who’s next startup

Who’s Next: 17 young Philly startup leaders

Matthew Fineberg just launched Bestimators, a web app that aims to help people save money and increase efficiency on home improvement projects like installing new windows or fixing a roof. Drexel University student Kristen Newman is developing a prototype to help people get over a common fear — public speaking. Ted Mann has saved consumers $200 million through a mobile app that lets consumers save printed coupons to their smartphone and redeem them in store.

These innovators and 14 of their peers are represented on this edition of “Who’s Next” — our effort to spotlight Philadelphia’s next generation of leaders who are shaping our city. (If you’re new to this feature, we’ve listed young people who are changing politics and community leaders making their neighborhoods better.)

Before get into the list: We need your help as we continue featuring some of the city’s young movers and shakers. We have some ideas, but your feedback is essential — please reach out to contact@billypenn.com with “Who’s Next” in the subject line to suggest other careers or nominations you’d like us to consider.

Without further ado, here’s the Startup Leaders edition of Who’s Next:

1. Melissa Alam

Age: 26

Title: CEO/Founder of The Hive and Founder/ Editor-In-Chief of Femme & Fortune

Who’s Next because: This Philadelphian with a digital marketing background has quickly ascended in the local startup scene, as The Hive Philly, an all-women coworking space, opened in November. Alam’s seen early success with her Old City space, that she’s already eyeing a second location in either University City or South Philly. The Hive Philly started when Melissa realized that she needed somewhere to work on her website Femme and Fortune, a site she launched last year that focuses on female empowerment, career advice, technology and culture. In 2012, she started Melissa Alam – Strategic Brand Development where she provided clients with social media management, design, photography and development of WordPress websites. Find her on Twitter at @RingTheAlam.

2. Allison Berliner

Age: 30

Title: CEO and co-founder Spot It Buy It

Who’s Next because: After moving to Philadelphia in 2011, Allison co-founded Spot It Buy It, a company that helps businesses increase revenues through Instagram by directing customers to mobile-friendly content. The company is currently in beta mode and will fully launch in February. While in beta, the company was funded by DreamIt Ventures, and as of this week, the company has moved to Venture F0rth coworking space. In addition to Spot It Buy It, Allison’s worked with a team on PopInShop, a company that helps online brands and emerging designers host temporary pop-up events.

3. Morgan Berman

Age: 29

Title: CEO of MilkCrate

Who’s Next because: Born and raised in Philly, Morgan is well-known in the startup community for the work she did creating MilkCrate, a digital hub for the sustainability community. The app, which launched in late summer of last year, brings together news, events, lifestyle tips and business listings to help Philadelphians be healthier and more sustainable. This dynamic CEO was a Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit finalist and has won countless local awards and recognitions. Prior to working on MilkCrate full time, Morgan was at Metcalfe Architecture & Design and Grid Magazine, a publication focused on sustainability in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter at @morganberman.

4. Daniel Cabrera

Age: 22

Title: CEO of BioBots

Who’s Next because: Daniel studied computer science and biology at Penn and started BioBots with two friends in the bioengineering department. The startup, which launched last summer, sells 3D bioprinters and “living” inks. Daniel says the team is working to create a future where patients with organ failures can receive custom replacement organs built by 3D bioprinters and constructed out of their own cells. The company has received the support of DreamIt Health, Ben Franklin Tech partners and BioAdvance and was named one of the top 10 most innovative healthcare startups in 2015.

5. Brad Denenberg

Age: 37

Title: Founder/Director at Seed Philly & CEO at Decibly

Who’s Next because: This Pittsburgh transplant who moved to Philly in 2000 is publicly launching his company Decibly this month. His team has goals of making Decibly an engagement tool for concerts so that fans can communicate with each other and with bands in real time during a show. Brad was one of the founding members of Philly Startup Leaders, which he left in 2010 to pursue goals of starting an angel investment fund. That ultimately turned into what’s now SEED Philly, a nonprofit incubator for tech startups in Philadelphia. Find him on Twitter at @Denenberg.

6. Daniel Fine

Age: 21

Title: CEO at Glass-U

Who’s Next because: This junior at Penn’s Wharton School has finally decided on his major while his company Glass-U is enjoying growing success. The company that operates out of an off-campus home produces sunglasses that bear the names of brands. Seems simple enough, but the foldable, neon shades caught on — so much so that they were an official licensee of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Glass-U has worked with universities across the country, SXSW and Lollapalooza. Daniel’s worked on several other startups, and is focusing on developing a new app called Dosed that aims to streamline how diabetics track insulin dosage.

7. Matthew Fineberg

Age: 36

Title: Founder and CEO at Bestimators

Who’s Next because: After growing up in the Philly area, Matthew last year launched his company Bestimators, a web app that aims to become a marketplace for big home improvements — he calls it the Travelocity for buying a new roof or windows. How it works is that users can post when they need a home improvement, Bestimators will send someone out to asses the request, contractors will post their prices for the project and the user can choose the contractor that works best for them. Matthew’s company is currently based out of Venture F0rth coworking space.

8. Fabio Fleitas

Age: 21

Title: Co-founder of Tesorio and PennApps Fellows

Who’s Next because: Fabio is the co-founder of Tesorio, a company which recently raised $100,000 through the city’s Startup PHL angel investment fund. According to Fabio, Tesorio enables companies to self-finance their daily operations, streamlining early payments on invoices so suppliers get paid early and buyers optimize returns on cash. In addition, Fabio helped found PennApps Fellows, which is a student-run non-profit organization that pairs talented students from all around the world to top Philadelphia tech companies and startups for a 10-week summer internship program. Find him on Twitter at @FabioFleitas.

9. Emily Foote

Age: 35

Title: Co-founder and COO of ApprenNet

Who’s Next because: Emily joined the Philly startup scene in 2011 when her former law professor asked her to co-found ApprenNet, an education company committed to helping teachers and trainers build engaging and interactive learning communities. The company works to give instructors tools to build low-cost but effective video-based learning exercises that mimic live trainings or classrooms. Emily’s presented at a number of Philly’s startup and tech events through groups like PADLA, TechGirlz, Philly EdTech Meetup, PACT, SEED Philly and Philly Women in Tech Summit.

10. Kate Leisy

Age: 23

Title: Product Marketing Manager at Curalate

Who’s Next because: Kate came to Philly in Fall 2013 as a fellow for Venture for America, and has been with Curalate for over a year and a half, meanwhile experiencing its growth four-fold. Curalate has cultivated more than 400 brands to use their platform which helps companies market through visuals like Pinterest and Instagram. Last year, Kate planned a Startup Weekend for musicians called Bandaloo which took place in New Orleans and is currently working on building a women’s lifestyle brand called Pugs, which makes boxers for women, and will be launching this February. Find her on Twitter at @kahleisy.

11. Ted Mann

Age: 37

Title: CEO of SnipSnap

Who’s Next because: In 2012, Ted founded SnipSnap, a mobile app that lets consumers save printed coupons to their smartphone and redeem them in store. Ted’s company started at DreamIt Ventures and today has four million users on iOS and Android who have saved more than 100 million coupons and $200 million. SnipSnap has the largest database of in-store retail coupons of any app, and now has 50 retailers, like Toys R Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Party City who pay them to feature their offers. Prior to starting SnipSnap, Ted was digital development director at Gannett, where he developed a hyperlocal network, daily deal sites and blogs. Find him on Twitter at @turkeymonkey.

12. Kristen Newman

Age: 19

Title: CEO and Founder of VirtuREAL

Who’s Next because: Kristen is a student at Drexel, and started her company VirtuREAL in New York, but continued it when she moved here to Philly. VirtuREAL is a startup that’s designed to help people practice public speaking skills through a combination of virtual reality and interactive video game technology. Kristen has team members working with her in prototype development and has meanwhile garnered national attention for her startup, one of the coolest of which was getting to ring the opening bell at NASDAQ OMX while representing VirtuREAL. Find her on Twitter at @knewms.

13. Jason Rappaport

Age: 25

Title: Founder and CEO of Squareknot

Who’s Next because: Jason founded Squareknot in early 2013, the company, which has since raised nearly $1 million in seed funding, formally launched in November 2014. Squareknot has been billed as a Github for making things IRL, and essentially allows users to create how-to guides. His company was one of the recipients of the city’s initial angel investments through Startup PHL, the city’s investment fund run by First Round Capital. Jason has also worked in the publishing industry on the design and distribution of digital textbooks, and built two video game communities that are visited by over two million people each month and have over 600,000 members. Find him on Twitter at @goldenchaos.

14. Wil Reynolds

Age: 38

Title: Founder of SEER Interactive

Who’s Next because: Wil has made a name in Philadelphia for his Northern Liberties-based company SEER Interactive, which employs more than 100 people and helps companies improve SEO and analyze the effects that it has on their bottom lines. In November, Wil was named to Philly Startup Leaders‘ board of directors and has led SEER to be named one of Philly’s 100 fastest-growing companies. Wil is also on the board at Covenant House and each year helps to organize a young professionals sleep-out, where executives sleep outside to raise money for homeless youth. Find him on Twitter at @wilreynolds.

15. Michael Riley

Age: 37

Title: Co-founder at Boxter

Who’s Next because: For the last ten years in Philly, Michael has been doing web and app development, consulting and content marketing, and last year he co-founded and launched Boxter. The Fishtown-based startup has developed systems to help companies increase web traffic and acquire new customers by giving those businesses a breakdown of the value of their content. Riley is an organizer with Philly Startup Leaders and is also the co-founder of Philly Startup Tech, a a group of technical experts that came together through the PSL community. Find him on Twitter at @itsatechworld.

16. Archna Sahay

Age: 35

Title: City of Philadelphia Manager of Entrepreneurial Investment

Who’s Next because: Archna currently serves as an important liaison between the tech community in the city, as she works to run Startup PHL, the city’s angel investment program. Her responsibilities with the city are to continue creating tech jobs in Philadelphia through strategic investments. Prior to working for the city, she was the program manager for DreamIt’s newly-launched Athena program for female founders. Archna started the Female Founders Network last year to help connect female entrepreneurs, tech or otherwise, to resources needed to help scale their businesses. She was also recently selected for Leadership Philadelphia’s Connectors and Keepers program. Find her on Twitter at @ArchnaSahay.

17. Raj Singh

Age: 19

Title: Founder and CEO at DroneCast

Who’s Next because: This Drexel student has developed a company that brought in $1.5 million last year — it’s called DroneCast, and its game is Dronevertising AKA fastening banner ads onto unmanned aircraft. The company works with businesses to plan and execute marketing campaigns by drones, whether that’s deploying a fleet of drones for a grand opening or strategically placing one. The college freshman was featured in Fortune for his work that he claims to be one of the only drone-based ad companies in the nation. Find him on Twitter at @gsingh1004.


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