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Parks, trails and pollution management efforts at state's coastal areas get big boost

Labor Day is fast approaching, but the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the state’s coastal zones in its sites, even as the rest of us trudge back to school and the office.

The DEP has awarded more than $750,000 in annual coastal zone management grants to 22 nonprofit and government organizations for 25 projects in counties that border Pennsylvania’s coastal zones or have a direct impact on water quality in those areas. These spaces face increasing pressure from development, erosion, biodiversity losses and pollution. Projects range from pollution management to new park facilities to waterside trails.
 
"These grants play an important role to ensure the protection of our coastal waters," explains DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo. "This money will not only improve coastal waters, but provide additional recreational and educational opportunities for nearby residents."
 
Pennsylvania has two coastal areas. The 112-mile stretch along the Delaware Estuary in Bucks, Delaware and Philadelphia counties contains islands, marshes and the shorelands of tributaries that are affected by ocean tides; it is one of the largest freshwater ports in the world. The 76-mile Lake Erie coastal zone includes several major tributaries’ shorelines.
 
Applications for 2015 grants are due by October 22. 

Source: DEP
Writer: Elise Vider

No sweat! Philly's Fairwear keeps bike commuters cool and office-appropriate

Riffing off Benjamin Franklin, inventor, founding father, quintessential Philadelphian and all-around cool dude, Fairwear, a Philly startup, promises freedom to pursue an active lifestyle while staying comfortable. 

Founder Louis Pollack says the idea arose from the challenge of staying cool and presentable in everyday clothes while biking around Philadelphia, his adopted city.

Fairwear uses performance-based materials to create garments that are moisture wicking and highly breathable.

"Our apparel doesn't have a glossy lycra-like flair, nor does it have awkwardly placed pockets or technical trim," explains Pollack. "Fairwear is meant for a clean and comfortable transition from bike to boardroom to bar, in no particular order."

Fairwear’s line of men's button-down shirts is priced between $75 and $85. 

The company sources everything domestically from Philadelphia or New York, and manufactures at a factory in Northeast Philadelphia.

"When I started I knew I wanted to source everything locally," recalls Pollack. "My desire to keep production nearby is partially patriotic but also makes sense logistically. Local factories offer a much higher level of craftsmanship because you can maintain close input on the process. Sending your stuff overseas to be made is scary because you instantly lose control and are trusting someone you’ve never met before."

Fairwear is sold at a handful of Philly-area bike shops, craft and high-end flea markets like Philadelphia’s Franklin Flea and Phair, and at trade shows such as the upcoming Philadelphia Bike Expo

Pollack comes from a garment industry background and established the company earlier this year. As the company grows, he hopes to take Fairwear to larger national shows, and eventually open a brick-and-mortar location.

"We are always improving and tweaking details," he insists. "Stuff like material, fit and finish can always be made better. Our immediate reaction has been very positive. We want to continue supporting our early adopters, while sustainably growing Fairwear’s presence."

Source: Louis Pollack, Fairwear
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Calling State College Startups: Apply now for next TechCelerator Boot Camp

For the sixth time, the TechCelerator @ State College is inviting area entrepreneurs, graduate students and researchers to sweat it out at their upcoming 10-Week Boot Camp. The participanting tech-based startups will come away with a list of best practices, lessons learned and a valuable toolbox to help them start their businesses.

The program has already launched more than 20 companies and "past participants have already raised more than $2.45 million in startup funding and generated over $1.3 million in revenue," says Donald McCandless, director of business development for Ben Franklin's Transformation Business Services Network. "Anything we can do to help facilitate this kind of trajectory is great for everyone involved." 

The free 10-week program runs for two hours per week, on ten successive Tuesdays, September 30 through December 9. Participants can receive up to $1,000 toward legal and accounting startup costs and will have the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs at the completion of the course.  

The top presenter will receive $10,000 to help get their company off the ground. Business mentoring from the Transformation Business Services Network and Penn State’s Small Business Development Center staff will be available at no cost. 

The deadline for applications is Friday, September 19. Contact McCandless for more information. 

Source: Donald McCandless, Ben Franklin Transformation Services
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's VenturePact connects companies with software developers

It's a software jungle out there.

Philadelphia’s VenturePact aims to cut through the overgrowth by serving as an online marketplace that connects businesses with pre-screened software development firms.

"We are accelerating businesses by making software easier," explains Randy Rayess, who founded the company in 2012 with Pratham Mittal. "Through VenturePact, companies can find great software development firms around the world that understand their industry and technology." 

VenturePact has screened hundreds of software development firms worldwide and across industries including healthcare, education, finance, technology and insurance. VenturePact provides clients with extensive data, including client reviews and ratings, validated portfolios, and employee profiles.

"This transparency lets businesses make a better and faster decision regarding which firm to select for their high-risk projects," says Rayess. "We also have an escrow payment system that ensures a trustworthy B2B relationship and allows companies to pay suppliers around the world at no cost."

The service is free to clients; suppliers pay VenturePact for referrals. The potential is huge, with the market for software outsourcing estimated at $300 billion and growing. The firm’s client network includes big names such as ESPN, Adidas, BMW and Yale University.

The company currently employs 12 and expects to add one or two new sales positions soon. They are planning to move to expanded Center City office space next month. The founders, both University of Pennsylvania graduates, are also looking to expand their industry portfolio in wearables, the Internet of Things and data science.

Source: Randy Rayess, VenturePact
Writer: Elise Vider

The arts 'Create Influence' at new downtown Lancaster sculpture

A new 60-foot sculpture in downtown Lancaster proclaims that the arts "Create Influence." The installation, commissioned by the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design for its new Art Garden, was designed by New York-based Anderson Newton Design and will be dedicated on September 2.

The school acquired the corner property adjacent to its main building on North Prince Street in 2012 and embarked on a community engagement process to shape its design. Since then, the college has planted a grove of Yoshino cherry trees, installed seating and tables, and connected utilities to the green space, which has been used for convocation events and class activities.

The concept for the installation emerged when Gail Anderson, a nationally-acclaimed designer and recipient of the prestigious AIGA Medal, visited PCA&D and conducted a listening tour with staff, faculty and students. In conversation with school President Mary Colleen Heil, Anderson observed, "What you really do here is create influence." And the concept was born. 

Working with partner Joe Newton, Anderson developed an inventive piece that combines typography and lenticular imagery. The message of the sculpture appears differently, depending on the position of the viewer.  

"PCA&D has a long history of leading and supporting innovative and entrepreneurial arts-based initiatives," says PCA&D spokesperson Mary Stadden. "Create Influence clearly reflects PCA&D's mission and vision, and is the newest addition to the college's outdoor art collection, which includes the nightly show of lights on PCA&D's facade and the Poetry Paths mural in its exterior portico."

Create Influence was installed in July by Benchmark Construction of Ephrata Township and will be formally dedicated at a free public event, 1 p.m. Wednesday, September 2.

This fall, PCA&D is also unveiling Steinman Lofts on West King Street, nine new student apartments for 26 incoming freshman that feature adaptive, transformative and creative re-use of empty, upper-floor spaces above existing businesses downtown. 

Source: Mary Stadden, PCA&D
Writer: Elise Vider

Health-tech startups on the fast track at second DreamIt Health Philadelphia boot camp

Nine startups are currently at work developing health-tech innovations at the second DreamIt Health Philadelphia boot camp. 

The start-up teams, recruited from around the country, started their 16-week incubator program last month. Each team receives $50,000 in seed capital, coaching from successful tech entrepreneurs and participates in an intense curriculum at the intersection of health care, business, technology and design on the campus of the University City Science Center. The capstone event of the program is Demo Day on October 30 -- each team will share its progress and plans for the future with an audience of investors, industry leaders, potential customers and the press. 

DreamIt Health Philadelphia is sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, Penn Medicine, DreamIt Ventures and Venturef0rth

The 2014 DreamIt Health class comprises:

BioBots of Philadelphia hopes to create low-cost 3-D printers supporting multiple biomaterials for creating biological structures without mutation risk.

Drop Diagnostics of Philadelphia is developing a method for rapid disease diagnosis through detection of signature proteins using carbon nanotubes and microfluidics.

FlexiSched of Philadelphia enables dynamic scheduling of patients, predicting no-shows and accounting for variable provider productivity and visit length.

NarrativeDx of Austin, Texas, employs big data analysis of patient feedback to improve the hospital customer experience and maximize Medicare reimbursement.

RegDesk of Bear, Del., is the leading marketplace for matching biotech and device companies with freelancing regulatory expertise around the world.

Ristcall of Pittsburgh is updating the call button, making it wearable so inpatients can communicate on-demand with nursing staff.

Tissue Analytics of Baltimore is promoting remote management of wound healing through image analysis of mobile-generated photos.

TowerView Health of Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco hopes to Improve patient adherence to complex, multi-drug regimens using novel "smart" pillboxes.

TrueClaim of Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Fla., aims to reduce instances of upcoding and fraud in health care claims submissions.

Dr. Elliot Menschik, DreamIt Venture’s managing partner for health care, describes the program as "an intense and transformative 16 weeks for these teams as we coach them through the most volatile period of a company’s life and as wire them into people, resources and opportunities that are significant shortcuts to success in the market."

Source: DreamIt Ventures 
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/NEP invests in innovative roofing and digital companies

Protecting property -- both physical and digital -- is the work of two early-stage companies, the latest to receive investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Colymer Industries, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, was approved for a $50,000 loan. The funds will enable them to implement a marketing and sales strategy to commercialize a new, proprietary, non-asphalt roofing and waterproofing material called Tarzanite. An improved coal tar formulation, Tarzanite is non water-soluble and environmentally beneficial. The material is expected to outlast traditional asphalt-based materials by a factor of four.

Allentown's SeKur Technology, Inc. was awarded a $10,000 loan. They plan to complete a sales and marketing strategy, launching a proprietary licensing, encryption and storage solution to secure all types of digital media, including PDF documents, e-books and audio/video files. The owner of the media can encrypt, track and control the distribution of any file -- on- or off-line -- preventing unauthorized transfer or download.

Since beginning operation, BFTP/NEP has helped create 16,214 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and retain 22,155 existing jobs, to start 458 new companies, and to develop 1,279 new products and processes. 

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Chambersburg's Kur Technologies is developing sustainable generators

In 2011, when Keystone Edge last visited Chambersburg's Kur Technologies, its founder Kurt Hinds had completed a prototype for a small, battery-powered generator.

Now Hinds has built a larger version of his Kem-Generator -- large enough to work as an alternative to some fossil fuel generators and a device with the potential for use in water purification, and medical and health applications around the globe.

"By providing electricity in remote locations, the Kem-Generator can be used to combat the spread of diseases by powering refrigerators, air purifiers and mobile sterilization devices," explains Hinds. "Mobile or permanently installed water purification systems powered by Kem-Generators can also combat the spread of diseases by providing clean water for drinking, hygiene and sanitation."

Kur's generator is powered by maintenance-free, deep-cycle, rechargeable batteries that can be charged via photovoltaic cells, making the system fully self-contained. Unlike generators powered by internal combustion engines, it's safe (and quiet) for indoor use. 

Hinds tested the new prototype last year at a Harrisburg community garden using a small, off-grid photovoltaic battery charging system. The generator powered his electric tiller and irrigation system, and provided non-invasive pest control. 

Expanding on the Kem-Generator’s ability to power submersible pumps, Hinds has now devised a mobile water purification system that he believes could be further developed to serve the energy industry and to purify water for refuge camps and similar situations around the world.

Source: Kurt Hinds, Kur Technologies
Writer: Elise Vider

Harrisburg's rebranded IntermixIT grows by blending business with technology

By 2010, Harrisburg’s Capital City Computers had outgrown its seven-year-old name and its business model. The solution: reinvent itself as IntermixIT.

"'Capital City Computers' didn’t align with our mission," says CEO Jason Abel. "We are much more than just a computer shop located in the capital city."

The rebranded company decided to focus solely on developing a suite of products and services that the average small business needs to make its technology network run efficiently.  

It worked. IntermixIT recently moved into a new 1,500-square-foot office, nearly double the size of its old space, and it continues to grow and hire.

Under the old business model, dating to 2003, computer services were strictly reactive: the company sent out a technician to fix problems. (And, as the company points out, many computer techs aren’t great at communicating with clients in a non-technical manner.)

"A large part of our rebrand was a huge effort to partner with our customers, as this type of relationship is much more than just the person they called when things break," explains Abel. "This involved us changing to a more proactive, not reactive, service model, focusing on regular preventative maintenance and documented disaster recovery plans. Our goal was to prevent problems from happening, rather than waiting for them to happen."

IntermixIT also moved to a flat-rate monthly package for all support services and products. 
 
In its expanded space, Abel is hiring for technical and marketing positions, and expects to increase the company’s Network Operations Center within the next 12 months. He's also promoting his new book, Blending Business & Technology: The ultimate small business owner's guide for finding a professional, competent, honest, considerate, on-time, fairly-priced and dependable computer consultant.
 
Source: Jason Abel, IntermixIT
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Two new Philadelphia government and academic initiatives support innovation agenda

Two new Philadelphia initiatives are underway, with related missions for supporting the city’s rapidly expanding innovation ecosystem, entrepreneurship and business development.

The City of Philadelphia's new Innovation Lab is a state-of-the-art 1,600-square-foot space modeled after the research-and-development and co-working facilities found in the private sector and academia. The lab, which overlooks City Hall, provides a central space and technology resources to host classes, meetings, workshops, hackathons and more; it will hopefully encourage collegiality, innovating thinking and creative problem solving in an atmosphere new to City government.

"The Innovation Lab serves as an important symbol to all stakeholders that we are truly in the innovation business," says City Managing Director Richard Negrin, whose office initiated and oversees the lab as part of a larger emphasis on innovation.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in West Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania has launched its Penn Center for Innovation, a new initiative to provide the infrastructure, leadership and resources needed to transfer promising Penn-developed research, inventions and technologies into the marketplace. 

"Most major universities have technology transfer practices that focus predominantly on patenting and licensing," says John Swartley, the new center’s executive director and Penn’s associate vice provost for research. "As we have become more involved in advancing technologies into the development sphere, we’ve also started to engage more and more in complementary activities such as new venture creation and corporate partnering around collaboratively sponsored research projects. What we’ve decided to do at Penn is to combine all those activities into a single organization -- to be a one-stop shop for our faculty, staff and students as well as members of the private sector."

Source: Philadelphia Office of the Managing Director and the University of Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

Latest BFTP/SEP investments support healthy eating, healthy heads and healthy bottom lines

Eleven early-stage companies, ranging from a maker of healthy chips to a social media innovator to a company that makes high-tech protective helmets, have been approved for $1.9 million in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

AboutOne in Chester County is a secure and private online subscription service for the management of family life, providing a location for users to conveniently enter, store, manage and share family memories (text, photos and videos) and household information (health records, possession and education records, contacts and more). The data is accessible anywhere, through any device.
 
Ajungo Holdings in Chester County enables companies to engage in social lead capture by leveraging robust granular data from social media. 
 
Bucks County’s Brad’s Raw Chips uses an advanced dehydration technology to produce a line of healthy, crunchy snacks made from raw foods such as fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds.  
 
Philadelphia’s CloudMine offers a technology platform that reduces the total cost and effort of building, deploying, and maintaining mobile applications and websites by over 60 percent. 

Cloudnexa in Philadelphia is a next-gen cloud management solutions leader for business and government, allowing clients to move and manage their applications in the cloud with streamlined managed services capabilities.

CRO Analytics in Bucks County offers a unique platform for the life science industry, providing efficient access to reliable benchmarking, key driver analysis and predictive analytics. This unique system gives clinical trial sponsor organizations and service providers the power to adapt their management mid-trial, assess and address functional area performance, enhance alliance management and improve research oversight, making clinical research better, faster and less expensive.

Defend Your Head in Chester County has developed a patented soft-shell, protective helmet to significantly increase the protective abilities of existing sports helmets and reduce head injuries on the field. Market launch is scheduled for late summer.
 
Dynamic Energy Solutions in Chester County provides comprehensive energy solutions including solar power, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency audits to help businesses and institutions maximize the return on their energy investments both environmentally and financially. 
 
Bucks County's Grassroots Unwired offers a software platform built specifically to support the "offline" efforts of non-profit organizations, boosting contributions and membership.
 
SETVI in Delaware County offers a mobile sales enablement platform.

Vy Corporation in Chester County is a software company specializing in shape detection services for the medical imaging market. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

JOBS 1st Summit focuses on building a 21st century workforce

Leaders and innovators from Pennsylvania's business, education and public sectors will convene to tackle the challenges and complexities of developing a 21st century workforce at the state's first JOBS 1st Summit, set for August 25 through 26 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. 

Among the highlights will be "The Game Changer: Energy = Jobs for Pennsylvania" (1 p.m. August 25), a conversation between Governor Tom Corbett and T. Boone Pickens, who built one of the nation’s largest independent oil companies. The pair will discuss the state’s energy policy and how it is preparing its citizens for energy jobs now and in the future.

"Make it in PA" will be a panel discussion focused on bringing manufacturing jobs home through innovation, targeted reshoring and talent development. Other conference topics include developing talent, enhancing employer involvement, using technology to foster the intersection between work and learning, and building targeted talent pipelines for older workers, people with disabilities, veterans and former prisoners. 

"Having a workforce ready to tackle the jobs of the 21st century is critical to the overall health of our economy," says Gov. Corbett. "The JOBS 1st Summit will build on our efforts to align education, training and technology with employer needs."

Source: PA Department of Labor & Industry
Writer: Elise Vider

Scranton's Net Driven puts the pedal-to-the-metal, keeps growing

Growth continues to accelerate at Net Driven -- the company is now parked in new downtown headquarters at the Scranton Enterprise Center

Patrick Sandone founded the company, which offers digital marketing solutions to the automotive industry, with three employees in 2007. Since then, Net Driven has doubled in size every year; today it employs more than 60. The new 15,000-square-foot office is about three times the size of the company’s previous space and big enough to accommodate continued growth.

"We fully renovated the office space, which is now reflective of our technology-driven, Google-esque culture," explains Sandone.

The market for Net Driven’s proprietary website and Internet marketing platform is independent automotive businesses who need help competing with big-box retailers. 

"We now have clients in all 50 states, every Canadian province and a few foreign countries," says Sandone. "And this year, we’ve signed more clients each month than we sold in our entire first year combined." 

To keep up with the strong growth, Net Driven expects to hire at a rapid rate, creating as many as 50 jobs within the next year. The company is also continuing to develop products with a strong focus on service centers and new-and-used car dealerships, while releasing new software and software-upgrades on a monthly basis for its clients. 

"Keeping ahead of the technological curve helps our clients to remain competitive, which in turn keeps them utilizing the Net Driven platform to grow their business," he adds. "Our goal is to help independent automotive businesses thrive."

Net Driven's revenues have grown by 3,000 percent in the last five years; Sandone’s goal is to double revenue year-over-year. In acknowledgement of that growth, the company recently received a Governor’s Impact Award for Entrepreneurship

Source: Patrick Sandone, Net Driven
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's Project Liberty hosts four digital media startups

Four digital media startups are learning how to turn words into money at Philadelphia's Project Liberty Digital Incubator

Interstate General Media (IGM), publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, hosts the program. It is operated by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since its launch in January 2011, Project Liberty has graduated 10 companies that have gone on to raise over $9 million in financing.

The latest cohort features four innovative companies.

ROAR's mission is to reduce the incidence of assaults against women with fashionable safety accessories and a crime awareness mobile application. The company is engineering a safe alternative to traditional personal defense weapons that disorients an attacker, alerts family and friends, calls for help and cannot be used against the wearer. ROAR is also launching a mobile application tthat allows users to gain a better sense of their surroundings.

ProfessorWord helps students learn vocabulary as they read online by curating content from top-quality sites and pairing that content with tools to help students learn words in context as they read.

I’m Sorry to Hear is an online community and review site that provides funeral planning and educational tools to consumers researching funeral establishments and related products and services. Touted as "the TripAdvisor of funeral planning" for its efficiency in finding and comparing providers with a custom review platform, it is also a consumer advocacy tool.  

SETVI is a mobile sales enablement platform that creates a more efficient sales process, allowing organizations to close more deals and increase sales revenue. 

Over a six-month period, the companies will receive support including free office space, advising services and an opportunity to explore a business relationship with IGM, one of the largest media companies in the country. 

Source: Project Liberty
Writer: Elise Vider

Canadian and French startups come to Philly for first Digital Health Accelerator class

Two overseas companies are establishing a U.S. presence in Philadelphia as part of the first class at the University City Science Center's new Digital Health Accelerator (DHA).

Seven companies were chosen from a pool of 69 applicants to further develop their online, mobile and software solutions to healthcare problems. Each will receive up to $50,000, professional mentorship, and introductions to a variety of key healthcare stakeholders including insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and research institutions located in the Greater Philadelphia region, with the goal of getting their products into the hands of potential customers. 

During the 10-month program, companies will also become members of the newly launched Innovation Center @3401. The DHA is co-located with DreamIt Ventures

The inaugural DHA class includes the following startups:

Biomeme, a DreamIt Ventures 2013 graduate, uses their technology to transform a smartphone into a mobile lab for advanced DNA diagnostics and real-time disease surveillance, identifying targets by their specific molecular signatures.
 
Curbside Care is the "Uber for healthcare," coordinating on-demand house calls via mobile and web-based applications. Their platform bridges a market of fragmented supply and untapped demand by connecting off-shift MDs and NPs to patient users in real time.
 
Fitly, another 2013 DreamIt Ventures graduate, is a mobile app that helps busy people personalize healthy meals from delicious recipes in five minutes or less, and then delivers the fresh ingredients to their home for as little as $5.99/serving.
 
Keosys, based in France, is an established European leader in medical imaging software solutions, helping physicians efficiently deliver the most accurate diagnosis in radiology, nuclear medicine and molecular imaging practices.
 
Life Patch is a small, non-invasive, real-time temperature monitoring system that allows parents to track their child’s temperature from anywhere in the world using any smart device.
 
Pulse Infoframe, a Canadian firm, enables specialty physicians, administrators, pharmaceutical companies and researchers to collaborate to continuously improve quality and cost of patient care through a software platform called HealthIE and a powerful Realtime Clinical Business Intelligence toolset.
 
UE Lifesciences offers innovative, affordable and easy-to-use medical devices for breast cancer screening.
 
The DHA is supported in part by funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Discovered and Developed in PA (D2PA) program.

Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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