Startups
Accelerators / Apps / Business / Funding / Startups

RealLIST Startups 2024: Meet 10 of Philly’s most promising early-stage tech companies

With products that help people deal with everything from trash to gene therapy to transit, these contenders are poised for growth.

Shouting out Philly's RealLIST Startups for 2024. (Imagic Digital/Mark Henninger)

Technical.ly's RealLIST Startups 2024 in Philly is underwritten by Morgan Lewis and JPMorgan Chase. The list was independently reported and not reviewed by Morgan Lewis or JPMorgan Chase before publication.

It’s time to meet Philadelphia’s next crop of up-and-coming tech companies. 

Philly experienced a slower year for venture capital deals, and multiple big businesses in the region also announced layoffs. Despite these trends, several young startups made their mark.

Every year, Technical.ly honors the most promising early-stage outfits in the region. RealLIST Startups recognizes 10 companies that have experienced major growth in the past year and appear poised to continue that path. The list also names 10 runners-up we think could experience growth in the near future.

Startups that make the RealLIST meet the following criteria:

  • Founded no earlier than three years ago (though we know founding dates are kinda BS)
  • Make most of their revenue from selling a product (no agencies)
  • Haven’t undergone a significant exit event, such as an acquisition or IPO

To come up with the 2024 class, Technical.ly asked our community for nominations and reviewed our past year of reporting. The companies on the list below span industries such as beauty, transportation, edtech, robotics and life sciences. Some of them are notable for their founders, others for big raises or other major milestones.

Here are your 2024 RealLIST Startups in Philadelphia, in ascending order.

10. WealthMore

WealthMore is an investing and financial planning platform with the goal of making generational wealth building more accessible. The 2022-founded company provides personalized financial advice through a team of certified financial planners, and is launching its app this spring (you can pre-register now).

Founder Mical Jeanlys-White was previously a managing director at JP Morgan Chase. She was named to NYC FinTech Women’s Inspiring Fintech Females list in 2023. The company has raised over $1 million with Emmeline Ventures, First Row Partners and Ben Franklin Technology Partners as investors, according to Forbes.

9. Trufacial

A father-daughter duo launched Trufacial in 2022 to provide professional skin care services at home. Dina El-Sherif and her father, Mahmoud El-Sherif, developed a device that has interchangeable tips and serums to provide microdermabrasion, microneedling and massage.

Dina has a master’s degree in engineering from Drexel University and an MBA from Temple’s Fox School of Business. Mahmoud has 45 years of experience working in technology and engineering, including with Drexel. The company launched with a consumer market study and received its first patent in the fall.

“Our goal is to basically become a household name,” Dina told Technical.ly, to go and compete against your in-office procedures where you can truly say with convenience, accessibility and cost, you’re now able to get the same results that you would in offices.”

8. Jawnt

Founded in 2022, Jawnt works with companies to provide transportation benefits to employees, and with transportation agencies to increase ridership and improve rider experience. The company has partnered with SEPTA on its Key Advantage program.

Cofounder Jeff Stade is a former senior product manager for Tidelift, and cofounder Will Sanderson is a former senior product manager for Comcast’s MachineQ. Recently, the company announced Jawnt Pass, a commuter debit card employers can offer as a pre-tax transit benefit. Jawnt’s financial backers include Crossbeam Ventures, Mucker Capital, Triple Impact Capital and Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani.

The company’s main market is Philadelphia, but it’s now expanding into Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco.

7. MentoMind

This edtech company, founded in 2022, developed a learning platform that uses artificial intelligence to assist students with SAT prep. Bucks-based founder Amit Jain was an educator early in his career, then pivoted to engineering roles at companies like International SOS, Lutron Electronics and LifeScan.

When the pandemic brought widespread remote learning, Jain saw an opportunity to get back into the ed space. The company won a small Bucks Built Fund grant from Startup Bucks, and Penn Community Bank then raised a $1.5 million seed round in September. The full product launched last fall.

“SATs are [the] first step, but we are taking this technology eventually into schools, K-12 schools, helping students, bridging those gaps,” Jain told Technical.ly. “The students can still get personal attention from not a human teacher, but maybe an AI companion.”

6. Mural Health

Berwyn-based Mural Health developed a tech platform, Mural Link, that manages clinical trial experiences for patients and their caregivers. The platform also organizes patient payments for clinical trials.

It was cofounded in 2022 by Sam Whitaker, who previously cofounded clinical trial payment company Greenphire, which he grew to an over $1 billion valuation with very little VC investment before exiting in 2021.

5. Glitter

This block cleanup service uses technology to coordinate litter pickup across the city. Philadelphians can sign up for their block to be cleaned by Glitter before trash pickup day. Its platform tracks which streets are currently covered — at the time of writing, it’s used on about 300 blocks.

Founder Morgan Berman originally pitched the idea in the late 2010s as a city-partnered platform called PhilaSweep, but after that was derailed, she pivoted to a neighbor-funded model.

Founded in 2021, Glitter now employs 19 people who’ve overcome barriers to work, and the company is working on a forthcoming project related to gun violence reduction.

“We’ve really incorporated smart ecommerce integration, seamless signup process, good email marketing,” Brandon Pousley, CEO of Glitter, told Technical.ly, “so that a neighbor, just like when they want to order something to eat or get a ride somewhere, there’s simple apps for them to do that.”

4. Sojo Industries

Sojo Industries uses robotics and automation to streamline the manufacturing, packaging and transportation process of beverage variety packs. It also developed software called Sojo Shield that tracks and traces products.

The Bucks County-based company was founded in 2021 by Barak Bar-Cohen, previously the COO of the beverage company Bai Brands. Last year Sojo raised $2.8 million to continue improving the company’s tech and expand its national presence.

“We’re bringing automation, we’re bringing robotics and we’re bringing mobility to an industry that is still predominantly in the manual mindset,” Bar-Cohen told Technical.ly.

3. Baleena

Baleena is developing a device for washing machines that filters microplastics out of water. The company was founded in 2022 by three University of Pennsylvania students — Sarah Beth Gleeson, Julia Yan and Shoshana Weintraub — who originally came up with the idea for their senior capstone project.

“In undergrad, we were really drawn to bio-inspired design, and we really want to look to nature to solve a problem that exists today,” CEO Yan told Technical.ly.

In 2022, Baleena participated in the Pennovation accelerator and won their pitch day. Last year, the company was a RealLIST Startups runner up. In spring 2023, they completed the gener8tor Sustainability Accelerator and received funds that went toward a $460,500 pre-seed round. Plus, the two remaining cofounders Gleeson and Yan were recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the energy category.

2. 1to1

1to1 is a personalization engine for ecommerce vendors that was founded in 2022. The company’s platform, Ragana, uses artificial intelligence to customize content for consumers. Rittenhouse-based cofounder Pratik Desai previously worked at Salesforce as a personalization engine practice lead.

The company is currently wrapping up participation in the three-month Techstars NYC Winter 2023 cohort, with a demo day on Feb. 23.

“Within the first week, they just threw so much valuable information at us,” Desai told Technical.ly in November. “With three weeks in, it’s been an intense program. … Extremely intensive, extremely demanding, but so rewarding and so valuable.”

1. BlueWhale Bio

This Cira Centre-based company is developing technology to make cell and gene therapies more accessible to patients who need them. The company was cofounded by Carl June, the celebrated oncologist and researcher known for developing Kymriah, the first CAR T-cell cancer therapy approved by the FDA. June won the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences last fall.

This University of Pennsylvania spinout was founded in 2023 and emerged from stealth mode last fall with the announcement of an $18 million seed fund raise. The round was led by Danaher Ventures and Novalis LifeSciences and Marshall Wace also contributed.


2024 RealLIST Startups honorable mentions (in no particular order)

  • Newsprint — This platform uses generative artificial intelligence to monitor and analyze news, delivering the most relevant news to users. The company raised $400,000 in a pre-seed round last summer.
  • Stretch Dollar — This 2023-founded company uses technology to create custom and more affordable health insurance plans for small employers. The company raised a $1.6 million pre-seed round last summer.
  • QuneUp — This software tool organizes information and data about production equipment and parts. Founder Simone Ammons participated in the Most Diverse Tech Hub Pitch Competition last fall, winning $40,000 in third place.
  • Yieldeasy — This startup is a real estate investment marketplace that allows investors to invest in property loans and participate in real estate debt. Yieldeasy launched its new platform in August and raised a $1 million funding round last fall.
  • Circa Systems — Former civic leader Nic Esposito and cofounder Samantha Wittchen launched this company focused on sustainability and the circular economy. Its platform will allow users to buy and return items second hand to reduce waste.
  • Pocket Scribe — Penn Medicine resident Dr. Nikhil Illa created this cloud-based app that uses AI to transcribe and sort dictated physicians notes. The company won the Best Pitch Award at Pennovation’s annual accelerator pitch day last summer.
  • Sonura — This company started as a Penn Engineering senior capstone project that won the 2023 President’s Innovation Prize. Five Penn graduates created a beanie that filters out harmful noises and allows caregivers to send messages to babies in the NICU.
  • Alloy — This platform allows users to get an estimate for their jewelry online and sell gold for cash. The company raised $550,000 last year.
  • Big Idea — This 2023-founded company created a platform that allows anyone to register any type of intellectual property, tokenizing the rights to that idea. Founders Nate Hecker and Jarid Arnold officially launched their tech at CES earlier this year.
  • Vertige — This app allows people who suffer from vertigo to track factors that may contribute to their symptoms. In the past year, the company has participated in Pennovation’s annual accelerator and partnered with the Vestibular Disorders Association on a clinical trial.

This story has been updated with a new target date for WealthMore’s app launch, and a new staffing number for Glitter.

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.
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST
Engagement

Join the conversation!

Find news, events, jobs and people who share your interests on Technical.ly's open community Slack

Trending

Philly daily roundup: East Market coworking; Temple's $2.5M engineering donation; WITS spring summit

Philly daily roundup: Jason Bannon leaves Ben Franklin; $26M for narcolepsy treatment; Philly Tech Calendar turns one

Philly daily roundup: Closed hospital into tech hub; Pew State of the City; PHL Open for Business

From lab to market: Two Philly biotech founders on AI’s potential to revolutionize medicine

Technically Media