It’s true this and every year: The startups making an impact are those led by smart business leaders finding interesting solutions to the changing challenges around them.
Since 2020, we’ve seen see record-breaking numbers of entrepreneurs setting out to do just this, and expect that trend to continue. And every January, Technical.ly joins the rest of the world in hitting the refresh button and setting intentions for the year. After a year of reporting on new technologies, startups and growing trends, our reporters gather notes for our annual RealLIST Startups, a list of promising young companies we think are going to have a big year of growth ahead of them.
In my three years of curating and writing Philly’s RealLIST Startups, I’ve watched the city change. While it’s remained a strong city for data, analytics and healthcare startups to thrive, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced more complex issues for today’s startups to solve. The pandemic may be less of an immediate threat to startup survival in 2022 compared to the initial economic downturn of 2020, I’ve seen how it will continue to influence our lives in a very real, persistent way.
The majority of the way we work and live has been impacted, and many of the startups born here in Philadelphia over the last three years reflect these changes.
Many of the businesses, services and products created by our 2022 RealLIST Startups are directly pandemic related — either helping catalog the pandemic’s effects, address ongoing changes to our labor and hiring markets or innovating in the systems surrounding healthcare. But they also represent the future of what Philadelphia’s tech community has to offer.
As always, the companies chosen fit these criteria:
- Founded no earlier than three years ago, or 2019, thanks to our longstanding definition of a startup
- Make the lion’s share of their revenue from a specific product offering — so, no agencies
- And have not been through a significant exit event like a merger or acquisition
Read on to learn about the up-and-coming startups poised to make an impact this year. These are your RealLIST Startups of 2022 in Philly:
This 2020-founded marketplace of data-driven, curated learning and development workshops was born from the demand for virtual programming amid the pandemic. Cofounders Kofi Frimpong and Will Lee first launched the company with a focus on virtual experiences like meditation sessions, mixology lessons or casino nights, and the company made our 2021 RealLIST as a runner up. The company has since pivoted, and it now aims to modernize learning and development for companies with a focus on mental health and retention via virtual workshops on everything from parenting, stress and anxiety to working remotely.
Along with participating in LIFT Labs Accelerator’s 2021 cohort focusing on future of work, last fall, Frimpong was accepted to the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, which deployed $100,000 in capital to 50 Black founders. Seshie received tech support from Google, including Google Cloud credits, ad grants and other support resources.
“Being a part of the program will absolutely open up the doors for us to build a deeper relationship with Google and get more teams there as customers,” Frimpong said then.
Healthcare tech startup Eternally was founded in 2020 with the goal of easing “some of life’s hardest moments.” The company works with medical care providers to reach patients and walk through the step-by-step process of setting up an advance directive, commonly known as a “living will,” through its platform. It offers virtual meetings with healthcare professionals who give one-on-one consulting and help a patient understand the ins and outs of an advance directive.
“We believe we’re changing the way people can ask questions and change the conversation around this end-of-life care,” cofounder Matti Perilstein told us last year.
Since the company launched nearly two years ago, it’s raised some early-stage money, participated in the Cedars Sinai Healthcare Accelerator in 2021, and done a decent amount of hiring including adding healthcare professionals to its staff and expanding its advisory board with four new members.
Inspired by COVID-19 long-haulers, and her own set of chronic health issues, Chariot Solutions’ Tracey Welson-Rossman launched the app Journal My Health last year. The startup’s product tracks a person’s symptoms in journal form, integrates data from other health apps and helps them report patterns to a patient’s healthcare team. It’s meant to be used like a diary or log of symptoms, and help patients advocate for themselves within the healthcare system. The app is available for IOS and Android.
Welson-Rossman said last year the company was working on some fundraising and had some new women-focused features coming down the pipeline in 2022. The company will be hosting a webinar exploring the intersection of women’s health and chronic conditions next month.
“It makes some patients feel more credible when they visit their doctor because they’re coming with the data,” Welson-Rossman told us last May. “Doctors tell us, ‘We have 20, maybe 30 minutes with patients,’ and having that conversation with them while being able to look at that info quickly with a notes section leads to more productive care.”
7. Common Paper
Last Summer, Ben Garvey and Jake Stein — technologists behind products at RJMetrics, Betterment, Magento, Stitch and others — began work on a software platform that would streamline contract negotiation while building tech products. They aimed to create something that would allow “everyone in the software industry to know what to expect every time.” It aims to cut down on the drudgery so colleagues and clients can close their deals faster, and has two tracks, a hosted web application to make people more productive, and the legal agreements themselves.
Stein told Technical.ly this month that the company, coming up on its first anniversary, is now made up of eight full-timers, about half in the Philly area, and half spread across the country. A recent hire includes Tiffany Bui LeTourneau, who scaled Uber Eats from its first experimental delivery to 250 cities. The NDA product is in a private beta phase with a group of companies currently using and giving the team feedback, Stein said.
In 2020, two-time entrepreneur Amber Wanner shut down her former company CandiDate after finding a hole in the process. That hole presented its own business solution, she thought, and with cofounders Sree Kotay, Comcast’s former CTO (though he recently left the startup) and former airline pilot Austin George, the team began work on Vette. The platform aims to streamline the candidate search process by using vetted experts to screen applicants for hiring managers. It also allows those with in-demand skillsets to make money in their free time by vetting candidates for these companies. This 2021 RealLIST runner-up made our top-10 list in 2022 after we heard about its recent growth.
Wanner told Technical.ly the company had closed its pre-seed round in 2021 and opened a $2.5 million seed round on Jan. 1. They’ve built out a “bubblegum and tape version of the product to prove the concept” with live customers and vetters on the platform and are building out the product to scale.
“We are going live with the scalable version of the product in March,” Wanner said. “I have a feeling we are going to blow this thing up fast. I’m very excited to be able to use this to create jobs for people and more.”
In early 2020, Curalate alumni Todd McNeal and Fitz Nowlan were behind SaaS startup Reflect, makers of a tool that automates website and web application testing. They then landed in Y Combinator’s summer 2020 cohort, which advanced the team from creating a product to building a business. In early 2021, they raised $1.8 million in seed funding, and onboarded paying clients.
In January 2021, the company landed as a runner up on our RealLIST Startups, but in the year since, the founders have launched Test Suites, a feature that improves the experience of running tests and viewing results within Reflect and adds a workflow editor, among other features. The team also recently put out a call for their first marketing hire and picked up local clients including HR tech company Employee Cycle, the cofounders said.
In just about a year, the cofounders of nurse-led startup Lumify Care have launched a product, landed in Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort and brought thousands of healthcare professionals to its online platform and marketplace. University of Pennsylvania alum Anthony Scarpone-Lambert and UCI nurse Jennifferre Mancillas are behind the uNight Light, a wearable light they say would allow healthcare professionals to see while working in the dark while decreasing patient sleep disturbances by about 70%.
The pair also launched the Lumify Hub, an online marketplace to find, share and buy gear needed for nurses to thrive in their workplace. As 2021 wrapped, the company began beta testing the Lumify app, which is slated to launch this week, and was a finalist of the 2021 Best Nursing Innovation ICON award.
“Healthcare pros on the front lines, they’re often not heard, our voices aren’t often listened to by the hospitals or the companies making things for us,” Scarpone-Lambert told Technical.ly last year. “The users we’ve curated appreciate that we’re cognizant, that we’re letting their challenges be heard.”
When an investor says, “but you’re just a nurse, no offense” — yup a team of 2 nurse founders that successfully launched a digital platform & hardware product in 7 months while working bedside in covid & finishing school… just nurses being nurses 🙂 #NurseTwitter @JennifferreRn
— Anthony Scarpone-Lambert (@anthonys_l) September 2, 2021
3. The Rounds
In 2019, after years of living in dense urban centers and apartment complexes, Alexander Torrey and Byungwoo Ko launched an eco-friendly service that delivers household, personal care and shelf-stable pantry essentials to households across Center City. Initially named Mlkmn and changed last year to The Rounds, the company, which landed on our 2021 RealLIST as a runner up, has since expanded to DC. The company exists adjacent to the “instant needs” category, which has exploded in the last two years, but does so sustainably. Membership at the startup is $6 a month, and product prices are competitive with area stores.
In 2021, the company had begun fundraising with participation from Red & Blue Ventures and the Dorm Room Fund supported by First Round Capital. It also expanded to different Philly neighborhoods — from South Philly through Center City into Fishtown, Brewerytown and West Philly.
Born-and-raised Philadelphian Mike Fiebach, along with cofounders Meredith Franzese and Jamie Ross, are behind commerce company Mainfactor. After quiet growth during 2020, the company made some noise when it recently raised $69 million in a mix of seed equity capital and a credit facility led by Upper90. The ecommerce company purchases small and mid-sized businesses in the clothing, cosmetic and fitness space that sell through Canadian ecommerce platform Shopify, and helps those businesses grow through digital marketing and influencing, sometimes bringing on Mainfactor’s team members to the company.
We predict this company will do big things in 2022 after starting the year with nearly 20 employees and plans to open a Philly office. The recent funding will go toward completing deals the team has in progress for online retailers and growing their team, Fieback said in October.
Ever since sister and brother founding duo Jennifer Goldsmith and Dan Goldsmith set their sights on building a company in their hometown of Philadelphia in 2020, healthcare tech company Tendo has been growing at lightning speeds. The platform allows for the clunkier parts of healthcare — like scheduling appointments, data input, checking in at the front desk and managing communication — to all exist in one place, and do so seamlessly.
Since the duo announced the company’s existence nearly a year ago, its grown to more than 50 employees, and raised a $50 million Series B led by Lux Capital with participation from General Catalyst, which led the company’s Series A. They’ve been collaborating with Philly’s Jefferson Health System, which they’re calling a “foundational customer” to provide insight into key problems the software aims to fix in healthcare systems. Tendo represents what can happen when the right tech team is positioned in Philly’s eds and meds market, and we expect 2022 will bring even more news for the growing company.
And the runners up, in no particular order:
- Neuralert — This stroke detection device company wrapped the Launch Lane accelerator and is making progress toward its FDA clearance.
- Kin Apparel — The Philly-based founder and Princeton University graduate Philomina Kane is behind this line of apparel that is lined with satin to protect hair from breakage and keep it moisturized.
- Go — This car subscription service functions as an alternative to car ownership, and raised $41 million last year.
- SnapRefund — This local startup is behind a digital payment platform that makes it easy for insurance carriers and SMBs to send payments to consumers.
- ForeverX — This app, founded by a brother and sister duo last year, is intended to serve medical professionals in their dating lives.
- SOLUtion Medical — This startup makes the TwistJect, a patient-friendly drug delivery system for reconstitutable drugs, and raised some seed money in 2021.
- Collx — Inspired by his kids’ love of sports card trading, Ted Mann and cofounder Kostas Nasis have built an app with 10 million sports cards in its database to determine the worth of collectable cards.
- Fulton — This one-year-old startup aims to modernize shoe insoles and incorporate more whole-body wellness into its product, and was raising seed money in 2021.
- Draftfuel — This app lets you stow away money from each purchase to prepaid Discover card that can be used in the online sportsbook, casino and daily fantasy sports space.
- Hey Auntie! — This online platform that connects intergenerational Black women in Philadelphia around mentorship, and professional and life development, was the winner of the citywide Well City Challenge in 2021.