SEER Interactive is the lone Philadelphia company to make the 2012 Inner City 100 list of the fastest-growing companies in — where else? — the inner city.
For the last 14 years, the nonprofit Initiative for a Competitive Inner City has highlighted the entrepreneurial activity that goes on in U.S. cities. And for about just as long, I've wondered why more Philadelphia firms don't pop up on it.
See if you detect a trend: Last year, there were just two Philadelphia-area companies on the list, three in 2010, and four in 2009.
In fact, the list probably should be renamed the Inner City (Especially Chicago) 100, given that city's historic dominance of it. Twelve Chicago firms, including the nation's fastest grower — Coyote Logistics — made the 2012 list.
The Windy City's closest challengers were Nashville, (six companies) Washington (five), and Oklahoma City and Los Angeles (four each).
SEER, based in the city's Northern Liberties neighborhood, is in the search-engine optimization business. Founded by Wil Reynolds in 2002, the company had a five-year growth rate of 50 percent in sales to place it No. 25 on the Inner City 100. Its 2010 revenue was $2.1 million.
ICIC said the top 100 companies employed a total of 7,965 employees and generated a total of $1.5 billion in revenue. Thirty-six percent of the companies are minority-owned.
To qualify, a firm has to have at least 51 percent of its operations in an economically distressed urban area. It must have at least 10 full-time employees as well as five years of revenue, including at least $200,000 in its first year.
All About the Benjamins
Six young tech companies received a total of $675,000 in investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Zonoff Inc. of Malvern received the largest amount — $200,000 — as it develops a "home-automation system" that would automatically perform household tasks, such as turning off lights at night or adjusting the thermostat at various times of the day. (My request to automate: Taking out the garbage.)
To the state-funded Ben Franklin organization, which has been investing in companies like this since the early '80s, Zonoff is a known commodity. It was founded by Mike Harris, who began AnySource Media — also funded by Ben Franklin — which was acquired by DivX Inc. for $15 million in 2009. And Zonoff itself is a spin-off of BuLogics, which received $150,000 from the economic-development agency in November 2009.
GroupAppz Inc. and PeopleLinx L.L.C. each received $150,000. Started in 2010, GroupAppz in Fort Washington developed an app called GameOnz to help coaches, young players, and their parents coordinate practices and games. CEO Stephen Layne is a serial entrepreneur who ran LaxPower.com, a West Chester online lacrosse site that was acquired by the Active Network Inc. in 2007.
PeopleLinx, of Philadelphia, has developed tools to help businesses use social-media technologies more effectively. Its CEO is Nathan Egan, who was an early employee at LinkedIn Corp. in Mountain View, Calif.
Also receiving funding were:
Cross X Platform L.L.C. in Audubon, Montgomery County, a cloud-based software company focused on the professional services sector. It received $100,000.
SnipSnap App L.L.C., which has an app that scans, saves, and redeems printed coupons using a mobile phone. The start-up, which received $50,000, is currently housed at the Project Liberty Digital Incubator in The Inquirer Building at 400 N. Broad St.
Syandus Inc., of Exton, which uses three-dimensional simulations and game technology to help doctors learn to diagnose and manage diseases. It received $25,000. The Ben Franklin program also invested $150,000 in it in 2009.