City awards grants to 13 tech start-ups from underserved communities

Pat Loeb
July 26, 2019 - 2:37 pm
Philadelphia City Hall.

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Edisa Rodriquez felt doubly bereft when her grandmother died three years ago. Not only had she lost her family's beloved matriarch, but all her stories, her life experiences, were gone, too.

"With so much family and so much energy around family, we didn't have anything really recorded," she recalled. "I found myself really feeling the pain of that."

As a result, Rodriquez founded Capture, an app that allows older and younger family members to collaborate on how to preserve their heritage. 

Capture is just one of 13 businesses that was awarded money from the city's StartupPHL Venture Program. The Philadelphia Department of Commerce's grants, totaling $170,000, will funds the tech start-ups in the hopes that they will become future job creators. 

Francisco Garcia, department director of business development for innovation and technology, said the grants are targeted at companies owned by members of communities that are typically under-represented in the tech sector.

"Many people who start tech start-ups tend to have their first resources provided by friends and family," said Garcia, "and if you're from a disadvantaged background, you're not going to have that uncle that can give you $10,000."

The city selected a wide range of companies, from wearable tech to track behavioral health patient compliance, to apps that help first-generation college students tap resources. 

The grants were distributed among 21 Philly start-up founders, 12 of whom are women, and 17 are people of color.

Another grant recipient, BuildLAB, provides software that helps architects, builders and clients collaborate on a project. Founder Olaitan Awomolo, who has a degree in architecture, is sure there's demand. The $15,000 grant has allowed her to hire a marketing person to find it.

"It was really exciting getting the grant and also validating a little bit," she said.

Rodriquez added that the grant allows her to create a beta version of Capture, which is crucial to expanding the company.

"(It's) a huge support to just get us to the point where we can prove the concept and then go out and fundraise some more," she noted.

Other start-ups that received a grant from the city include Ask My Accountant, Crowds, IF Lab, Invure, NeuroFlow, Raise the Barr, STEM Lending, Stimulus, Swirl Technologies, TYP Social Media Co., and Wearwell.