| Follow Us:

Innovation & Job News

1972 Articles | Page: | Show All

State College’s Videon Central adopts quick response manufacture of consumer electronics

The early days of the DVD technology explosion prompted the founding of State College’s Videon Central in 1997. The company grew rapidly as a supplier of streaming video and Blu-Ray Disc technology to the consumer electronics market.
But by 2011, says Videon’s chief operating officer Paul Brown, a silo approach was creating problems. “Materials were piled, orders were on backlog and employees were not truly working together,” Videon said in a statement. “The company was missing out on the learning and innovation that can come from collaboration and streamlined planning. Despite having a talented team and a solid product, Video wasn’t making the most of its resources and wasn’t optimizing its work.”
The solution came at the prompting of a customer, Rockwell Collins, an aviation electronics company headquartered in Iowa, to pursue Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM).
QRM, explains Videon, “emphasizes relentless reduction in lead time, allowing opportunity for improved quality, elimination of waste and reduced cost.” Using the “Accelerate” supplier model offered by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Videon launched a three-phase plan.
First, Videon took a hard look at its performance and established specific, measurable goals. By mid-2012, the company had streamlined its operations, resulting in significant operational improvements in quality, on-time deliveries, and capacity. Now, as Videon goes ever leaner with a focus on error proofing and preventative measures, the company was recently recognized at an international QRM conference.
Videon employs 80 and generates nearly $15 million in sales. One of its most recent innovations is aVia, an Android app that allows users to play, manage and share various types of media on multiple devices.
Source: Videon-Central
Writer: Elise Vider

PHEAA hiring 150 for its new Allegheny County student loan center

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA),  which already employs nearly 3,000 in the state, is adding another 150 positions at a new customer service facility in Green Tree in Allegheny County.
PHEAA, created by the legislature in 1963, is a self-funded state agency and a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach, and other student aid programs.
The Green Tree customer service center will be  PHEAA’s fifth facility in Pennsylvania; the others are in Dauphin, Cumberland, Centre and Delaware counties. PHEAA began recruiting loan counselors for the new center this week and will begin operations with a fully-trained staff in the fall.
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, vice chair of PHEAA’s board of directors, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  that the location was chosen because of the availability of an educated workforce and proximity to public transportation and parking.
PHEAA's earnings are used to support its public service mission and to pay its operating costs, including administration of the Pennsylvania State Grant and other state-funded student aid programs.  PHEAA conducts its student loan servicing activities nationally as American Education Services (AES) and FedLoan Servicing.

Source: PHEAA
Writer: Elise Vider

Philadelphia's Rumble aims to monetize ailing print media

Few industries are as challenged as newspapers, which have seen readership and revenues plummet in recent years. Seeking to reverse that decline, Rumble, a startup headquartered in Philadelphia, is itself growing.
“Rumble makes mobile scalable, profitable and easy for publishers through the first integrated native mobile platform,” says Jennifer Eident, the company’s director of marketing.
Founded in 2011, Rumble has over 70 publisher clients, including the New Pittsburgh Courier, Jerusalem Post,  Fan IQ,  Interstate General Media,  publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
Rumble’s platform publishes interactive content to mobile apps and devices, offering publishers options including ads, paywalls, content syndication, e-commerce and search capitalization.
“We combined the best parts of existing mobile technology and fused it together with our proprietary technology so that when publishers carry out their mobile strategy, they have the best technology for long-term success. We come from the media industry and understand the unique needs and challenges facing the print and newspaper industries,” says Eident.
“As veterans in both media and mobile technology, we understand the need for a full infrastructure so that publishers are not forced to make trade-offs between scalability, speed, user experience and functionality,” she adds.
A graduate of Philadelphia’s Project Liberty Digital Incubator, Rumble received $150,000 earlier this year from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Rumble currently employs 30 and plans to expand to 40 by the end of the year. It recently opened an office in New York and also has offices in Tel Aviv and Ukraine.
Source: Jennifer Eident, Rumble

Writer: Elise Vider

Seneca Resources marks 100 years in Pennsylvania with an eye to the future

Seneca Resources, a venerable Pennsylvania energy company, is marking its centennial with a celebration of its history and an eye to the future.
The exploration and production segment of National Fuel Gas Company was founded on June 9, 1913 as the Mars Natural Gas Company, producing and selling natural gas. Over the decades, the company grew, acquired significant holdings, was re-formed and changed names several times.
Today Seneca, headquartered in McCandless, holds about 800,000 acres and operates about 3,000 wells in the state’s shale play, with significant operations in Elk, Lycoming, McKean, Tioga and Venango counties.
Rob Boulware handles public affairs for Seneca and his position, established about a year and a half ago, itself tells of a old-line company modernizing its operations. Boulware is busy creating the company’s first-ever radio ads and billboard, along with an improved web site, brochures and other manifestations of 21st century branding.
As a major landowner, Boulware says, Seneca has aggressively pursued innovations in technology and best environmental practices with, for example, the first fully natural-gas-fueled drilling rig in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale, and the use of recycled, coal-mine drainage, rather than fresh water, as part of the drilling process.
Currently, about 150 of its 200 Seneca’s employees nationwide are in Pennsylvania and the workforce has doubled twice in the last five years, Boulware says, as the company has expanded its drilling operations.
If natural gas prices continue to stabilize and even rise (“a hard asterisk,” Boulware notes), it is possible the company would go online with one or two more rigs in Pennsylvania, each creating about 50 contractor jobs onsite and another five to 10 in back-office support, in the foreseeable future.
Source: Rob Boulware, Seneca Resources
Writer: Elise Vider

From Maxwell Smart's shoephone to SolePower, a Pittsburgh startup with a power-generating insole

In the 1960s, Agent Maxwell Smart’s shoephone was a high-tech marvel. Now a Pittsburgh startup is taking the concept to the next step with an insole that charges cellphones as you walk.
SolePower is the brainchild of Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, recent Carnegie Mellon grads, who, in less than a year, are AlphaLab graduates, ready to begin testing of  a functional prototype. They’ve attracted the interest of the military (as a potential market) and national media and have been finalists in two national competitions. In less than two weeks, their Kickstarter campaign was more than halfway to its $50,000 goal and the company, which employs six fulltime, is about to move into its own offices in Pittsburgh.
The company is moving quickly to commercialization, and Stanton expects to be able to accept orders no later than December 2014.
SolePower’s patent-pending technology captures the energy in a step normally lost to the surrounding environment and converts it into usable electrical power for mobile electronic devices such as cellphones and GPS. The mechanism is embedded within a waterproof insole that can be slipped into any shoe. The power generated is stored in an external battery and accessed via micro or mini USB ports. The user does not need to remove the insole, and does not need to attach their electronic devices to their footwear.
Alexander and Stanton have identified several potential markets, starting with  outdoor enthusiasts, a $7 billion market. “They’re often off the grid for long periods time, but need their cellphones, GPS and compasses,” says Alexander.
For the military, the device offers potential to charge an array of electronics, while significantly lightening the load that servicepeople have to carry on their backs. Similarly, the product has huge potential in developing nations, where electrical service is often  so unreliable that cellphones are sometimes sold with solar collectors.
Sources: Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, SolePower
Writer: Elise Vider

Faster means bigger for Breinigsville's Cyoptics

Cyoptics of Breinigsville was founded in 1999 with the vision of providing core optical technologies to enable bandwidth for high-speed networks. We don’t have to tell you about demand in that sector. Still, as Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania  noted in awarding CyOptics its 2013 award for entrepreneurial achievement, “The early to mid-2000s were filled with uncertainty in the telecom optoelectronics sector. CyOptics not only survived this difficult time; it thrived by building intellectual property and market share.”
By growing its technology and making a series of acquisitions, CyOptics has grown rapidly and expanded its customer base to over 180 customers worldwide, achieving a compound annual sales growth rate of 36% from 2005 to 2011. In 2012, the company reported $210 million in annual revenue.
CEO Ed J. Coringato, Jr. attributes the growth to “continued expansion of communication networks and infrastructure worldwide and having the differentiated products and technologies that customers want.  We enable high speed, small size, and low power consumption, providing the carriers with reduced capital and operating expense.”
CyOptics products are used in equipment manufactured by system original equipment makers and sold to enterprise and telecom carriers for the transport of voice, data and video signals over fiber optics networks. Cyoptics fabricates chips and does high-performance packaging in Breinigsville; its optoelectronic assembly and testing takes place in Mexico.
To insure continued growth, Coringato says CyOptics continues to invest in R&D: “We play heavily today in metropolitan and fiber to the home (access) networks and will continue our expansion into data center and long-haul markets as  technologies move from 10Gbits/sec transmission to 100Gbits/sec and beyond.”
And faster will mean bigger still: CyOptics currently employs 326 in the Lehigh Valley and 831 worldwide and anticipates additional job growth.
Source: Ed J. Coringato, Jr., CyOptics
Writer: Elise Vider

Global expansion makes Gardners’ Zeigler Brothers National Exporter of the Year

Brothers Ty and LeRoy Zeigler set aside orchestra careers to run a water-powered grist feed mill near Gettysburg in 1935. Today the third-generation Zeigler Bros. is still growing, bolstered by its highly successful export business. So successful, in fact, that the company, which specializes in the formulation and manufacture of specialty feeds, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Exporter of the Year.
Tim Zeigler, vice president for sales and marketing, says Zeigler began exporting in the 1970s, when it moved from producing commodity feeds to exploring niche markets. “One of these markets, aquaculture, has grown exponentially over the last 30 years, primarily outside of the U.S. Our franchise program was introduced in 1986 in Panama to provide nutrition and processing technologies to local aquaculture markets. From that point on, we developed a host of innovative new products and technologies to support an industry, which today represents a substantial portion of the world’s seafood and overall food supply.”
Exports helped Zeigler recover from a devastating plant fire in 2007. In the last three years, Zeigler says, sales have increased over 65% with exports a key factor. Today Zeigler exports to over 40 countries in Latin America, West Africa and Southeast Asia. Its franchise program has active operations at two locations in Mexico and a third plant in Ecuador is scheduled for startup later this year.

Zeigler advises small and mid-sized companies, who often think that international markets are too complicated, to go for it. “Our local Kutztown Small Business Development Center was a vital component in steering us through the many mazes of doing business internationally. It also takes persistence, patience, and people who [aren’t] hesitant to reach out to visit and understand global markets.”
Zeigler also supports an active R&D program for new product development. “Just this year,” Zeigler reports, “we have installed a new, state-of-the-art extruder system for the manufacture of custom feeds for a variety of animals.”
Zeigler, based in Gardners, employs  64 full-timers and expects to add 6 or 7 new positions by year’s end.
Source: Tim Zeigler, Zeigler Bros.
Writer: Elise Vider

Agricultural innovation and entrepreneurism blossom at Penn State

A growing global population, economic and environmental challenges, and an escalating domestic demand local, high-quality food – never has the climate been more conducive to entrepreneurism and innovation in agriculture, says Mark Gagnon.
Gagnon leads Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, which just got a big boost with a $200,000 gift from donors Earl and Kay Harbaugh.
Started in 2006, mostly to support agricultural extension projects, the program has grown to support research, development and commercialization of projects by students and faculty, says Gagnon.
The program consists of entrepreneurship-focused classes, competitions including the Ag Business Springboard student competition, the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Forum, which brings entrepreneurial leaders to campus to inspire students and faculty, mentoring and more.
Undergrads are actively developing innovative products and services, often working across disciplines. At the most recent Ag Springboard in November 2012, a student team won $5,000 to continue work on a mobile aquaponic greenhouse suitable for restaurant kitchens. The second place team won $1,000 for its work on a new type of poultry feeder, soon to be tested on live birds.
Other student work includes specialized greenhouses for microgreens and new food products (including one being worked on in Brazil this summer). A faculty team is at work on a new approach to feeding cover crops, used to build more organic content in the soil.
Looking ahead, Gagnon sees continued growth for the program; “There is such a demand for what we do in ag science. We have the challenge of feeding the world and boosting living standards.”
Source: Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar, College of Agricultural Sciences’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, Penn State
Writer: Elise Vider

Small is big: PA businesses rack up accolades in National Small Business Week

The 50th annual National Small Business Week starts Monday and a group of Pennsylvania businesses, businesspeople and development centers are being cited for their contributions to the Commonwealth’s economy and their commitment to their local community and region.  
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) National Small Business Week Awards recognize small businesses on a variety of levels including growth of employees, increase in sales, sound financial performance, response to adversity and community contributions.
The big enchilada is Zeigler Bros of Gardners, which was named national exporter of the year, the top SBA award for exports. (See accompanying story.)
Elsewhere in the SBA’s Philadelphia district, the Widener University SBDC  in Chester won accolades for excellence and innovation, also picking up a regional award covering Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC and West Virginia. Gresham's Chophouse  in Hawley was named Eastern PA’s family business of the year and David Wise II, owner of G.S. Madison  (owner two 1-800-GOT-Junk? franchises) and BOXAROO  in Reading was named small businessperson of the year.
Across the state, Pittsburgh SBA district winners were: Clarion University SBDCGuy Chemical Company of Somerset, exporter of the year, and Jonathan Miller of Dimples LLC in Ashville, which makes software to save printer ink and toner, as young entrepreneur of the year.
The Widener SBDC and Zeigler Brothers will be in Washington DC on June 21 to receive their awards. 
Source: Pennsylvania SBDC 
Writer: Elise Vider     

Nine young Philly-area companies share $1.5M+ from Ben Franklin

Fans of raw foods, sports, coupon savings and more, rejoice. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP), celebrating its 30th anniversary, recently approved $1,550,000 in funding for nine early-stage companies.
They are:
AgileSwitch, LLC,  Philadelphia, $250,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $300,000)
AgileSwitch develops power converter technology to produce useful energy from renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and wind turbines. AgileSwitch's products can be fully customized to meet the needs and demands of virtually any customer application, and are better able to monitor and prevent problems such as overheating.
Brad's Raw Foods, Pipersville, $100,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $100,000) 
Brad's Raw Foods, manufactured with an advanced dehydration technology, offers a line of healthy, crunchy snacks made from dehydrated raw, healthy foods such as fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds. The company is developing other raw food products, including dog treats, onion rings, and zucchini sticks.
Cocurrent BioEnergy,  Doylestown, $250,000
Cocurrent BioEnergy is creating alternative solutions to landfills that produce renewable energy at competitive rates. The company's plan is to develop and operate renewable energy assets (which repurpose solid waste into sources of fuel) throughout North America over the next 20-30 years.
OneTwoSee (Mobile Reactor, LLC),Philadelphia, $75,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $300,000)
The OneTwoSee platform is a state-of-the-art suite of technologies that augments sports fans' experiences through any screen. The business-to-business platform is licensed to television broadcasters, online publishers, sports arena owners and smart TV manufactures, allowing them to deliver a rich interactive experience to their audience via their connected devices.
Real Food Works, Philadelphia, $175,000
Real Food Works provides customers with a subscription plan of meals that are cooked by local partners, restaurants, caterers and personal chefs and delivered fresh. The meals are mostly plant-based and are targeted to those who want to lose weight, enhance their energy levels or improve their overall health or have special dietary restrictions.
Smart Structures, Southampton,$150,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $230,000)
Smart Structures has developed a system that tests and monitors the health of the nation's physical infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, tunnels and buildings. Its technology can also dramatically alter the cost and time dynamics of traditional evaluation programs, by enabling real-time testing of all foundation elements.
SnipSnap App, LLC,  Philadelphia, $100,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $100,000)
SnipSnap is a mobile phone app for scanning, saving and redeeming printed coupons. The technology allows users to more efficiently and effectively organize their coupons, maximize their savings, and be reminded to use their coupons before expiration dates. They are also able to share their coupons both within their own social networks and with all other SnipSnap users.
Telefactor Corp., West Conshohocken, $400,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $230,450)
An offshoot of Chatten Associates, Telefactor is continuing its growth in explosive ordnance disposal, the process of rendering explosive devices safe. Telefactor is procuring the next-generation advanced robotic systems for the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology division.
TicketLeap, Inc., Philadelphia, $50,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $525,000)
TicketLeap is an e-commerce, do-it-yourself system for ticketing and registration that enables event organizers to sell tickets to their events online. Services include event registration, event promotion, virtual box office software, and social network integration. The company also provides barcode scanning, instant credit card swiping, customized ticket design and ticket tracking services.
Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

From backyard to backcountry: Lewisburg’s Vargo introduces new backpacking grill

Next time you feel the urge to head into the wilderness,  pack a grill – not the propane-powered monster in your backyard, but an ultralight, folding grill, a new product by Lewisurg’s Vargo Outdoor Products
The Fire Box Grill is a spinoff of Vargo’s most popular item, the Hexagon Wood Stove, and like all of Vargo’s products -- stoves, pots, mugs, campware, water bottles, and lifestyle products -- it is made of titanium, which is light, strong and durable.  Brian Vargo, the company’s founder, says his line of gear is not mass market, but rather serves a niche market of serious outdoors people. “They are designed and intended for people who are into backpacking and hiking and recognize the value of products that weigh practically nothing,” he says.
The new grill weights only 4.1 ounces, folds up to a compact eight-by-4.25-inches and safely burns any type of biomass fuel. “We wanted to create a product for those who wanted to cook over an open fire without weighing down their pack, taking up much space or charring the Earth,” says Vargo.
Vargo, who founded the company in 2002 in his garage, designs the products and the company owns the molds; the line is manufactured in China. The gear is sold worldwide and Vargo reports that sales, currently at about $1 million, have doubled every three years.
Vargo is “pretty aggressively adding new products,” he says, with three in the works for launch within a year. The company has two full time and two part time employees and he foresees adding more part timers as sales continue to grow.
Source: Brian Vargo, Vargo Outdoor Products
Writer: Elise Vider

Two SE biopharmas win millions in new VC investment

Two Southeast Pennsylvania biopharma companies have announced significant venture capital investments for continued development and, ultimately, commercialization of their cutting-edge drugs.
Trevena Inc., founded in 2008 in King of Prussia, has raised $60 million in its Series C financing round, including a $30 million equity investment by Forest Laboratories of New York. Trevena and Forest have entered into a collaborative licensing option agreement for the development of TRV027 to treat acute heart failure.
If the drug hits future development and commercial milestones, Forest can exercise its option and will pay up to $430 million, plus royalties, to Trevena.
The potential for the drug is enormous. “Acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF) is the fourth leading cause of hospitalization in the United States and there has been no material change in the standard of care for patients with ADHF for decades,” said David Solomon of Forest in a statement. “TRV027 has the potential to be a significant new advance in the treatment of ADHF because it addresses the underlying pathophysiology of the disease, which has been demonstrated in the pre-clinical and early clinical work by Trevena.”
Meanwhile, nearby in Doylestown, Callidus Biopharma, has earmarked $4.6 million in new investment to accelerate pre-clinical development of drugs for a range of “orphan diseases,” rare and ultra-rare diseases and those traditionally under-served by the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr. Hung Do, chief scientific officer and co-founder, said the investment, Callidus’ first external funding, will be used towards initiating clinical studies in 2014 of drugs to treat lysosomal storage disorders, which cause rare genetic diseases.
Sources: Trevena Inc. and Callidus Biopharma
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh’s Aquion Energy growing fast with high-tech alchemy

What happens when you mix saltwater, cotton, dirt and carbon? Pittsburgh's fast-growing Aquion Energy has performed that alchemy to create its Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) batteries, a new way of storing energy. With $35 million in venture capital (from investors including Bill Gates), the young company is gearing up to start manufacturing later this year.
Aquion's technology addresses what CEO Scott Pearson calls the "fundamental mismatch" between energy generation and storage. Think of a simple solar system: daytime sunshine generates power, which must be stored for delivery at night. Aquion's AHI batteries can be configured to do just that for an array of applications, everything from a single, solar-powered house to large utility grids. And the batteries, Aquion says, are safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
The company rented 300,000 square feet in the former Sony plant in Mt. Pleasant and expects to start building its first AHI batteries at the plant at the end of the year, with full production and commercial launch in 2014.
Pearson wouldn't discuss hiring plans, but did say that the company current employs more than 100 and that, eventually, it expects to hit 1,000.
The company was established in 2008 at Carnegie Mellon when Dr. Jay Whitacre produced the first functioning AHI battery with long-term-cycle stability. The following year, the company outgrew the CMU labs and located to the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, where it is still headquartered.
Source: Scott Pearson, Aquion Energy
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh’s AlphaLab Gear proclaims hardware’s turn

Ten or 15 years ago, market forces and tech innovation made it possible for software companies to readily establish themselves. Now, says Ilana Diamond, director of Pittsburgh’s new AlphaLab Gear, it’s hardware’s turn.
The new hardware and robotics startup accelerator, one of only a few in the country, is aimed at providing physical product companies (“something you can touch and feel,” says Diamond) with investment, equipment, mentoring and more, all in service of boosting manufacturing, ideally in or around Pittsburgh.
Part of the impetus for AlphaLab Gear comes from the changing forces that make it possible, for example, to produce a prototype, which used to take thousands of dollars and months, for pennies and in minutes using a 3D printer. Add access to high-tech equipment in shared workspaces like Pittsburgh’s Tech Shop and crowdfunding, and the potential for hardware startups is significantly altered.
AlphaLab Gear will work on the same model at its parent startup accelerator, Innovation Works’ AlphaLab. Companies can choose to receive $25,000 or $50,000 in investment in exchange for 5% or 9%  equity. And AlphaLab Gear companies with a robotics focus will receive investment and help from Startbot, an investment firm specializing in early-stage robotics companies. “Their participation is a recognition that private capital thinks this is a successful model,” says Diamond.
AlphaLab Gear is accepting applications for its first cycle and is hearing interest from a wide range of companies that make everything, Diamond says, from medical devices to consumer products to sensors to games.
Source: AlphaLab Gear, Ilana Diamond
Writer: Elise Vider
1972 Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts