Startups

Power Moves: Pennovation Works welcomes a new director amid its expansion

Plus, some major moves within city government, and Philly Startup Leaders' head gets a new title.

Denita Henderson.

(Photo courtesy of Pennovation)

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: philly@technical.ly.


With Philly’s life sciences sector booming — and in need of more lab and mixed-use space — Pennovation Works is bringing in a new managing director to oversee the direction of the growing campus and community.

Philly native and University of Pennsylvania alumna Denita Henderson was recently appointed to the position. In her role, she’ll guide the overall direction and oversight of the 23-acre innovation community in Southwest Philadelphia, near Penn’s academic campus.

She’ll also oversee the institution as it grows. Earlier this year, Pennovation announced it was adding a 455,000-square-foot project to its portfolio across two, six-floor buildings that will also offer flex lab and office space. Of the total square feet, 387,000 will go to R&D and 68,000 is meant for biomanufacturing space.

Henderson will be charged with implementing Pennovation’s long-range strategic plan, the institution said, including development of the site, marketing, communications and leasing. She’ll work on strategic direction for the existing Pennovation Center, and will work collaboratively with the Penn Center for Innovation, PCI Ventures and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research on company curation and programming for the ecosystem.

She brings experience in both real estate and economic development to the role.

“My initial goals include a focus on fully activating the space, reinforcing a sense of place with opportunities for new connections and advancements,” Henderson said in a statement. “I want to get more people together again in-person, and encourage the natural collaboration amongst innovators, mentors, and visitors of the ecosystem. Pennovation Works will continue to develop as a dynamic hub for activity within the local and broader innovation community.”

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City’s DEI officer departs

Nefertiri Sickout. (Courtesy photo)

After just a year and a half in her role, Nefertiri Sickout, the City of Philadelphia’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, will be departing. The City announced the news Tuesday, saying Sickout would be leaving her post Nov. 16. She’ll be replaced by the current deputy officer, Josie Pickens.

Next month, Sickout will be joining the org Share Our Strength as senior VP for equity, diversity and inclusion, where she will support a mission to end hunger and poverty. Sickout leaves the City after six years, where she held multiple roles in the DEI space. In her time as chief DEI officer, she formalized the City’s Racial Equity Strategy.

“Her leadership and advocacy brought us several steps closer to achieving a city that truly serves everyone,” Kenney said in a statement. “The organizational work she has led is not easy, and I am grateful for her efforts and vision, and excited to see her embark on the next step in her career where I know she will continue to make a great impact.”

Pickens came to the deputy role after working as a supervising attorney and co-director of the energy unit at the nonprofit Community Legal Services.

Josie Pickens. (Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia)

The 2023 mayor’s race gets active

Mayor Jim Kenney announced last week that Christy Brady, who had been serving as deputy city controller, would be acting city controller to succeed Rebecca Rynhart, who resigned from the position last month to run for mayor.

It’s the latest in a string of open government positions as a result of a bid for the office. Additionally to Rynhart, Allan Domb, Derek Green, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez all left their City Council positions before this election cycle to run in 2023.

This week, too, grocer Jeff Brown, who owns multiple ShopRite stores across the region, reportedly plans to announce that he is jumping into the race. These six are the first to throw their hats into the ring, though more are expected to announce a bid.

PSL leader becomes org CEO

Philly Startup Leaders former executive director, Isabelle Kent, is now the organization’s CEO, she confirmed to Technical.ly this month. Kent came into the org in spring 2021 bringing experience in growth strategy and ecosystem development.

The former VP of growth for Toronto-based talent acquisition platform JobAdX also runs her own strategy firm, Dedicova Consulting, through which she’s consulted with startups and Fortune 1000 companies.

The title change doesn’t signal too much of a difference on her end, she said. Rather, it’s part of the org’s development planning for 2023, and a “move toward getting PSL to a more sophisticated place as we move into phase two of the five-year plan.”

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