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Shale innovators win funding and exposure in third annual Innovation Contest

Four companies will share a $100,000 purse to develop their innovative, shale-related product or service as winners of the 3rd Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest, sponsored by the Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (SGICC),  a Ben Franklin Technology Partners-supported center. 

One winner, KCF Technologies, Inc. of State College, has developed a low-cost, low-power sensor used for wireless monitoring of rotating equipment, also known as condition-based maintenance. Current customers include the pulp and paper industry and the building maintenance sector. As reported last year in Keystone Edge, KCF is diversifying into the oil and gas industry, and with the support of an SGICC seed grant, is conducting a demonstration project to prove the value of its technology to this new market segment.

OPTIMUM Pumping Technology in Morgan was named a winner for its high-performance manifolds -- they reciprocate natural gas compressors, eliminating pulsation control bottles and their vibration-related failures, significantly improving compressor reliability and operating efficiency. TM Industrial Supply of Erie won thanks to its technology that filters contaminants from the natural extraction process.

A fourth company, NG Innovations, Inc. of West Virginia, was also named a winner. 

Opportunity abounds, but bringing shale-related products and services to market can be daunting, says SGICC Director Bill Hall.

"Until you’ve been in the trenches, so to speak, it’s hard to explain how challenging it is to advance an idea all the way to commercial success," he explains. "SGICC’s job is to sort through the dozens and dozens of promising ideas, and identify the ones that we can impact by shining a light on them using a small amount of seed funding, and then helping them vet their concept with potential end users.”

The contest brings value, he adds, not only for the dollars but also for the wide industry exposure. He cites REV LNG of Ulysses, one of last year's winners and a supplier of "on demand" liquid natural gas. CEO David Kailbourne says the win was instrumental in propelling recent company growth.

"Our process is making a difference for the next generation of shale energy innovators," says Hall. "Our partnership with many of the leading shale energy companies helps expose these ideas to the right audience, and fast track the best ones to a successful commercial launch."

Source: Bill Hall, SGICC
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/SEP invests $975,000 in nine startups

Startups working on social gaming, a meal-planning app, a sports video publishing platform and medical technology and devices are among nine early-stage regional companies approved for a total investment of $975,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) 

BioDetego, LLC of Philadelphia will receive $50,000 to further develop VASPfore, a new biomarker test for selecting cancer treatment protocols. BioDetego predicts that the VASPfore will save millions of dollars a year by reducing total treatment costs.

Essential Medical in Chester County has been awarded $75,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $500,000) to develop X-SealTM and MANTATM, two innovative vascular closure devices. These devices are used to close incisions in the leg artery after cardiac catheterizations.
 
Fitly, Inc. of Philadelphia will receive $50,000. The company's web app allows customers to personalize weekly meal plans featuring healthy recipes in less than five minutes; the necessary ingredients and cooking instructions are then delivered to the diner's door. 
 
Grand Round Table of Philadelphia has been awarded $50,000. GRT has developed an innovative clinical decision support tool integrated into the electronic health record. GRT helps hospitals and clinics save time and money by directing doctors to appropriate solutions faster, reducing the number of unnecessary tests, ineffective treatments and consultations that patients receive.

HealthQx in Montgomery County will receive $250,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $150,000). This healthcare technology company delivers a big-data driven SaaS solution to healthcare payers, providers and partners on the leading edge of the shift from fee-for-service to transparent, value-based healthcare payment.

MemVu in Bucks County has been awarded $50,000. This social gaming company delivers an innovative and engaging brain fitness gaming platform that facilitates the involvement of families and caregivers in the care, socialization and stimulation of loved ones suffering from a brain health condition such as Alzheimer’s.
 
NETMINDER in Montgomery County will use its $150,000 to increase the sustainable efficacy of saltwater nets, traps and related equipment -- their products dramatically decrease underwater fouling by using nontoxic coatings. 
 
SideCar in Philadelphia has been awarded $100,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $385,000). The company is positioning itself as a name-brand powerhouse in the world of big data marketing solutions by combining paid search, comparison shopping, on-site personalization and personalized email.
 
SilverLine Global in Philadelphia will receive $200,000. A digital video publishing platform for the endurance sports industry, the company enables endurance sports events to leverage digital video directly on their websites and social media. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

A father-daughter team spearheads Kempton's Tree Armor

In 1992, when Jill Saunders was a year old, her family planted 20 sycamores and maples on their Kempton farm. Since then, only one of those trees has survived the year-round damage done by deer.
 
Jill and her father, Jim, tried wrapping their trees with a variety of tree guards -- "glorified ace bandages," recalls Jill. Eventually, the pair decided to design a better tree guard.
 
Their invention, Tree Armor, is a coiled PVC plastic engineered to unwind around any size trunk. The product is brown and almost invisible from a short distance. It is reusable, perforated to prevent mold and mildew, and certified to be free of heavy metals and other toxins that can leach into the ground, a critical factor for orchard farmers and food growers.
 
And the product is now made in America, a special point of pride for the Saunders family.

"Dad and I took our prototypes to 12 different extruders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware," says Jill. "Some wouldn't even bid on making samples. Others couldn't give us a price that we could sell at. We were frustrated when we sent the prototypes to China. The Chinese were glad to make our initial order -- the price was right and the quality was pretty good. The second order came back at a higher cost and the quality wasn't nearly as good. That last order made us more determined to find an American manufacturer."
 
A sales call to Lehigh University resulted in an introduction to Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center; they connected Tree Armor with GSH Industries in Ohio, who began manufacturing the product in November.
 
That third run of 30,000 pieces is selling well over the Internet, and Tree Armor hopes to move into big-box retail. Meanwhile, the Saunders have invented a new product, Tree Armor Plus, a tree guard impregnated with a scent that repels deer, rabbits and rodents. 
 
Source: Jill Saunders, Tree Armor
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Penn State student entrepreneurs earn scholarship support

Coffee, tea, beer, spirits -- how do makers of craft beverages like these measure and quantify flavor in a consistent, even standardized, way? 

Analytical Flavor Systems aims to solve that problem with Gastrograph, a tech-based flavor analysis system for artisan products.

Jason Cohen founded the company in 2012 as an outgrowth of his undergraduate research at Penn State. Now co-founder and frontend developer John Dori, a junior at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), has been awarded the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship, which carries a $10,000 stipend, along with support from a faculty mentor and the opportunity to earn six credits while working on the startup.

Gastrograph is based on Cohen's research "and thousands of Gastrograph reviews done in pen and paper and manually entered into a database in order to help producers of artisan coffee, beer and spirits understand their products' flavor profiles and make a more consistent product," explains Dori.

The company currently has nine employees (including Ted Papaioannou, the other co-founder) who live and work together in State College, and four customers: Otto's Brewery, Robin Hood Brewery, DJ Coffee and Perfect Coffee.

"We've begun development on two sensors that will be used inside of coffee roasters and beer tanks as the products are made," says Dori. "[This provides] the producer with as much data about their product as possible."

The startup is also planning to release an iOS version of its Gastrograph Review app by September.

Meanwhile, IST sophomore Jules Dupont received the Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship for his startup, Mobile Library Apps, a product that provides mobile access to library catalogs. 

Rusenko, a 2007 IST alumnus and co-founder of Weebly, a San Francisco-based web hosting service, donated $400,000 in 2012 to establish the scholarships.

For more on how PA colleges and universities are fostering entrepreneurship, check out this week's lead feature.

Source: John Dori, Analytical Flavor Systems; Jules Dupont, Mobile Library Apps and IST
Writer: Elise Vider
 

PA businesses -- large and small, east and west -- to be honored with ImPAct Awards

An array of Pennsylvania companies -- everything from ABEC Inc. in Bethlehem to Zook Motors in Kane -- are finalists in the 2014 Governor’s ImPAct Awards

For the second year, the awards are aimed at celebrating "companies and individuals who are investing in Pennsylvania and creating jobs." The awards will be given at a May 30 luncheon at Hershey Lodge.

The finalists paint a picture of the Pennsylvania economy -- they range from small businesses to vast enterprises, startups to long-established companies, represent geographic diversity and come from a wide array of sectors. Where else would you find Webster’s Bookstore and Café in State College nominated in the same category as financial services giant Vanguard in Valley Forge?

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) led the process for nominations and selecting finalists. Two panels of judges from different parts of the state chose the 50 winners. Any size company is eligible, as long as they have significant operations in Pennsylvania and have been in business for at least one year. 

The awards will be given in five categories: Community Impact to a company that exemplifies the tenet of "doing well by doing good"; Entrepreneur Impact to recognize leadership via creativity, innovation, managerial ability, leadership skills or turnaround; Export Impact to a company that has significantly increased its export sales and number of new foreign markets since 2011; Jobs First, to recognize consistent job growth and retention; and Small Business Impact to a growing firm of 100 or fewer employees. 

Source: DCED and Laura Eppler, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA
Writer: Elise Vider
 

BFTP/NEP names its Innovation Award winners

Five cutting-edge companies and three invdividuals are being honored for their achievements as innovators and entrepreneurs by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). The winners of the 2014 Innovation Awards will be honored at the Ben Franklin i xchange event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. They are:
 
Saladax Biomedical, Inc., Bethlehem, for entrepreneurial achievement 
Saladax develops and commercializes diagnostic blood test kits that quickly, accurately and inexpensively personalize chemotherapy drug levels for optimal results. Saladax originally planned to launch in New Jersey, but chose instead to start in Ben Franklin's TechVentures. Saladax now holds 82 international patents and employs 45. 
 
Viddler, Inc., Bethlehem, incubator graduate award
Viddler delivers secure, interactive media solutions for thousands of business communication, learning and publishing clients in more than 150 countries. Viddler graduated from TechVentures in September 2011 and today employs 22 at its new Southside Bethlehem headquarters.
 
XiGo Nanotools,  Bethlehem, product innovation
XiGo Nanotools has commercialized three table-top devices for characterizing the nature of particles -- or emulsion droplets -- in liquids using patented magnetic resonance imaging technology. Ben Franklin invested a total of $400,000 in XiGo; the company is a resident at TechVentures.
 
Vitrius Technologies, Wilkes-Barre, innovative application of technology 
Vitrius Technologies provides smart window systems for the residential, commercial and architectural markets. Ben Franklin invested a total of $320,000 in Vitrius, and provided financial support for sales efforts and industry-required testing. The company is now beginning to commercialize its groundbreaking products.
 
Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC, Reading, manufacturing achievement
Cambridge-Lee Industries, the second largest plumbing tube manufacturer in the country, recently constructed a new 195,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to produce thin-wall copper tubes for the commercial HVAC market. (For more on Cambridge-Lee, check out this Q&A with CEO Andi Funk.)
 
PA Senator John R. Gordner and PA Senator John P. Blake, Special Achievement Senators
Gordner’s and Blake’s bi-partisan legislative efforts on behalf of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners will result in much-needed investment capital to significantly leverage private investment in promising companies for future job growth. They worked tirelessly to pass the crucial Innovate in PA legislation, providing a three-year infusion of funds to allow Ben Franklin to make impactful investments in deserving Pennsylvania companies.

Former PA Governor Dick Thornburgh, Partnership
Governor Dick Thornburgh was the leader with the foresight to establish the Ben Franklin Partnership in 1982. His idea has emerged as a resounding success and his work a lasting legacy. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners has dramatically strengthened the Pennsylvania economy and improved the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs, workers and their families.

Last year, more than 550 tech entrepreneurs, business people, economic developers, venture capitalists, political leaders, educators, students, bankers, lawyers and accountants attended i xchange; that number is expected to grow again this year. Jeff Hoffman, veteran of seven startups, including Priceline.com, will give the keynote address. The registration fee is $65 in advance; $75 the day of the event. To learn more or to register, visit nep.benfranklin.org or ennect.com/e2331, email ixchange@nep.benfranklin.org or call 610-758-5200.

Source: BFTP/NEP
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
 

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 
 
 
 

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
 

Pittsburgh's PECA Labs develops valve to treat rate pediatric cardiac defect

2012 Carnegie Mellon graduate Doug Bernstein speaks from the heart when discussing Pittsburgh's PECA Labs -- Bernstein was born with a congenital heart defect and required delicate surgery at birth.
 
Then, in his sophomore year of college, he landed a job as a research assistant, working with Dr. Masahiro Yoshida, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Yoshida was developing a valve for implantation in children who need reconstruction of the right ventricular outflow tract, a rare heart defect. The invention achieved clinical results far surpassing the prevailing treatment (which uses a biologic valve from a cow, pig or human). Made instead from a flexible Teflon material, the new valve is better tolerated and, importantly, minimizes the number of surgeries -- typically three or four -- required as the child grows.
 
The success of the device raised questions for Bernstein.

"If this is so much better, why is it available only in Pittsburgh?" he asks. "Why not make it available to kids all around the world? That’s what got me falling down the rabbit hole of entrepreneurism.”
 
Today, PECA Labs has produced a manufactured version of its Masa Valve, named for Yoshida, and will do its final testing over the course of the year. Bernstein anticipates a 2015 market launch. 
 
PECA has raised $840,000 from sources including Innovation Works and Carnegie Mellon's Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund. Commercialization will cost about $2 million, many times less than the typical medical device, and the process will be expedited in large part due to the device falling under the FDA's Humanitarian Device Exemption.
 
The potential market is small: only about 3,200 patients a year and about 100 pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons in the country. Now PECA has received a grant from the Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium for R&D on a similar device to treat "the Norwood Procedure," another pediatric procedure with a high mortality rate. 
 
For now, PECA has three on staff, but Bernstein expects that with market launch, sales and marketing positions will bring the staff to 10.
 
Source: Doug Bernstein, PECA Labs
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Non-profit pursues research and drug development while offering services to the scientific community

A rarity in the biosciences, The Pennsylvania Drug Discovery Institute (PDDI) is a non-profit with the dual mission of conducting research in early drug discovery and functioning as a think tank and service provider to the scientific community on issues such as workplace reentry and mentoring entrepreneurs.
 
Allen Reitz and Kathleen Czupich founded PDDI in 2010 at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, where its non-research functions remain. More recently, PDDI established a formal research presence at the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator in West Philadelphia. Doron Greenbaum, PDDI's new director of research operations and a former professor at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school, is studying treatments for neglected and orphan diseases such as malaria and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
 
PDDI's non-profit status "gives us more leeway to focus on basic and translational science," says Greenbaum. His focus on those orphan diseases, with their small market potential, is a case in point. PDDI itself is not set up to take a new drug all the way to clinical trial, but as research progresses they might partner with an organization such as the Gates Foundation or the Stanford Research Institute and could eventually license for-profit spin-offs. 
 
There are only a handful of organizations structured like PDDI, says Greenbaum. The well-established Stanford institute, which has brought a number of therapeutics to market over many years, is one model. 
 
PDDI's non-research activities include helping displaced biomedical researchers re-enter the workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and serving as a think tank to brainstorm ways to gain efficiencies and productivity in early drug discovery research. The organization also publishes a journal called Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship.
 
"As a 501(c)(3), we can do these sorts of things," says Greenbaum. "A for-profit would never since they have to focus on the bottom line."
 
Source: Doron Greenbaum, PDDI
Writer: Elise Vider
 

DreamIt Health seeks applications for its sophomore class of startups

DreamIt Health Philadelphia, the region's first healthcare accelerator, is accepting applications for its sophomore class.
 
They will accept applications through May 16 from startups worldwide in the healthcare sector, and expect to select up to 10 companies by June 16, based on the strength of the teams, market potential and traction to date. During the four-month bootcamp (starting July 18), the teams will work at DreamIt Ventures' headquarters in West Philadelphia.
 
Each participating team will receive a stipend of $50,000, in-depth coaching from successful entrepreneurs, and access to other critical healthcare-specific resources to rapidly develop and test its product, validate its business model, and launch the product. The program will culminate in a "Demo Day" -- participating companies will present their progress and future plans to an audience of leading investors and industry figures.
 
Last year's inaugural class brought six promising healthcare startups from across the country to Philadelphia to work alongside four Philadelphia-born companies on a wide range of significant healthcare problems, including hospital readmissions, cost transparency, healthcare payments, clinical communications, and mobile diagnostics. All ten companies, eight of which are still in the region, are continuing to achieve key business milestones.
 
"Many of healthcare's most challenging problems are at the intersection between the doctor or hospital and the health insurer," says Elliot Menschik, DreamIt Venture's managing partner for healthcare. "Startups don’t typically have early access to the customers and users they need to fully grasp the problems, craft meaningful solutions and then rapidly implement and test them in real-world environments. What makes DreamIt Health unlike any other accelerator is the depth and intensity of collaboration among the DreamIt teams and our strategic partners to more rapidly develop and deliver enterprise-grade products that create real value for customers and the foundation for scalable businesses."

As reported last week in Keystone Edge, Independence Blue Cross, a partner in the accelerator along with Penn Medicine, will invest up to $50 million in health related venture funds and early stage companies in the coming years. 
 
Source: DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Allentown's Gonzo Pockets offers modern material for an ancient sport

Lacrosse, an ancient game, is getting a high-tech boost from a specialized material developed by a pair of LAX-playing brothers in Allentown, Pa. The sport is a fast-growing phenomenon with ancient origins, tracing back to Native American culture; some accounts date it back as far as 1100 AD. 
 
Lou and Desi Gonzalez founded Gonzo Pockets in 2013. Their Gonzo Mesh, which makes it easier to string lacrosse sticks and overcome the inconsistencies created by weather, is sold at more than 100 specialty shops across the United States and Canada. 
 
"We collected a lot of feedback from people," says Lou. "Changes in the weather, such as what happens when the mesh is wet, what happens when the weather is really hot and dry, affect the accuracy of the player's throws. We invented a product that takes away all of that. It gives you the consistency you want regardless of conditions."
 
The Gonzalez brothers were high school and collegiate lacrosse stars and Lou represented Spain in the World Games in 2006. Lou founded the Lehigh Valley Skyhawks Academy where the brothers provide coaching, training and development for youth lacrosse.  
 
Gonzo Pockets is a tenant at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center (the incubator was recently profiled in Keystone Edge). The young company has already generated $150,000 in revenue over an eight-month period. Gonzo partner Tom Schmitt estimates that they should reach the $400,000-to-$450,000 range over the next year or so, based on demand and current performance.
 
"We expect to be able to help Gonzo Pockets think through the process of adding additional products to their offerings over the next few years that will help them continue along a strong growth path," says Anthony Durante, economic development specialist for the Allentown Economic Development Corporation.
 
Source: Anthony Durante, AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider
 

IBC Center for Health Care Innovation hopes to turn SE PA into Silicon Valley of health care

With the aim of transforming southeastern Pennsylvania into the "Silicon Valley of health care innovation," Independence Blue Cross (IBC) has opened a new center it hopes will be a national magnet for industry-leading innovations.
 
Terry Booker, IBC's vice president for corporate development and innovation, says that this is a new area -- but a logical fit -- for insurers.

"We process claims," he says. "And we get to think about the ways that health care can be provided more efficiently and provide better outcomes, resulting in lower premium payments by our members."
 
As part of the new initiative, IBC announced that it will invest up to $50 million in health-related venture funds and early stage companies to promote innovation through new technologies, products and services. Booker says that about half of the capital will be provided through private equity funds and other professional investors. The other half will be in the form of direct investments in early-stage companies that do business with IBC, preferably in southeastern Pennsylvania. IBC, he emphasizes, would not be the lead investor but would provide support for promising technologies or approaches.
 
The center will also serve as IBC's point-of-contact to DreamIt Health Philadelphia. The accelerator, housed at Drexel University, began accepting applications for its 2014 cohort this month. The center will also continue to support research underway with New York University and the NYU Langone Medical Center to better detect undiagnosed diabetes, and studies with Penn Medicine that include using mobile technology to improve medication adherence, understanding the impact of genome testing to improve cancer treatment and outcomes, and evaluating care delivery to improve outcomes for stroke patients. The center will also host a new regional task force for health care innovation, a working group of the CEO Council for Growth.
 
The 5,000-square-foot center at IBC's Center City Philadelphia headquarters is designed to promote collaboration and innovation.

"It’s a departure from the typical corporate environment," says Booker. 
 
Source: Terry Booker, IBC
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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