Case in point: Earlier this month, Philly ranked #6 on a list of top life sciences market in the country, thanks to its strong concentration of researchers and high wages for professionals in the industry. There’s also that whole “eds and meds” reputation that means easy connections for any entrepreneur building a company within the healthcare space.
Last week, 10 startups benefited from the region’s connectivity firsthand when the University City Science Center hosted the second cohort of its Capital Readiness Program. These companies spent five days learning from investors-in-residence, mentors and each other about fundraising and building their company in a (say it with us) tough economic climate.
The program focused on boosting companies that were either already local to the Philadelphia region or interested in creating a local presence. After receiving 46 applications from three countries, the Science Center narrowed it down to two Philly startups, two Pittsburgh startups, one Delaware startup and five Texas startups.
Technical.ly sat down with three of the 10 founders in the program — one local and two from out of town — at the end of the week to chat about their experience in the program, as well as their experience with the Philly tech scene and why they want to build a presence here.
Michelle Caudillo-Coffey’s MTDS Solutions has developed automated kiosks for lab testing and an app for telemedicine services. She came to Philly all the way from Lubbock, Texas for the Capital Readiness Program.
Caudillo-Coffey had previously done some fundraising starting in January. Looking back, the founder said, the company was not fully prepared for the fundraising process.
“Coming to this course has just given us a completely different outlook on how we need to measure and build our business and fit each little puzzle piece into the development of what MTDS really stands for, our vision and our mission, our goal,” she said. “How we’re going to really execute our plan on finalizing and getting funds and talking to investors and meeting every single milestone that we need to.”
MTDS was connected to the Science Center through a staff member who had connections to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Since completing the program, Caudillo-Coffey said she recognizes how important it is to have access to investors and mentors who can help develop you business plan so you’re prepared to fundraise.
“They really do take you under their wing, and then they help you,” she said of the Capital Readiness Program. “They help you build that plan to help you build it from A to Z. It’s a really fast-paced program, but it’s also extremely beneficial.”
Caudillo-Coffey and her business partners are all healthcare professionals, and MTDS is their first business. They’re stepping out their comfort zone as entrepreneurs, but she thinks their company could serve the community by providing better access to healthcare.
Coming from halfway across the country, why the interest in Philly? Caudillo-Coffey said the energy of a bigger city is very different from where her team is from, but she likes how innovative and accepting everyone here seems to be.
Philly’s Trace Orthopedics is developing products to fix tendons, with a focus on partial tears in outpatient settings, and is currently in the preclinical stage of developing a new medical device. The company is actively fundraising — and has been for the better part of a year — to support that work, according to President and CEO Adam Greenspan. The startup has seen some success in that fundraising, he told Technical.ly, but has had trouble sticking to its planned timeline.
Greenspan is no stranger to the Science Center and how its supports entrepreneurs, as he previously worked as the org’s director of business incubation. He said he considered applying for the inaugural Capital Readiness Program cohort, but thought the company was past the stage at which it could benefit. He later realized all of the resources the program offers, and the opportunity to practice pitching and improving, could be an investment opportunity.
“My goal for coming into the program was to take an honest look at our company and our ability to close our current funding round within the timeframe that we planned in order to execute on our critical activities,” he said. “And it’s been very helpful to receive support from the resources that were brought in and from the other entrepreneurs.”
Greenspan’s cofounder is practicing radiologist at Jefferson Health, which is part of the reason the company is based in Philly. He appreciates the plethora of resources and networking opportunities in the city, specifically for life sciences and medtech companies.
“Philadelphia is ripe for startup companies to be able to receive support from later-stage companies that are still in the growth stage and that could be potential partners,” he said.
David Ajoku, founder and CEO of community-inspired pregnancy care platform Aware.ai, is from Pittsburgh, but found out about the Capital Readiness Program from an investor in his network. He said he didn’t realize how competitive the applications would be, and that being accepted shows how much his company has grown, which motivates him to keep going.
In his experience, Ajoku said, fundraising has always been an experience that required determination. Participating in this program has helped him to see new opportunities for fundraising in the future.
“It’s been very eye-opening to see all the things that we can do now a little bit differently, and even do more of to help us secure larger rounds in the future,” he said.
The program helped him to build connections with investors and experts who are familiar with the healthtech space, and the rules and regulations of the healthcare industry. The program has also allowed him to meet founders from all over with different experiences so they can learn from each other.
Being from across the state, Ajoku said he knows Philadelphia is home to big health systems (though of course, his hometown has its own share of healthtech and life science prowess). He thinks his company could have even more impact helping birthing people if he’s connected to those systems.Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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