| Follow Us:

Innovation & Job News

2128 Articles | Page: | Show All

Uber and Carnegie Mellon head down the road towards driver-less cars with new research lab

As it continues its efforts towards world domination, Uber, the popular tech-based car-ride service, is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) on the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

"The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere," the partners said in making the announcement.

The partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff and students -- both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center  -- to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

Uber apps connect drivers to riders who can summon and pay for rides via their mobile phones. Founded in 2009, Uber now operates in more than 200 cities in 54 countries worldwide.

"Uber is a rapidly growing company known for its innovative technology that is radically improving access to transportation for millions of global citizens," says Andrew Moore, dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science. "CMU is renowned for innovations that transform lives. We look forward to partnering with Uber as they build out the Advanced Technologies Center and to working together on real-world applications, which offer very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions."

The agreement also includes funding from Uber for faculty chairs and graduate fellowships.

"We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched," says Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer. "As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber."

Source: Uber and Carnegie Mellon University
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Second Time Around: LightLab International Allentown reunites two veteran entrepreneurs

Two of the entrepreneurs behind the first client at Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center are back a quarter-century later with a new venture, LightLab International Allentown.

Mike Grather and Tracy Silvert managed Luminaire Testing Labs (LTL) when it launched in 1989. Grather joined LTL as one of its first employees and purchased the company from its founder three years later. By the time LTL was sold 12 years later it had grown to $2 million in annual revenue with nine employees. Along the way, Grather hired Silvert to manage operations. 

Now the two are back together with an eye towards the expanding market for LED lighting.

"As we were growing LTL, we were able to fuel it by taking advantage of the expanding use of compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and the subsequent introduction of LED lamps," says Grather. "Because of their energy efficiency, we are seeing that LED bulbs are proliferating in the market much like CFL bulbs did. It’s a market that we know well and are very excited to re-enter."

LightLab International Allentown, which plans to be operational by April, will be an ISO-accredited photometric testing laboratory providing testing services for the lighting industry (primarily the North American market). Typical products for testing would include bulbs (replacement lamps) and lighting fixtures (luminaires) for use in interior, outdoor, parking-area, roadway and floodlighting applications.

"There is an industry-wide need for technical customer support to help lighting manufacturers navigate the many new standards, specifications and regulations that have arisen in the past five to 10 years," explains Grather. "We also have the experience needed to work with manufacturers’ engineering departments to help customize testing to fit their research and development needs."
 
LightLab International is based in Australia, where they manufacture testing equipment, and perform testing and calibration services. LightLab opened a testing laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. The Allentown operation will operate under the LightLab name, but will be its own entity with its own management.

"Like any other startup, we raised our own funding, operate on our own finances, and will proceed with business without any managerial or financial involvement from the other labs," insists Grather.

Hence the location in a business incubator.

"This is the story every business incubator looks for," says Anthony Durante, program manager for Allentown Economic Development Corporation. "We are bringing back an entrepreneur who had successfully grown and exited a company that originated in our program. The team is back because they know firsthand the benefits of being part of a program like ours."

Sources: AEDC and Mike Grather, LightLab International Allentown
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Girl Power: DreamIt Athena announces its first class of female entrepreneurs

Philadelphia’s DreamIt Athena, a new accelerator track aimed at female entrepreneurs, has announced its first cohort. The selected companies will take up residence at DreamIt Ventures HQ, housed at the Innovation Center @3401, through May. They will each receive $25,000 in seed money, along with female-centric guidance on raising capital, developing mentors and networks, and self-promoting.

"Female entrepreneurs face a level of scrutiny that places them at a disadvantage from the start," says Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt’s managing partner. "For all the talk about the unique challenges female founders face, there's been little action in how to solve such issues. DreamIt took the lead by being the first top-tier accelerator to solve the problem. We’re going beyond typical platforms of discussion and networking [and hope to] change the dynamic of what’s been the startup norm for far too long. 

"DreamIt Athena aims to make a significant difference by providing specific, dedicated resources that help remove the all-too-common barriers," she continues. "[That way] female founders can develop the required skill sets to build sustainable, competitive businesses. Without a doubt, we expect to see significant personal development and company milestones throughout the cycle."

The Athena companies are:

Captain Planner (Boston) streamlines the process of trip-planning by aggregating information on attractions, restaurants and events, while providing reviews and map-centric itineraries. 

Forecastr (Detroit) provides ready-made analytics and predictive recommendations specifically tailored for television executives available via the cloud. 

LIA Diagnostics (Philadelphia) is developing a flushable pregnancy test, helping women address the challenges surrounding privacy, usability and sustainability in current at-home diagnostics. 

Ohneka Farms (Mount Laurel, N.J.) is a social enterprise focusing on urban farming products and services. They are developing ROOT, a smart countertop planter that enables users to grow organic edible plants at home with minimal maintenance.
 
Roar For Good (Philadelphia) is a social impact company with the mission of reducing assaults against women through wearable technology, empowerment and education. The initial product line combines fashionable self-defense jewelry and mobile technology to reduce the incidences of assault against women. 

The Athena companies will work alongside these other startups at DreamIt:

Bungalow Insurance (San Diego) is building the first online, independent, renters’ insurance platform to improve insurance experiences for millennials. 
  
Commit Analytics (King of Prussia) optimizes human performance using machine learning algorithms to design data-driven solutions for athletes and health-conscious consumers. 
 
IglooHome (Singapore) is developing smart home technologies that offer Airbnb hosts a novel way to welcome guests; they focus on convenience, safety and cost savings. 
 
LocoRobo (Philadelphia) is a non-profit robotics company whose mission is to provide educational and scientific training using high-quality robotics platforms, promoting STEM education and workforce development. 
 
Whose Your Landlord (Elliott City, Maryland) is a website and mobile app enabling renters to rate their landlords and housing complexes, and giving them the ability to find their next home. 

Source: Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ultra energy-efficient Scranton Passive House nears completion

Construction is nearly complete on the Scranton Passive House, which promises to use 80 percent less energy that its more conventional downtown neighbors.

Milford architect Richard Pedranti designed the structure after completing training on passive architecture in 2013.

"Passive house offers an elegant solution to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in our buildings," he explains. "But equally important, passive house is about building comfortable, healthy and durable buildings with excellent indoor air quality."

Passive houses conserve energy by creating a virtually airtight, super-insulated, compact building envelope. Using detailed and specific weather data, high-performance windows are oriented to control solar gain and shading. A heat (or energy) recovery ventilator serves as the lungs of a passive house by providing a constant supply of filtered fresh air.

According to Pedranti, there are about 30,000 to 50,000 passive houses in Europe; North America has fewer than 300 such structures and the Scranton House is the first in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

(Passive architecture is applicable to all building types, from a single-family house to a skyscraper, and can be designed according to any aesthetic, according to the Passive House Institute U.S.) 

Christie Karpiak and Declan Mulhall, both professors at the University of Scranton, commissioned the Scranton Passive House and plan to move in in April. Construction costs for the 2,100 square foot house were $165 per square foot, not including land and fees.

Pedranti is now at work on four more single-family passive houses in the area.

Source: Richard Pedranti, Richard Pedranti Architect
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Erie Insurance opens first of its big downtown projects

Erie Insurance has cut the ribbon on its new state-of-the-art Technical Learning Center, the first of a trio of real estate projects in downtown Erie.

The 52,000-square-foot claims training facility incorporates a three-story model house (boasting an attic and basement, and made from 400 different building materials), as well as sprinkler and building material work stations. The center also includes 14 vehicle bays with lifts, frame repair stations, wheel alignment machines, and prep and paint booths. 

"This training facility will enable employees to touch, feel, build and get a firsthand look at damage they encounter in the field," said Erie executive Chip Dufala in a statement. 

For many years, Erie had outsourced its claims training to third-party vendors.

"By creating an in-house training experience, we can ensure consistency in the learning environment and techniques, and better instill the Erie approach to customer service," explains company spokeswoman Leah Knapp. "The skills we’ll teach will help us get our customers back in their homes, back on the road and back to normal after a loss."

Erie is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is on track with two other major development projects near its downtown home office. One is the transformation of the 100-year-old C. F. Adams Building, an early company headquarters, into the Erie Insurance Heritage Center. The other is the renovation of the 93-year-old Pennsylvania National Guard Armory into office space for the company, expanding its downtown campus footprint.

Redeveloping historic properties, "enables us to maintain the rich history of this region and incorporate it with the needs of a contemporary business," said Dufala when announcing the downtown plans in 2013.

CBT Architects of Boston designed the training center and its adjacent parking garage. The new facility also includes an installation by found-object artist Michelle Stitzlein, who recreated the Erie logo from repurposed automotive and building materials.
 
Source: Leah Knapp, Erie Insurance
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pew names Pennsylvania a 'rising clean energy leader'

Pennsylvania has developed a fast-growing clean energy economy, attracting billions in investment dollars for solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy technologies, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew found that between 2009 and 2013, Pennsylvania added nearly 1.4 gigawatts of clean energy capacity and attracted $3.5 billion in private investment. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth nationally in attracting private investment in clean energy at $841 million.

New project installations over the next decade are expected to add five gigawatts of capacity and generate $17.7 billion in investment, Pew added.

The organization attributes much of the activity to the state’s 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, and to federal and state incentives. 

"By setting a goal for renewable energy and offering incentives for clean energy projects, Pennsylvania has been able to attract private investment, create new jobs and diversify its energy mix," said Tom Swanson, manager of Pew’s clean energy initiative.

The state’s Energy Portfolio Standards call for 18 percent of the state’s electricity to come from advanced energy sources by 2021 -- eight percent from renewable power and the remaining 10 percent from other advanced technologies, including efficiency and innovations in fossil energy. Pew reported that because of this policy, solar power and industrial energy efficiency have grown rapidly -- 212 megawatts and 3.3 gigawatts respectively since 2013.

State and federal incentives have also boosted clean energy. Today, wind energy and hydropower account for the majority of the state’s renewable capacity. Pennsylvania’s installed wind capacity is enough to power over 300,000 homes. Pennsylvania ranks ninth in homes powered by solar (nearly 25,000), 11th in capacity added in 2013, and 11th in jobs supported by the industry (2,900).

Industrial energy efficiency technologies -- such as combined heat and power from a single fuel source, and reusing waste heat -- are also in play. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth for total installed capacity of these technologies, eighth for capacity added that year and eighth for private investment in the sector. 

Still, challenges remain. For example, Pew cited the import of electricity from out-of-state solar projects, "effectively outsourcing some of the economic benefits the standards were designed to generate in-state."

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Writer: Elise Vider

Promising healthcare research gets funding from University City Science Center

Researchers in Greater Philadelphia developing technologies for high-speed eye exams, cancer treatment and healthcare sanitation will receive funding through the seventh round of the University City Science Center's  QED Proof-of-Concept Program

The program, started in 2009, funds novel university technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and product commercialization. To date, 24 QED projects have attracted $14.8 million in follow-on funding, leading to six licensed technologies.

"QED continues to resonate with both the academic and funding community," says Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "The number of submissions continues to increase round over round as academic researchers identify ways to commercialize their emerging technologies. At the same time, the support of our funders enables us to continue to facilitate the development of these exciting technologies and contribute to the robust life science ecosystem in the Greater Philadelphia region."

The new awardees include: 
  • Dr. Chao Zhou of Lehigh University, who is developing a diagnostic instrument that will allow faster, more sensitive eye exams for macular degeneration and glaucoma, improving an approach known as optical coherence tomography (OCT).
  • Dr. William Wuest of Temple University, who is developing the next generation of disinfectants for a variety of commercial industries including healthcare, transportation, water and energy.
  • Dr. Sunday Shoyele of Thomas Jefferson University, who is developing a product for delivering highly-degradable gene inhibitors to cancer and other cells using antibody-based nanoparticles.
The QED grants will also support stem cell research at Rutgers University. The awardees will receive a total of $650,000 in funding, along with guidance from the Science Center's team of business advisors.

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Penn State researchers determine that printed books are better for sleep than e-readers

You there curled up late at night with your smartphone, tablet or e-reader. Having trouble sleeping? It may be that exposure to the device's light is messing with your circadian clock.

According to Researchers at Penn State, study participants took nearly 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and had a significantly lower amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep after reading from a light-emitting e-reader than they did after reading from a printed book.

Exposure to light during evening and early nighttime hours suppresses release of the sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin and shifts the circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. And electronic devices emit a form of light that "is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms," says Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of bio-behavioral health, who led the project.

Chang and colleagues observed 12 adults for two weeks, comparing when the participants read from an iPad before bedtime to when they read from a printed book before bedtime. The researchers monitored the participants' melatonin levels, sleep and next-morning alertness, as well as other sleep-related measures.

"Our most surprising finding was that individuals using the e-reader would be more tired and take longer to become alert the next morning," explains Chang. "This has real consequences for daytime functioning, and these effects might be worse in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment we used."

Chang anticipates that the findings will lead to further investigation of the effects of light-emitting technologies on sleep, including, for example, the timing of exposure to this light at different times of day.

"We hope this will lead to the development of technological devices that are more 'sleep compatible,'" she says. "We live in a sleep-restricted society in general -- it is important to further study the effects of using light-emitting devices, especially before bed, as they may have longer term health consequences than we previously considered."

Source: Anne-Marie Chang, Penn State University
Writer: Elise Vider

Hershey's Simulation Systems uses virtual reality to train microsurgeons

Just as pilots train on flight simulators before taking control of a real aircraft, doctors who perform delicate microsurgery require a training tool that allows them to learn and practice complex techniques without risking harm to patients or animals.

Simulation Systems is developing just such a tool: a simulator that uses virtual reality for microsurgical training.

The company’s device "combines proprietary computer hardware and software to enable virtual microsurgical suturing," explains CEO Brian Smith. "Highly specialized input devices that look, feel and respond like actual microsurgical forceps are used to control virtual forceps in a simulated three-dimensional environment. The virtual forceps can be used, as in real microsurgery, to tie surgical knots. Ultimately, the simulation will allow the user to pass sutures through simulated anatomy in order to practice closing wounds with realistic complexity."

Company founder Dr. Joseph Sassani, an eye surgeon and professor of ophthalmology at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, began research on the simulator five years ago. Simulation Systems was spun out of Penn State in 2013 after winning the TechCelerator @ Hershey Boot Camp  for promising entrepreneurs. The company, located at the Hershey Center for Applied Research, has since received two rounds of investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. 

Microsurgery is performed on the smallest and most delicate anatomy, such as blood vessels, nerves and structures of the eye.

"As with any fine motor activity, acquiring and retaining mastery requires frequent repetition, and this is where our simulator will have an immediate impact," says Smith.

Virtual reality microsurgical training will also be time and cost effective, and ethically responsible, eliminating the need for lab animals. And it will provide quantifiable data, such as hand motion analysis, to guide assessment of a trainee's skill level.

The company's current focus is on developing and implementing the physics required to simulate suturing interactions.

"At this point we have a functional prototype," explains Smith, "and we are improving the integration between software and hardware components." 

To date, most of Simulation Systems’ product development has been outsourced. Now the company is preparing to establish both its own software engineering team and a clinical advisory board, helping them establish the quantitative metrics that will be most valuable for skills assessment and validation in preparation for a mid-2016 launch.

Source: Brian Smith, Simulation Systems
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philly's Curbside Care aims to be the Uber of healthcare

Philadelphia’s Curbside Care has combined an old idea -- doctor house calls -- and a new one -- the Uber model -- to create technology that allows patients to schedule healthcare services when and where they want them.

Inspiration for Curbside Care came to co-founder Scott Ames when he was away from home and experienced a costly and time-consuming visit to an urgent care center. He and Grant Mitchell started the company based on the premise that "there are people out there who don't want to travel, who don't want to wait, and who appreciate transparent pricing," explains Mitchell. 

Located at the Digital Health Accelerator at the University City Science Center, Curbside Care is developing a tech platform and mobile app that allows patients to schedule house (or office or hotel) calls. Using HIPAA compliant, geolocation-based technology, medical practitioners confirm appointments and travel to deliver care, all in real time. 

"It is a bit ironic that advancement in technology is now allowing medicine to be practiced in a way that it was years ago," muses Mitchell. "But developments in technology and logistics allows for house calls to actually be cost effective. On-demand care will come in many forms in the near future, and Curbside Care's particular version addresses the need for a practitioner's physical presence. Interestingly, the home is often the best place to provide quality care as the patient can be treated in their most relevant context."

Curbside Care says its market is technology-enabled consumers, in particular working professionals, young parents and corporations seeking to add attractive employee benefits. On the provider side, the target is shift-based physicians and nurse practitioners who are seeking to supplement their income.

Curbside Care currently has a working, web-based product and is completing its mobile app. The company, which is actively fundraising, is also in discussions with several large hospital systems to utilize their practitioner bases for immediate scale. 

Source: Grant Mitchell, Curbside Care
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Tourism blooms in Southwest Pennsylvania thanks to support from The Progress Fund

As rural southwestern Pennsylvania lost manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, community leaders turned to tourism as a potential economic driver. But access to capital was a major roadblock for the region’s fledgling tourism sector, recalls David Kahley, CEO of The Progress Fund
   
"If we wanted to grow the industry, we needed to start our own bank to fund a new wave of rural-based tourism businesses," he recalls. "In 1997, Karen Post, the other co-founder, and I started The Progress Fund to make those loans. In essence, we took on the mission to grow this industry one business at a time."
   
Since then, The Progress Fund, based in Greensburg, has made 455 loans totaling $56.5 million to 276 small businesses including restaurants, outdoor outfitters, campgrounds, B&Bs, farms, wineries and distilleries. The Fund has also expanded its mission to support local food producers, trails and related real estate initiatives in order to maximize tourism opportunities. 
   
For example, when the Great Allegheny Passage was being built, bicycle tourists were finding and riding it, but visitation was restrained by the lack of high-quality services along the trail. In surveys, riders asked for more B&Bs and inns, restaurants, bike and retail shops.

"Without more of these businesses, the region was losing opportunity," explains Kahley. "So, 10 years ago, we made the trail towns along the Passage a priority. We continue to try to help any entrepreneur that wants to serve this still growing market. We also work to make the towns and trailheads more rider-friendly. We’ve improved directional and business signs, and have purchased and are redeveloping multiple properties that were eyesores at key locations."
   
"The tourism opportunities we saw years ago are still growing," he adds. "We will stay our course and grow so we have resources available for businesses that will take advantage of future opportunities. As for new focus areas, trail groups are working on a new regional network of 1,600 miles of recreational trails running through hundreds of small communities. Think of all those business opportunities and the real estate that needs to be redeveloped to support that growth. We are."
   
Source: David Kahley, The Progress Fund
Writer: Elise Vider
   

'Temple Ventures - Powered by Ben Franklin' is new tech accelerator for Philly-area startups

Temple University and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) have launched a new initiative to spur technological innovation and entrepreneurship in Greater Philadelphia.

Each partner has contributed $500,000 to Temple Ventures – Powered by Ben Franklin for investment in projects generated from Temple’s discoveries in advanced technologies. Ben Franklin will manage the fund, and provide mentoring and access to networks to assist those early-stage ventures.

"For an inventor in a university, it’s critical to find the right partnership to bring his or her ideas into successful businesses," said Temple Provost Hai-Lung Dai in a statement. "Ben Franklin is an effective venture partner that provides not only investment expertise, but mentorship and strategic advice that can enable technologies developed at Temple to benefit society at large."

Over the past five years, Temple has created 13 startup companies to assist in developing university-created technologies for the marketplace. The university is expecting to significantly increase that number with the help of Temple Ventures.

The collaboration features three main components: a joint Temple/Ben Franklin Seed Fund for prototype and startup funding; new business launch resources to support the formation of the new Temple-created technology ventures; and incubation services including workspace, professional resources, and management and commercialization guidance.

The $1 million commitment is for the initial pilot, the partners say, with intent to commit an additional $1 million annually for up to five years. Temple’s contribution to the initiative will be comprised of royalty revenues obtained from the previous licensing of Temple-created technologies.

Impetus for the initiative comes from a recent report by the region’s CEO Council for Growth that urged a collaborative approach to advocacy and funding of early-stage tech firms.

Source: Temple University and BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Lehigh Valley Angel Investors pay it forward

Three early-stage companies are counting their blessings after receiving investments from the Lehigh Valley Angel Investors network (LVAI) totaling $260,000. The network itself has grown to 33 member angel investors and is hoping to exceed 40 in 2015.

Todd Welch of Charter Partners, Stuart Schooley, founder and co-owner of Dutch Springs, and approximately a dozen other entrepreneurs founded LVAI in 2010 as a way to "pay it forward" by helping entrepreneurs raise the start-up capital they need to forge successful companies.
 
"All of us are entrepreneurs and we all built our companies from the ground up," says Schooley, president of LVAI. "Now, we are interested in supporting like-minded people. Somewhere along the way, someone helped us and we want to return the favor."
 
Carmell Therapeutics in Pittsburgh earned a $50,000 investment from LVAI. The company’s proprietary technology enables the manufacturing of biologically active plastics from blood plasma for treating injuries to bone and connective tissue. Carmell’s plastics use the body’s own growth and regenerative factors to naturally promote tissue healing. The company is currently focused on the sports medicine market, with products designed to accelerate healing and produce better clinical outcomes.
 
LVAI also invested $80,000 in Bethlehem’s Cerora, Inc., a healthcare information technology company. The company’s first device under development, Borealis, is a portable electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave biosensor that measures and records the electrical activity of the brain. There are currently no easy-to-use, portable and accurate neuro-diagnostics available to physicians, nurses, first responders and certified athletic trainers. Rapid diagnosis of brain injuries and disease can lead to early and more effective interventions, yielding cost savings, improved clinical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction for people with concussions or traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurologic and psychiatric conditions. Cerora is located in Ben Franklin TechVentures and LVAI’s investment complements a total of $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
 
Another funded company, Thubrikar Aortic Valve, Inc. in Norristown, is a start-up medical device enterprise developing a next-generation transcatheter aortic valve implantation TAVI system consisting of a newly designed aortic valve and associated catheter delivery system. Thubrikar is preparing for human trials this year; LVAI invested $130,000. 
 
Source: LVAI
Writer: Elise Vider   

Father/daughter company Upper Desk wins acclaim for innovative smart device mounts

A Hughesville father-and-daughter entrepreneurial team is racking up awards for their line of innovative mounts for smart devices.

Roderick Phillips, an electrician by trade and life-long inventor, and his daughter Stephanie Phillips Taggart launched Upper Desk in 2013. Their first product, a portable cabinet mount, won the first place gold award for new product innovation at the 2014 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, was a finalist at the 2014 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, and won the new product development award from the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center.

"We have been told that it is very rare for a startup company to receive awards when competing with major, established companies," says Phillips Taggart.

The motivation for the company came from wife-and-mother Debra Phillips who urged her husband to keep inventing before she died six years ago. Phillips’ inspiration was the realization that kitchen cabinets would be a perfect mounting surface if he wanted to use his computer while standing up. The company says its solutions improve ergonomics, provide a safe, study place for devices, reduce the risk of spills, and optimize the use of technology.

The ingenious mount, adds Phillips Taggart, "frees up valuable countertop space while allowing access to the cabinet. It’s perfect for Skyping, researching online recipes or streaming movies in the kitchen." Its quick clamp mechanism allows it to be easily installed or removed without tools and without marring surfaces. Besides home use, the company sees potential applications in medical, dental and industrial settings.

Based on the success of the portable cabinet mount, Upper Desk recently launched a second product, a portable table mount that secures a smart device to a desk, workbench, kitchen island or table.

Both products are made in China, says Phillips Taggart.

"We tried to manufacture in the U.S.," she explains. "However, based on U.S. manufacturing costs, it would have been impossible for a startup to remain competitive in the marketplace."

Upper Desk continues to promote itself at large trade shows; this week the team will appear in Las Vegas. And the company has several new ideas in development. 

Upper Desk products are available online through the company's own website, Amazon and other e-retailers and at select Walmart locations in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina, Michigan and Illinois.  

Source: Stephanie Phillips Taggart, Upper Desk
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Go Green IT, and their young CEO, build mobile platform for human services sector

Only in his early 20s, Nick Mudgett is already a serial entrepreneur. Now the Shippensburg University student is running Littlestown's Go Green IT, developer of a mobile-based platform for human services that boosts efficiency and eliminates paper.

"My father owns a human service company and came to me, knowing my programming experience, and expressed the need for a platform like the one I developed," recalls Mudgett.

Mudgett worked with the Small Business Development Center at Shippensburg to establish the company in July 2013. Go Green IT quickly got traction from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, winning first-place for its business plan at BFTP’s TechCelerator Boot Camp in Carlisle, and, four months later, winning a $25,000 cash prize and other spoils as winner of Ben Franklin's BIG IDEA contest

Go Green IT’s platform is intended to replace paper-based systems, which are notoriously cumbersome and often lead to billing errors, lost documentation and a high level of employee frustration.

"Our product specifically accommodates human services agencies by providing an HIPPA compliant electronic filing system and data analyzing system that automatically interfaces with state billing systems and payroll companies," explains Mudgett.

A first beta test with Focus Behavioral Health reduced over 80 percent of payroll and billing errors and cut administrative costs by eight percent. A new version of the platform, dubbed "Reliable 0.5," will be tested starting this month with two users who Mudgett expects to purchase the platform. His goal is to have 15 to 20 customers by year’s end.

Looking further ahead, he plans "to continue growing the current platform throughout the state and generate revenue. I hope to expand the platform to other fields within three years."

Source: Nick Mudgett, Go Green IT, Shippensburg University SBDC, BFTP-CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
2128 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts