“We’re building an innovation ecosystem that will help to propel our region to global leadership in Life Sciences, and we’re laying the path for our researchers, co-op students, graduates and neighbors to participate.”
Philadelphia has built a reputation as an innovation and research hub, particularly in Life Sciences, but it is also gaining ground in Fintech and enterprise tech. The ecosystem’s relatively low cost, friendly attitude to newcomers, convenient location to New York and Washington, D.C., excellent educational institutions, and diverse workforce are attracting startups. The Philadelphia metro area ranked #15 in SmartAsset’s 2022 Best Cities for Women in Tech report.
Outside investment has flooded into the ecosystem in recent years. In 2021, $3.8 billion came from Bay Area investors and $4.6 billion from New York. In 2022, the numbers were down but still respectable at $2.9 billion from Silicon Valley firms and $3.4 billion from New York ones. Local agencies continue to play their part too. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Ben Franklin) invested $10.3 million into 42 companies in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Ben Franklin is also aiming to raise at least $25 million for its new growth-stage fund, which continues the work led by its GO Philly Fund.
With new initiatives including the Capital Readiness Program — designed for startups preparing for a first institutional raise — and a Founders Fellowship for STEM researchers interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, University City Science Center continues to support startups while cultivating a diverse STEM workforce. Capital One is opening its second innovation center in Philadelphia. TD Workshop, a retail innovation lab in the University City district, opened in 2022. The latest edition of Philly Tech Week took place in May 2023.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
AI, Big Data & Analytics
The Wharton School and Penn Engineering hosted the fourth annual Women in Data Science (WiDS) @ Penn Conference in February 2023. Data analytics startup dbt Labs closed a $222 million Series D at a $4.2 billion valuation in February 2022.
CBRE’s Life Sciences Talent Report ranked Philadelphia as the eighth best market for Life Sciences talent. In February 2023, ground was broken on Philadelphia’s largest Life Sciences research laboratory, created by Drexel University and Gattuso Development Partners The University of Pennsylvania plans to develop a Life Sciences facility inside its innovation incubator, Pennovation Works. Vitara Biomedical raised a $75 million Series B in July 2022. Gene-editing company iECURE raised a $65 million Series A1 in November 2022, putting its pre-money valuation at $90 million.
Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics
Once known as the Workshop of the World, Philadelphia is an advanced manufacturing hub that is home to 5,600 manufacturers employing 190,000 workers. This includes Boeing, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Lockheed Martin, Merck, and Pfizer. The ecosystem boasts extensive supply-chain networks. Robotics startup FORT raised a $25 million Series B in July 2022, putting the company's pre-money valuation at $100 million.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Philadelphia
Diverse & Skilled Talent
CBRE ranked Philadelphia #22 in its 2022 tech talent ranking. The CEO Council is working to attract professionals, as well as retain local graduates and tech workers. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion works to dismantle barriers holding back many Philadelphia residents. The Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) partnered with Google to give $50,000 to five Black-owned businesses, including delivery service Black and Mobile.
Home to several leading science institutions and many innovative startups, Philadelphia is a leader in research and innovation. Drexel University offers an Innovation Fund to invest in early-stage Drexel student and postgraduate startups, as well as startups founded to commercialize the results of Drexel scientific research. The fund invests $150,000 per startup in up to four startups per year.
The Sustainable Jump Start program offers new, sustainable, job-creating businesses a 0% rate on business Income and receipts tax for the first three years of operations. A total of $15 million in tax credits is available through the Keystone Innovation Zone tax credit program every year. Life Sciences and tech businesses in three specific areas of Philadelphia are eligible to apply.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Ranked among the most active seed and early stage investors in the US, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania is a venture development organization that helps high-growth innovative enterprises plant and nurture their roots in the Philadelphia region. The nonprofit has supported more than 2,000 companies to deliver an economic impact of more than $5 billion and over 32,000 jobs created in the Philadelphia region.
Drexel is a comprehensive global research university with a unique model of experiential learning that combines academic rigor with one of the nation’s premier cooperative education programs. Drexel is classified as “R1: Doctoral Universities” by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, a designation given to U.S. research institutions with the highest level of research activity.
University City Science Center
The University City Science Center is Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation, and economic growth. Established in 1963, the nonprofit has been recognized by The Brookings Institution as a best-in-class investor, mentor, and economic development partner for young technology companies. Working alongside industry partners and leading research and academic institutions, the Science Center has supported over 1,000 early-stage companies.
Key Ecosystem Players
Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT)
News from the Ecosystem
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