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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
 

Thanks to state fund, five Drexel buildings get energy retrofits

Campus science buildings are the modern version of the shoemaker's children without any shoes.

"Due to their ventilation requirements, science buildings are the largest energy users on campuses and consume dramatically more energy than other buildings on a per square foot basis,” explains Joyce Ferris of Philadelphia’s Blue Hill Partners. But, she added, they are often overlooked for energy efficiency projects.
 
Now, five Drexel University buildings -- three science and two mixed-use structures, totaling more than 430,000 square feet of space -- are about to get $6.6 million in retrofits to significantly cut their energy use. Upon completion, Drexel's energy consumption will decrease by more than 25 percent at the Lebow Engineering Center, the Center for Automation Technology, the Bossone Research Center, Nesbitt Hall, and the Paul Peck Problem Solving and Research Center. The upgrades will cut energy consumption by about 19.4 billion BTUs a year, approximately the same amount of energy consumed by 142 U.S. families. Drexel will eventually recover the costs through savings on energy bills.
 
Blue Hill is manager of the state's Campus Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF), established by the Pennsylvania Treasury to help colleges and universities lower their operating expenses through innovative energy efficiency and sustainability projects. Blue Hill co-developed the project with Dallas-based SCIenergy. Other investors include Mitsui USA, The Reinvestment Fund and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
 
The project includes state-of-the-art, centralized, demand-based controls for three buildings, reducing the energy used to operate the buildings’ more than 62 lab spaces by more than 46 percent. A complete mechanical upgrade of the Paul Peck Research Center will cut the 100,000-square-foot building’s HVAC energy load by 35 percent, saving the university more than $200,000 each year on utility bills. The project also includes a major renovation project at the 78,000-square-foot Nesbitt Hall featuring variable volume air handling units, supply air distribution systems, new lighting and new controls.
 
Blue Hill expects to lead more than $45 million in investments in CEEF projects at multiple colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. When fully invested, the fund will save Pennsylvania schools more than $150 million in energy costs over 20 years.
 
Source: PA Treasury and Blue Hill Partners
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Wayne's MaximTrak Technologies streamlines car buying and boosts dealer profits

Not long after founding his company -- a provider of training and development for automotive dealers -- in 1982, Jim Maxim Sr. embraced car phone technology. Today, the company, renamed MaximTrak, is still pushing forward when it comes to technological innovation, this time "to support dealers and make for a more transparent car buying experience," says James Maxim Jr., who serves as company president.
 
The Wayne-based company offers three cloud-based, digital products. Its MenuTrak allows automotive dealers to streamline financing and insurance procedures, saving time, money and a lot of paperwork. The technology is a profit generator, Maxim Jr. says, boosting dealer revenue by 30 percent, saving more than 15 minutes per deal and improving customer satisfaction.
 
Another product, Dashboards, pulls and aggregates data into a real-time reporting system for dealership executives. E-Trak, MaximTrak’s newest offering, is an electronic contracting platform, allowing dealers to get error-free VIN ratings and execute e-contracts with insurers and financing companies.
 
Maxim Jr., who joined the company in 2003, says that further development of e-contracting is a focus right now. Most auto financing work is still done on paper, a situation compounded by the need for car dealers to comply with an array of state and consumer lending requirements. "We hope to digitize all processes from front-end sales to auto registration," he explains. The company is also focusing on developing more mobile technologies -- "So you can buy a car with an IPad," says Maxim Jr.
 
And MaximTrak is currently emphasizing international sales. Through a network of distribution partners, Maxim Jr. expects to move into Canada (where it already has a small presence), Mexico, Brazil, Chile, China and the European Union nations in the next few years.
 
MaximTrak has about 3,000 dealers in its network and is growing fast, posting 40 percent annual revenue gains. The company added nine jobs in 2013, growing to about 40, mostly in Wayne, and expects to add another three positions this year.
 
Source: James Maxim, Jr., MaximTrak
Writer: Elise Vider
 

State College's KCF Technologies perfects wireless industrial monitoring

Just as your car's dashboard tells you when something is wrong under the hood, wireless monitoring from KCF Technologies in State College provides reliable information on machinery across a number of industries. KCF detects vibrations that can be an early sign of something amiss with pumps, motors, fans, compressors and similar equipment.
 
Jeremy Frank and Gary Koopmann founded KCF in 2000 as a spinoff of research done at Penn State. For most of its existence, the company has grown thanks to federal research and development contracts from the departments of energy and defense. Three years ago, KCF made a strategic pivot to focus on industrial and commercial sales of its technology. Market sectors include industrial HVAC and refrigeration, power generation, pulp and paper, and water. 
 
Most recently, KCF has turned its attention to a new and potentially huge market -- shale gas and oil drilling. As reported in Keystone Edge, the company won the first grant awarded by the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercial Center through the state's "Discovered in PA, Developed in PA" program. 
 
Frank says the $20,000 grant is going towards field demonstrations; the technology is already deployed at four shale gas sites, two of them used for training. As a young industry, the kind of "predictive maintenance" that KCF offers (as opposed to scheduled maintenance or, worse, emergency repairs) is not yet widely embraced, and drill sites offer their own special challenges, including terrain and weather. But KCF is convinced that shale opens a potential market of hundreds of millions for wireless monitoring. The company is currently doing R&D to further its presence in the market with wireless air quality monitoring at well sites. Another project in the pipeline involves a medical device to monitor the function of prosthetic limbs for military amputees.
 
KCF employs 35 and Frank expects to add five to 10 jobs this year as its shale business grows. The company, he adds, has doubled its workforce five times in the past eight years.
 
Source: Jeremy Frank, KCF Technologies
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Bethlehem's Third Eye Diagnostics offers non-invasive monitoring for head injuries

Stroke, hemorrhage and head injuries in combat, and accidents on the playing field can be quickly catastrophic. Now Third Eye Diagnostics, a startup with offices in Bethlehem and a lab in Rydal, has developed a first-of-its-kind, non-invasive, handheld medical device that can be used in the field and at the hospital to quickly gather critical information from a patient's eye.
 
CEO Terry Fuller explains that when there is an insult to the skull, intracranial pressure (ICP) can rise fast, potentially leading to permanent brain damage or even death in less than an hour. Third Eye's Cerepress device measures blood pressure in the eye's central retinal vein, which correlates to ICP. For first responders in combat theater, at sports events and aboard medical transport vehicles, the Cerepress works as a "strategic triage device." An even bigger opportunity for its application is in hospital emergency rooms, neuro-intensive care units and surgical suites.
 
The current standard of care to measure ICP involves surgically inserting a sensor into the cranium through an access hole drilled through the skull. This procedure is expensive and exposes the patient to risks such as infection, malfunction and hemorrhaging. Because of these risks, ICP is only measured in patients who are critically ill.
 
The Cerepress can monitor ICP and evaluate patients without catheters as they await or move through treatment, or after the catheter is removed. According to Fuller, the potential savings to hospitals nationally is $1.6 billion; that's $320,000 for every hospital.  

"By properly triaging, not only does the patient get better care, but the hospital manages that patient through its system much more effectively, thus saving money," he adds.
 
Anthony Belleza and William Lai, who developed the technology, launched Third Eye in 2009 with Fuller. The company has received grants from sources including the National Science Foundation; the Innovation Partnership is now actively fundraising for the clinical trials needed for FDA clearance. From there, Fuller estimates it will take about a year and a half to commercialize the Cerepress.

Third Eye is resident at Ben Franklin's TechVentures in Bethlehem, employs six and is currently hiring two new engineers. 
 
Source: Terry Fuller, Third Eye Diagnostics
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
 

C3i, a New Jersey life sciences tech provider, adds jobs near Scranton

C3i, Inc., a New Jersey-based provider of technology support services for the life sciences industry, is significantly growing its presence in Pennsylvania with a new help desk facility in Pittston. The new center will create 256 jobs in the next three years, bringing the company's total employment in the Commonwealth to more than 600.
 
C3i came to Northeast Pennsylvania in 2007 with a help desk located in Plains Township. In 2012, C3i opened a second facility nearby -- a hardware services depot located in Jenkins Township. These two centers, combined with positions located on-site at a client in Swiftwater, have led to 354 jobs in the state over the past six years. 
 
The new center will be located at the CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park, site of the company's hardware depot. Governor Corbett's office reported that C3i will lease about 25,000 additional square feet of space to accommodate its growth plans and will invest $1.95 million in leasehold improvements, new equipment and employee training.

The company received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, including a $115,200 grant for workforce training. Additional state funding offers include a $500,000 grant that facilitates investment and job creation, and $512,000 in job creation tax credits. 
 
"The expansion is a result of C3i recently winning large contracts with two global pharmaceutical companies to provide help desk support services for campus and field sales-based personnel," said the company. "This help desk will be open 24 hours a day, and while all calls in this center will be handled in English, they can originate from anywhere in the world."
 
Founded in 1993, C3i has grown into the leading provider of technology support services for the life sciences industry. Today, the company has over 1,500 employees and serves over three quarters of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies from global operations centers in North America, Europe, India and China.
 
Source: C3i and the Governor’s Office
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Comcast extends its broadband adoption program for low-income families

Comcast is making a major push to close the digital divide; its latest research reinforces how digital literacy drives economic development.
 
The Philadelphia-based cable giant commissioned John B. Horrigan, head of research for the FCC's National Broadband Plan, to survey customers of its Internet Essentials program, a national broadband adoption initiative for low-income families. Eligible families, who must have a school-age child at home, get broadband service at $9.95 per month, the option to buy a computer for less than $150 and multiple options for digital literacy training. 
 
62 percent of respondents said they needed Internet service to look for or apply for jobs; 57 percent said the Internet helped them with job searches. According to the survey, "Broadband adoption programs are an important resource for economic advancement." It recommends, "Stakeholders focused on economic and community development must make appropriate investments to facilitate broadband adoption at home."
 
Comcast executive David L. Cohen announced that the company will continue Internet Essentials indefinitely. The original plan had the program running for three years and ending in June, 2014. The program has already connected more than 1.2 million low-income Americans -- or 300,000 families -- to broadband Internet at home.
 
Cohen also announced more than $1 million in grants to 15 cities. Although none are in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia was recognized as a "most improved" community; eligible residents can apply before March 18 to receive six months of free Internet service.  
 
If Comcast's planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable goes through, the company will have a presence in 19 of the country's 20 largest cities, significantly boosting the number of those eligible for Internet Essentials. 
 
Source: David L. Cohen, Comcast and John B. Horrigan, FCC
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
 

From gold and silver to Pittsburgh's Liquid X Printed Metals

A Pittsburgh startup is performing a form of alchemy, converting gold and silver into ink that can be used in a variety of industries from automotives to consumer electronics to medical devices.
 
Liquid X Printed Metals, a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University, has developed a proprietary technology to transform various metals into ink form, which is then deposited onto a wide variety of substrates. When heated at low temperatures, the ink converts to the base metal and exhibits comparable features such as high conductivity, thin and precise features, and excellent adhesion.
 
So, by using a high-tech form of ink jet printing, Liquid X inks can print a circuit that, when cured, conducts electricity. In the automotive industry, that technology "can replace miles of wiring with lightweight conductive materials," explains CEO Greg Babe, creating lighter weight and more energy-efficient vehicles.
 
Liquid X's technology is also highly cost effective.

"This technology eliminates waste," adds Babe. "We use significantly less metal and in many cases metal is expensive."
 
The company has patents pending and is preparing to launch its first commercial product in mid-2014. Liquid X is working with a variety of potential partners across the value chain, from end users such as touch screen manufacturers to makers of specialty glass and high-quality polymers, to printing technology companies.
 
Looking ahead, the company is developing its technology for use in 3-D printing.
 
Richard McCullough and John Belot founded Liquid X in 2010; Innovation Works was a recent investor. The company currently employs eight, and Babe anticipates adding jobs as the company grows.
 
Source: Greg Babe, Liquid X
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
 

Pittsburgh's PHRQL takes nutrition to the grocery store

For those struggling with obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses, the supermarket is ground zero for making healthy choices. Now PHRQL (pronounced “freckle”), a Pittsburgh startup, is growing thanks to software that makes it easier -- and potentially more profitable -- for grocery stores to offer on-site nutritional counseling.
 
PHRQL is an acronym for "Personal Health Recording for Quality of Life"; the company's core product is its Connect & Coach software, aimed at in-house supermarket dieticians. The software enables them to monitor and coach their patients. What’s more, it links to the supermarket’s point-of-sale systems, providing retailers with data about consumer eating and purchasing behavior, valuable for targeted promotions and marketing. It also facilitates claims to health insurers.
 
CEO and founder Paul Sandberg says the overall goal is to move nutrition education and counseling from hospitals and medical offices to community settings. And what is more practical and efficient than delivering those services right where people buy their food? 
 
The company was spun out in 2011 from a Carnegie Mellon research project in which Sandberg and three other students investigated patient-centered solutions to managing health care costs. The company began at AlphaLab and in 2012 gained its first customer, the Giant Eagle supermarket chain. Throughout 2013, PHRQL tested and refined its software.
 
Today that software is in use at 30 Giant Eagle stores and the company's new contracts – Sandberg declined to name them – will put it in 400 stores across 15 states by the end of this quarter.
 
Carnegie Mellon is an equity partner; PHRQL has also received investment from the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and continues to seek venture capital. It has seven full-time employees and Sandberg expects to add another three jobs this year.
 
Source: Paul Sandberg, PHRQL
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
 
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