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2014 Articles | Page: | Show All

Bethlehem's Orbweaver Sourcing makes parts search easy for electronics makers

Manufacturers of electronics traditionally have had to endure an inefficient and time-consuming process that can take as long as two weeks to comparison-shop for components. 
No longer. Orbweaver Sourcing,  a Bethlehem-based startup, has developed a technology that automatically analyzes and filters parts search results from 265 suppliers, based on nearly a dozen customizable settings. Users are instantly presented with results suited to their unique demands, from supplier preferences to cost/excess strategy. 
"We are the Kayak of electronics sourcing decisions," says CEO and co-founder T. Christopher Ciesielka, referring to the travel website aggregator.
Ciesielka founded the company in March 2012 with Tony Powell. Working in the electronics manufacturing services industry, Ciesielka had commissioned Powell, a software developer, to build something for his own use. It didn't take long for the pair to realize they had a viable business opportunity.
Orbweaver launched its first product, a browser-based app and Excel add-in, in July. They are actively developing and raising capital for their cloud-based product, which they expect to launch in April and which will offer instant quotes, sourcing, inventory management and purchasing functions.
The company is one of 10 finalists in the Ben Franklin Venture Idol,  a crowd-funding event hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania in November. 
The young company, housed at Ben Franklin TechVentures on the Lehigh University campus, currently has five part-timers. Ciesielka projects creating four jobs in 18 months and 24 jobs over the next three years, mostly programmers and sales support.
Source: T. Christopher Ciesielka, Orbweaver Sourcing
Writer: Elise Vider

From Kitty Hawk to Bethlehem: Curtiss-Wright lands at a new facility, adding 95 jobs

Curtiss-Wright Corporation (as in Glenn Curtiss, the father of naval aviation; Wright as in the pioneering aviation brothers) is building a new facility in Bethlehem and creating 95 jobs.
The PA Department of Community & Economic Development  (DCED) says the company will move its Engineered Pump Division from Phillipsburg, NJ to a new 179,000-square-foot facility in Bethlehem, a more than $7 million capital investment. The division provides a wide range of highly engineered, mission-critical and general-service products for the Navy, Coast Guard and related maritime customers.
"We … look forward to supplying our mission-critical products and services from our new, modern manufacturing, testing, warehousing and office facility," Todd Schurra, the division's general manager, said in a statement.
Curtiss-Wright received a funding offer from DCED including a $200,000 PA First Program grant, a $42,750 Guaranteed Free Training grant to train its new workforce, and a $2.3 million loan from the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund.
The company was created in 1929 as a merger between Curtiss Aeroplane and Wright Aeronautical Corporation. Based in Parsippany, NJ, Curtiss-Wright is today a global engineering and manufacturing company with 10,000 employees worldwide.  The company already has about 760 employees in Pennsylvania, according to DCED.
Source: Lyndsay Frank, DCED
Writer: Elise Vider

SG America relocates to Wyomissing, with up to 20 new jobs

After joining SG America about a year-and-a-half ago, General Manager Ray Suhocki assessed the Japanese company's operations in rural Minnesota and posed a question: "If we’re going to expand long-term, where do we want to be?"
Now, SG's search has culminated at a 25,000-square-foot plant in Wyomissing where, on a recent day, Suhocki was overseeing unpacking, deliveries, machinery inspections and hiring. The plant makes air-to-air heat recovery and desiccant dehumidification components used in commercial and industrial air handling systems.
Suhocki expects to create up to 20 new jobs at the plant by the end of the year in production, logistics, assembly and engineering.
A variety of factors went into the relocation decision. Primarily, Suhocki says, "I was looking for longer term structural cost reductions." Also in the soup: population density, a ready labor pool, a pipeline for trained workers (he cites the engineering programs at Penn State Berks County), good air access to Europe and Asia and, especially, ready access to suppliers such as sheet metal shops, laser cutter and machinists. Berks County offered them all, he says, lauding the "long tradition of industrial activity." He also praises the Greater Reading Economic Partnership for its help.
SG's parent company is Seibu Giken, which has manufactured heat wheels for over 35 years. The company opened a U.S. sales office in 2001 and began manufacturing in Minnesota in 2008. 
Source: Ray Suhocki, SG America
Writer: Elise Vider

Glen Mills' Versify Solutions get a jolt with new contract, venture capita

Versify Solutions in Glen Mills is getting a jolt – a good thing for a company that develops software and IT systems for the power industry. In recent weeks Versify announced both a significant venture capital investment and a new, six-year licensing contract with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PGE), the giant California utility.
Versify, says President and CEO Pete Cona, "is really picking up speed in the market." 
The energy industry, Cona explains, "is looking to leverage its existing infrastructure. And the question everyone is trying to get an answer for is 'how can I improve efficiency and profits from my existing infrastructure and how can I absorb emerging technologies?' "
This is where Versify comes in. Founded in 2005, Versify offers a suite of proprietary software products and services to collect, analyze and report on vast amounts of incoming data in real time. "We believe software is a key piece to integrating different generating technologies, improving operations, integrating with the grid, improving reliability and being compliant [with regulation]," Cona says.
Versify's market includes utilities, energy traders, power schedulers, power developers and compliance officials – "professionals in the power industry who demand a constant flow of data to efficiently navigate an increasingly dynamic sector." Besides PGE, it counts among its clients other big players such as Constellation Energy and Xcel
On the capital front, SJF Ventures announced last month that it is has invested in Versify. Also participating is Potomac Energy Fund, an earlier Versify investor. "The financing will be used to expand the company's sales efforts and provide customer support in meeting current market demand," SJF said. Neither SJF nor Cona revealed the dollar amount.
Cona says the company is growing both revenues and customers annually and that he expects the workforce to grow by about 30% over the next year. 
Source: Pete Cona, Versify Solutions
Writer: Elise Vider

Neat meat substitute grows from Lancaster kitchen to grocery shelves

In 2011, when her two kids decided to become vegetarian, Laura Lapp "started messing around to try to get them to eat something." From those experiments in her Lancaster kitchen has emerged what she says is the first soy-free, gluten-free, shelf-stable meat replacement and the basis for Neat Foods, which she founded in 2012 with her husband, Phil.
Neat started selling its line of meat substitutes last year on Amazon, where it has been a strong seller. Now the startup is poised to expand to bricks-and-mortar grocers. The Lapps will be debuting Neat at the Natural Products Expo East trade show in Baltimore later this month.
The Lapps have kept all aspects of their young company strictly local. Neat is manufactured at the gluten-free-certified, commercial production facility run by the Susquehanna Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired  in Leola. Their distributor is Garden Spot Distributors in New Holland. Their packaging was designed by The Infantree in Lancaster.
Neat's line of ground meat substitutes is derived from nuts and other natural ingredients, comes in three flavors (Mexican, Italian and Original) and has a one-year shelf life. Many meat replacements currently on the market have soy and gluten and even additives and chemicals, so the advent of Neat "is a big deal for vegetarians and vegans," says Laura Lapp.  And much of the competition is frozen, much more expensive to ship and to pay for space at the grocery, adds Phil.
For now, the company is just the two of them, but Phil is hoping to add at least one more, a customer service representative, as soon as possible. For now, the goal is to get into more grocery stores, hit $30,000 in sales for the fourth quarter and "ramp up significantly next year," he adds.
Source: Laura and Phil Lapp, Neat Foods
Writer: Elise Vider

LV Startup Weekend winner Skaffl impresses at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

A little more than a year since winning Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend for its fresh take on mobile technology's integration with K-12 education, Allentown-based Skaffl has made a big splash on the West Coast.
The startup launched its flagship iPad app, braket (formerly known as "Rung") in beta at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in San Francisco earlier this week. It attempts to create a paperless classroom, helping teachers manage the distribution of written assignments to students. The first version of braket will be free and available on the iTunes App store within the next month.
Braket works like this: Teachers upload any handout in .pdf or .doc format to distribute to students, who can complete the assignment by annotating directly on the document. Teachers can assess student work and grade it from within the application.
Additional functionality will be added to braket to help meet teachers' needs. Ultimately, braket's goal is to simplify the many tedious tasks of lesson plans, assignemnts and assessments. 
Co-founders Rita Chesterton and Michael Hanssen are both education veterans. Chesterton was a lawyer before entering the education field as a teacher and later working as a technology coach and instructional technologist. Hanssen has worked for two decades as a school technology director. Anoher cofounder, Matthew Smollinger (Chief Technology Officer), has extensive enterprise IT experience in networking, security, cloud server management, and web, mobile and desktop software development. Skaffl's fourth cofounder is Angela Moramarco (Chief Creative Officer), an expert in strategic digital marketing with a focus on mobile and social media.
Skaffl is one of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania most recent portfolio copmanies. The startup is also working on a patent that will enable students to flip between their notes and assignments, according to TechCrunch.

IPart keeps its funding rolling to assist tech startups secure federal grants

Once again, Pennsylvania's Innovation Partnership (IPart) has scored funding in a challenging environment, in order to "assure Pennsylvania's small technology companies that its programs will continue to assist them in generating winning, fundable federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposals."
Director Kelly Wylam says that IPart secured a $95,000 Federal State and Technology Partnership (FAST) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The funds were contingent on successfully raising a dollar-for-dollar match from the IPart membership: Ben Franklin Technology Partners, University City Science Center, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine, BioStrategy Partners, the Innovation Transfer Network, Ben Franklin Venture Investment Forum, Drexel University and Temple University.
With $190,000 in hand for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Wylam says that IPart can provide training, assistance and review of proposals and micro vouchers and micro grants to help small companies defray the costs of preparing winning proposals.
The potential return-on-investment is high. Wylam notes that in fiscal 2012-13, IPart assisted about 25 companies, two of whom have already received phase 1 federal awards of $250,000 each. Subsequent phases offer money in the millions. Since IPart's inception in 2003, the program, administered by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, has conducted 505 technical reviews and 92 SBIR/STTR federal awards have been granted, totaling over $25 million.
Despite a drop in federal/state funding, Wylam says, "we have not missed a beat here." For a very small amount of money, she adds, "We're helping [Pennsylvania's tech startups] have a better chance of winning these dollars and moving their technologies forward."
Source: Kelly Wylam, IPart
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol brings crowdfunding to Northeastern Pennsylvania

What if you did a mash-up of "Shark Tank" and "American Idol"? Except with entrepreneurs and investors instead of vocalists and celebrities.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) plans to do just that when it hosts Ben Franklin Venture Idol,  northeastern Pennsylvania's first crowdfunding event, on November 21. 
After two rounds of preliminary judging, three tech startup entrepreneurs will pitch their ventures to investors and a live audience of about 150, each of whom will distribute $100 in "Ben Bucks," to be honored later as a total of $15,000 in cash awards by BFTP/NEP. There is a Ben Franklin Venture Idol page on RocketHub.com so that interested individuals can invest real cash online prior to the event.
“Ben Franklin Venture Idol illustrates a significant way in which early-stage entrepreneurs seek and obtain seed capital,” says Laura Eppler, director of marketing for BFTP/NEP. “During this event, the audience and 10 promising technology firms will learn about company strengths and weaknesses, their likelihood for commercial success, and how to improve their funding pitches. Supporting entrepreneurs in this way is fundamental to Ben Franklin’s mission, allowing us to leverage our financial investments.”
The Ben Franklin Venture Idol competitors are:

Bison Analytics, LLC, Lewisburg, which produces business intelligence software for small businesses that use QuickBooks™ accounting software.
Cerora Inc., Bethlehem, which makes affordable neuro-diagnostic information available to non-specialists in the field. 

eVendor Check, Hawley, which reduces clients’ risks associated with vendor selection by using patent-pending survey tools and a supporting database.
GiveGab, Dunmore, whose proprietary web-based software platform is a social network of volunteers, nonprofits, schools, and businesses that allows them to connect using a single network.
Map Decisions, LLC, Bethlehem, whose MapCollect™ software platform for field-oriented industries operates on consumer-grade mobile devices and replaces outdated methods of data collection. 

Orbweaver Sourcing LLC,  Bethlehem, which develops, builds, and markets PricePerfect™ technology to automatically analyze and filter parts search results.
Pivitec, LLC,  Bethlehem, which develops audio streaming and distribution products. 

PROVA Systems, LLC, Carbondale, whose Fleet Genius™ diagnostic device links with its cloud-based software to collect, monitor, and analyze the performance of vehicles and drivers in a vehicle fleet. 
Skaffl, LLC,  Allentown, which produces a mobile app for teachers and students to exchange materials, assignments, completed homework, assessments and grades.
The tenth competitor will be named at Lehigh Valley Tech’s Startup Weekend event, scheduled for November 15-17. Admission to Ben Franklin Venture Idol is $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Register online at http://ennect.com/e2100.

Source: Laura Eppler, BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

GE and Dow make mega investments in PA

Two global giants – GE and Dow – have made significant investments in Pennsylvania, with major physical expansions, retaining and possibly creating new jobs. 
Dow opened its new, 800,000-square-foot Northeast Technology Center in Collegeville last month. By the end of next year, about 800 employees and contractors, most transferred from Dow's Spring House location, will work at what will be one of Dow’s three largest R&D campuses. The facility has room for growth and can accommodate up to 1,300, says Dow spokesman Justin M. Land. Dow has a large presence in the Delaware Valley with about 2,000 employees and four of its 13 global businesses headquartered in the region. 
"The NTC will play a pivotal role as an innovation hub for many businesses in Dow’s Advanced Materials portfolio – a business unit headquartered in Philadelphia, which brings differentiated solutions to customers in key end-markets including electronics, consumer and lifestyle, infrastructure and transportation and energy," Dow said in a statement.
Nearly 500 miles away, in Lewistown, GE has opened a $10 million, 52,000-square-foot Customer Solutions Center  "to meet the growing demand for industrial and infrastructure inspection technology solutions worldwide." The center, which opened in June, is the North American hub for GE's Inspection Academy, which trains GE employees and customers in non-destructive testing (NDT). Critical in supporting safe operation and quality control, NDT enables the detection and evaluation of flaws in materials or structural properties, without producing harmful effects on the subjects being tested.
Jill Queenan, a GE spokeswoman, says the company does not disclose its hiring numbers, but that "GE has already significantly grown its workforce in Lewistown [currently above 250] to better support the world’s growing need for non-destructive testing solutions." 
Sources: Justin Land, Dow Chemical; Jill Queenan, GE
Writer: Elise Vider

PA universities dominate in national contest for innovative economic initiatives

Four innovative economic growth initiatives at Pennsylvania universities are among 20 finalists in a national competition recognizing cutting-edge programs.
Tim Hindes, director of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh-based University Economic Development Association (UEDA), the competition's sponsor, says the Commonwealth's heavy presence among the finalists demonstrates how "institutions in Pennsylvania are focusing their efforts on building economic development initiatives, initially around startup development and then supporting those startups."
Final judging will happen at the UEDA's upcoming annual summit, October 27-29 in Pittsburgh. Criteria will include replicability/scalability, sustainability and originality. 
Three of the four PA finalists are competing, along with a fourth from Iowa, in the "innovation and entrepreneurship" category. They are:
The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center at the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
The center provides founders and presidents of high-growth companies with networking, mentoring and more to advance the knowledge and skills needed to manage rapid growth and propel their businesses to the next level. 
The Innovation Café at the Penn State College of Medicine. 
The iCafe provides access to resources needed to bring an idea from the lab to the marketplace. It offers networking forums, educational programming, access to capital and entrepreneurial mentorship.  The College of Medicine recently launched an Innovation Fund to invest in promising technologies.
The Research Commercialization Program at Innovation Works
IW is on of the four Ben Franklin Technology Centers in PA, covering the southwestern part of the state. Its Research Commercialization Program is a collection of initiatives that utilize university partnerships to provide funding and support for the commercialization of innovative technologies. 
In addition, Lehigh University's Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship  s competing in the "talent development" category.  Started in 2012, the new graduate program is aimed at creating successful student startups with product development and company launch required for graduation. This May, Lehigh graduated its first class of 14 entrepreneurs, launching 10 new businesses. 
Source: Tim Hindes, UEDA
Writer: Elise Vider

East Norriton's HighPoint Solutions hits a new high

HighPoint Solutions, a fast growing IT consulting firm, is expanding its East Norriton headquarters to accommodate 100 new jobs. The company, which focuses on life sciences and healthcare, already has 500 in its workforce.
"As we continue to expand our client base nationally, and with plans to open offices in Europe in the near future, the time is right," said founder and CEO John Seitz in a statement. "We're making $3 million worth of investments in 2013 alone."
The new facility will be adjacent to the company's current headquarters. HighPoint moved to East Norriton only early last year, occupying more than 14,000 square feet. At that time, the company reported about 400 employees.
HighPoint said it has already started recruiting for new positions in the business solutions, technology, talent acquisition and operations areas. 
HighPoint has set ambitious goals to not only continue its 20% year-to-year growth, but also "become the largest, privately held consulting firm serving the life science and healthcare marketplace by 2017."
Besides the Philadelphia area, the company, established in 2000, has offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Tampa and claims more than 140 clients nationwide.
Source: HighPoint Solutions
Writer: Elise Vider

York's Dataforma hits the roof

In 2003, when Mark Zeleznock and Daryl Maronic founded Dataforma, cloud computing was "a virgin market … For the first few years of the company's existence, nobody felt confident putting their data online," says CEO Zeleznock.
But all that changed – fast – and today Dataforma, headquartered in York, is the roofing industry's largest provider of web-based business management services. Mid-sized roofers with $3 to $20 million in work, multiple employees and offices are the core market, says Zeleznock. 
More than 300 roofing contractors use Dataforma to manage project data, work order/invoicing processes, customer correspondence records, bulk mailings, company/personal scheduling, product information, and document storage from one place. 
Now, with a new $150,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, Dataforma is investigating expanding its platform to serve other industries, in particular HVAC and electrical contractors and property managers.
The funds are also helping Dataforma grow its workforce, which currently numbers around 14, by adding sales and technical positions. Zeleznock says the company hires opportunistically, when the right people come along. And as a York native, he's especially psyched about "building a talent pool in York County."
Dataforma hires interns from a number of Pennsylvania universities and it's getting easier to recruit quality software developers locally, he says. The company just hired two intern developers from Clarion University.
Most of its jobs are in York, but Dataforma also has sales and training personnel around the country and a data-center operations team based in San Francisco to serve an expanding geographic market. The company is active in all 50 states, says Zeleznock, and is now moving aggressively into the Canadian market.
Source: Mark Zeleznock, Dataforma
Writer: Elise Vider

On your mark, get ready, startup: Startup Weekends coming to Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg

Arrive, collaborate, eat a lot of pizza, leave with a business. That's the idea behind two upcoming Startup Weekends in Pennsylvania. The events have become de rigueur for young, aspiring entrepreneurs who progress from pitch to prototype over 54 frenzied hours.
Startup Weekend Harrisburg is set for September 13-15 at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.  The second annual Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend runs November 15-17 at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.
Startup Weekend is a Seattle-based international movement that supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship. Aspiring entrepreneurs are immersed in the process of moving an idea to market. Startup Weekend has built a network of more than 55,000 alumni, thousands of volunteer organizers and 100 trained facilitators across more than 300 cities in 100 countries.
The winning team at this year's Lehigh Valley event will get to compete in the upcoming Global Startup Battle. Last year’s winner, a startup representing Startup Weekend Toronto, was awarded more than $35,000 of in-kind prizes.
“Skaffl would not be where we are today without Startup Weekend. We came … with little more than an idea, and left with so much more,” says Rita Chesterton, the CEO of last year's Lehigh Valley winner, Skaffl. “It was through Startup Weekend that we were able to meet our CTO, Matt Smollinger. My cofounder Mike Hanssen and I had the opportunity to work with Matt in a high-productivity, high-stress environment for 54 hours. That time gave us confidence that we would make a great team together moving forward.”
Sources: Steven Infanti, Harrisburg University; Anthony Durante, Lehigh Valley Tech
Writer: Elise Vider

Philadelphia's QLIDA Diagnostics developing next-generation biomarker diagnostics

Every year, about 715,000 Americans experience a heart attack and early action is critical to saving lives, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But most people neither fully understand the warning signs nor know when to call 9-1-1.
QLIDA Diagnostics, a Philadelphia startup, is working to remedy that situation by developing an "ultra portable detection work station built around a smartphone," says Michael Boyce-Jacino, the company's founder and CEO.
QLIDA has received a total of $500,000 in investments from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania  as it works to create its highly sensitive system for detecting the specific biomarkers that indicate a cardiovascular event. 
Noting that half of all heart attack victims die before they reach a hospital, Boyce-Jacino says that the detectors, being developed as a smartphone plug-in for use by first responders, can quickly identify and transmit crucial data. Long-term, the devices could be used by patients and families for monitoring chronic disease, such as glucose levels for diabetics. 
Elizabeth Papazoglou developed the chemistry behind QLIDA at Drexel University. Now the company is working on the engineering challenge of miniaturizing the technology, Boyce-Jacino says. He hopes to start testing next year, with a possible commercial launch for the device in 2015. 
The company, founded in 2010, works out of the University City Science Center and a lab at Drexel, Besides Boyce-Jacino, there is one other part-time engineer; he expects them to go full-time in the near future with a full complement of five by mid-to-late 2014.  
Boyce-Jacino also founded what is now BioNano Genomics, a San Diego based company that offers a platform for mapping DNA and chromosomes.
Source: Michael Boyce-Jacino, QLIDA
Writer: Elise Vider

Erie's reCAP shakes up some growth

Making her homemade salad dressing requires a whole lot of shaking and Karen Rzepecki had had it with leaky Mason jar lids. So she went online to buy some leak-proof, shake-and-pour caps. "That," she says, "was my aha moment. I couldn't believe it didn't exist."
With an already-instilled entrepreneurial spirit and small-business experience, she quickly saw the business potential. "I wanted it for myself, but I immediately saw the commercial opportunities," she says.
Rzepecki entered and won the 2011 Innovation Erie Design Competition. Using those funds, along with a successful Kickstarter campaign, she commissioned a designer and a tool-and-dye maker (a neighbor) to create molds for two standard-sized Mason jars and found a contract manufacturer, Erie Molded Plastics, to make the lids of BPA-free plastic. reCAP Mason Jars was launched.
Since then, Rzepecki reports, sales are up 200%. reCAP started selling on Amazon last September; by the end of the year it was among the online retailer's top 25% sellers.
The young company recently won $10,000 as a winner of the BIG IDEA business plan contest, sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA
Rzepecki plans to continue building her successful e-commerce platform, but is also moving into sales in bricks-and-mortar retailers. The product is already available at some hardware and general stores.
And she is relocating what till now has been a home-based business to the Erie Technology Incubator and expects to upgrade her four part-timers to full-time within six months. 
Source: Karen Rzepecki, reCAP Mason Jars
Writer: Elise Vider
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