| Follow Us:

Innovation & Job News

2129 Articles | Page: | Show All

Zombies urge millenials to sign up for health care

Are you covered for injuries sustained in a zombie attack?

Neumann University senior Kathleen Poliski posed that question in a video, the grand prize winner in a competition sponsored by Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross (IBX). 

The IBX: 90 Seconds challenge was aimed at encouraging millennials -- those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s -- to meet the deadline for health care plan registration under the Affordable Care Act.

"We anticipated that millennials might be late to sign up, so we came up with creative ways to engage with them," says Paula Sunshine, IBX vice president of consumer sales and marketing. "Using social media was an obvious choice…Our goal was to reach people where they live, work and play."

The February call for 90-second videos resulted in hundreds of submissions; viewers across social media platforms selected the winners from 16 finalists.

"This is the first time we’ve done something like this and the response was tremendous," says Sunshine. "We enlisted our local colleges and universities to help generate interest and spread the word." (Temple University scored $10,000 as the participating school with the most video entry votes.)

Poliski was inspired while watching The Walking Dead over spring break. She recruited 15 friends and classmates, and used dollar-store makeup leftover from Halloween to transform them into zombies. The whole thing was shot in a day. 

A community and media arts major, Poliski, 21, is graduating next month; the prize-winning video is part of her reel as she searches for a first job in video production.

"It couldn’t have come at a better time," she says.  

As for zombie apocalypse coverage -- it depends on your plan.

Source: Paula Sunshine, IBX and Kathleen Poliski, Neumann University
Writer: Elise Vider


Hörmann opens the doors at its state-of-the-art new plant outside Pittsburgh

Hörmann High Performance Doors, a German company with a manufacturing presence in the Pittsburgh region since 1981, has officially opened a custom-built, state-of-the-art facility at Starpointe Business Park in Burgettstown.  
Hörmann acquired land and built the $7 million, 68,000-square-foot facility -- designed by Pittsburgh architects Pfaffmann & Associates in coordination with counterparts in Germany -- from the ground up. It includes a production floor, a full-size showroom and offices. The plant makes high-speed, roll-up doors for industrial and commercial markets, such as car dealerships, fire stations, parking garages and sports stadiums.
According to Alice Permigiani, the company's marketing director, Hörmann outgrew its old plant in Leetsdale. The company has been steadily growing, doubling its output over the past three years. Building an all-new facility enabled them to create "a layout that makes the overall production process much more efficient,"she  explains. It also gave the company a showroom, which features full-size doors, and is used for sales and training.
Most significantly, the new facility enables Hörmann to accommodate future growth -- the company anticipates expanding in two phases to an eventual buildout of 220,000 square feet.
The new plant is pursuing LEED Silver certification for its green design, including energy conservation features, recycled materials, high-performance skylights to maximize natural light and a designed "drive-thru" capacity and crane system for fully climate-controlled interior off-loading, which allows for complete thru-building production. 
Hörmann has 45 employees at the location. Speaking at an opening ceremony on April 7, Christoph Hörmann, managing partner at Hörmann in Germany, asserted, "Our investment in the new building makes it clear that we, the Hörmann family, believe in the U.S. market."
Dan Reitz, executive director of the Washington County Council on Economic Development, added, "We aren’t just creating jobs, we’re creating lifetime careers in manufacturing, logistics, engineering, science and more. It’s a great day for Washington County. Doors are being opened, literally, to our future."
Source: Alice Permigiani, Hörmann High Performance Doors; Philip Cynar, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider

Reliant on federal contracts, Carlisle's Markant Corp. grows via acquisitions

With the Department of Defense as its primary client, Carlisle's Markant Corporation has been hit by recent cuts in government spending.

"As the government continues to work through funding challenges that were highlighted by 2013's furloughs and government shutdown, we've seen stagnant growth within the industry coupled with increased price sensitivity among our customers," explains CEO and co-founder Ivelisse Alemany.
Markant's solution is to grow by actively shopping for companies with federal contracts. "Our company has been looking to expand via acquisitions within the industry that will give us access to new agencies and customers," says Alemany.
Alemany founded Markant, a provider of niche professional support services to the federal government, in 2008 with Carl Hintz, the company's chief financial officer. Markant's tagline is, "The threat is always there. So are we." Its technical expertise includes Internet security, computer systems integration, program management, database application development and web-based application service programs.

"With an increased focus by our customers on price, we look to preserve our margins by focusing on complex tasks deep within the value chain that require staff with vast experience, education and industry certifications," says Alemany. "The complexity of this work can occasionally present recruiting challenges. We mitigate this challenge by developing talent internally, maintaining deep consultant and alumni networks, and utilizing project forecasting techniques that assist us in recruiting for skills and positions in advance of needs materializing."
Markant employs 38 full-time employees across multiple states along with a cadre of consultants and part-time workers. A minority-owned, woman-owned business, Markant has been located at the Murata Business Center/TechCelerator in Carlisle since 2009.
Source:  Ivelisse Alemany, Markant Corp.
Writer: Elise Vider

Keeping pace with e-marketing keeps Bethlehem's EggZack expanding

Online marketing for small businesses has only gotten more complex since 2011, when Keystone Edge last visited EggZack
According to CEO and founder Jon Zack, back in those dark days of social media, it was enough to have a website and be on Facebook. Today, with the advent of Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc., you'd be missing about 80 percent of your audience by only relying on those two. 
"Online marketing has become more fragmented and it will continue," explains Zack.
EggZack's software solution streamlines marketing by integrating all social media, email, web content, local news sites, etc. and formatting a single post for all platforms. Most critically, the system drives users back to the client's preferred platform, usually the website. 
For EggZack's market of small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and a reach of about 25 miles (pizza parlors, gyms, local politicians and police departments, for example), the system can boost buyers by as much as 80 percent and traffic by as much as 300 percent.
To keep up with this ever-changing technological landscape, EggZack recently acquired a company that will allow it to expand its point-of-sale and mobile capacity. 
When it moved to Bethlehem's Ben Franklin Tech Ventures in 2011 (Zack established the company in New Jersey in 2008), EggZack had six employees. Today it has 16, nine of them in Bethlehem; Zack expects to grow to 22 by the end of the year. Sales are on track to double or even triple this year; 2013 ended a solid 30 percent over 2012. 
EggZack has also been successful in attracting funds, raising $1.3 million from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and angel and strategic investors.
Source: Jon Zack, EggZack
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh's Cognition Therapeutics to launch clinical trials on its novel Alzheimer's drug

Pittsburgh's Cognition Therapeutics is hoping to enter clinical trials next year with its novel approach to treating Alzheimer's disease. 

According to CEO Hank Safferstein, Cognition's small-molecule drugs, taken orally, prevent toxic proteins from binding to the brain. Pre-clinical data suggest the drugs can reverse the effects Alzheimer's and sustain that reversal.
If proven, Cognition's approach has huge implications. There are currently no therapeutics available to prevent the accumulation of the toxic proteins that cause Alzheimer's cognitive impairment and, eventually, death. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the number of patients is expected to rise sharply as the population ages.
Despite Cognition's promise, raising capital to advance to clinical trials is challenging because of the cost and a risk-adverse funding environment. But Safferstein is hopeful that trials enrolling patients diagnosed with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's will get underway in 2015, either through a contract research organization or an in-house partner.
Meanwhile, the company is continuing to investigate the application of its biological and chemical platforms to a range of other degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's, frontal lobe dementia and ALS.
Dr. Susan Catalano founded the company in San Francisco in 2007. That same year, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) recruited Cognition to Pittsburgh, providing capital, equipment, office and lab space, and connecting the company with Safferstein, who joined under PLSG's Executive Program. The help gave Cognition "the opportunity to start a company and immediately put money back into the science," explains Safferstein.
In the years since, Pittsburgh has continued to be a great place to build a drug discovery and development company, he adds, citing support from PLSG, its Accelerator Fund, Innovation Works and angel investors. 
Source: Hank Safferstein, Cognition Therapeutics
Writer: Elise Vider

Philadelphia's Shenandoah Studio grows thanks to mobile gaming

On a Friday in 2010, Eric Lee Smith got his first iPad. By Monday, he was ready to quit his day job and launch a studio to develop mobile games.
Smith, along with Jeff Dougherty, Pat Ward and Nick Karp, founded Philadelphia's Shenandoah Studio in 2011. In 2012, Shenandoah launched "Battle of the Bulge." The game was an instant hit, both in terms of sales and critical reception, and remains a strong seller. "Drive on Moscow" followed in 2013.
Today, Shenandoah is located in Philadelphia's Good Company incubator, employs 13 and is preparing to launch a new game, "Desert Fox: The Battle of El Alamein," next month. "Gettysburg: The Tide Turns" is halfway through the development process; they hope to launch it by July, the 151st anniversary of the battle.
Smith comes from a long background in startups and game development, both old-fashioned board and electronic, and says that everyone at Shenandoah is a gamer.

"It’s a small market, but it’s kind of us," he says. "We know how to reach these people."

Besides the games it has developed, Shenandoah has another 12 games in its portfolio as a publisher.
Demand for mobile gaming continues to explode. The challenge is keeping up with constant change, a situation Smith compares to the early days of the Internet itself. Shenandoah specializes in so-called turn-based games, as opposed to real-time games where the action never stops.

"Real time games focus on tactics, coordination and skill," he explains. "Turn-based games focus on strategy. You have time to think and play. And you can play without being on the clock or online."
All of Shenandoah's games so far are for Apple products, but the company is planning to expand to other platforms. Smith also hopes to expand to three development teams by the end of the year, adding another five positions, and to follow up with a fourth team, essentially doubling the size of the company.
Source: Eric Lee Smith, Shenandoah Studio

Writer: Elise Vider

A new project builds on the success of Scranton business parks

Thanks to the success of its Valley View Business Park and Jessup Small Business Center, the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO) is moving ahead with the development of a new 23-acre professional plaza.
The upcoming Valley View Business Park Professional Plaza will house businesses and amenities -- a hotel, restaurant, bank, daycare center, mini-mart, for example -- to support the existing business parks across the street.
"The Valley View Business Park and the Jessup Small Business Center have proven to be successful endeavors and continue to grow and expand," says Andy Skrip, vice president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce; SLIBCO is the chamber’s industrial development affiliate. "The next phase of development -- creating a professional plaza to serve these companies -- is essential to maintaining thriving business parks."
SLIBCO is marketing the four available lots to commercial developers and Skrip hopes to see construction underway next year.
Meanwhile, SLIBCO is designing the necessary infrastructure -- the site currently consists of abandoned strip mines, subsurface mines and solid waste deposits, and will require environmental remediation to return it to productive use.
SLIBCO has secured $2.5 million in grants, loans and its own funding contribution. According to Skrip, the project will create about 250 construction jobs, and another 250 permanent jobs at build-out.
"We're excited about this development and what it means to the ongoing success of the Valley View Business Park and Jessup Small Business Center," he adds. "To be developing a commercial amenity park strictly to support a larger economic development project speaks to the confidence the community has in this major regional commerce center.”
Source: Andy Skrip, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh's Astrobotic prepares for 2015 moon launch

From an old metal stamping building in Pittsburgh's Strip District, Astrobotic Technology is preparing to launch a mission to the moon on October 16, 2015.
The company is actively selling "payload" or cargo space at a price of $500,000 per pound to fly aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, along with an Astrobotic robotic lander and rover.
"It’s a little bit like UPS or FedEx delivery to the moon," says CEO John Thornton. Astrobotic has capacity for 600 pounds of payload; so far, they have been contracted to carry human ashes and a Japanese soft drink, in addition to a multi-million contract with NASA for data collection.
Paid space exploration is not new -- the International Space Station is the model -- but this will be the first private concern ever to land on the moon. (So far only three governments, the United States, the former USSR and, more recently, China, have reached the lunar surface.)
"It’s a game changer for space exploration," says Thornton. Potential markets include scientific and research organizations who want to conduct experiments or deliver instruments, governments interested in boosting national pride ("We’re selling Apollo moments") and marketing concerns, like the Japanese company who will promote itself as the first soft drink on the moon.
The flight will launch from Florida, but mission control will revert to Pittsburgh. The landing site is Lacus Mortis, a lunar "skylight" or 300-foot-deep pit that may lead to an underground cave formed by lava flow. The Astrobotic rover will drive around and look down with an eye towards a future mission exploring the slopes.
Since the last time Keystone Edge checked in with Astrobotic in 2012, the company has made significant progress towards winning the Google Lunar XPrize, worth millions. The company, founded in 2008 as a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, currently employs 14 and is planning to hire another four as it prepares to move to an expanded 5,200-square-foot space that will accommodate offices and construction of its spacecraft.
Source: John Thornton, Astrobotic Technology
Writer: Elise Vider

Willow Grove's TextGen enables customer-to-business messaging

Customer service line hell -- the endless series of prompts, the interminable wait to find and talk to a real person -- could become a thing of the past thanks to TextGen, a Willow Grove startup.
TextGen has developed a cloud-based application that text-enables business landlines, allowing companies to respond in real time to customer inquiries, and then store and evaluate the interactions in order to measure and improve customer service. Using just their phones, consumers can ask a question, check their bank balances, register a new product purchase, request a user manual or order a pizza, even without Wi-Fi access. 
"The practical, real-world applications are just immeasurable," says Gary Pudles who co-founded the company last year with Thomas Howe and Noah Rafalko. "Anything you can do by voice, you can do by text."
With the ubiquity of text messaging and the advent of text-enabled toll-free numbers, Pudles says the growth potential for TextGen is enormous. 
Pudles is a serial entrepreneur -- he's lost track of exactly how many startups he's been involved with -- and CEO of AnswerNet, a large provider of call center services. The idea for TextGen came from an AnswerNet customer inquiry at a time when the three co-founders were looking for a business opportunity. Splentastic, a company co-owned by Pudles and Howe, developed the technology.
TextGen, which currently employs two, is actively fundraising and recently got a boost as a winner of the 4th annual Innovation Showcase competition sponsored by Enterprise Connect
Source: Gary Pudles, TextGen
Writer: Elise Vider

Changes point to growth at INDIGO Biosciences in State College

Founded in State College in 2005, INDIGO Biosciences has a new CEO, new investment, a new distribution partner and a new attitude.
The plan, says CEO Fred Marroni, who joined INDIGO in December, "is to move the company out of the startup framework into a full-fledged business." INDIGO is Marroni’s seventh startup; he is a former executive-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse
INDIGO is a contract research organization that provides testing products and screening services, determining how various compounds affect the receptors inside a cell’s nucleus. INDIGO’s technology can ascertain not only the efficacy of a compound, but potential adverse effects, and can test at multiple doses.
Marroni is steering the company towards new markets. Besides drug discovery, the technology has applications in agriculture (testing for the effects of genetically modified produce, for example) and chemical and nutraceutical manufacturing. INDIGO, says Marroni, "can put science behind nutraceuticals" which are largely unregulated. "We can give them scientific evidence -- yes or no."
Another "big strategic shift is to try to develop a stronger partner channel," explains Marroni. The company recently entered into a distribution agreement with Cayman Chemical Company to boost sales worldwide. They also plan to expand INDIGO’s product line and are currently working on toxicology tests.
The company recently raised $250,000, half from the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania and half in only 10 weeks from angel investors. Marroni has created the company’s first inside sales position, bringing the workforce to 10 full-timers. He expects INDIGO to be break-even by the end of the year and to add another three jobs.
Source: Fred Marroni, Indigo Biosciences
Writer: Elise Vider

A robotics 'wow' for West Chester's ONExia

It’s been less than two years since Boston’s Rethink Robotics launched its game-changing Baxter Robot, and West Chester’s ONExia became the region’s exclusive distributor.
A few weeks ago, ONExia blogged about a "wow!" moment as it tested a beta version of the latest Baxter software. Founder and CEO Greg Selke is still psyched. Software updates for most industrial robots, Selke explains, are for small tweaks and bug fixes. What distinguishes Baxter is that its software "has continued to evolve, and that’s been the plan from the beginning." Baxter’s periodic software updates are a strong selling point for ONExia -- they can assure customers that the robot’s performance and potential will continue to grow. 
The "wow” moment came when ONExia’s tests found that a move that used to take as long as 15 seconds now takes six or six-and-one-half seconds, with improved accuracy.

"Baxter will now be able to work at a true human cadence, especially over sustained time," explains the blog post. 
Selke estimates that the new software, expected to be officially released later this month, boosts the robot's output by more than 50 percent by providing "a much more fluid and smooth motion so Baxter can perform repetitive tasks more quickly." 
Next for Baxter, says Selke, is software that enables it to "see," so that it can find and recognize particular objects. That upgrade is likely later this year. The Baxter Research Robot is also being sold to universities and research institutions that are developing their own software for the robot -- the ultimate vision is for a kind of iTunes store where Baxter owners can customize their robots.
Source: Greg Selke, ONExia
Writer: Elise Vider

Latest Pittsburgh scorecard tallies 302 deals worth of investment and job growth

Between new facilities, company expansions, attraction and retention of companies and startups, there were 302 economic development deals in the Pittsburgh region in 2013; that's a 12 percent increase. 
In its annual scorecard, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) reported that regional economic development deals totaled $2.4 billion in capital investment. PRA projected that 2013 activity will retain 1,669 jobs and create 6,983 new ones as announced deals come to fruition.
Financial and business services continued to be the backbone of the regional economy, but the big news was the growth in the region’s information and communications sector, which assumed second place for number of deals, growing from 33 in 2012 to 51 in 2013, its biggest spike since 2008. 
Jim Futrell, PRA’s vice president of market research, predicts continued growth in the IT sector. "Considering the presence of Carnegie Mellon and the 2,000 IT graduates coming from the region’s colleges and universities each year, the region is well positioned to become a major technology hub in the foreseeable future," he says.
The region also remains true to its industrial roots, with advanced manufacturing the most active sector for deals in 2013.

"The Pittsburgh region still makes things: specialty metals, medical devices, robots and turbines, to name a few," says PRA President Dewitt Peart. "We’re a manufacturer to the world, capitalizing on technology to make processes precise, sophisticated and efficient."
"While employment growth seems to have plateaued, the outlook for the region is still sound," adds Futrell. "We should continue to experience growth in critical sectors like financial and business services, and energy.  And manufacturing -- which has fueled our economy for some 200 years -- has been a very active sector in terms of business investment deals and activity.  
"What is critical for the region’s future is making sure that individuals entering the workforce have the skills needed to fill the 20,000-plus jobs open in the region right now," he continues. "More than half of these currently open jobs require tech skills, and that requisite won’t be changing any time soon. Tech is driving a 'new workforce order' in the Pittsburgh region. The demand for tech-savvy employees -- across all industries -- is only going to increase."
Source: Jim Futrell, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
Writer: Elise Vider 

Philadelphia's Invisible Sentinel expands in plain sight

Philadelphia’s Invisible Sentinel continues to grow more visible.
Back in October, Keystone Edge reported that the company was launching its core product, Veriflow, a rapid diagnostic test to detect foodborne pathogens.
Last month, Veriflow was approved for detection of Salmonella. Earlier this year, it added Listeria. Invisible Sentinel now covers more than 90 percent of the food safety test market, says Ben Pascal, chief business officer and co-founder with Nick Siciliano.
The Salmonella approval is especially significant. The bacteria can be found (spoiler alert!) in ready-to-eat foods, deli meats, dairy products and on preparation surfaces. It accounts for 42,000 reported cases of food poisoning annually (though the actual number may be far higher) and 400 deaths.
In January, Invisible Sentinel announced a partnership with Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma, California, to develop a diagnostic tool for Brettanomyces, a yeast that can foul the taste of wine and give it an odor sometimes described as "barnyard-y" (hardly a desirable bouquet). Pennsylvania Bio nominated the partnership for its Deal of the Year award. (PA Bio also presented Paul Touhey, Invisible Sentinel’s executive chairman, with its 2014 Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Leadership Award.)
Invisible Sentinel recently closed on a $7 million private stock deal -- according to Pascal, those funds are being used to ramp up manufacturing and outfit the new corporate headquarters at West Philadelphia's University City Science Center. The company is moving one floor up into 7,500 square feet to accommodate increased production, R&D and corporate offices.
On the R&D side, the company is working on diagnostics for E.coli and on other applications in the craft brewing and wine industries.
The company currently has 21 people on the payroll (19 in Philadelphia), and Pascal expects to add another five to 10 this year.
"This has been a big year for us," he adds. "Last year was about coming out of the gate. Now there is significant demand for our products and we are scaling to meet future demand."
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/SEP continues flurry of investment in Greater Philadelphia

With $8.1 million invested in 43 companies in 2013, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) ranked as the second most active investor in Greater Philadelphia, according to a new report by PwC MoneyTree
"Clearly this ranking and the diversity of our investments this past year demonstrate the sustained, vital role of Ben Franklin in catalyzing our innovative talent to solve business and societal challenges and open new markets that create good jobs and drive new growth," says RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP’s president and CEO.
BFTP/SEP also came in as the fifth most active investor in the nation during the fourth quarter.
BFTP/SEP says the information technology sector comprised 44 percent of its 2013 deals, while life sciences and physical sciences/energy captured 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Investments included AboutOne, Community Energy, EyeIC, FLOWatchiMomentous, LuxTech, QLIDA Diagnostics, QR Pharma, Rumble News, RxSport Corporation, Solar Grid StoragetapCLIQZaahah  and ZSX Medical
Also in 2013, Ben Franklin companies attracted over $160 million in follow-on financing while several others went public or were acquired. These include Altosoft (acquired for $13.5 million), Aprecia Pharmaceuticals (raised $14.9 million), BioConnect Systems (raised $9.1 million), Ceptaris (acquired for $250 million), Clutch (raised $5.3 million), Coldlight Solutions (raised $10 million), InstaMed (raised $3.5 Million), Monetate (raised more than $20 million), NuPathe (acquired for $144 million) and Onconova Therapeutics (IPO totaled $79.6 million). 
Since 2001, BFTP/SEP has committed $70 million to over 495 early stage companies and leveraged $1.4 billion in follow-on investment. Its client companies created or retained over 3900 high-tech jobs.
Source: RoseAnn Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Lewisburg's Brighton Training Group provides food and nutrition e-learning for teachers

The scourge of childhood obesity is well documented. But in order to teach children about nutrition and healthy eating, someone has to teach the teachers. Lewisburg's Brighton Training Group, an online training development company focused on providing e-learning solutions for K-12 school food and nutrition programs, is doing just that.
Launched last year by Mike Matukaitis and Eric Hunt, Brighton offers ready-to-use USDA-compliant training videos that can be customized to an organization's specific needs. They also provide automated tools to deploy, track and follow-up on training. Brighton's cloud-based web app, Brighton KB, is designed to present common questions or problems, and provide a solution.
What makes Brighton unique, says Matukaitis, is that it uses open source material. But just because it’s free doesn’t make it easy to use, so Brighton helps set it up, customize it, host it, support it and back it up, providing "all the technology behind it to make it run and make it look pretty."
The company is working on a big project with the Delaware Department of Education and other partners on food and nutrition training for early-childhood educators and food handlers.
Matukaitis and Hunt worked together at Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit and both have extensive e-learning and training experience. Their network and experience led them to the food and nutrition sector, but Matukaitis says the company is open to other education clients who have content, but don’t know how to deliver it online. And they are working on other online tools for in-person training. 
For now, the company is based out of the Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator; Brighton expects to hire its first sale representative in July.
Source: Mike Matukaitis, Brighton Training Group
Writer: Elise Vider
2129 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts