded tech company that simplifies the process for clinical trial participants. Before this role, Remaker held other CTO and VP roles related to data and engineering, including at Radnor’s Relay Network.
- Chris Merrick — Merrick is the CTO of Omni Analytics, a business intelligence tool that makes it easier for companies to use their data. Merrick’s nominator said he was the first “real engineer” at RJMetrics, where he was the former VP of engineering; the former CTO of Stitch, which he led to a successful exit; and VP of engineering at Talend, which he helped grow. “If that isn’t enough, he also turns his monitor sideways and uses it in portrait mode so you know he is very technical,” quipped his nominator.
- Zachary Womack — Womack is the CTO global financial services company SEI. He was involved in the launch of the Center of AI Excellence at SEI this year, a learning group for employees interested in learning more about using artificial intelligence. He said AI is a constantly changing field and he and SEI want to create excitement and education around it. Womack has held various roles at SEI over the last 20 years.
Tech Company of the Year
What promising startup or growth-stage company is tackling an interesting problem, shaping its industry or inspiring a brighter collective future?
- Lithero — This University City-based company founded by Nyron Burke created Lithero Artificial Review Assistant, or LARA, which uses artificial intelligence to fact check information about drugs. The company is leaning in to the buzz surrounding AI right now, but has been doing this work for years. Ben Franklin Technology Partners has invested in the company twice.
- InductEV — This company builds autonomous wireless chargers for electric vehicles, specifically commercial fleets and vehicles that travel long distances. The company opened a new R&D center in King of Prussia this summer and raised $19 million this spring.
- ImpactableX — This data and analytics software company founded by GoodCompany Ventures’ former managing director, Catherine Griffin, helps companies quantify the impact of the products. The company launched its software this June and was accepted to the Techstars Anywhere accelerator as part of its Winter 2023 class. Earlier this year, the company raised $100,000 as part of a $500,000 round.
- Carbon Reform — This green tech company developed a modular carbon capture device that removes carbon buildup from the air. The company was previously based in Delaware, but moved to Center City this summer. Carbon Reform’s execs raised a $3 million seed round in fall 2022, and earlier this month, won the BuiltWorlds Venture East 2023 Demo Day competition in Miami.
- Verismo Therapeutics — This University of Pennsylvania spinout led by Dr. Bryan Kim develops CAR T-cell therapeutics to treat solid tumors. The company raised a $7 million pre-Series A round in February, and five months later, announced another $17 million for a second pre-Series A round.
Culture Builder of the Year
What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive, resilient or engaging? (“Leader” doesn’t need to mean they hold a leadership title.)
- Robin Allen — Allen is the senior director of global talent acquisition, people and culture at tax tech company Vertex. Though she’d previously held leadership positions focused on information technology, she pivoted to a talent role to be more connected to people and influence DEI decisions at the company.
- Jessie Cunningham — Cunningham is the assistant director of IT apprenticeships at the School District of Philadelphia. Cunningham was an apprentice through the Urban Technology Project at the beginning of her career and she brings that perspective to support current apprentices. Cunningham’s nominator said she is “a backbone of support and has a wealth of knowledge in areas of technology.” Another nominator said she is passionate about UTP’s impact on current and future apprentices.
- Maurice Gaston — Gaston is a software development and engineering manager at Comcast where he is also involved in giving back through mentorship and employee resource groups. Over the years, Gaston’s Philly tech community involvement has also included serving as a board member with Coded by Kids and acting as a co-organizer of BarCamp Philly. Gaston is also one of the creators of the “Developing Philly” web series.
- Kat Jost — Jost is a technical program manager at Comcast, but has also been heavily involved in the civic tech organization Code for Philly since 2021. Jost recently announced that she would be stepping down from her role as executive director of Code for Philly, which she held for over a year, and would be taking on the role as senior advisor. She “rebuilt the Code for Philly leadership team, made the space much more welcoming to QTBIPOC volunteers, and led the organization to its current capability of impact,” wrote her nominator.
- Brandon Pousley — Pousley is the CEO Glitter, a block cleaning service that uses a tech platform to track cleaning. Pousley manages a team of 16 cleaners who are “folks from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences” and is thoughtful about supporting their needs while balancing the needs of the company, his nominator said.
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