Philadelphia continues to build on a legacy of intellectual innovation. Meet the technology thought leaders shaping our city—and the world.
Dr. Subha Airan-Javia PHOTO COURTESY OF CAREALIGN
After spending 11 years as a healthcare information technology physician, Dr. Subha Airan-Javia began to notice the gaps and barriers impeding the clinical workflow. One of the biggest hurdles was maintaining quick, reliable communication between healthcare providers. Slightly delayed information might not be make-or-break for most professionals, but, in the medical industry, slowed correspondence could mean the loss of a life. In 2018, Airan-Javia launched a health IT startup initially known as TrekIt Health. However, upon receiving a $1 million investment from Tech Council Ventures and Front Row Fund in 2020, the company rebranded, operating under the current moniker, CareAlign (carealign.ai). The primary goal of the project is to streamline and digitize clinical communications, creating a wealth of real-time clinical knowledge that could save countless lives. At the moment, 12 million patients are reaping the rewards of this platform—and there’s surely millions more to come.
John Fazio PHOTO COURTESY OF NERD STREET GAMERS
When The Block opens this summer on North Broad, it will be the world’s first esports industry campus. The man with the plan behind the game-changing concept in the billion-dollar esports industry is Nerd Street Gamers’ (nerdstreetgamers.com) John Fazio. What began as an Old City startup in 2009 has evolved into a national network of esports facilities and events for serious gamers. The Block will serve as a dynamic space that’s equal parts global headquarters, public training facility and practice facility for professional teams. Local companies like Five Below and Comcast Spectacor are investors, but $11.5 million in additional funding from Founders Fund, a San Francisco venture capital firm that counts Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify in its portfolio, this February puts Nerd Street’s total funding at $25 million. Committed to giving back to his hometown community, Nerd Street has forged a new partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation this year that will incorporate esports into summer camp and afterschool programs.
Michael Rubin PHOTO COURTESY OF FANATICS
It’s fair to say that someone who opens a ski-tuning business out of their parents’ basement in Lafayette Hill at 12 years old is destined for success: In March, Michael Rubin’s company Fanatics (fanatics.com), the leading global digital sports platform with a focus on apparel for all major professional sports leagues and their legions of fans, more than doubled its valuation to $12.8 billion. It would be hard to put a price tag on the work that Rubin, who has built several multibillion-dollar e-commerce companies over the years and is a partner of the Philadelphia 76ers, has done as a philanthropist and social justice advocate. His ALL IN Challenge was one of the largest digital fundraisers ever, raising $60 million to feed those in need of meals during the pandemic. As co-chairman of the REFORM Alliance, Rubin works alongside founders Jay-Z, Robert Kraft and close friend Meek Mill to eradicate antiquated probation laws that perpetuate injustice in the U.
In 1992, while other Wharton business students missed sleep to study for exams, Josh Kopelman carved a different trajectory for himself. He launched Infonautics Corporation, an information services company, that went public on the Nasdaq in 1996. Soon after, in the late ’90s, he founded two more companies, half.com and TurnTide, which were acquired by massive conglomerates, such as eBay and Symantec. All of these ventures piqued his interest to start a venture capital firm, First Round Capital (firstround.com), in 2004. The enterprise sought to reshape seed-stage investments by connecting small-scale tech founders with a rich range of resources and investors set to ignite their vision. Like all of Kopelman’s projects, the idea became a smash success. The firm elevated Kopelman into one of the top venture capitalists in the country, as First Round regularly raises funds anywhere between $100 and $200 million. Aside from these financial endeavors, he also created the Kopelman Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing startup grants to social entrepreneurs.
After working a tech career throughout the 2000s, Mahe Bayireddi sought to solve a crisis plaguing millions of Americans, and global citizens as well—unemployment. He applied his background in software engineering and development to the issue, spawning the concept of a digital matchmaker that paired prime applicants with the employers perfect for them. In 2011, he launched Phenom (phenom.com), an Ambler-based, global HR company that accomplished just that. To execute this goal, Bayireddi designed an artificial intelligence platform, known as Talent Experience Management, to assist companies in recruiting top-tier talent. Needless to say, Phenom quickly became a professional phenomenon sweeping the HR and tech industries. In April 2021, Forbes reported that Phenom is worth $1.4 billion—a stagg ering increase since its start a decade ago. In the future, Bayireddi hopes to expand the potential of artificial intelligence software to match 1 billion applicants with a job.
Yasmine Mustafa PHOTO BY RACHEL WISNIEWSKI
After leaving her war-torn home country of Kuwait in 1990, Yasmine Mustafa and her family arrived in Philadelphia to begin a new life. However, they soon encountered the tremendous difficulties faced by undocumented immigrants, such as poverty, unemployment and unabashed disrespect. Upon graduating high school, Mustafa turned to low-wage restaurant gigs to help support her family. She recalls being constantly sexually harassed, which spawned a sense of fear, and, more importantly, a relentless determination to combat this intimidation—for herself and all women. In 2014, Mustafa launched ROAR for Good (roarforgood.com), a safety device that emits an alarm and contacts loved ones upon being pressed. By 2017, the company trailblazed through the market with sales in over 45 countries through large-scale retailers, such as Target and Amazon. As of 2018, ROAR parlayed the focus on personal safety to workplace safety with its Always On platform, striking deals with hospitality conglomerates. The devices are currently stationed in over 3,000 hotel rooms nationally. Recently, the B-level certified corporation successfully passed through an investment round, securing partnerships with Social Venture Circle, Broad Street Angels and tech entrepreneur Jake Stein. In the months ahead, Mustafa hopes to substantially increase the number of hotel rooms to even greater heights.
While purchasing a pregnancy test at the drugstore, Cynthia Plotch encountered her boyfriend’s mother. After this experience, Plotch hatched a better way to make intimate purchases. Recruiting Jamie Norwood, a colleague from Venture for America, the duo created Stix (getstix.co)—a judgment-free, feminine healthcare product delivery service backed by top physicians and gynecology experts. Offering everything from pregnancy tests to ovulation tests, Stix is a one-stop shop for fertility matters. Since launching in 2019, the company has expanded to include UTI products such as tests, prevention supplements and pain relief medicine as well as prenatal vitamins. Delivered to the doorstep in discreet packaging, the female-founded, Philadelphia-based venture empowers women to take charge of their health in a convenient and reliable manner. In April, Stix raised a $3.5 million seed round of fundraising.
Tiffanie Stanard PHOTO COURTESY OF TIFFANIE STANARD
By the time Tiffanie Stanard founded Stimulus Inc. (getstimulus.io) in 2016 she had already launched an award-winning brand enhancement agency whose client list included Paramount Pictures and McDonald’s and been hosting and producing Philly Speaks on 100.3FM (Radio One). Stimulus Inc., a relationship intelligence SaaS platform that uses data and analytics to help companies of all sizes and industries to make better purchasing decisions, garnered industry attention last October when Stanford was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Black Founders Fund, part of the Google for Startups program. In addition to Google for Startups, the Philly-based company is backed by local investors like Juno Capital and Darco Capital. Stanard, who has been actively involved in city organizations promoting entrepreneurship and diversity and has been named a U.S. Delegate for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress twice, says that, in the months ahead, Stimulus is set to announce new partners and funding to expand the business and will be shining a light on customers that are diversifying their supply chains to grow the local economy.
Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola PHOTO COURTESY OF GOPUFF
Upon both enrolling in a Business 101 course at Drexel University, Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola instantly connected socially and, more importantly, professionally. Ilishayev possessed a background in the restaurant and banquet industry, providing him with a keen business acumen that propelled his vision to launch Gopuff (gopuff.com) alongside his classmate, Gola, in 2013. Their business model essentially acts as a convenience store with wheels—customers can order myriad items, from baby food to wine spritzers, through a digital delivery platform. Neither of the two could have predicted that this passion project would evolve into a nationwide company presently valued at $8.9 billion. Their first quarter in 2021 saw more investments than any previous year, especially considering the $1.15 billion investment from SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund in March. Moreover, there have been a variety of recent developments in the company, ranging from a full-scale aesthetic rebranding to a partnership with the 76ers to provide customers with stadium menu favorites.
Photography by: Courtesy of CareAlign; Nerd Street Gamers; Fanatics; By Rachel Wisniewski; Tiffanie Stanard; GoPuff