PhillyDeals: Three firms picked for tech start-up office space

Posted: January 04, 2012

Three firms have been picked to share office space with The Inquirer and other Philadelphia Media Network outlets in the Project Liberty Digital Incubator, the newest local space dedicated to start-up tech businesses.

The firms, selected by PMN adviser and incubator operator Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, are CloudMine, a smartphone applications developer platform headed by CEO Brendan McCorkle; voter-guide app developer ElectNext, headed by Princeton and Wharton-trained political scientist Keya J. Dannenbaum, and SnipSnap, a print-to-mobile coupon scanner conversion service headed by Ted Mann.

"We're providing these companies free rent, free office equipment, and the infrastructure to operate their business, day-to-day, for a six-month period, while they agree to develop a media product for consideration" by The Inquirer, the Daily News, Philadelphia SportsWeek, and Philly.com, spokesman Mark Block said.

"This will be a great fit," ElectNext's Dannenbaum said. "People who are accustomed to getting their political information online are a natural fit for us. It's a great opportunity to work with The Inquirer in our first publisher relationship."

The incubator is funded by a $250,000 Knight Foundation grant and aided by Drexel University, which supplies interns to the firms, and DreamIt Ventures, which helped all three firms build their business models.

Do it again

Bob Moul, the serial CEO who sold Berwyn-based Boomi to Dell Computer in 2010 (a decade after his previous firm, SCT, was bought by SunGard), has left the company. "[Dell] would have loved for me to stay. But I'm a start-up guy. I want to do it again," Moul said.

He's working on a couple of possibilities. Meantime he's honing his local connections by stepping up as president of Philly Start-Up Leaders and joining the board of PACT, the local tech lobby group.

Philadelphia as a tech start-up center has trailed far behind Silicon Valley and the Boston area. But Moul says the latest generation isn't as tied to the old venture capital centers.

He cites the rapid rise of local co-working spaces and tech incubators - Independents Hall in Old City, Greenhouse Business Incubator and Seed Philly at 1650 Arch, Elliot Menschik's Venturef0rth on Eighth Street, Novitorium in Langhorne, the coIN Loft in Wilmington, the Port Business Incubator at University City Science Center, and the nascent Project Liberty Digital Incubator here at The Inquirer, for example.

From all over

RJMetrics, of Center City, says it will double staff to 24 this year after raising $1.2 million from "angel investors" across the United States.

RJMetrics, born two years ago in cofounder Robert J. Moore's Collingswood attic, weaned at Rutgers-Camden's tech incubator, and about to expand to 4,000 square feet at 13th and Walnut, provides "cohort analysis" that helps online vendors track clients and plot sales and prices.

Moore got his engineering degree from Princeton in 2006 and went to work for Jeff Horing's Insight Venture Partners group in New York, where he met 2006 Wharton grad Jake Stein, now Moore's business partner at RJ.

Backers include West Coast Valley "angel investors" SoftTech, and ex-Microsofter Jon Anderson; New Yorker Jason Goldberg (Fab.com), Lerer Ventures (of Ben Lerer, who runs Thrillist), Andy Dunn's Red Swan Ventures, Optimost founder Mark Wachen's Upstage Ventures; and Philly's own Gabe Weinberg (DuckDuckGo); and Wharton online-marketing prof Kartik Hosanagar.

Counterfeits

Federal Homeland Security agents were busy in Philly over the weekend, seizing mail-order pro-hockey team gear to protect team owners and their lucrative franchising deals from cheap, unlicensed knock-offs offered by vendors, merchants, and China-based manufacturers.

In connection with the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic held here, investigators said they grabbed more than 1,600 counterfeit items from nine vendors. The loot included National Hockey League gear, as well as unlicensed sportswear with Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association, and college logos.

Homeland Security special agent-in-charge John P. Kelleghan said the government was protecting "the reputation of trademark holders like the NHL." So far, no one has been charged, he said. His group says it expects to report manufacturers and vendors to federal prosecutors and Philadelphia police.


Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano

at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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