Funding is also flowing into the metro, which last year ranked No. 8 in terms of companies that received venture capital funding nationally, with 93 businesses totaling $516 million, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That's due in part to the nearly 35 co-working spaces, incubator and accelerator programs in the area, including DreamIt, an accelerator program and seed fund that's invested some $15 million in start-ups like Mustafa's ROAR for Good, focusing on different cohorts, from minority entrepreneurs to women founders.
"The important elements for any start-up company are customers, capital and community, and Philadelphia has all three of those," said Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt Ventures chief investment officer.
There's also access to talent, thanks to a pool of hundreds of thousands of students in the region opting to stay after getting their degrees. Grads like Danny Cabrera, a University of Pennsylvania alum, are making their own mark on Philly's start-up scene. Cabrera is co-founder of BioBots, which launched in 2014 and has created a smaller and less-expensive way to print biomaterials. The company's namesake printer allows big pharma companies, from AbbVie to GlaxoSmithKline and universities like UPenn, to print cells, from skin to liver to heart tissue, for research purposes. The printer costs $10,000, about 10 times less than this technology once did, thanks to 3-D printing.