Accelerators / Education / Entrepreneurs / Startups

Power Moves: This South Jersey founder made it into Google’s accelerator for Black founders

Plus, The Philadelphia Inquirer adds a new VP of DEI, Savana reorganizes its C-suite, and Boomi and Patina added new board members.

Teryn Thomas, cofounder and CEO of EdLight. (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:

Teryn Thomas, the Moorestown, New Jersey-based founder CEO and cofounder of the edtech startup EdLight, was picked for the latest cohort of the Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders.

EdLight is an app that teachers can use to see student work digitally and give feedback. The platform can also be used to collaborate with peers and keep in contact with student families. The company’s goal is to make teachers’ lives easier, and to improve student outcomes.

Thomas said she applied for the accelerator because she felt there aren’t many opportunities for startups in the seed to Series A stage with mentorship targeted on technical development. As part of this program, she’ll get two mentors, one with expertise in scaling and one with expertise in tech — “so really helping you to figure out, how can I improve the development of my product so that what I’m putting out is something that’s actually further along in terms of the adaptations that we utilize?” she said.

The accelerator starts on Sept. 13 and will run for 10 weeks, culminating in a pitch day. One thing Thomas said she’s especially hoping to get out of the program? A community. This could include fellow founders, as well as potential investors.

“When you think about Google, I think it’s synonymous with the idea of having that quick access to multiple resources,” she said. “And I think that this accelerator is really an opportunity for us to have access to other leaders and businesses that are growing at a similar rate to ours.”

She said she hopes to build the company’s brand prestige by increasing the number of users of EdLight. And as a lifelong educator, Thomas hopes to spread the company’s mission to “make great teaching easy.”

“It’s giving us more opportunities to contribute to the larger education community and all of the struggles that have really happened over the past three years since the pandemic,” the founder said.

A handful of other Black founders in the Philly area have gotten support from Google programs, including Google for Startups’ Black Founders Fund, which offers up to $100,000 in non-dilutive capital. Seshie cofounder Kofi Frimpong was in the 2021 cohort, while Stimulus founder Tiffanie Stanard and Switchboard Live cofounder Rudy Ellis made it into the 2020 cohort.

The Philadelphia Inquirer brings on a new VP of DEI from Comcast

The Philadelphia Inquirer announced in late August that Kendra Lee would be the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Most recently, Lee served as Comcast’s senior director of inclusive leadership development where she worked to create an inclusive workplace for all. Prior to that she was the diversity business partner of infrastructure at Facebook.

“In addition to being a certified leadership coach, Kendra brings over a decade of executive experience in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, professional development and talent management to The Inquirer,” said the news org’s publisher and CEO, Elizabeth H. Hughes, in a statement. “Her strategic and inclusive approach will be a huge asset to all levels of the organization, helping us to advance our goals to better serve our employees and the Philadelphia region.”

Lee said she is excited to join The Philadelphia Inquirer and lead initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion that have a positive impact.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to create positive change in the city I love and call home, while working for an organization committed to providing essential journalism for Philadelphia’s diverse communities,” Lee said.

Lee’s hire came a few weeks before members of the Journalism Accountability Watchdog Network (JAWN) Coalition published a letter about the lack of Black male reporters in the newsroom, outside of the sports desk. The letter was published on the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists’ website and called for the Inquirer to meet with them and discuss “broader trends of inequity” and how they can address those issues.

Savana reorganizes its C-suite

Malvern fintech company Savana announced at the end of August that Emily Steele would join the company as president and COO. With this change, previous Savana President and CTO Mike Wolfel will become the company’s CEO, and previous CEO Michael Sanchez will become executive chairman.

Steele has over 20 years of experience in the banking software industry. She previously served as president of Temenos, North America, a banking software solutions company. As the new president and COO, Steele will be focused on GTM, customer delivery and success and employee expansion.

“I have worked with all different types of companies in the banking sector, and what makes me most excited to get out of bed every morning is the entrepreneurial spirit of a company like Savana,” Steele said. “I am a huge proponent of banks transforming their technology. Savana’s technology unifies how the bank works, creates consistent consumer experiences, and removes much of the risk and fear that comes with digital transformation.”

Sanchez, who is also the founder of Savana, said he is confident the company will continue to grow under her leadership. Wolfel said he is honored to work with a fintech veteran like Steele and is also proud to step up as the company’s new CEO.

“I have been at the company since the beginning and have seen how our technology has helped to support banks in their transformation,” he said. “With this powerhouse team of leadership and talented employees, I know we will continue to help banks innovate and thrive in today’s competitive landscape.”

Savana’s Mike Wolfel. (Courtesy photo)

Boomi appoints a new board member …

Boomi, the Chesterbrook-based software-as-a-service cloud integration platform, announced the appointment of Larry Quinlan as an independent, non-executive member of its board of directors.

“We’re thrilled to have Larry as part of our board and strategic counsel, where he will bring his proven expertise to help us navigate through our next phase as a company,” said David Meredith, CEO at Boomi, in a statement. Referring to the company’s summer 2021 deal in which investment firms acquired Boomi from Dell in a deal valued at $4 billion: “Boomi’s recent launch as a standalone organization — coupled with our category-leading technology and rapid customer growth — provides us the opportunity to continue to build an unparalleled leadership team.”

Quinlan served as the former Global CIO for Deloitte and was responsible for the company’s technology strategy and operations. He has over 35 years of experience advising Fortune 500 boards and CEOs.

Quinlan currently sits on multiple boards, including public companies ServiceNow and Jones Lang LaSalle. He also chairs the Technology and Cyber Forum of the board for UBS Americas Holding LLC.

… and so does Patina

Patina, a healthcare company for older adults, appointed Dr. Reed V. Tuckson to its clinical advisory board on Tuesday.

Tuckson is the managing director of Tuckson Health Connections LLC and is also the cofounder of the Black Coalition Against COVID, an organization that uses community partnerships to share information about the COVID-19 vaccine with communities of color. He also previously served as the EVP and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, president of the American Telemedicine Association, commissioner of public health for the District of Columbia and was named one of Modern Healthcare’s 50 Most Influential Clinical Executives.

Tuckson said he is inspired by Patina’s commitment to bettering healthcare for people as they age.

“I have spent my career working to deploy technology and integrated healthcare services to better reach patients in their communities,” he said in a statement. “Patina is reshaping care delivery to create a radically better experience centered on the priorities and preferences of their patients.”

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: EdLight / The Philadelphia Inquirer / Boomi / Google
Series: Power Moves

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