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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

Horsham's Clinical Ink selected for Ebola studies

A Horsham company that provides technology for clinical drug trials has been selected for multiple Ebola studies in West Africa.

Clinical Ink’s "SureSource" platform allows for real-time analysis and remote review, especially important with Ebola research since it limits the number of healthcare workers that come in contact with the virus while speeding up the analysis process.

"Conducting clinical research in this part of the world is always challenging, given the remote location of the research sites and the generally poor quality of Internet connectivity," says Clinical Ink President Doug Pierce. "The Ebola epidemic heightens these difficulties dramatically. Clinical Ink was chosen because our SureSource platform allows sites to capture the data electronically rather than on paper, and seamlessly transmit that data to the pharmaceutical company for analysis -- in real time.

"A process that typically takes weeks takes minutes using SureSource,"  he continues. "Furthermore, those needing to see the information captured by the research sites can do so remotely, wherever and whenever the need arises. With this many lives at stake, saving time has never been as important."

The clinical trials are scheduled to start in several months, Pierce reports. For now, the company is preparing the electronic forms and helping assess Internet connectivity and related IT infrastructure at the sites. Once the sites have been selected, Clinical Ink will train the users and deploy tablets to the research sites.

Clinical Ink launched in 2007 when the only way to capture data in the clinical research market was paper-based, slow and expensive. SureSource, the industry's first purpose-built platform to capture data at the point of care, has been used in close to 60 trials since 2012 for clients ranging from large pharmaceutical companies to small biotech companies to large consumer product companies.

2014 saw Clinical Ink more than double in size, both in terms of revenue and employees, and further growth is projected for this year. Besides its offices in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Philadelphia, Clinical Ink plans to open offices in Boston and at a to-be-determined European location. As for the platform, it continues to evolve and the company plans to introduce what Pierce calls "a whole host of new functionality" early this year.  

Source: Doug Pierce, Clinical Ink
Writer: Elise Vider

Ignite Erie seeking small business grant applicants for up to $3.9 in funds

The Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) has pledged up to $3.9 million through 2017 to spark small business growth. The organization is now accepting applications for two grant programs as part of its Ignite Erie initiative.

Ignite Erie aims to spur inner-city small business development, build industry-university collaborations for business acceleration, and offer a broader spectrum of financing products for starting, growing and reinventing small businesses. 

Under its Inner-city Small Business Development program, ECGRA is committing $150,000 over three years to seed one organization with the mission, capacity and knowledge to tap into the unrealized potential of inner-city markets and entrepreneurs. 

"Small business development in impoverished census tracts is at the heart of improving commercial corridors and revitalizing neighborhoods," said ECGRA Executive Director Perry Wood in a statement. "If we can find one key organization to mastermind and drive a business-focused revitalization strategy, we may change the trajectory of Erie’s inner city and its residents."

ECGRA is soliciting grant applications from eligible organizations that can develop a cohesive strategy to revitalize the inner city one neighborhood at a time. Applicants will need to demonstrate their ability to work collaboratively with banks, developers and small-business owners to ignite commercial activities in Erie. 

ECGRA is also investing up to $750,000 over three years to create an industry-university ecosystem to support local entrepreneurs.

"Across the country, universities are collaborating with each other, startup entrepreneurs, small businesses, manufacturing, labor, healthcare and local government to create an atmosphere conducive to innovation," said Wood. "While Erie can’t boast federal labs, major research institutions or tech clusters, we are strong in applied sciences and manufacturing. Erie’s entrepreneurial spirit will be ignited when our university community comes together and leads an effort to bring the applied sciences to local industry, basement tinkerers and ambitious students." 

For this Industry + University Business Acceleration Collaboration program, applicants must have clearly established ties to local industry and collaborative university partnerships that complement their organization’s research and development strengths in service to the entrepreneur. 

Both grant programs require a 1:1 cash match. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. Thursday, January 22. 

A third Ignite Erie program, launching later this year, will inject up to $3 million in mission-related investments in Erie County small businesses.

Source: Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority
Writer: Elise Vider

Game On: Three PA schools collaborating on interactive media consortium

Harrisburg University of Science & Technology, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and Drexel University in Philadelphia are establishing the PA Interactive Media Consortium, with the goal of growing the high-tech sector of digital entertainment and video gaming. 

The consortium is funded by a $750,000 Discovered in PA – Developed in PA state grant to Harrisburg University.

All three schools are known for their interactive media and gaming programs. Harrisburg has its Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies (CAELT), Drexel its Entrepreneurial Game Studio, and Carnegie Mellon its Integrative Design, Arts & Technology Network.  

The consortium will unite various stakeholders around a strategic marketing and recruitment campaign promoting Pennsylvania to interactive media companies and potential entrepreneurs. It will also enable the universities to expand education, applied research and entrepreneurship programs. Each school will employ unique strategies including awarding of micro-grants to startups, employing a gamer in residence and improving startup mentoring.

According to Charles Palmer, Harrisburg’s CAELT director, the consortium’s mission "is to build a community of higher education partners and interactive development firms which will focus on the cultural, scientific and economic importance of digital media across the Commonwealth. By creating robust mentoring networks we will assist in the incubation of new companies grown from Pennsylvania’s rich pool of talented innovators."

At Drexel in Philadelphia, "this grant will help the Entrepreneurial Game Studio fulfill its mission of being a place where students can take risks as game developers and as entrepreneurs,” adds Professor Frank Lee.

Source: PA Department of Community & Economic Development; Drexel University
Writer: Elise Vider

Four northeast PA companies ring in the new year with Ben Franklin investments

Four companies in northeastern Pennsylvania are starting off 2015 with new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
EggZack, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, has been allocated $50,000 to expand its sales efforts, adding more resellers and increasing its direct sales force. EggZack provides an automated sales and marketing system that is specially designed for companies that serve local markets. The web- and mobile-based platform automates the management of their website, search engine optimization, social media, local search, email marketing, blogs, video and directory optimization to generate more local leads. The system then makes it convenient to convert leads into sales. 
OPTiMO Information Technology, LLC in Bloomsburg will receive $65,000 to expand its Legal Technology Division. The company’s new eDiscovery and Forensics Managed Services wade through huge amounts of data to reconstruct electronic events, providing reliable information and evidence for legal, corporate and government agencies in a cost-effective manner. OPTiMO delivers enterprise-level information technology products and services including software related to the digital forensics, e-discovery and litigation support industries.

Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC, also at TechVentures in Bethlehem, will receive $65,000 to develop a "supplier pricing infrastructure" in a cloud-based software solution for electronic circuit board manufacturers. This feature will allow end customers and other industry participants to collect a more robust set of data from component manufacturers and distributors. Current sourcing and procurement models in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly inefficient. Orbweaver’s software platform will allow for better-negotiated terms with suppliers, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity for clients.
In addition, a partnership between East Coast Erosion Control of Bernville, an established manufacturer, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 in matching funds. The investment is intended to improve measures of back-end processes, improving customer delivery performance, reducing cost-of-goods sold, increasing efficiency and maximizing production capacity at this manufacturer of erosion control products for the construction industry. East Coast Erosion is one of the largest producers of erosion blankets in the U.S. This upgrade will allow the company to be the first in its industry to advance to this level, providing a competitive advantage and facilitating continued growth.

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

Health care tech startups and cancer drug developer come to Philadelphia incubator

Two health care IT companies and a biotech startup are the newest members of the entrepreneurial community at the University City Science Center’s Port business incubator. 

Denovo Health (de novo is Latin for a new beginning) is an engagement platform targeting chronic diseases that have a high annual cost per patient and where even marginal improvements in patient engagement drive significant health and financial benefits.

According to their website, the company incorporates "design thinking with behavioral psychology and [uses] advanced technologies to make prescribed activity easy, enjoyable and rewarding." Using mobile apps, digital and physical world interactions and behavioral change tactics, Denovo’s products target glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, assisting users with tracking their medication, monitoring their condition and communicating with care providers. Competitive game dynamics, rewards and social reinforcement are incorporated to boost compliance. 

Smart Activities of Daily Living (Smart ADL) is developing a digital health technology called Smart Cup that enables patients and clinicians to unobtrusively record and monitor fluid intake for effective clinical and self-care management.
Oncoceutics, Inc. is a drug discovery and development company targeting the most potent natural suppressor pathways in human cancer. The company’s lead compound is ONC201, a novel small molecule that promises strong anti-cancer activity in the most challenging indications in oncology. 

Oncoceutics' application to initiate clinical trials with ONC201 was accepted by the FDA in February 2014 and a series of clinical studies at leading cancer centers is being activated. Oncoceutics has development ties with Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania.
Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

New Malvern marker space aims to develop novel products using plasma and 3D printing technologies

Malvern's AmpTech Makerspace is preparing to open its doors. The plan is to focus on high-tech product development using plasma and 3D printing technologies.

"Collaborative work environments like the AmpTech Makerspace are proving to be highly productive environments for doing business in the high-tech world," says Michael Antonucci, managing partner of the 3D Printing Alliance, a sponsor. "AmpTech adds a twist -- this one involves the use of plasma and 3D printing technologies used together."

AmpTech’s primary sponsor is Advanced Plasma Solutions (APS), which specializes in non-thermal plasma technology to create products and solutions for a variety of applications. When paired with 3D printing, the two advanced manufacturing technologies have potential in a wide array of applications, including health care and medicine, energy and power, and environmental controls, says AmpTech’s organizers.

The 20,000-square-foot space at APS' headquarters houses offices, collaborative workspace, laboratories and a machine shop. AmpTech offers education, training and a wide range of support for R&D, prototyping, testing, business operations and ultimately, product commercialization. Equipment includes plasma power supplies, plasmatrons, 3D printers and plasma cutters.

Antonucci says that AmpTech is unique as "the only non academic environment where you can get access to plasma expertise, plasma devices, labs, equipment and a variety of projects ready for being commercialized.

"Amptech has hundreds of industry-focused solutions and product ideas that are well researched and represent truly game-changing new product ideas," he adds. "Most maker spaces or incubators allow you to experiment with your own ideas but AmpTech brings years of research, some patents and expertise, that together with your industry domain knowledge represent amazing possibilities."

AmpTech will also offer programming and workshops for schools and businesses, and will service as a "great place for…internal engineers, high-tech internships and vo-tech classes as well," explains Antonucci. 

Antonucci anticipates that AmpTech could run about 50 projects simultaneously; they are actively seeking investors and sponsors.

Source: Michael Antonucci, 3D Printing Alliance
Writer: Elise Vider

Startup Santa: BFTP-SEP brings $2.8M to 16 companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, aka "Startup Santa," is closing 2014 with $2.8 million in investments to 16 companies. The largest dollar share, $1.5 million, is allocated to the life sciences sector; $925,000 is going to IT companies and $400,000 to the physical sciences.

Advent Therapeutics in Bucks County focuses on providing therapies for micro-orphan applications. The company is currently working on its first product, which will address a serious disorder in newborn infants in the ICU.
AlphaPoint is the leading exchange technology platform provider to support digital currencies. Working with some of the top Bitcoin and altcoin exchanges in the world, AlphaPoint’s platform is faster than traditional digital currency exchanges with the ability to process nearly one million transactions per second. The company has offices in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
Philadelphia’s Edify Investment Technologies has the potential to radically alter how typical new home construction is built, marketed and financed. Edify’s software shifts the financing responsibility of purchasing land and constructing homes from the land developer to the home buyer in exchange for a discount on the home’s purchase price, offering significant advantages for all parties within the transaction.

Montgomery County’s Core Solutions is transforming the health and human services experience by improving the provider, client and payer relationship. Its technology has the ability to simplify the end-to-end behavioral health experience, deliver integrated care coordination, improve consumer engagement and streamline accurate provider reimbursement.

Fischer Block in Montgomery County is at the forefront of the Industrial Internet, bringing an unprecedented value proposition to the electrical power industry. With a unique solution to embed millions of advanced high-speed sensors throughout the electrical grid, this widely deployed platform will become the industry standard for applying data analytics and predictive analysis techniques, and will improve energy reliability and prevent power outages at a fraction of the cost of traditional alternatives.

In Philadelphia, Infarct Reduction Technologies is developing a device, the LifeCuff, to deliver an ischemic pre-conditioning protocol. Ischemic preconditioning has been found to improve outcomes in heart attack, stroke, sepsis and other conditions. Currently the only other method of providing this protocol is manually via intensive care, surgical or emergency medical staff.

Opertech Bio in Philadelphia has developed a revolutionary approach to taste testing, a multi-billion dollar market covering the food and beverage, flavor ingredients, pet food and pharmaceutical industries. Opertech Bio’s technology can be used to discover new flavor ingredients, measure palatability and optimize flavor formulations. Opertech’s proprietary technology accomplishes the task of taste testing on hundreds of samples in an afternoon, using far fewer subjects and samples at a fraction of the cost, with greater accuracy and consistency than previously possible.

Bucks County’s OrthogenRx is a late-stage, product-development company focused on the commercialization of class-III orthopedic medical devices. Its business model is to obtain exclusive licenses for products currently on the market outside the United States and seek FDA regulatory approval through a novel regulatory pathway. OrthogenRx is positioned to be the first company to obtain approval for a generic Class III medical device using this pathway by the end of 2014. The company will launch its first product in early 2015 and file for several additional product approvals by the end of 2015.

In Montgomery County, PhotoSonix Medical is developing a treatment for dermal diseases generated by bacterial biofilm, such as acne. Biofilms, which make treatment extremely difficult, shield bacteria from attack by both drugs and the immune system, often inducing a chronic inflammatory response. Photosonix’s product, CLENS™, cuts through biofilm by combining both ultrasound and violet light, killing underlying bacteria.

Polynetworks in Montgomery Count has developed a secure, open architecture PaaS (platform-as-a-service), which allows multiple types of sensor data to be captured, processed and transmitted to multiple users in real time using any communication media. This "any data, any device, anywhere" solution is scalable to multiple applications. Potential markets include defense and law enforcement; emergency response; heavy industries such as energy, mining and construction; infrastructure security such as city, schools and hospitals; and information gathering such as news media, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and robotics.

In Chester County, Stabiliz Orthopaedics focuses on developing, refining and bringing to market innovative orthopaedic medical devices. The company has crafted a proprietary plate and screw system used for the treatment of traumatic bone fracture. By integrating biocompatible metals with bioabsorbable polymers, Stabiliz’s technology allows clinicians to customize the repair process for every patient, eliminating the need for future surgeries and reducing costs to burdened healthcare systems.

Squareknot in Philadelphia has the simple goal of allowing everyone to do more with its interactive outlet for making how-to-guides. The Squareknot platform allows users to generate step-by-step guides from scratch, or contribute to someone else’s project, or branch off in a new whole direction. 

Developed in Montgomery County, Superior Solar Design’s "SolarPower Table" is a collaboration of world class engineering and photo-voltaic science. The SolarPower Table is a highly reliable, year-round, off-grid solar energy charging station for cell phones, mobile devices and small electronic equipment.

Montgomery County's Telefactor Robotics is a research and development company focused on commercializing advanced vision systems and dexterous manipulation solutions for the first responder and military explosive ordnance disposal markets. The company’s suite of integrated technologies components add value to military and security robots, and enable new forward-looking industrial and manufacturing applications.
In Philadelphia, TowerView Health’s mission is to ensure that patients never miss a dose of critical medication. The company has developed a smart pill box and accompanying pre-filled medication trays that fit into the pill box like a k-cup fits into a Keurig. The pill box senses the presence or absence of medication and automatically reminds patients via text message or phone reminder when they’ve forgotten a dose. The data generated by the pill box will be accessible to clinical staff, allowing them to efficiently monitor patients.

Philadelphia’s Yorn is a unique, closed-loop platform for healthcare, business and hospitality settings, enabling patients/consumers and participants to provide feedback, in the moment, on any experience. Utilizing a unique URL through a smartphone, tablet or any web-enabled device, participants can submit comments or ask questions. 

Writer: Elise Vider
Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania 


The Millworks in Harrisburg offers 23 artist studios -- plus galleries, a restaurant and biergarten

Thirty-three artists are unpacking and settling in at 23 newly opened studios at The Millworks in downtown Harrisburg.
The completed spaces are a critical step in the transformation of the long-abandoned industrial building, which once housed The Stokes Millwork, into an arts, culture and food destination.
Construction is now underway on three galleries, an open-air biergarten, and a full-service bar and restaurant that will specialize in locally sourced food. The Millworks will also function as a live music venue.
Owned and developed by Joshua Kesler, the mixed-use hub is located in Harrisburg’s historic Midtown District near the Broad Street Market, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore and the Susquehanna Art Museum. Its stated mission "is a simple one: to create a regional destination which showcases Central Pennsylvania’s wonderful artistic talents as well as our region’s bountiful, sustainable agriculture. With our hyper-local approach, we look forward to being a part of Midtown Harrisburg’s renaissance, supporting local growers, local artists and local businesses."
Patrick Garrity, The Millworks' operations manager, says that the 160-seat restaurant and bar will open early next year.

"We are passionate about showcasing Central Pennsylvania's bountiful agriculture," he explains. "All of the dishes served at our restaurant will fully consist of local and sustainable ingredients sourced from local farms. Our menu will also change seasonally."
The 50-seat open-air biergarten will have a view of the restaurant, art galleries and studios. A 200-seat rooftop terrace is also planned -- it will be the city’s largest outdoor serving space. Once fully operational, restaurant and biergarten guests will be also able to watch sculptors, painters, photographers and others at work in their studios and purchase artworks at the on-site galleries.
Source: Patrick Garrity, The Millworks
Writer: Elise Vider

Bucks County biotech incubator adding capacity thanks to federal grant

The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Pennsylvania in Doylestown is expanding its space and its capacity to support more startups thanks to a new $4.2 million federal grant.

The Center, which opened in 2006 in an abandoned warehouse as a partnership between the Hepatitis B Foundation and Delaware Valley College, will add 15 laboratories, office space, increased emergency power capacity and new, high-tech freezer capacity. 

Five companies have already committed to locating in the expanded incubator space, and even more life sciences companies can be accommodated, says Operating Officer Lou Kassa. 

Those new tenants include Flow Metric, a provider of state-of-the-art flow cytometry and cell sorting services; Novira Therapeutics, a company working on a cure for Hepatitis B; Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center, an organization that works to translate biomedical research into commercial opportunities; Synergy Pharmaceuticals, an enterprise developing treatment for gastrointestinal disease; and Cross Current Corp., a software developer that serves the healthcare market.

"We are extremely excited about the project and the growth is very beneficial for life sciences companies and the surrounding community," says Kassa.

The grant comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and is expected to generate 90 jobs and more than $450,000 in private investment.

"Recent changes and downsizing in the sciences and pharmaceutical industries in the Bucks County area, coupled with industry mergers and consolidation, have resulted in mid- and late-career separations for highly educated professionals and have created a nexus for entrepreneurship to flourish," explained the EDA in a statement announcing the grant. "The Center is recognized as a significant regional resource for biotechnology incubation and has reached capacity. It needs to expand in order to continue supporting entrepreneurs emerging from the life sciences and academic environments that are advancing innovations in pharmaceutical discovery and green sectors."

Source: US EDA and Lou Kassa, Bucks County Biotechnology Center
Writer: Elise Vider

New GE center to focus on 3D printing as a manufacturing tool

GE is making a major investment in 3D printing and so-called additive manufacturing -- the company plans to build a research and manufacturing facility in Findlay Township, outside of Pittsburgh. The new center represents a $32 million investment over three years and, according to GE, will result in the creation of 50 high-tech engineering jobs.
"The new facility will be the bridge between R&D and full-scale manufacturing," explains Barbara Negroe, Additive Business Leader: GE Supply Chain. "There is a gap right now between something proven out as feasible in a lab environment and something we would feel is ready to turn over to a plant to begin full-rate production. Plants normally do not have the knowledge [when it comes to additive] or the time to stop and work through all of the issues that come with developing a new part or process."
GE is all-in on additive manufacturing, which uses advanced 3D printers to manufacture parts and products, one layer at a time.  The company is already using parts produced with additive manufacturing in a production aircraft engine and gas turbine.

"We use it for prototyping designs to be able to quickly review parts and fit up," says Negroe.
The new facility will focus on developing and implementing additive manufacturing technologies across GE’s industrial businesses and on developing a training program for GE technologists in additive manufacturing.
The company chose the Findlay Township location "to capitalize on the renowned academic institutions and skilled workforce in the area," explains Negroe, adding that the company already has several small projects underway with area universities and will explore further partnerships.
Construction is expected to begin in March and be completed by September 2015.
Source: Barbara Negroe, GE Supply Chain
Writer: Elise Vider

State College's Green Towers creates aquaponics-inspired home decor

Green Towers of State College is sprouting with a suite of designs intended to "reconnect people to nature and to their food."

The startup grew from a Penn State undergraduate project -- the plan was to convert old shipping containers into vertical aquaponic greenhouses (a sustainable method for raising plants and fish) that could be shipped internationally and fit tight urban locations. Unfortunately, after building a prototype, the team determined that the market demand just wasn’t there.

Instead, Mike Zaengle, who is finishing a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree at Penn State, and partners Dustin Betz, Jared Yarnall-Schane and Jon Gumble, "pivoted by shrinking the science of aquaponics to a scale consumers could manage and afford," explains Zaengle.

Today Green Towers offers "Living Furniture" comprised of self-contained ecosystems of plants and aquarium life. The Living Table, available at the company’s website and on Houzz.com, is handcrafted from Pennsylvania cherry hardwood and arrives fully assembled. Just add water, fish and seeds.

Green Towers also offers "Living Interiors," customized, aquaponic-focused interior design services, and "Rotating Living Walls," a space-saving system for greenhouses that promises to double per-square-foot yields.

According to Zaengle, the company already has several commercial interior design customers, has built a large-scale aquaponic greenhouse for private use, and sold several Living Tables.

"We see a huge value in our custom interior design work," he adds. "Businesses and retirement homes have shown great interest in our work and reached out... Interior designers and architects bring us on as design consultants and have us do a custom piece around their initial design."

Green Towers expects to hire an engineer in the next six months and another designer if its custom interiors work continues to grow. And the company is developing two new products: a "Living Wall" and an urban beehive. 

Source: Mike Zaengle, Green Towers
Writer: Elise Vider

Your table is always ready thanks to Pittsburgh's booming NoWait

Several years ago, Robb Myer went from restaurant to restaurant in San Francisco, trying to be seated for brunch without waiting 45 minutes for a table. 

Popular apps like OpenTable make it easy to book at restaurants that take reservations, but "why, with the ubiquity of mobile phones and the power of modern cloud computing, was there not a solution to eliminate waiting at your favorite casual-dining restaurants?" asks Luke Panza. Now there is. 

Panza and Myer founded NoWait in 2010 as an AlphaLab startup. In 2011, NoWait launched its Host App for restaurants, a wait-listing tool that optimizes seat management and communicates with diners through texts when their table is ready. 

In February, NoWait launched its Guest App, which allows diners to get in line remotely at their favorite casual eatery. The app enables users to check wait times and remotely add their name to the wait list without even leaving the house.

The company's growth has been fast. In 2013, NoWait served 700,000 diners a month. That number grew to seven million with the launch of the consumer app this year. To date, NoWait has served more than 90 million guests and thousands of restaurant partners in all 50 states. In May, the company announced $10 million in venture funding.

NoWait recently doubled its engineering team, growing to more than 30 full-time employees with another half-dozen openings available. The company is planning a move to larger offices in Pittsburgh's Oakland section and has opened a fast-expanding office in New York. 

And NoWait is looking at new markets for its technology.

"We remain steadfast in our goal to eliminate waiting in daily life," explains Panza. "The opportunities are limitless. For example, you wait for your room to be ready at hotel check-in, you wait at a busy golf course, you wait for your car at the garage, the hospital, at the doctor’s office. Why should you have to do that? NoWait is starting with eliminating wait times at restaurants and has the potential to truly improve the quality of life for American consumers."

Source: Luke Panza, NoWait
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh's PieceMaker brings Santa's (3D printing) workshop to big-box retail

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, a Pittsburgh startup has brought Santa's workshop to two regional Toys “R” Us locations, installing 3D printing kiosks that create custom gifts on the spot.

PieceMaker Technologies has placed its PieceMaker Factory™ 3D printing system at Toys “R” Us stores in Cranberry Township and Totowa, N.J.

"The pilot program with Toys "R" Us marks a progression for 3D printing into big box retailing," says CEO and co-founder Arden Rosenblatt. "For the first time, a national retailer will offer custom 3D printing, on demand, in store."

The kiosks allow shoppers to design and fabricate customized items, including jewelry, key chains and toys, in mere minutes. Rosenblatt says it’s too early to report on how the pilot is performing, but the thrill of seeing the prototypes in action is undeniable.

"Seeing young kids, some under 10, creating their own designs and products, and then staring wide-eyed into the printer as it’s created [is] exactly the reaction we set out to create when we started all this," he adds. "Simply put, the families that make a piece love it, and that never ceases to bring us joy."

An AlphaLab Gear graduate, Piecemaker moved into shared office space in East Liberty earlier this year and hired its first two full-time employees, with four more hires contracted for early next year. The company has continued to tweak the printers, which are built and assembled in-house, so that they are fully automated and easy for shoppers and retail staff to operate. 

In addition, PieceMaker continues to build its product library, which now offers over 100 items that can be personalized in a variety of ways from color, to adding a personal message to including built-in symbols and emojis. 

Looking ahead, Rosenblatt says, "We will incorporate new technologies, new materials and new personalization tools to expand into various industries and increase the degree of freedom that consumers have in creating their world."

Source: Arden Rosenblatt, PieceMaker Technologies
Writer: Elise Vider

Call for Ideas: 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest accepting entries

Are you a researcher, entrepreneur or small business in Pennsylvania (or West Virginia) focused on developing a new product or service for the shale energy space? If so, the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center has an offer you can't refuse.

Entries are now being accepted for the 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest. Once again, the four best shale energy-oriented innovations, new product ideas or service concepts will win $25,000 cash and other support.

The organizers are looking for innovations that are either in the development stage or recently launched. Any idea or already commercialized product or service related to the shale energy space is eligible. Examples include natural gas or NGL utilization products and services; novel materials or chemicals to enhance performance, prevent corrosion or improve product yield; remote site monitoring technologies; well pad EH&S products or services; natural gas or NGL conversion technologies; and water management or remediation technologies.

"We continue to be amazed by the rapid pace of innovation adoption across the shale energy play," says SGICC Director Bill Hall. "Entrepreneurs along with many small businesses are playing a significant role, developing new technologies or offering existing products or services already in use in other areas. Through the contest, SGICC shines a light on the best new innovations being developed in our region."

Hall reports that last year's Pennsylvania winners are thriving.

"Optimum Pumping is continuing with mid-stream trial demonstrations and early indications are that they are going very well," he says. "KCF Technologies has had a rather significant penetration in the shale gas industry and made at least one large project sale to a field services company. TM Industrial Supply, as a result of the contest, made manufacturing changes to reduce the time required to produce their filtration product and has at least one major sale, and anticipates more."
The contest attracted 70 entries last year. Expecting even more this year, Hall urges applicants to submit ahead of the February 1 deadline. A panel of industry experts will choose the finalists. 

Source: Bill Hall, Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center
Writer: Elise Vider
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