Technical.ly Awards 2022 are underwritten by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs. This article was independently reported and not reviewed by Comcast before publication. Comcast is a Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder client.
Breaking technology news at every angle had us wondering what the next few years of the industry could look like. But amid a somewhat chaotic year, a lot of good work was done on the local level.
As the end of 2022 approaches, it’s time again to honor those in the Philadelphia community who work hard to make our city an accessible, innovative place for new technology to grow. While we talk to technologists, business leaders and cultural influencers in our communities all year long, it feels special to honor the people, companies and ideas that have made the biggest impact on the scene via our annual Technical.ly Awards.
We’ll be celebrating the winners on Dec. 14, but first, we need you — the tech community — to determine who they’ll be. We asked for nominations for finalists in five categories, and the Technical.ly editorial team curated the 25 nominees below.
Follow the big orange button to vote through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Invention of the Year
What product, project or release this year is best poised to change their industry?
- Vasowatch — This wearable monitor aims to provide risk assessment of a postpartum hemorrhage in people who are giving birth. The company is cofounded by a nurse, Stefanie Modri, who saw the issue in patients firsthand.
- xGitGuard — This open-source security tool was developed by Comcast’s Bahman Rashidi, director of Comcast cable’s cybersecurity and privacy engineering research team, to keep authentication secrets out of open-source repositories. The software guards against potential authentication secrets being inadvertently uploaded to GitHub.
- Zeen — This mobility invention by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown blends aspects of a wheelchair and a walker to help folks with mobility challenges get around more easily. Brown describes the Zeen as “a chair that gets up and goes” because the device does the lifting to help its user stand and move.
- The Maia — This engineered canister with a temperature-reading puck that “recharges” in the freezer overnight and cools breast milk was developed by Amberlee Venti under the brand Pippy Sips. The canister will keep 10 ounces of milk cool for about 16 hours and was created for on-the-go pumping parents.
- Philanthropi — Investor, founder and philanthropist Keith Leaphart is behind fintech company Philanthropi. The newly updated platform allows individuals, whether through their company or on their own, to create their own foundation that tracks and streamlines financial donations to nonprofits.
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?
- Youngmoo Kim — As the director of the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, and as a professor, Kim is leading the early lives of many of Philadelphia’s young technologists. He works at the intersection of arts and technology and is passionate about lowering the barrier to entry to STEM careers.
- Alex Wermer-Colan — Wermer-Colan is the director of Philly Community Wireless, a community-based effort to bring free mesh internet infrastructure to neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. He also works as the digital scholarship coordinator at Temple University Libraries’ Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio.
- Kate Rivera — As the executive director of the Technology Learning Collaborative, Rivera’s main focus is lessening the digital divide. While she’s worked in the space for a decade, the pandemic heightened the importance of digital access, she told us recently.
- Gloria Bell — While Bell’s been heavily involved in the tech scene for years, in 2022, she took the long-running Women in Tech Summit conference out on her own as a first-time nonprofit executive. She’s running the org with a “startup mentality,” she said in June.
- Inclusive Growth Coalition — The group representing business organizations across the city, from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to the Urban League of Philadelphia, is working toward citywide job and business growth. The goal is to boost the amount of money circulating in the local economy, reduce poverty, improve quality services and make the city safer.
CTO of the Year
Who is leading groundbreaking technical work within their company or organization?
- Det Ansinn — Ansinn has a long tenure as a founder, investor and technical leader in Philadelphia’s tech scene. Beyond his own Brick Simple, he’s a founding board member of Startup Bucks, chairs the Dean’s Executive Advisory Council at Drexel, and has most recently been CTO of startups Rogue Fitness and Neuralert.
- Mitch Stewart — Stewart is the cofounder and CTO of Guru Technologies, and was the first engineer at Boomi, who later went on to lead engineering at Dell after its acquisition. He and cofounder Rick Nucci often set the tone on company culture, like when they spoke out against Basecamp’s memo from last year that told employees to leave politics out of work.
- Sara Hall — Hall is the City of Philadelphia’s director of digital services and oversees combined teams of content, UX and digital forms within the Office of Innovation and Technology. She joined the City in 2017 as a product manager, has worked on projects like the Phila.gov redesign, and has also been OIT’s user experience practice lead.
- John Young — Young is the director of tech at Think Company, where he puts a special focus on the communication side of technology development. He’s an inventor and is civically engaged, recently telling Technical.ly why technologists make great poll workers for elections.
- Sarah Foss — Foss joined Audacy this year as its first ever CTO, heading the company’s efforts to differentiate its products and services in its tech sector. She’s also the cofounder of Tech Bae, a women-focused mentorship and networking community.
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?
- Employee Cycle — The software company makes a platform that integrates with other commonly used systems in the HR tech vertical, like payroll and recruiting solutions. The goal is to allow HR leaders to unify and analyze data across their organization, and the company raised a $2.5 million seed round this year.
- Lluna — This employee engagement and retention platform is designed to be a centralized place for employees and their managers to review and agree upon company benefits, work arrangements and schedules. This year, the company participated in Comcast NBCUniversal’s LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars.
- Proscia — The digital pathology company raised a $37 million round this year to continue growth of its staff and on the Concentriq software platform, which integrates with anatomic pathology labs’ tech and offers a launch point for AI applications within a lab. It also launched a new artificial intelligence solution that automates quality control — a tedious task for life sciences orgs using pathology data.
- Viora Health — This startup, which is focused on improving access to healthcare and reducing costs of care, is specifically for people facing social and behavioral barriers to health. Viora aims to ease these barriers, like social isolation, food insecurity, transportation needs, low health literacy and socioeconomic disadvantages by partnering with clinics and medical practices within healthcare systems. The company was named a 2022 winner of Johnson & Johnson’s Health Equity Innovation Challenge.
- Stimulus — It’s been a busy year for the 2018-founded SaaS company, including a $2.5 million round that’s further developing the Stimulus Relationship Intelligence Platform and funding some planned hiring. Founder Tiffanie Stanard also participated in the second cohort of Northwestern Mutual and gener8tor’s Black Founder Accelerator.
Culture Builder of the Year
What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive, resilient or engaging?
- Joelle Tolifero — Tolifero is the founder of Your Care Collective, an anti-burnout platform. She participated in Philly Startup Leaders‘ MVP-stage accelerator in 2021, and produced the WorkWell Summit in October, focused on personal, professional and organizational well-being.
- Mercedes Ballard — Ballard is a cofounder at heristic, a talent management consulting firm helping employers and HR professionals to look at DEI hiring as just one step in a larger strategy. She’s led workshops, like this one on recruiting with a DEI lens, and helps companies make DEI work “part of their DNA.”
- Isaiah Jenkins — Jenkins is the senior manager for strategic development and startup engagement for LIFT Labs, which supports startup growth in the Philadelphia region and around the world. His role has a focus on pipeline and talent development.
- Zachary Wilcha — Wilcha is the executive director at the Independence Business Alliance, which acts as the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce for the city. Wilcha has been a regular speaker, panelist and writer on a number of issues including LGBTQ+ affairs, supplier diversity and DEI matters in Philadelphia’s business community.
- Helen Horstmann-Allen — As email company Fastmail‘s COO, Horstmann-Allen leads the company’s culture and the cultural needs of their global clients. She’s kept a focus on STEM recruiting and mentoring, her nominee told us, and is an advocate for “good digital citizenship.”
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