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Bison Analytics hiring up to three to help more companies grab their numbers by the horns

Mom-and-pop operations don't need it and giant corporations have their own methods. So companies in the middle are the sweet spot for Lewisburg's Bison Analytics, which makes cloud-based, business intelligence software for small businesses that use the ubiquitous QuickBooks accounting software.
 
Companies hovering around $1 million in revenues are big enough to benefit from analytics -- tracking vendors, studying cash flow, evaluating performance indicators and myriad other functions.  "We make it possible for companies to extract data from QuickBooks and review their numbers and understand what is going on trendwise and growthwise via the Internet," says founder and CEO Kurt Steckel.
 
Some huge companies use QuickBooks, but in general, Steckel says, his strategy is to "bring the same experience down to smaller companies."
 
So, for example, a document-shredding outfit running QuickBooks used Bison's Bat System business intelligence tool to create a web-based invoice that is customizable for each client.  Bison helped a sales team extract detailed data and generate sophisticated reports to document its results.
 
Steckel founded Bison in 2010 and recently received his first outside investment, a $35,000 loan from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, earmarked, he says, for software enhancements and marketing. Bison has six employees and Steckel's goal is to add three or more new positions in the next year. The company is also expanding physically, with the addition of 400 square feet, bringing its space to 1,400 square feet, at its Lewisburg offices.
 
Source: Kurt Steckel, Bison Analytics
Writer: Elise Vider

New helicopter lands at AgustaWestland Philadelphia plant, will create new jobs

A state-of-the-art, new helicopter is landing in Philadelphia. AgustaWestland Philadelphia will add a new production line to manufacture the AW169 helicopter starting in May 2014. The plant, located at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, employs over 560.
 
"The arrival of the AW 169 production line will secure and create jobs here in Philadelphia," CEO William Hunt said in a statement. "We have been in Philadelphia for over 30 years and have realized tremendous growth in servicing and supporting the commercial helicopter market over the past 10 years."
 
AgustaWestland is an Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica. The Philadelphia facility includes assembly lines for two other helicopters, a parts supply depot for the Americas and a repair station. AgustaWestland Philadelphia also performs helicopter customization and provides maintenance for customer aircraft in the area out of its 275,000-square-foot facility on 39 acres at the airport.
 
AgustaWestland says it already has orders for more than 80 of the new helicopters, a versatile, new-generation, twin-engine helicopter that can seat 10 passengers. The first Philadelphia-built AW169 will be delivered in early 2015 and the new production line will ramp up to about 20 aircraft a year by 2017.
 
The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that the Philadelphia unit has been growing steadily over the past seven years, with revenues growing from $217 million in 2005 to $771 million last year.  The workforce has increased from 100 to 560 and the number of aircraft made in Philadelphia annually has risen from 23 to 48. Nearly half the aircraft it makes are exported.
 
Source: AgustaWestland, Philadelphia Business Journal
Writer: Elise Vider
 

State College's L4IS develops cutting-edge laser technology

Laboriously cutting corn root specimens into ultra-thin sections for x-ray study at a rate of four or five an hour, Penn State horticulturalists approached the university's Applied Research Lab for a better way.
 
It was there that Benjamin Hall developed an imaging technique that uses lasers to create digitized, 3D models from physical samples and boosts productivity to 11 sections – per second.  Last year, Hall and Brian Reinhardt established Lasers for Innovative Solutions (L4IS) to develop and commercialize the technology.
 
Besides speed, the 3D models are much more cost effective and allow for easier electronic collaboration and analysis (scientists can "dissect" specimens without damaging them). "The amount of data we get out of them is enormous, measured in terabytes," says Hall.
 
L4IS got an immediate boost with an early investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA and space at the BF TechCelerator in State College. This week, L4IS was a finalist in the Shell Gas Innovation Competition.
 
Besides plant biology, "new applications are showing up every day," says Hall, who says that potential uses range from healthcare – think tissue and biopsy analysis – to manufacture of semiconductors to the oil and gas industry.
 
For now, the startup is focusing on developing its technology for tomography – imaging by sections – with a pending patent and developing a capacity for chemical analysis of samples using a spectrometer.
 
Source: Benjamin Hall, L4IS
Writer: Elise Vider

Olympus, headquartered in Lehigh Valley, brings 3D to surgical video systems

When minimally invasive abdominal surgery came into wide use about 20 years, it brought major benefits: smaller incisions, fewer complications, lower costs and faster recovery. It also brought a vexing problem: the monitors that surgeons use display only in two dimensions, depriving them of normal depth perception. 
 
"It's amazingly difficult to do," says David Colvin of Olympus.  "Surgeons have had to learn how to operate in 2D, and in some procedures it's more of a problem than in other procedures."  Some surgical systems attempt to solve the problem by using two visual channels, but that causes images to rotate so that surgeons lose their frame of reference – equally disorienting.
 
Now Olympus, whose North and South American headquarters is in Center Valley, has received FDA approval and is marketing its Articulating HD 3D Laparoscopic Surgical Video System, which it officially launched in mid-April at the annual meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.
 
The big advance, explains Colvin, Olympus' director of marketing for general surgery and imaging, is a true 3D image and an articulated scope that allows the surgeon to point it in any direction without losing his or her orientation. The new system promises "significant clinical benefits:" fewer mistakes, a higher level of precision and speed. 
 
The 3D system was developed and manufactured in Japan. The Center Valley HQ, which employs nearly 1,000, is responsible for handling the complex regulatory, compliance and legal issues and some of the marketing involved with bringing a medical device to market. The potential is huge, says Colvin, with an estimated $2 billion worldwide market for laparoscopic imaging devices.
 
Source: David Colvin, Olympus Corporation of the Americas
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 

Erie's growing DuraTite hits the shelves at Home Depot

A plastic HVAC component, invented and manufactured in Erie, is hitting the shelves this week at hundreds of Home Depot stores around the country, a major coup for DuraTite Systems and its founder, Jim Karnes.
 
Karnes invented his plastic duct system in 2000, but it wasn't until 2004, when metal prices began to climb, that plastic was competitive. With support from a local builder and from the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University, where DuraTite continues to be housed, Karnes invented, tested and patented his products.
 
The universal fitting that officially hit the shelves at Home Depot yesterday is branded as the GAF Masterflow Rocket Collar. "The benefits of our design are obvious," says Karnes. "Unlike their metal predecessors, these collars don't have tabs to bend back, which cuts installation time but not your fingers. The unique fastening system also allows pre-installation of flexible duct prior to getting into the attic or crawlspace."
 
The rocket collar, aimed at both DIY and professional markets, is being sold at 350-plus Home Depot stores in Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Arizona, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. "It's the right time because housing is coming back strong," says Karnes.
 
In anticipation of increased sales, and with the imminent launch of a new line of HVAC products, DuraTite took warehouse/assembly space in Erie in October. Karnes expects that, by the end of the year, his part-time assembly and packaging crew there could become fulltime, creating two to five jobs, and that there might be two hires at the office, doubling that staff.
 
The rocket collar is made for DuraTite at GeorgeKo Industries in Erie, a contract plastics manufacturer. (Tri-Tech Molding in McKean makes other DuraTite products.)
 
Source: Jim Karnes, DuraTite
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 

Marrying research and design, Red Privet is growing and hiring in Harrisburg

Like its namesake invasive shrub, Harrisburg's Red Privet, a user experience research and design firm, is growing like a weed.
 
Founded it 2009, the company has consistently doubled its revenue. In 2012, it increased its client base by 100% and tripled its staff of researchers, designers and developers. Founder and President Matt Hummel attributes the growth to the exhaustive research that drive designs for digital products – websites, mobile apps, social media campaigns, etc. -- which, in turn, solve business problems. 
 
For example, approached by Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital and Kohl'sCares to help fight childhood obesity, Red Privet quickly grasped that online kids are sedentary kids, making a website alone counterproductive. Instead, Red Privet created Moving4Health, to get kids moving and eating well; the website serves as a portal for them to compete on healthy behaviors.
 
Red Privet's mostly serves three industry sectors, Hummel says: insurance, which, because of its complexity, requires a lot of clear customer communication; healthcare and wellness ("Our favorite. At the end of the day, the work we’re doing helps someone achieve a higher quality of life.") and software product development ("A fun place for us to be.")
 
Indeed, development of software and apps – building the products it designs -- is a major focus for Red Privet's continued growth. The company is already running at 100% capacity, Hummel says, with 20 employees in Harrisburg and two more in a Pittsburgh satellite office. 
 
So, by the end of the year, he expects to hire three to six more and is actively looking to double the company's space to about 6,500 square feet at a new Harrisburg location.
 
Source: Matt Hummel, Red Privet
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Vast and growing in New Hope, MeetMe is PA's answer to Facebook

What social network started with a few students at a single school and has mushroomed to a global phenomenon with millions of users and multi-millions in revenues?
 
No, not Facebook. MeetMe is a New Hope company with 100 million registered users, $46.7 million in 2012 revenue, 140 workers and growing.
 
Geoff Cook, MeetMe's co-founder and CEO, makes a further distinction: "We're a social network for meeting new people as opposed to Facebook, which is to connect with friends and family." So instead of getting Facebook-style status updates from people you already know, MeetMe offers a locally-based news feed that provides "a way of discovering people around you," says Cook. The real world analogy would be a bar, a place to chat, socialize and play games. 
 
Cook founded MeetMe as myYearbook in 2005 with his two younger siblings for their New Jersey high school. It wasn't long before venture capital was flowing in. In 2011, MeetMe merged with Quepasa, the largest social network in Latin America. In 2012, the network rebranded itself as MeetMe. Since then, it has expanded to 13 language options, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Korean and Japanese, covering the largest smartphone markets in the world. 
 
MeetMe's current growth strategy is focused on monetizing the rapid shift to mobile, Cook says. In 2010, only two percent of its audience was on mobile devices; it's now at 60% and growing. 
 
As for why MeetMe has stayed in Bucks County, Cook has a ready answer: "When you have Facebook down the street, or Google down the street, you pay top dollar for engineers and they leave and go to work for someone else all the time … When we find good talent, we tend to keep them."
 
Source: Geoff Cook, MeetMe
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 

A global player, Pittsburgh's M*Modal stays true to its roots, growing and hiring in Squirrel Hill

Along with two other Carnegie Mellon grad students, Juergen Fritsch founded MultiModal Technologies in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh in 2001. Three had grown to over 100 by 2011 when MultiModal merged with MedQuist to form M*Modal,  which today counts 12,000 employees in five countries.
 
But M*Modal, the largest provider of medical transcription services in the U.S., hasn't abandoned its Pittsburgh roots. Fritsch, who serves M*Modal as chief scientist, reports that in the last 12 months, the company has made 50 hires – a 44% increase -- bringing its Squirrel Hill workforce to 160, with more hiring possible.
 
The company is now headquartered in Tennessee, but the Pittsburgh office, says Fritsch, maintains "pretty much the same focus, developing software … for physicians and nurses to use in their daily operations." Fritsch attributes the fast growth of the last two years to M*Modal's global reach, providing more resources to support expansion into new products and markets.
 
Right now, Pittsburgh is focused on two particular products. One is a further refinement of software that uses advanced natural language understanding and voice recognition technologies to turn dictation into written clinical documentation, "a major productivity driver," says Fritsch, to speed compliance with complex new health records rules.

The other is a set of "tools to find information in a vast sea of documentation," Fritsch says, concerning everything from individual patients to vast patient populations.
 
 
Source: Juergen Fritsch, M*Modal
Writer: Elise Vider

Renamed Technology Council recognizes innovation ranging from natural gas drilling to web design

With a new moniker, the Technology Council of Pennsylvania (the trade group formerly known as TechQuest Pennsylvania) shined a spotlight on technological innovation earlier this month, honoring companies, individuals and one government entity with its 21st annual PA Tech Awards.
 
The Mechanicsburg office of GL Noble Denton,  a global technical service provider for the oil and gas industry, was named innovation company of the year. David Bonsick, the Technology's Council's president and CEO, says the award recognizes the company's technological advances in drilling, refining and delivery of both natural gas and water.
 
Harrisburg's Red Privet, with its emphasis on optimizing customer and online interaction, was named startup company of the year. "They knocked the ball out of the park," says Bonsick.
 
Concurrent Technologies Corporation in Johnstown, a nonprofit, applied science research and development professional services organization, was named technology provider of the year and WebPageFX in Carlisle an Internet marketing firm, was technology company of the year.
 
Also honored were Ken Moscone of QBC Diagnostics in Port Matilda, Chuck Davis of Harrisburg University and David Zinn of the Southwestern School District as, respectively, post-secondary and K-12 technology educators, and the PA Department of Labor and Industry as public service innovator.
 
From more than 75 nominations, "the diversity of the winners, everything from web design companies to medical and defense technologies, really demonstrates the tremendous scope and breadth of the Commonwealth's technology industry," Bonsick said.
 
The organization says it adopted its new name as a rebranding to emphasize the diversity of its 200-plus members and the fact that it represents technology companies statewide.
 
Source: David Bonsick, Technology Council of Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

TechCelerator Capstone offers tough love to aspiring entrepreneurs

Sometimes, a little tough love is in order for aspiring entrepreneurs. No one knows it better than Pam Martin, executive director of the Ben Franklin TechCelerator program. 
 
"Who is going to buy what you're talking about?" asks Martin. "It's so easy to come up with an idea, it's not so easy to determine if it is [viable]."
 
The TechCelerator Capstone project offers prospective companies eight weeks of rigorous evaluation and a safe environment to test ideas. Seven companies started in this latest round and one dropped out. "We consider that a success," says Martin. "That person has not invaded his retirement or 401K."
 
The remaining six presented their business plans to a panel of judges, who awarded fledgling startup Donors Impact three months of free rent at the TechCelerator incubator in Carlisle, along with mentoring and other perks.
 
Carlton Langley, the entrepreneur behind Donors Impact, an education fundraising software package aimed at colleges and universities, says he emerged encouraged from the Capstone competition. "They challenge you throughout the entire process. They beat you up; they pick you apart to validate your idea. It gives me a whole lot more confidence."
 
Martin says that Langley and Donors Impact impressed the judges with a well-formed business plan, a knowledge of who the customers are and a ready-to-go prototype. During his residency at TechCelerator, Donors Impact will conduct a beta test with Penn State, Langley says.
 
Martin says of about 40 entities that have competed for the Carlisle Capstone in three years, about 25% are actively setting up or conducting business. With continued smarts and perseverance, Donors Impact might join that roster.
 
Sources: Pam Martin, BF TechCelerator and Carlton Langley, Donors Impact
Writer: Elise Vider


Your smartphone may get smarter yet, thanks to Penn State technology

Imagine a smartphone that can analyze colors to assist people with color blindness or help decorate your living room. Or spot counterfeit money. Or even detect cancer.
 
Three emerging entrepreneurs from Penn State – Associate Professor Zhiwen Liu and PhD candidates Perry Edwards and Chuan Yang – are at work on an affordable, high-performance optical spectrometer, which can be integrated into a cell phone to perform those functions and more. (A spectrometer, according to Merriam-Webster, is "an instrument used for measuring wavelengths of light.")
 
"Our goal is to make optical spectrometers affordable and accessible to everyone and transform a cell phone into a personal analytical tool while simultaneously taking advantage of its wireless communication capabilities for data sharing, access, and management," says Liu.
 
The project got a major boost this month, winning third place and $100,000, in Vodafone's Wireless Innovation Project Competition
 
Plans are advancing to commercialize the technology, says Liu. Penn State has filed a patent application and the team is exploring startup opportunities after recently completing the State College TechCelerator Four-Week Boot Camp.   
 
The technology is based on a unique device, called G-Fresnel, which makes possible a low-cost and miniaturized spectrometer that can be incorporated into a smartphone.
 
"Combining mobile optical spectroscopy with wireless technology can lead to many new applications such as personal health care, color analysis, chemical and bio-sensing," says Liu. "The integration of a spectrometer with a cell phone also provides a platform, which can enable even more applications or new apps by fully taking advantage of the creativity of the community. The ability of data sharing will also enable developers to access large amount of data to assess the results and further improve their specific applications."
 
Source: Zhiwen Liu, Penn State
Writer: Elise Vider

DreamIt Health nurtures 10 healthcare startups in Philly

Ten startups are getting a healthy boost as part of DreamIt Health, the first, Philadelphia-based healthcare accelerator.

They are:
• AirCare - a mobile application that helps hospitals prevent readmissions and improve patient outcomes through tele-nursing and patient-specific analytics.
Biomeme - a low-cost, mobile molecular diagnostics device to help point-of-care clinicians and epidemiologists quickly diagnose and track infectious diseases in real-time with smartphones.
Fitly - a service that helps health plans tackle childhood obesity by engaging and motivating at-risk families with game dynamics and convenient delivery of healthy ingredients.
Grand Round Table - an application that helps clinicians rapidly zero in on the right diagnosis for complex cases by intelligently matching the patient's electronic record against millions of other cases from around the world.
Medlio - a mobile application that enables physicians to get paid faster and eliminates paper sign-in forms through a virtual health insurance ID card that instantly syncs information among patient, provider and payer at the point-of-care.
MemberRx - a solution to better contain the cost of pharmaceuticals by enabling selection of the best generic or on-formulary branded drug for a specific patient seamlessly within an electronic medical record system.
•OnShift– an instant communications system for clinicians caring for the same patient and analytics to discover and remove obstacles to effective care delivery and transitions-in-care.
Osmosis - a learning management system for clinicians to better retain and apply knowledge via a web and mobile platform that takes advantage of cutting-edge cognitive techniques.
SpeSo Health - an online analytics platform for identifying and accessing top medical expertise in rare and complex diseases. 
Stat - a web and mobile application that helps providers and payers speed patient transport and lower costs by matching and dispatching idle transportation resources.
 
Each startup gets $50,000, four months of mentoring and coaching, and workspace at Venturef0rth in Philadelphia.
 
DreamIt Health is sponsored by Independence Blue Cross  and Penn Medicine.
 
Source: Independence Blue Cross
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh defies national slump in venture capital with a 54% jump in 2012 deals

More evidence that Pittsburgh has emerged from the Great Recession: Bucking the national trend, Pittsburgh showed significant growth in venture capital in 2012, according to a new report by Ernst & Young and Innovation Works.  
 
Nationally, the number of venture deals dropped 6% and dollars invested fell 10% last year. But the number of deals in the Pittsburgh region was up a staggering 54% from 123 to 190 and the investment dollars rose, too, albeit slightly from $326.9 million to $329.1 million, the report found. 
 
From 2008 through 2012, during the worst of the economic downturn, the region saw $1.3 billion in investments in early-stage technology companies, the report found. "The investment community is recognizing that … Pittsburgh has globally competitive strengths in software, life sciences, robotics and other sectors," said Innovation Works President Rich Lunak in a statement. "If we can maintain the momentum in our pipeline and increase the pool of local investment capital to support the growing number of high-quality startups, Pittsburgh can ascend to being one of the nation's top-tier startup communities."
 
Meanwhile, early-stage companies, university/company collaborations and established companies anywhere in Pennsylvania with projects in advanced electronics or robotics can apply for the latest funding cycle of the Technology Commercialization Initiative (TCI)
 
A total of $800,000 is available, with a $100,000 maximum award per project. Innovation Works will host a webinar at 1pm tomorrow on the submission/review process. Initial proposals are due May 24; final applications are due July 26.
 
Source: Innovation Works
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Multiplayer games, a high-tech garden pump and more at Lehigh Valley Tech's second hackathon

Hackathons, those multi-day marathons for designers, developers, hackers and makers to push their tech ideas to new limits, aren't all fun and games. But then again, the top winner earlier this month at Lehigh Valley Tech's  second annual hackathon, was Let's Play Internets, a light-hearted use of technology billed as "an online game for social people."
 
The games are "anything we can come up with that can be answered by the Internet," say the developers. The app allows multiple players at a party or bar to view questions on a TV or other large screen and respond on their smartphones.
 
Sample multiple-choice question: "Which autocomplete suggestion is best, according to Google? Why ain't I … pregnant yet; seeing any deer; rich; running?" A countdown clock runs as players make their selection, their choice is tagged with a chip icon. When time is up, the screen shows the correct answer and tells the players who won.
 
Developers Greg van Brug, Mark Allen and Joe Fritz are looking for designers, developers, game makers and folks interested in working with data. "A weird sense of humor is a plus," they say.
 
More practical was number two winner, Rain Pumper, a garden pump assembled at the hackathon on a 3D printer. Trickle, "a place for designers to share/find various designs, and attribute inspiration," according to hackathon organizer Tim Lytle, was third and Webstagram  was named "notable project."
 
About 70 attended the April 5-7 hackathon, says Lytle, about half of them students from Lehigh and Kutztown universities and Northampton Community College. Next up for Lehigh Valley Tech, he adds, in addition to the group's popular monthly meetups, is a two-day civic hackathon in June, focused on use of data and technology for public service projects, and the annual Startup Weekend in November.
 
Source: Tim Lytle, Lehigh Valley Tech
Writer: Elise Vider

Japan's DNP growing and adding jobs at former Sony plant in Mt. Pleasant

Initially built by Chrysler, used for decades to build Volkswagen Rabbits and later Sony televisions, the 2.8 million-square-foot factory industrial building in Mt. Pleasant is a relic, by virtue of its size, of a bygone era in manufacturing. "You don’t have too many three-million-square-foot users looking around," says Tim White of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC). "But you do have 200,000 and 300,000-foot users."
 
RIDC, along with the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation, was charged last year with transforming the gigantic facility,  which sits on 330 acres, into a multi-tenant complex for large-scale manufacturers. 
 
So the announcement that Dai Nippon Printing (DNP),  the giant, Japanese maker of thermal transfer ribbons for barcodes, is expanding operations and growing jobs at the Westmoreland complex is a big win. Rick Crooks, vice president of operations at DNP IMS America Corp., says that the company is investing about $10 million and doubling its production capacity at the plant. Besides retaining 150 jobs, DNP has added about 15 new positions, with more hires possible in the future, Crooks says. DNP expanded its space at Westmoreland by 26,000 square feet, bringing it to 160,000 square feet total.
 
With DNP's expansion and two new tenants signed last year – Aquion Energy at 330,000 square feet and Westmoreland County Community College at 70,000 square feet, the giant building is almost one-quarter full. White says talks are ongoing with several prospects attracted by Westmoreland's multi-modal transit and highway access, Keystone Opportunity Zone tax benefits and infrastructure.
 
Sources: Tim White, RIDC and Rick Crooks, DNP IMS America Corp.
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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