Entrepreneurs / Hiring / StartUp PHL

Power Moves: John Grady is leaving PIDC for Wexford Science & Technology

Plus, Sean Blanda is director of content at Crossbeam, Nia Benjamin is regional partnership coordinator at Girls Who Code and Raffi Jabrayan is director of markets and industries at Exyn Technologies.

Sallie Mae's former headquarters in Reston, Va. (Photo by Flicker user Reston 2020, used under a Creative Commons license)

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John Grady, long-time economic development leader and president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), announced that he would be leaving his post in January to join development group Wexford Science & Technology.

Grady has been president of the PIDC, the nonprofit, economic development partnership founded by the City of Philadelphia and theChamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, for eight years.

PIDC’s mission is to support investment, business growth, and developments that “create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and drive inclusive growth to every corner of Philadelphia.”

Mayor Jim Kenney shared the news on Wednesday in a statement with the Chamber of Commerce.

“John Grady has served PIDC and our city with passion, skill and integrity for more than two decades as a forceful advocate for growth throughout all neighborhoods of Philadelphia,” Kenney said. “He was particularly adept at connecting that growth to the people and places in the most need.”

Grady’s new role is as Wexford’s SVP and Northeast region executive, and will be staying in Philadelphia. Wexford is a Baltimore-based developer that partners with universities and academic institutions to create mixed-use communities, including areas around the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.

During his tenure at PIDC, Grady worked on more than 60 community development projects, including healthcare centers, schools, neighborhood retail and mixed-used spaces mostly in underserved communities, the Chamber said.

“His achievements can be seen throughout Philadelphia, from the revitalization of the Navy Yard, to major job-creating developments in our employment centers, and in the growing small businesses and neighborhood commercial corridors where PIDC has been an active investor,” said M. Walter D’Alessio, PIDC board chairman.

PIDC, under Grady’s purview, also co-launched StartupPHL with First Round Capital and the City of Philadelphia in 2012. The early-stage investment initiative has seen a few success stories from its earliest investments, though First Round has since backed out and Ben Franklin Technology Partners has stepped in. The Department of Commerce also added the Venture Program, which funds underrepresented founders, earlier this year.


Sean Blanda has a new role as director of content at Crossbeam, the 2019 RealLIST Startups list topper that describes itself as “LinkedIn for data.”

“Crossbeam is built for partner managers, so it’s my job to provide the insights, analysis, and actionable advice for anyone responsible for partnerships,” Blanda wrote in an email. “The partnerships space is changing quickly, so our editorial will be a resource to help that community navigate this fast-changing landscape to grow their businesses and careers.”

Blanda cofounded with now-CEO Chris Wink and former Chief Creative Officer Brian James Kirk in 2009. He’s stayed involved in editorial work since then, but in very different capacities, including as EIC of Adobe’s 99U and cofounder of the Pilcrow House event series. The common theme throughout these roles?

“Community,” he said. “Taking a group of people with a shared concern or passion and connecting them with one another as best I can. Each community is different, and leaning about each one has been one of the great pleasures of my career!”


In late July, tech education nonprofit Girls Who Code welcomed Nia Benjamin as its new regional partnership coordinator of Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Nia Benjamin. (Photo via LinkedIn)

The artist and former Leeway Foundation office manager told that her interest in the nonprofit, which is launching six new coding clubs in Philly public schools this month in partnership with Project L.Y.F.T., stems from her own positive, though short-lived, experience joining a robotics team in middle school.

“Like many young women in our Pennsylvania schools and around the world, this interest wasn’t fostered and supported by my public school education and I was not given the opportunity to continue this learning past just a few months in a club,” she wrote in an email.

Girls Who Code can fill that gap for others: “As a teaching artist and a black woman committed to improving the educational opportunities to marginalized students in Philadelphia, working for Girls Who Code felt like the perfect fit,” she said. “As I immerse myself more and more in the tech landscape of Pennsylvania, I see the amazing work being down all around the state to support computer science learning for students. I feel excited to support the work already being done, and to provide Girls Who Code’s free-coding curriculum to the future leaders of Philadelphia.”

Benjamin is driven now by a desire to increase access to the “21st century workforce” for local public school students.

“I want them to know that they have potential, that they can have a career and also make change, that they can be innovators,” she said.

(If you’re interested in learning more about Girls Who Code’s free coding curriculum for students in third through 12th grade, Benjamin says you can reach out at


Raffi Jabrayan. (Courtesy photo)

Drone startup Exyn Technologies just announced that it hired Raffi Jabrayan as its new director of markets and industries as it seeks to expand globally.

Jabrayan brings 10 years of experience in the mining sector with Dundee Precious Metals, where, as manager of digital innovation projects, he worked in the areas of security risk assessment supply chain management.

Mining and tech? It makes more sense than you might think, as Jabrayan explained in a press statement.

“Like many traditional sectors, mining has not historically been quick to adopt new technologies — but I believe Exyn will change all that,” he said. “Never before have we been able to deploy autonomous aerial robots in completely unknown underground environments, and have them come back to us with accurate, comprehensive mapping. Exyn’s robots relieve the heavy burden of countless man hours, dollars, and risk of traditional surveying while keeping human miners safer.”

Exyn recently raised $200,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners in addition to a $16 million Series A in June.

Companies: Exyn Technologies / Crossbeam / Girls Who Code / Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
Series: Power Moves

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