PhillyDeals: Center City firm helps companies get LinkedIn

A rendering of developer Carl Dranoff's latest project, the 85-unit Southstar apartments near South Street.
A rendering of developer Carl Dranoff's latest project, the 85-unit Southstar apartments near South Street.
Posted: March 21, 2013

Osage Partners of Philadelphia, Greycroft Partners of Los Angeles, and MissionOG of Devon, say they have invested $3.2 million in Center City-based PeopleLinx, a firm that helps companies give their workers' LinkedIn accounts a standard corporate look and uses LinkedIn data to boost sales.

PeopleLinx, which counts FMC Corp., Firstrust Bank and Prudential among its clients, was set up by LinkedIn veterans Nathan Egan and Patrick Baynes. It will use the new cash to add to its staff of 13 full-time employees and about 25 contractors, says Egan, a Cornell grad and onetime specialty chemical salesman.

Egan went to work for LinkedIn in 2008, after his Villanova MBA studies helped turn his career toward software. He and Baynes set up PeopleLinx a year later, after watching big companies improvise LinkedIn guidelines and sensing the site's popularity was creating the kind of opportunity that enriched earlier consultants, who helped corporate America adopt tools like e-mail and Internet searching.

LinkedIn has followed Google, Facebook, and other companies in opening its computer code to independent developers so they can create applications that attract more users. Greycroft partner Ian Sigalow says PeopleLinx has the potential to use this power to repeat "what we saw Buddy Media do in the early days of Facebook."  

PeopleLinx investor MissionOG was set up by a group of local tech developers, among them George Krautzel, who, with a partner, sold his self-funded info-tech research firm, IT Toolbox, to Corporate Executive Board, of Washington, for $58 million in 2007.

"There's a whole ecosystem of companies being created from these tools," Krautzel says. "I don't see firms like PeopleLinx providing just a onetime fix. It's evolving."

Apartment time

Developer Carl Dranoff has a history of going in early – sometimes too early.

His Packard Motor Car units went to market long before North Broad became a popular condo-apartment-restaurant destination. His Left Bank in University City, and his conversion of the RCA Victrola plant in Camden, were also ahead of the market. His Locust on the Park was nine years ahead of the Schuylkill park project that gave it the name.

Those homes filled, in time. Dranoff's South Broad projects proved more timely. His Symphony House condos and 777 South Broad apartments are full enough that he has started work on the 85-unit Southstar apartments nearby, on a long-vacant Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. parcel.

"It's not the biggest project we've done, but a crucial project," he told me, as union crews hired by Clemens Construction, under architect JKR (both based on nearby Walnut Street), poured pilings below Broad to protect the subway.

"This stands at what was a dead zone - right at the crossroads of South Street, our bohemian, avant-garde, counterculture street, and the arts-culture-dining scene of Broad Street, the Kimmel, the University of the Arts, the nightlife scene - the closest thing we have in Philadelphia to a 24/7 street. Our Broadway-meets-Central Park West."

Dranoff also hopes to start this year on 123 apartments near the Ardmore SEPTA station, with a parking deck and stores along Cricket Avenue.

"We've been waiting in the queue for five years," Dranoff says. Apartment zoning has moved slowly in Lower Merion. But with little office or new-home construction on the way, the commissioners have green-lighted hundreds of units lately.

"There is," Dranoff says, "a lot of pent-up demand."


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5957, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter. 

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