Accelerators / Entrepreneurs

Power Moves: Burro hired its new VP of engineering from Toyota Research Institute

Plus, Passage Bio has a new CEO, Beth Lawrence is leaving PSL, one Philly company is chosen for a national accelerator and another wins a national contest.

Guillermo Pita Gil. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

Burro, the Philly agtech company fka Augean Robotics, has named Guillermo Pita Gil its newest VP of engineering.

The venture-backed company makes autonomous, collaborative robots that assist with farming tasks as field labor workforces have shrunk in recent years. In February 2022, Burro joined John Deere’s 2022 Startup Collaborator accelerator.

Pita Gil has 15 years of experience in the automotive industry. He was most recently worked as the director of planning, controls and HMI at the Toyota Research Institute, and counts previous roles at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. Pita Gil has a Ph.D. in controls theory from Centrale Supelec in France as well as two masters degrees in electrical engineering and applied mathematics from Supelec and Paris Sud.

The technologist is moving from California with his family for the Burro role.

Here’s the company’s robot in action:

Passage Bio named new CEO

Publicly traded cell and gene therapy company Passage Bio announced on Monday that Dr. William Chou would be its new CEO and a member of the board, effective immediately.

Edgar B. Cale, interim CEO, will resign from his position and remain at the company as general counsel and corporate secretary. Maxine Gowen will step down as interim executive chairwoman, but will remain chairwoman of the board.

“I am thrilled to join the talented team at Passage Bio and build upon the company’s many accomplishments and impressive capabilities,” Chou said in a statement. “With three ongoing clinical programs, we are poised to deliver multiple meaningful milestones over the coming quarters. As a clinician, it is my privilege to lead a company with tremendous potential to bring transformative therapies to patients with CNS disorders for which there are limited or no approved treatment options today.”

Chou has almost 20 years of experience in the healthcare field. His previous position was as CEO of biopharmaceutical company Aruvant Sciences. He also worked at the pharmaceutical manufacturing company Novartis for about 10 years in various roles.

Beth Lawrence is leaving PSL

Beth Lawrence announced on LinkedIn this week that she was leaving her position as director of programs and events at Philly Startup Leaders (PSL).

“I’m so proud to have helped PSL through that time of change, and to have been a part of such an incredibly innovative, welcoming, diverse and supportive community during my own times of uncertainty,” wrote the events pro, who joined the org in summer 2021.

Among her work at PSL, Lawrence spearheaded the first cohort of the Cannabiz and Ethical Entrepreneurship accelerators earlier this year. As for next steps, she said she’ll be focusing on her consulting company Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events and her podcast, The Type A+ Podcast.

Walkthrough joined an Amazon accelerator for women founders

Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced 25 startups in its new Impact Accelerator for Women Founders, including Philly based-startup Walkthrough.

AWS said in a statement that it is “working toward narrowing the gender funding gap of the startup world.” The companies chosen will receive training, mentoring, technical guidance, networking connections with Amazon leaders and potential investors over eight weeks, as well as ongoing support and up to $225,000.

Walkthrough makes a personalized financial advising app. Megan Valentine is the cofounder and co-CEO with Ben Bartolome. Valentine was previously a software engineer at Google before starting Walkthrough in August 2021.

“[In 2023], we’re hoping to have something like 10,000 folks using our app and paying for it and will at that point definitely be starting to raise so we can grow more and have a bigger impact,” Valentine told the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Black and Mobile won $10K

Black and Mobile, a Philly-founded food delivery service, recently won a contest hosted by the Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) called the Back in the Black Tour.

As reported by The Plug, BIA partnered with Google and visited four cities — Macon, Georgia; Twin Cities, Minnesota; San Diego, California; and Philadelphia — to host town halls to highlight Black-owned businesses based there. BIA also chose one business in each city to receive a $10,000 prize.

The 2019-founded company, which landed third on’s 2021 RealLIST Startups, connects its users with local, Black-owned restaurants. It’s since launched in multiple cities across the US.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 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.
Companies: Black and Mobile / Amazon Web Services / Burro / Amazon / Philly Startup Leaders
Series: Power Moves

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