Top 10 Philadelphia startups ring loudly
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Photo courtesy: King of Hearts via Wikimedia Commons

Local support groups, multiple universities, and the closeness of other powerhouse cities in the northeast keep Philly startups hopping

Founded in 1682, Philadelphia Pennsylvania is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. History oozes from every brick and cobblestone in the city. How historic? The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia in 1776, followed by the Constitution in 1787. And, of course, the city is home to the famous Liberty Bell.

Now the fifth-largest city in the country and home to seven Fortune 1000 companies, Philadelphia supports over 1.5 million citizens within city limits and another 4.5 million in the surrounding area. Businesses keep growing and innovation flourishes, spurred on my multiple universities and the intersection of high tech and healthcare.

Groups like the Philly Startup Leaders’ Accelerator and the Philadelphia 100 and Entrepreneurs Forum help seed and support multiple startups. Old money sloshing around Philly seeks out startups, and the proximity to New York City and Washington D.C. provides ideas, startup capital, and employees. And, of course, deep-pocketed prospects.

Sidecar Interactive

Photo courtesy: Sidecar Interactive

Figuring out ad placement in magazines and on TV is one thing, but on the Internet the problems because hugely complicated. Enter Sidecar Interactive and their machine-learning based system that harnesses artificial intelligence to help ecommerce vendors outperform their competition in a variety of ways.

Established in 2012, Sidecar has raised $26 million from regional institutional VCs and angels, having just closed its Series C in May 2017.


Photo courtesy: CloudMine

Health issues dominate the news regularly, often scolding consumers for not taking better care of themselves, avoiding the doctor, and then ignoring what the doctor tells them to do. But people never ignore their smartphones, so CloudMine helps support healthcare and pharmaceutical companies by doing the heavy lifting on mobile health app development.

Seven investors over three rounds since May 2011 when CloudMine started tell us the idea has merit. In fact, $12.3 million merits, including $7.3 million in April 2017. Another large placement of $5 million was made by Safeguard Scientifics in March of 2015. When investors throw big piles of money on top of previous big piles, that says the company has something worthwhile.


Photo courtesy: DuckDuckGo

Sure, everybody knows about Google, but smart folks and those who care about privacy also know and use DuckDuckGo. A search engine like Google, but optimized for privacy and to keep users from being tracked, profiled, and packaged for marketers, DuckDuckGo has become a favorite tool of Those Who Know.

Bootstrapping back in 2007, DuckDuckGo landed $3 million in one round of venture capital from seven investors led by Union Square Ventures. Founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg claims over a billion searches are requested through DuckDuckGo each year and shows no sign of retreating from the company’s strong privacy advocacy.

Stitch, Inc.

Photo courtesy: Stitch, Inc.

Big companies love data and love the cloud. Too much, sometimes, as their data gets scattered and stuck in various independent data silos. Enter Stitch, a company promising to connect data from cloud sources such as Salesforce and Zendesk to internal data sources in MySQL and MongoDB (Big Data tools). Suddenly data becomes useful in minutes, not days or weeks.

Sounds odd, but Switch was officially founded in 2016, but started receiving venture capital back January 2012 ($1.2 million). How? RJMetrics raised money to develop the product line that eventually because Stitch when it officially rolled out. The not-quite company also received $5 million in May of 2013 and $16.5 million on September 2014. Nice to be founded with almost $23 million in investor faith in your bank.


Photo courtesy: Inspire

High tech rules, but without power it disappears. One company fighting to make renewable energy the tech supporter of choice is Inspire. Focusing on wind energy, Inspire provides energy to utility companies around the country, replacing electricity created by pollution-heavy coal or expensive oil-burning power plants with pure, renewable, non-polluting wind energy.

Backed by venture capital groups like Crosscut Ventures and Double M partners with a history of success in renewables, Inspire opened their doors in 2013. $3.2 million arrived in September 2013 and another $5 million in February 2016. In between, in July 2014, the company benefited from $30 million in debt financing.


Photo courtesy: Blackfynn

Medical advances often get lost in the ocean of studies and data performed by researchers, companies, and universities. Blackfynn uses a custom Data Platform to greatly increase discovery of program development options and help accelerate optimal use of drugs and therapeutics through advanced data gathering and analytics and making that information available to the proper experts.

The company has received one round of venture capital funding in the amount of $2.37 million in February of 2016. That bodes well, since the company only started in 2015. And they’re now focusing on helping the 980 million people worldwide affected by some type of neurologic disease.


Photo courtesy: Biomeme

We love DNA analysis, but it takes time and requires a lab. We love our iPhones because they’re mobile and fast. Biomeme marries the two by turning an iPhone into a real-time DNA replicator and analysis platform to identify diseases by specific DNA signatures.

Founded in 2012, Biomeme received an undisclosed seed placement in July 2013. In December of that year, Equity Crowdfunding provided another $300k. The latest financial support came in January of 2014 as a debt financing round of $992.8k.


Photo courtesy: Cloudamize

The number of servers humming in company data centers dwindle each year. Clouds, public, private, and hybrid, can support many transactions faster and cheaper than on-premise hardware. And when you need proof, Cloudamize provides capacity planning and workload analysis tools to optimize cloud infrastructures.

Cloudamize isn’t the first to do this, but their graphic-heavy presentation attracted some secret funding in December 2012, not long after the company started. $1.2 million came in the fall of 2013, followed by an undisclosed venture placement in May 2015, and a final seed round investment  of $1 million in April 2016. There will be consolidation in this space, but Cloudamize seems to be in a strong position.


Photo courtesy: BioBots

Are you one of those who think 3D printing is a toy good only for making more toys? Then prepare your apology as you check out BioBots, a company making 3D printers with a twist: they’re a high-resolution bio-printer that works in three dimensions to build living tissue replacements for body parts. Yes, someday your doctor may be able to print you a new kidney to replace one ravaged by disease.

After founders Sohaib Hashmi, Ricky Solorzano, and Danny Cabrera started the company at the intersection of robotics, biotechology, and 3D printing in the summer of 2014, $50k in seed money appeared November of that year. Another $1.2 million landed in their laps I May of 2015, followed by three more placements for a total of $2.81 million, plus an undisclosed seed amount.


Photo courtesy: WizeHive

Believe it or not, some companies still drown themselves in paper. Moving wood-pulp heavy workflow processes like scholarships, grant submissions, and even college student applications to the cloud saves an amazing amount of time and paper. That’s where WizeHive started, and they’ve branched out into all types of business workflow applications that need to escape the jail of sprawling spreadsheets and convoluted email threads.

This company jumped early into the cloud apps biz, in late 2008, and was rewarded within a month with a seed placement of $100k. The next year they got almost a million, then, in March 2013, received $1.5 million in a convertible note. Another convertible note with an undisclosed total appeared in early 2015. It appears their push into business apps is working.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin

James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don’t read his books and articles.

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