Startups

Philly’s top tech stories of 2021: New startups, huge VC raises and cryptocurrency captured our attention

In a year of change, these trends and topics were top of mind for Philly's tech community.

Technical.ly's best-read Philly tech stories of 2021.

(Courtesy photos; graphic by Technical.ly)

Looking back at a year of reporting can tell us about the trends in Philly’s tech community.

Technical.ly does so each year by reflecting on the best-read stories in our community. Last year’s list was full of pandemic pivots, how to optimize remote work and digesting what company culture looks like nowadays. Now, the 2021 list tells us that companies are becoming more global, pandemic-influenced startups are catching your attention, and that local companies raising big, big, rounds continues to be intriguing.

So let’s dive into Technical.ly’s newest best-read stories in Philly.

Note: To formulate our best-read roundups each year, we remove our curated RealLISTs, as they’re often our most read stories but don’t tell us a ton about trends. But it is notable that readers love to know our 2021 Techncial.ly Awards winners; the RealLIST Startups, our list of young companies poised to make an impact; the RealLIST Engineers, our list of influential local technologists; and the RealLIST Connectors, our list of people you need to know in the tech community. It tells us you want to stay up to date on the “who’s who” and keep an eye on the companies on the precipice of real influence.

Interested in seeing how these trends have changed over time? In early 2020, in honor of Technical.ly’s 10th anniversary, we rounded up the best-read stories up until that point.

But for now, your top 10 of 2021:

10. ForeverX, the dating app for medical professionals

Brother and sister cofounding duo Shivani Shah and Sagar Shah formed the idea for ForeverX, a dating app specifically catered to healthcare workers looking for meaningful connection, in 2020. They launched the app this fall, with an initial focus in Philadelphia and New York, two cities close to the founders and with thriving healthcare sectors. The app uses a medical professional’s national provider identifier number to verify their identity.

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“We were looking to build something where likeminded individuals can communicate,” Sagar Shah told Technical.ly. “Very few people understand the inherent sacrifices healthcare workers make, and the pandemic exacerbated these issues.”

The ForeverX app. (Courtesy photo)

9. Uber and Gopuff’s FTC scrutiny

Back in May, Spring Garden-headquartered Gopuff announced it had partnered with Uber to bring its “everyday essentials” items to Uber Eats customers through its network of micro-fulfillment centers. But that deal got some scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, with the agency claiming the deal was potentially hampering competition in the online alcohol and grocery delivery space.

Min-Seok Pang, an associate professor of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, gave us some context on the situation.

“If Gopuff tries to expand itself organically without partnerships, there wont be antitrust issues,” Pang said. “The issue is it’s trying to partner with a much bigger platform with a lot of the customer base already. That’s why it attracts the FTC in this case.”

Gopuffable products. (Courtesy photo)

8. Meet Vette: HR tech platform

In early 2020, Amber Wanner shut down five-year-old startup CandiDate and a few months later launched Vette, which aims to streamline the candidate search process. She’s working with two cofounders: Comcast’s former CTO, Sree Kotay, now Vette’s tech chief, and former airline pilot Austin George, now COO.

“And we especially found a new type of market during COVID — an influx of these low- to mid-level high-volume jobs, manufacturing jobs,” Wanner said. “We found the white space within that area, and realized, it’s go-time.”

Vette cofounders Sree Kotay (left), Austin George and Amber Wanner. (Courtesy photo)

7. NFT-driven video game looking to hire

Two friends and cofounders are behind Splinterlands, a digital trading card game where every action in the game takes place on the public Hive blockchain and every asset in the game is a nonfungible token, or NFT. Players can buy, sell and trade digital assets as they would physical trading cards, and it’s similar in concept to games like Magic: The Gathering, cofounder Matthew Rosen told Technical.ly.

The team was looking to hire for developers and UX and UI designers in June.

Splinterlands on desktop. (courtesy photo)

6. Sulaiman Rahman’s new P4 Hub

This fall, DiverseForce CEO Sulaiman Rahman launched the P4 (Public Private and Philanthropic Partnership) Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence coworking and event space. The space was launched with the help of partnerships with orgs that “share our mission to advance leaders in our community,” Rahman told Technical.ly.

The 4,200-square-foot hub includes an event space outfitted with audio and visual resources and tools like projectors for meetings. Companies can sponsor talent who want to work in the hub, while others can apply for membership.

Inside the new P4 Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence. (Courtesy photo)

5. Misfits Market’s $200 million Series C 

The “ugly” produce and grocery delivery company had two major raises this year, both well-read stories. But in April, it raised $200 million to accelerate pandemic-fueled growth.

That round of VC was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, with participation from repeat investor Accel. Most recently, Misfits Market had a $2 billion valuation, having raised $526.5 million so far, according to the company.

A Misfits Market box. (Courtesy image)

4. dbt Labs raises $150 million

In its third major investment round since early 2020, dbt Labs — rebranded from Fishtown Analytics earlier this year — announced the closing of its Series C at $150 million in June. The company was then valued at $1.5 billion, CEO Tristan Handy said. The raise was designed to allow the team to speed the development of dbt, its open source, SQL-based data analytics tool that has a robust community surrounding it.

dbt Labs team members. (Courtesy photo)

3. A Philly company is bitcoin mining

As cryptocurrency became “normalized” this year, so did the infrastructure needed to power it. Enter Bitcoin mining, a process done by specialized computers to secure the network and process each and every Bitcoin transaction. Miners are rewarded new Bitcoins for their services, and the more miners there are, the more secure the network, the idea goes.

VBit Technologies, a Washington Avenue-based blockchain infrastructure solutions company, is getting in on the game. In February, its leadership announced they were opening a third mining location in Montana. Founder Don Vo said it was important to him to build the VBit headquarters in Philly when he started the company in 2018, for its strong talent pool, he said.

VBit Technologies CEO Dahn Vo. (Courtesy photo)

2. Alexandra Hunt running for Congress

Earlier this year, clinical data manager Alexandra Hunt announced she would be running for US House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s third congressional district, which covers Center City, West and Northwest Philadelphia. She’s running as a Democrat and is aiming to unseat Democratic congressman Dwight Evans in next year’s primary election.

Among her top policies are a new deal for education that address current disparities in the system, fighting for economic justice and higher wages, as well as addressing the climate change crisis. Her career in public health has also made her a supporter of Medicare for All, a policy she said would have saved many lives throughout the pandemic.

Alexandra Hunt is running for congress in PA-03. (Courtesy photo)

1. Startup Lumify Care heads to Y Combinator

Our best-read story this year featured two nurses who launched startup Lumify Care, with the uNight Light, a device that offers three lighting options for different functions for working in dark conditions. The pair launched the company in early 2021, have been working full time on the venture since June. They were accepted to  Y Combinator’s summer cohort, when they filled us in on the process this summer.

“There have been no other fully nurse-led companies in Y Combinator. We’ve worked on the frontline, and too many times we see people building solutions when they haven’t lived the problem they’re solving,” cofounder and University of Pennsylvania grad Anthony Scarpone-Lambert said. “And that fact inspired us to build Lumify Care.”

The Lumify Care uNight Light. (Courtesy photo by Sukhmani Kaur)

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