A rare condition: Hyper-Growth – catch it while you can

Tom Paine

I’ve seen evidence of what I refer to as “hypergrowth” in a few tech-related industries in the Philly area. These are sectors that are in transformational states, in which high demand is constant, and new approaches are developing. However, hypergrowth can fade as quickly as it began.

Pharma DTC (Direct to Consumer) advertising is booming. In November, the top 10 brands spent $204 million, well above typical November spending. Last year, the top 10 spent $157 million, versus $158 million in 2018.

Pharma media planning & buying agency CMI / Compas (King of Prussia) added 51 people to the firm in September alone. It now has more than 700 employees, according to FiercePharma.

Clinical Trials are a quintessentially Philly industry, and the companies or institutions that manage and conduct them, as well as their technology providers, have been fully occupied by demand in 2020.

This has been true not only for Covid-19 related vaccines and therapies, but for a range of other products coming out of the labs. The recent merger of BioClinica and ERT was another step in a gradual trend towards industry consolidation.

Online Sportsbooks are starting up and for now Pennsylvania, as one of the first states where it is legal, along with New Jersey and Delaware, are major beneficiaries. Companies participating in the business are gearing up, spending alot upfront to establish long-term market positions. See legal status by state. Some investments are media oriented, others are for building technology.

Big players are Berks County-based Penn National ( and its Penn Interactive unit based in Conshy as well as its Barstool Sports Book) , FOXBet in Cherry Hill, BetMGM in Trenton, FanDuel and DraftKings.

Early FanDuel Investor Paul Martino (Bullpen Capital) is banking on Philadelphia being the Sports Betting Capital of the US. A venture named Bankroll is his latest bet on sports betting.

The business of preparing large volumes of data for ingestion into Business Intelligence, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence models is growing rapidly. Fishtown Analytics is the best Philly-based example of this: Talend subsidiary Stitch is another example.

Companies like Qlik and SAP are major users, as well as the medical and financial research sectors.


Angelo Stracquatanio of Apprentice
Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO of Apprentice | Courtesy Apprentice

Esther Surden

Founder, NJTechWeekly

 March 23, 2020  Esther Surden0Emerging technologiesHealth TechInnovationNewsNJ Tech CompaniesStartupstech entrepreneurshipTech for Business,

As Angelo Stracquatanio III, Apprentice’s cofounder and CEO, tells it, the first sign that pharma companies would need more access to the Jersey City startup’s product came in January, when he had to cancel a trip to China.

“We saw very early on that this was going to have a much broader impact than what folks were reporting,” he told us.

Apprentice, which provides an intelligent software platform to pharma companies, noticed that its customers were first canceling international travel, then domestic travel; and, finally, they were no longer allowing their employees to come to work at their local facilities.

Pharma companies have offices and labs all over the world, Stracquatanio pointed out. When they stopped all travel, both domestic and foreign, the global supply chain began to grind to a halt. This happened “because now you can’t get vendors in to help troubleshoot or subject matter experts to fly in to help collaborate with their colleagues” on such things as “how do we ensure that we produce this job correctly?

“It’s a fairly scary situation because if these facilities can’t continue to manufacture, it will lead to worldwide drug shortages. There’s going to be a potential supply chain impact.”

Apprentice’s augmented-reality (AR)/artificial-intelligence (AI) system, called “Tandem,” can be used by organizations on the manufacturing floor, actually next to the equipment that is producing the drugs. “They can use our tool to then collaborate with vendors, subject matter experts, colleagues, engineering supervisors, whatever, who are at home or in another country, or just in a place where they just cannot physically get to the facility,” he explained.

“It’s a fairly scary situation because if these facilities can’t continue to manufacture, it will lead to worldwide drug shortages. There’s going to be a potential supply chain impact.”

Angelo Stracquatanio III, Apprentice

When they saw the demand coming, the Apprentice team went into action. “We developed this concept called a ‘rapid deployment kit’ that we ship out to pharma organizations. We have everything pre-configured, preinstalled, pre-everything. And then they simply just turn it on, they get collaborating, and then they can continue to work with their operations team, no matter where they are in the world.”

The kits are customizable and come with the enterprise-ready Tandem platform preloaded onto hands-free, clean-room-compliant, AR smart glasses and accessories. According to an Apprentice release, Tandem is the industry’s only compliant, language-independent solution that breaks the barrier between in-suite and out-of-suite collaboration, enabling troubleshooting and guidance, and ultimately reversing the devastating impact of this virus.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick for this right now. As you can imagine, we’ve shipped devices literally from China to Japan, to South Korea, to every country in Europe at this stage, to help ensure that the supply chain stays open. If it doesn’t, there will be a secondary fallout for all of this that keeps me up at night.”

Seeing “Unprecedented” Demand

Stracquatanio said that Apprentice is shipping these kits to both new and old customers, who have reached out to his company at an “unprecedented rate and scale.”  New customers have come via word of mouth from existing customers, he noted. And, “We’ve had to — very, very quickly as a team — adapt all of our internal tooling to be able to quickly configure for each new customer. So, it’s been a rapid change internally as well because we’ve literally had to build internal software to be able to more efficiently configure these devices and software so that when they go out the door, they’re ready to go for a new customer.”

The team’s ability to act on the opportunity is a hallmark of startups, which are generally much more agile than large companies. “It’s been a lot where we’ve had to adapt internally at like the light-speed to be able to deliver on this to help our customers through this really difficult time.”

The Apprentice team of nearly 50 employees is working seven days a week to fulfill orders. “We finished a call last night at 4 o’clock in the morning. And we’re off again! It’s, it’s insane. We just know that every hour during this crisis counts. The whole team has bought into helping out our customers because we know it touches patients, right? We know that patients rely on those drugs that our customers produce.”

Using Their Own Tool for Remote Communication

Stracquatanio said that that the entire team has been working from home since last week. And how are they working remotely? “We use our own tool. The one that we’re shipping to our customers is the exact same tool we use to collaborate among ourselves all day long.”

Apprentice has what it calls a “community 10” Tandem session going, which is open 24 hours a day right now. “Any member can pop into that session, scream out, you know, ‘Hey what do you think about this?’ This way we can continue the decision-making velocity that we’ve had in the past when we’re in the office, but we can do so just by yelling out to our counterpart on our on our own software on a Tandem session. It’s kind of cool how the team has adapted to it. It’s just kind of a continuation of our culture,” said Stracquatanio.

“We have never seen this level of demand for both the product, as well as the use of the product,” he added. “The demand of selling is one thing. But the usage! We’ve never seen metrics like this before. If I could show you the graph, it’s literally 10 times of what it was just a few days ago. And it’s been exponential growth over the last several weeks.”

Stracquatanio finds it exciting that the companies are using the product successfully. “From our perspective, we’re just trying to do our best to support them during this period because, at the end of the day, it’s about the patient. And if they can’t produce the drug, there’s going to be a lot of people impacted by this,” he said.

“So, we just hope that we can continue to deliver, continue to execute, that our team stays healthy. My biggest worry as CEO is for my team to be healthy. And as long as the team stays healthy, and we keep executing, we’ll help our customers as best as we can, given the crisis.”

About The Author

Esther Surden

Esther is the Founder and Editor in Chief of NJ Tech Weekly. This article is republished here with her permission.

Esther Surden@njtechwkly·


PE firm Riverside Company invests in Yardley-based Red Nucleus, provider of training programs for Pharma


Riverside Continues Its Investment in Education and Training Industry

News ReleaseMarch 24, 2020

The Riverside Company, a global private equity firm focused on the smaller end of the middle market, has invested in Red Nucleus Enterprises, LLC, (RN), a company that offers learning and compliance services to customers in the pharmaceutical industry.

RN’s learning business designs and develops training content that includes e-learning modules, mobile apps, virtual training, workshops, games and printed materials primarily focused on the commercialization of pharmaceuticals. In tandem, its compliance business offers a broad array of services pertaining to compliance with FDA/regulatory requirements throughout the drug lifecycle.

“RN is a premium partner to the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, offering training to help launch and commercialize their products,” said Riverside Managing Partner Suzy Kriscunas. “With their already established relationships with blue-chip companies, we look to expand training offerings and build out technological capabilities during our partnership.”

RN’s core competency is its expertise in adult learning within the life sciences industry. The company leverages its training and technical expertise to efficiently convey strategy and information to global sales teams, medical liaisons and others.

“This is an exciting investment for us as Riverside has relevant experience with taking a training business and transforming it into a diversified tech-enabled training and compliance platform through organic and investment initiatives – we’ve done this successfully with other platforms such as HSI and Alchemy, for example,” said Riverside Partner Peter Tsang. “We’re actively looking for add-ons for this investment, hoping to expand its service offerings and global geographic footprint.”

This is one more example of Riverside’s dedication to its Education and Training Specialization. Riverside has invested in more than 60 education and training companies, including those specializing in pre-K, K-12, post-secondary education, corporate training and certifications.

Working with Kriscunas and Tsang on the deal for Riverside were Partner Steve Burns, Principal Jason Fulton, Senior Associate John Ribble, Associate Nesh Faatimah, Associate Mark Fishman, Capital Markets Partner Anne Hayes, Operating Partner Mark Reed and Operating Finance Executive Rob Carraway.

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Holly MuellerConsultant, Global Marketing and CommunicationsCleveland+1 216 535 2236

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