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Lehigh's new master's in entrepreneurship wins N. American university honors

About 10 years ago, John B. Ochs, a mechanical engineering professor at Lehigh University, began to observe that students in the school's popular undergraduate Capstone program were less interested in working on industry projects as in developing their own ideas.
In recognition of that entrepreneurial impulse among today's students ("permanent and incredibly healthy," says Ochs), Lehigh launched its Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship (MTE) in 2012, graduating its first class of 14 entrepreneurs earlier this year.
Now the program has been recognized by the Pittsburgh-based University Economic Development Association as one of the top university economic initiatives in North America.
Product development and company launch are graduation requirements for the MTE program, which features dedicated curriculum, faculty and studio space. "You're going to learn by launching. You're going to figure out what it means to be an entrepreneur by being an entrepreneur," says Ochs, the MTE director. "It sounds trite, but we firmly believe that you learn by doing."
Students are immersed for a full 12 months in a tight, skunkworks atmosphere, with courses including intellectual property creation and management, visual thinking, prototyping, modeling and testing, product development and business planning.
The first graduating class has launched startups including Eleanor Kalle, a New York-based jewelry designer; Second Shift Innovations, which creates next-generation tools for first responders; and Venos,  which developed a device to attach iPads to MacBooks to create a mobile dual screen.
The second MTE class of 28 will graduate in spring 2014; the program's 10-year goal is to graduate 90 student entrepreneurs and launch 50 new companies each year.
The MTE students come from a wide range of majors, backgrounds and interests, says Ochs. But there is one essential common denominator. "If you're going to be an entrepreneur," he says, "you have to have passion for what you do because it's going to envelop your life."
Source: John B. Ochs, Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider

Baseball, energy, gaming and more: Ben Franklin funds 9 early-stage tech firms

Nine early-stage Philadelphia tech companies will receive nearly $2.2 million from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) to advance their businesses.
Cloudnexa,  $250,000
Philadelphia's Cloudnexa delivers cloud management solutions, migration, deployments and professional services, allowing clients to move and manage their applications into the cloud with streamlined managed services capabilities.
Community Energy, Inc., $400,000 (Ben Franklin previously committed $400,000)
Based in Radnor, CEI is a clean energy company uniquely positioned on both sides of the supply-demand equation, building solar and wind energy projects by engaging customers through products and services. In 2012, CEI constructed the Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster County, the largest solar project in Pennsylvania.
EyeIC, Inc., $25,000 (Ben Franklin previously committed $725,000)
West Conshohocken's EyeIC is a cutting-edge healthcare technology firm dedicated to commercializing image analysis technologies for medical applications.  EyeIC's MatchedFlicker® is a new technology for monitoring the advent and progression of retinal disease and glaucoma through change detection in time series images.
FLOWatch, LLC, $250,000
The Philadelphia's company’s flagship product of the same name, FLOWatch®, is a next-generation, data-management system focused primarily on the water utility and environmental fields.  The web-based, enterprise-wide system provides a back-end, neutral data-management solution, giving control over data definition and access directly to plant managers and operators.
Lumigent, LLC, $375,000
Lumigent in Glenside is a lighting retrofit company that offers energy efficiency products and services. The Lumigent model enables clients to participate in the lighting retrofit market with limited investment in infrastructure costs.  It offers a single-source solution, from audit through proposal, to customers competing for turnkey retrofit lighting projects.
OrthogenRx, Inc., $175,000
Doylestown's OrthogenRx is a late-stage product development and marketing organization developing generic Class III medical devices in orthopedics. The company utilizes a new business model focused on a product portfolio of generic medical devices with an emphasis on the musculoskeletal therapeutic area: rheumatology, physiatry, orthopedics and sports medicine specialties.
RxSport Corporation,  $500,000
Norristown's RxSport (Chandler Bats) originated when its founder, a furniture maker in Greensboro, NC, noticed the increased number of broken maple bats in Major League Baseball and realized flaws in how they were designed and manufactured. RxSport perfected a technologically advanced and labor-intensive process that maintains the utmost strength of materials and quality of design and has gone on to supply bats to a number of major league teams.

Shenandoah Studio, LLC, $150,000
Philly's Shenandoah is a game studio focused on turn-based strategy games for the iPad and iPhone, allowing hobby gamers to play serious board games on their mobile electronic devices. The company’s first product, an iPad simulation of the Battle of the Bulge, was released in December 2012 with great success.  Since then it released a free version of the game, and created an iPhone version.  Shenandoah is slated to release three new games: Drive on Moscow, Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, and El Alamein.
TuvaLabs, LLC, $50,000
Philly's TuvaLabs has created an online platform that takes news stories about significant events taking place around the world and transforms them into interactive math learning units for students. TuvaLabs is a member of the Project Liberty Digital Incubator, housed by the Interstate Media Group, funded by the Knight Foundation, and operated and supported by Ben Franklin. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Growing Doylestown biotech pitches Philly on UK trade mission

Renold Capocasale, founder and CEO of Doylestown's FlowMetric  was in London this week with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to extol the virtues of the region as an ideal location for overseas companies.
For Capocasale, it was also a chance to attract potential partners, investors and clients for his company, a contract research organization that works with pharmaceutical and biotech firms, research institutions and medical facilities on development of drugs and therapeutics.
"We have the know-how to help no-go or go decision making as early as pre-clinical drug discovery all the way through the clinical trial process," says Capocasale.
He founded the company in 2010 after working for 16 years in drug development for Johnson & Johnson. When he was caught up in a gigantic round of layoffs, he seized "the chance to do something proactive rather than reactive."
Since then, he says, the company has doubled its revenues every year. So when Pennsylvania Bio – about which Capocasale offers kudos – made him aware of the trade mission, he was gung ho. "We believe strongly in the region as a center for growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)," he says.
In September, FlowMetric opened an office in Milan, Italy in order to work more effectively with European Union and American companies doing clinical trials overseas.  And Capocasale is in the process of incorporating a spin-off, FlowMetric Diagnostics, to take advantage of a $100 million market.
FlowMetric currently employs seven in at its headquarters at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County and Capocasale expects to hire two more by the end of the year, with more hiring in the first quarter of 2014. With the new company, he anticipates "lots of job creation" by the end of 2014.
Source: Renold Capocasale, FlowMetric

Writer: Elise Vider

New facility, new products and more jobs at Carlisle's fast-growing Tex Visions

In 2004, Tex Visions started operations at the TechCelerator@Carlisle at the Murata Business Center. The 23-year-old founder Marcel Ruhland and a sales manager worked from a 375-foot office suite.
Last week, Tex Visions cut the ribbon on its brand-ne, 60,000-square-foot facility, where its 50-plus employees are at work making display hardware and doing large-format custom printing.  
The company has maintained explosive growth, even through the recession, says Marketing Manager Ashley Werner.  "We found our niche and rolled with it," she says. The big leap occurred in 2008 when the company added in-house production. 
"Murata provided us the space we needed for our staff and also accommodated our need for production space as we grew," says Werner.
But by 2011, the company had outgrown the TechCelerator. The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority stepped in with a $2 million loan to help Tex Visions build its new, stand-alone facility in Carlisle, with office, production and warehouse space. 
Tex Visions invests heavily in R&D, Werner says, and is constantly innovating and growing. New machinery, just delivered to the new plant, will enable Tex Visions to expand its printing capabilities to rigid materials such as custom-cut magnets. 
A new e-commerce site allows customers to shop online.  The company employs a full team of software developers who are now working on new functions to better process artwork and a tool that will enable customers to design their own materials. 
"Every month we have a new product launch, " Werner says. "We already have thousands of [products] so we might as well keep going." 
And innovation drives job creation. The company is currently hiring five new members of its sales team and Werner anticipates adding another five to 10 more over the next year on the production side. 
Source: Ashley Werner, Tex Visions
Writer: Elise Vider

Good news on Philadelphia venture capital front

After a number of rough years, 2012 saw an increase in the number of venture capital deals and dollars flowing to Philadelphia region technology companies. And 2013 is looking good.
A new report  released by Ernst & Young,  Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP)  and the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT),  reports that 2012 was the best year since 2008 for investment in the region, bucking the national trend of declining deals and dollars.
"And early results from 2013 appear to be on track to meet or exceed the five-year average annual investment amount of $750 million," the report says.
The report finds that 2012 investment in the region was $698 million: $580 million in 59 deals came from venture capital firms, $59 million in 64 deals from angel investors, $51 million in 11 deals from corporate/strategic investors and $7 million in 57 deals from seed funds and accelerators.
The numbers reinforce Philly's strength in the life sciences, which accounted for 41% of all funded companies since 2008. But the report also finds a significant uptick in the software and information technology sectors, accounting for 33% of all companies funded, which it attributes to a surge in investment activity for enterprise software companies starting last year.
"The results … are a further impetus for entrepreneurs to choose the Greater Philadelphia region to launch and grow their enterprises," says RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP's CEO.
Source: Jaron Rhodes, BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

For inundated hiring managers, Philly's gatherDocs offers a solution

For retail, hospitality and service industries, hiring is a constant, traditionally involving floods of emails, overflowing file cabinets and paper. Lots and lots of paper.
Now gatherDocs, a Philadelphia startup, is offering a mobile hiring solution that provides a simple, centralized system for recruiting and hiring for a target market of retailers, restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and more.
There are a number of software tools to serve human resources in white-collar industries, says gatherDocs co-founder Alex King. But not much for those who hire cashiers, sales associates, wait staff and other hourly, non-salaried help and "are constantly hiring for the same positions, over and over."
gatherDocs allows managers to collect applications, evaluate applicants, schedule interviews and sort, rank and organize applications. In one click, a retailer can post the same job description to hundreds of locations or filter applicants to see who is available for 5 a.m. shifts.
Prospects can apply by scanning a QR code at an in-store "now hiring" sign, send a text or visit the company's page on the gatherDocs mobile site. 
King founded the company last year with Bruce Marable, a high school classmate, and Dan Lopez. The three also are partners in Defined Clarity, a web-consulting firm. gatherDocs is already out with a fully commercialized product, which King thinks will do especially well as seasonal hiring ramps up. 
The company is also rolling out a new "onboard" capacity that allows hires to fill out tax forms and the like on their devices. "Our aim is to optimize the entire hiring process," says King.
gatherDocs has a staff of five and expects to add two positions next year. King's goal is to grow to 70 within five years. And the firm is full committed to Philadelphia. "There is no chance of us moving," he says.   "We’re ingrained here in Philadelphia."
Source: Alex King, gatherDocs
Writer: Elise Vider

Stroudsburg's IER applies its social outreach technology to childhood obesity and more

It all started with the fruits and vegetables that Edward Connors used in the classroom. As founder in 2008 of East Stroudsburg's Innovative Educational Resources to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Connors says that having students guess the number of petals on an artichoke, say, was a great way to teach math.
But the approach also yielded an altogether different realization. "Our work with inquiry-based math and science using fruits and vegetables as manipulatives in the K-8 classroom led us to discover new educational opportunities related to food choice and nutritional education," Connors says.
In 2010, IER won $548,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to look at how technology could be used to address the problem of childhood obesity.  What ultimately resulted is IER's "virtual social worker," a community-based research method and community engagement platform, aimed at providing underserved and vulnerable populations – low income, low literacy, non-English speaking, for example – with culturally relevant access to information on health and nutrition.
Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IER piloted its approach in an application intended to improve access to health and social service resources for the Hispanic community around Charlotte, North Carolina.  IER is also behind the recent launch of PoconoHealth.org, an interactive, online directory of health, social service and education resources. 
Now Connors is preparing to establish a new company, Heudia, to apply the same strategy and technology to health literacy. "I realized that health care costs are being driven by the same lack of access to primary care and income inequality," he says. 
Source: Edward Connors, Innovative Educational Resources
Writer: Elise Vider

A new center for innovation and creativity at Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus

Lehigh University is embarking on "a bold new initiative to renovate and reimagine" two massive, former Bethlehem Steel buildings on its Mountaintop campus.
With a $20 million gift from alumnus Scott Belair, who graduated in 1969 and went on to co-found Urban Outfitters, the school acquired the buildings, totaling 120,000 square feet, in May and envisions using them as a center for innovation and creativity.
"Mountaintop provides an opportunity for students to define complex questions, take intellectual risks, use faculty as mentors and access resources and support from across the university and beyond," the university said in a blog post. "Students will be challenged to develop their capacities for creativity, inquiry, discovery, synthesis and teamwork."
Several teams of students and faculty worked at Mountaintop this summer in open-ended pilot projects. One team isolated and characterized viruses that attack bacteria that are found in soil as part of a large national project on tuberculosis. Other teams developed a prototype for durable housing for refugees, designed an integrated system for both crop production and water filtration and produced a documentary film about the first four women faculty members in Lehigh's English department. 
The university is gathering ideas for projects and uses for the facility and expects to use Belair's gift to leverage an additional $40 million as it moves ahead with its multi-phase Mountaintop project.
Source: Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider

Griesing Law earns major recognition, attracts major event for women, minority owned firms to Philly

When we profiled Fran Griesing, founder of Philadelphia-based, startup-focused Griesing Law in May, the trailblazing attorney spoke about the traps of working at a large firm -- especially for women -- and the value of making her firm "an environment in which everyone who worked there could reach their best potential."
The approach was validated last month when she picked up the 2013 Law Firm MVP award from the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). The award honors a member law firm for "its outstanding achievement in furthering NAMWOLF's mission of promoting diversity and inclusion by fostering relationships between preeminent minority and women-owned law firms and corporations and public entities. Griesing was joined by her firm's Director of Administration Jessica Mazzeo, to accept the award in Minneapolis on Sept. 23 at NAMWOLF's annual meeting and expo.
Griesing played a significant role in attracting the 2014 NAMWOLF annual conference to Philadelphia next September. The event is important to not only Griesing, but the many women- and minority-owned law firms in Greater Philadelphia. The event (and its build-up) will provide many valuable opportunities for those firms to connect with large corporations and public entities, helping attract bigger business.
"We are honored and delighted to be recognized given the many firms that work tirelessly to promote NAMWOLF's important mission of affording access and opportunities for minority and women-owned law firms," she said.
Keystone Edge staff
Source: Fran Griesing

HalenHardy earns honor at SHALE INSIGHT

Hey! What's the big idea? (There's $25K and more for tech innovation.)

Do you live in Central or South Central Pennsylvania? Do you have an idea for a new, technology-based product or process? Get busy, because your idea could win one of two $25,000 cash prizes in Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA Business Plan Contest
This year’s competition, sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA  (BFTP/CNP) and the BF Venture Investment Forum, targets 25 counties in Central and South Central Pennsylvania.  

To be eligible, you must live in one of the 25 counties; have developed or be developing, a new, innovative tech product or process; have had no significant sales if a product has already been developed; have fewer than 50 employees if a company has been formed and have never received previous BFTP funding.

Preferred industry sectors include (but are not limited to):  nanotechnology; green technologies; alternative energy; advanced manufacturing; advanced materials; medical devices; information technology and software.
The application deadline is December 9; final judging is set for February 20, 2014.
In addition to the $25,000 in cash, the two grand-prize winners will also receive:

  • One-year website hosting offered by Netrepid;
  • The opportunity to participate in a BF TechCelerator Boot Camp for Startups;
  • Six months free rent in the BF TechCelerator @ Carlisle (for a winner from that area);
  • Assistance from the Innovation Partnership in preparing a proposal to receive a federal research (SBIR) grant;
  • Access to all Ben Franklin’s business support services at no charge.
“We had a huge response to last year’s contest. Nearly 2,000 people came to the BIG IDEA landing page to check out the easy application process.  We believe that anyone with the courage, energy and enthusiasm to apply to a business plan contest is already a winner,” says Stephen Brawley, President/CEO of Ben Franklin.

Full details, a list of the eligible counties and an application forms are online
Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse leverages capital to nurture two promising startups

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) has announced new investments in two biotech startups "that are  addressing large markets and solving problems that have never been solved before," says John Manzetti, PLSG's CEO. 
And the greenhouse's involvement with the two companies goes beyond dollars.
PLSG first became aware of Complexa Inc., which is working on a new class of drugs to treat metabolic and inflammatory disorders, in 2008. Since then, the greenhouse has invested more than $500,000 in the company, including its recent $200,000 commitment.
In 2011, PLSG helped recruit and place Joshua Tarnoff  at Complexa as CEO, through its Executive Program, designed to bring experienced life sciences executive talent into the region. 
PLSG helped attract Cognition Therapeutics to Pittsburgh from San Francisco. The company is working on a new class of drugs to treat and possibly even reverse Alzheimer's Disease. 
"Our PLSG team was absolutely floored by the technology and promise it would bring to patients," says Manzetti, who adds that the value of the company, if successful, would be "incalculable."
From its initial $200,000 investment in 2007, PLSG helped leverage further investment from other sources. And through its Executive Program, PLSG placed Hank Safferstein as CEO (he splits his time between Cognition and PLSG as an executive-in-residence.) 
PLSG also helped Cognition set up by purchasing its lab equipment and leasing it to the company in lab space that it also provided.
With its latest investment of $138,000, PLSG has invested a total of $1.2 million in Cognition, the greenhouse's largest investment to date.  In addition, the PLSG Accelerator Fund has invested heavily into Cognition. 
Both CEOs have raised significant capital for Complex and Cognition and both will need millions more to test and potentially bring their drugs to market. 
Manzetti pledges to keep at it: "These are the types of companies PLSG loves and in which we will continue to invest."
Source: John Manzetti, PLSG
Writer: Elise Vider
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