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In Philadelphia, Fitly's SmartPlate uses advanced technology to keep dieters honest

Dieters rejoice. At last, a plate that can keep you honest.

Philadelphia’s Fitly has developed SmartPlate, a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled hardware device that instantly tracks and analyzes what you eat with the support of a mobile application.

The plate’s design is based on research that shows that size, color and shape all influence eating habits. According to the company's website, the average dinner plate has grown 36 percent since 1960 and bigger plates translate to bigger waistlines. Similarly, studies have shown that darker plates make it harder to determine a proper portion, encouraging overeating. The SmartPlate is shaped as a "squircle," to give the illusion of a bigger surface while providing a 10-inch diameter white surface -- ideal for healthy portions.

SmartPlate has built-in advanced object recognition and weight sensors, providing an automated reading of what a user is eating. It comes with an Android or iOS app that integrates with most wearable devices and food journaling apps.

The plate also comes with a microwaveable lid and in a variety of colors.

Anthony Ortiz founded Fitly, aimed at weight management and control of diabetes, in 2011. The company has established itself through its mobile/web app as a delivery service for fresh ingredients and recipes based on the user’s personalized healthy meal selections. Fitly is a 2013 DreamIt Health graduate. 

The company launched SmartPlate, its first product, earlier this month at Collision Conference in Las Vegas and is now in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign where it hopes to raise $100,000 to start production. They hope to begin shipping next year.

Source: Fitly
Writer: Elise Vider

Erie's AcousticSheep offers a BIG IDEA for a good night's sleep

In 2007, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai suffered the occupational hazard of a family doctor -- difficulty falling back to sleep after late-night patient phone calls. Her husband suggested that she listen to something to relax, but headphones or ear buds were uncomfortable in bed. The solution was ultra-thin, high-quality speakers stuffed with soft fleece into a headband.

That low-tech solution became the basis for high-tech SleepPhones, a headphone in a patented headband design, billed as "pajamas for your ears" by Lai’s company AcousticSheep. Now Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP) has named the Erie-based company winner of the 2015 BIG IDEA contest. 

AcousticSheep won a prize package that includes $50,000 in cash, a $25,000 research grant, priority access to a $100,000 low-interest loan, 60 hours of project time at the NW Industrial Resource Center, an apprentice to assist in prototype development or pre-commercialization services, and guidance from Ben Franklin’s eMarketing Learning Center and the Innovation Partnership

SleepPhones are a strong seller at Amazon and other online retailers. Now the company is developing software and phone apps to work with its products.

"We have an idea that will transform SleepPhones from being headphones that help you sleep better to a community partnering to improve sleep throughout the entire world," said Lai in a statement. "Winning this amazing prize will allow us to create a new technology to eliminate sleepless nights cheaply, and completely drug-free, for everyone."

Spokeswoman Jennifer Brownlee adds that AcousticSheep is working on incorporating induction charging to its wireless Bluetooth headphones; they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in July. 
 
Source: Jennifer Brownlee, AcousticSheep; BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Calling all Makers: NextFab opens second location in Philadelphia

 NextFab, a "gym for innovators" that provides members access to a variety of fabrication tools, celebrated the grand opening of its second location on Friday. The new outpost is on the first floor of Impact Hub Philadelphia, a socially-minded co-working space in the Fishtown neighborhood.

While the pairing of a business space with a workshop may seem odd to some, the match was well-made. The lovingly restored building at N. 4th and Thompson Streets was formerly occupied by 3rd Ward, a Brooklyn-founded (and now defunct) maker space.

"We learned that 3rd Ward had left a fair amount of equipment and some spaces fit out as workshops, and that Impact Hub was pondering what to do with them," explains Evan Malone, president of NextFab. "Our working together seemed to be a logical solution."

In addition to taking over unused space and equipment, Malone is also excited to be close to where people live and work -- there is a large community of artists, designers and tinkerers in the Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Kensington communities.

"It's not as large as our Wash Avenue location, but it provides well-rounded wood and metal shops, and a very quiet and comfortable CAD and electronics lab," enthuses Malone. "We are most excited that North 4th has NextFab's first shop dedicated to jewelry making and we have a professional jewelry designer on staff."
 
Keep an eye on the NextFab website for special offers throughout the month in celebration of the new space and for partnership projects with Impact Hub later this year.

Writer: Hailey Blessing
Source: Evan Malone, NextFab

TechCelerator @ State College wins $500K federal grant to turn ideas into businesses

As anyone who's ever tried to launch a tech startup knows, it takes a lot more than a good idea.

Penn State recently received a $500,000 federal grant to address just that challenge. The funds will advance the development of TechCelerator @ State College, a pre-accelerator specifically designed to allow technologists to explore entrepreneurship and commercialization pathways and arrive at educated go/no-go decisions. This program will not only result in $30 million in economic benefits, but will also catalyze a replicable rural innovation strategy.

"The TechCelerator Program, which has already produced dozens of success stories, provides an array of pre-launch business and market research services -- or Boot Camps -- designed to assist university researchers, grad students and local tech-entrepreneurs in converting their ideas into business realities," explained Stephen Brawley, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners. "Our goal was to stimulate and ‘accelerate’ a sustainable, entrepreneurial pipeline and the model works." 

The grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Innovation Strategies program are part of a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country. TechCelerator @ State College is among the first 26 recipients.

"This region is fortunate to have a variety of assets, most notably in intellectual property creation from the cutting edge research conducted at the university," said Heather Fennessey, director of Penn State’s Small Business Development Center. "Penn State's research expenditures have increased by nearly $500 million in the past 20 years. The opportunity for our potential economic growth, which can result from this increase in university-based research, is exciting."

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Three tech startups get growing with help from BFTP/CNP

Three tech startups have received investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania

Located in Harrisburg, Hatchback, Inc. has developed a B2B platform that integrates with mobile apps, allowing marketers to collect, target and engage with audiences based on their actual travel patterns. The company offers retailers, restaurants, etc., the ability to engage with consumers, creating sales opportunities that would otherwise likely not exist.   

"Power players like Google and Facebook rely on manual check-ins at Point A and Point B to learn about users," explains the company’s website. "Hatchback persistently gathers information about users' travel patterns to understand their tendencies, whereabouts and habits as consumers. In other words, Hatchback captures the invaluable moments happening between Point A and Point B that the 'big guys' simply don't access."

Atoptix, located in State College, is developing a smart-phone integrated health sensor. It offers individuals the ability to track and monitor their health and wellness by accurately measuring the levels of various tissue components such as hemoglobin, oxygen and glucose. The patented miniature optical spectrometer technology allows for completely non-invasive, real-time monitoring and early warning for health concerns such as anemia, diabetes, inflammation and even cancer. 

"Atoptix was formed to turn exciting technology developed by researchers at Penn State University into solutions that can have a meaningful and marketable impact outside of the research laboratory," says the company's website; the enterprise was recently awarded an SBIR Phase 1 grant by the National Institutes of Health.

In Boalsburg, Sensor Networks has developed a safe, patented digital solution for measuring and monitoring wall thickness in pipes, tanks, vessels and heat exchangers. This technology replaces the need to send technicians into physical locations such as refineries, chemical plants, rail and tank trucks, storage tanks and offshore drilling platforms. In February, the company was awarded a $50,000 grant from Ben Franklin’s Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center. 

Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Toothbrushes, Textiles, Technology: BFTP/NEP invests in 10 diverse companies

Three early-stage companies and seven established manufacturers in northeastern Pennsylvania are beneficiaries of the latest round of investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). Those investments total $316,000.
 
Loans were provided to the following early-stage companies:
 
Bison Analytics, LLC, Lewisburg, was awarded $52,500 to complete development of and provide marketing support to their consolidation, planning and business intelligence software, targeted to small businesses that use QuickBooks
 
Colymer Industries, LLC, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, earned $50,000 to implement a marketing and sales strategy to commercialize a new proprietary, non-asphalt roofing and waterproofing material called Tarzanite.
 
Four Hound Solutions, LLC, Wilkes-Barre, received a loan of $25,000 to develop and submit a provisional patent and revise their business plan; the company produces software solutions for automated test equipment. 
 
BFTP/NEP will also provide matching funds for these technology-based manufacturing/university partnerships.
 
Applied Separations, Inc., Allentown, and Lafayette College received $50,000 to develop and implement a new process and deploy equipment for the waterless dyeing of textiles. They hope to tap into business-to-business sales to clothing manufacturers and textile companies.
 
Bio Med Sciences, Inc., Allentown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 to complete implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system. The company produces innovative and specialized materials for burn and wound care, and aesthetic skin care. 

Effort Foundry, Inc., Bath, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center received $25,000 to implement improved production methods and product tracking capabilities at this supplier of high-integrity steel parts for the pump, power generation, and military industries.
 
Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg, and Pennsylvania State University were awarded $25,000 to further develop and optimize the economic extraction of useful materials from residual "frac" water used in natural gas wells.
 
Pleasant Mount Welding, Inc., Carbondale, and Johnson College received $20,100 to develop manufacturing capability and produce aluminum I-bar and rectangular bar grating products to better serve customers, increase profit margin and create additional market opportunities. 

Radius Toothbrush, Kutztown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $18,500 to complete facility assessment and planning to accommodate future growth at this manufacturer of innovative, high-performance, ergonomic toothbrushes.
 
Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., Bethlehem, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center were awarded $25,000 to streamline current manufacturing and shipping procedures by designing and implementing new automation techniques at this manufacturer of elliptical-shaped makeup applicators. 

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Wilkes Enterprise Center opens its doors to startups in downtown Wilkes-Barre

Wilkes University has expanded its entrepreneurial education offerings with the new Wilkes Enterprise Center, a downtown business incubator intended to encourage and support startups from Wilkes students, faculty and staff.  

According to a university blog post, nine nascent businesses are already housed at the center, which opened in March. Three are student-run enterprises: Kraken Boardsports, which manufactures outdoor recreation products; Magnesium Works, a company developing a therapeutic wrap for athletic and other applications; and Penwel, developers of a product to increase student safety at parties.

Other businesses run by Wilkes faculty and staff include Bepa Studio, a nature photography studio; Four Hound Solutions, which provides automated testing solutions (and is the recipient of a new investment, reported in this issue, from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania); Penn Manufacturing, an additive manufacturing company; MC2 Consulting Group, which provides leadership training and consulting services; and Xonnel Enterprises, which designs and manufactures fitness equipment. A ninth company, At The Inkwell -- which specializes in book promotion and reviews in an online platform -- is not physically located at the center, but will use its support services.  

The new center is an integral part of Wilkes' vision to expand entrepreneurial education across academic disciplines, explains Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy.

"The Wilkes Enterprise Center strengthens our educational mission, providing opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to invent new products and processes and to build businesses," he said in a statement. "Students also benefit by working with faculty who will start businesses under the auspices of the center."

An initiative of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes, the center also reflects the University’s commitment to the city by attracting new businesses to downtown and retaining talented individuals to work locally. 

Businesses at the center receive office space and advising from an executive-in-residence and a team of volunteer business advisors. Wilkes is also planning a seed venture fund and technology transfer office to further support fledgling businesses.

Source: Wilkes University
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia's Pulse InfoFrame brings its cloud-based platform to patient care

Alice Solomon, senior director of Pulse InfoFrame, has some questions: "Is it a problem that Starbucks is using the latest in analytics to get you a better cup of coffee, but we aren’t doing it to save your life? Is it a problem that the oncologist treating your mother may be totally unaware of how other doctors around the country and around the world are successfully treating different types of cancer? Is it a problem that your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure, prescribes meds, and sends you on your way to change your diet and sedentary lifestyle? Yes, yes, yes."

Pulse, a health care technology startup at Philadelphia's University City Science Center Digital Health Accelerator, is aiming to solve those challenges with its clinical and research platform, providing data, management and integration systems targeted at the highly detailed requirements of medical specialists. Physicians, hospitals, researchers, and medical device and pharmaceutical companies can use the cloud-based platform to capture, organize, model, store and share detailed administrative and medical data with patients and other health care stakeholders. 

The company was founded in 2011 in Canada, where it is providing the platform for a national melanoma registry, and has an office in India. Pulse originally came to Philadelphia as a participant in the Canadian Technology Accelerator and is committed to launching its U.S. operations in the region. Pulse already has its local first client, Simon’s Fund, a Lafayette Hill-based nonprofit focused on research and awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children.

According to Solomon, electronic medical records "are administrative and billing tools…they were never intended to solve patient care problems. The Pulse platform focuses on improving patient care by looking at what we call ‘little data,’ which is customizing data collection to pull what is relevant to the clinician with the goal of solving real big questions. We support 22 diseases globally (including cancer, diabetes and heart disease), provide mobile access and promote patient engagement in their own health. We find out why things happen."

Source: Alice Solomon, Pulse InfoFrame
Writer: Elise Vider

Architrep hatches DIY dinosaur kits in Allentown

At age five, Lisa Glover had a dinosaur-themed birthday party. Years later, inspired by a dinosaur-at-a-mall video, she went full Jurassic Park for an assignment at Lehigh University’s Technical Entrepreneurship Master’s Degree Program

"The dino kits were part of a homework assignment back in October of 2013 called 'Making It’ -- we had to explore a manufacturing process and demonstrate it in a unique and interesting way,” she recalls. “I chose a process called Industrial Origami, which involves taking sheet metal, making special types of cuts in it, and folding it up into various, useful objects. I thought that making something fanciful -- a costume -- would be a great use for this manufacturing process. I demonstrated it using cardboard, since sheet metal is really heavy! People really were fascinated by this 15-foot-long creation of mine, and I had a ton of fun building it, so I decided to bring a smaller version of the creature to life."

Last March, Glover hatched Architrep at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures. Soon after, she launched a flat-pack Velociraptor kit on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. She expected to raise enough funds to make and sell a few hundred kits. Instead, she sold nearly 5,500. In December, Architrep was accepted into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubation program. 

The startup's latest product, a Pterodactyl kit with a three-foot wingspan and Glover’s signature googly eyes, has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal. Glover also has plans for a Triceratops kit, as well as a variety of other dinosaurs, animals and mythical creatures. 

"I'm also developing some mini kits of the same creatures," she says. "The current kits take a few hours to build and are intended for ages 9-plus. I'd like to create some simpler ones that can be built by ages 6-plus and only take half-an-hour to build. Also, I'm developing partial-costumes: just the head and arms of creatures, that people can build and wear. Some day, I hope to bring full-body costumes to the world, but right now that just isn't feasible." 

Source: Lisa Glover, Architrep
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia's BioBots prints living tissue

In the sounds-like-science-fiction department comes BioBots, a Philadelphia startup developing high-resolution, desktop 3D printers that generate living tissue.

"BioBots is like a 3D printer, but instead of using plastic filament to create 3D structures, it uses mixtures of biocompatible materials (like collagen) and living cells to create 3D tissues," explains CEO Danny Cabrera. "The finished product that comes out of the BioBot is alive."

The first-generation BioBots 1 printer can generate a dozen different cell types. 
  
With over 120,000 patients in the United States on organ-transfer waiting lists, building replacement organs is a long-term goal for the company. For now, the printers are primarily used for research.

"Biofabrication technology is definitely becoming more and more accessible in functionality, ease of use and cost, and that is going to greatly accelerate the pace of development," says Cabrera. "We are currently focusing on making the best research tool for our customers, taking structures out of lab note books and onto lab benches. It’s only a matter of time before those same structures start leaking out of the lab and into the clinic." 

Co-founder Ricardo Solorzano started working on printing 3D tissues -- and built the first prototype -- in his University of Pennsylvania dorm room. In August, he and Penn classmates Cabrera and Sohaib Hashmi launched the company. The startup initially grew at the DreamIt Health incubator and recently received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

BiotBots is also opening a seed round of funding; actively promoting its beta program; offering testers a bioprinter and support for $5,000; and recruiting for its R&D team.

"The BioBot 1 is exciting, but it’s definitely not all we have up our sleeves," insists Cabrera. "Look out for a radical change in a few healthcare-related industries and new industries being created by our technology."

Source: Danny Cabrera, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Whitehall's Dynalene helps industry keep its cool

Even in the coldest of winters, industrial processes generate a lot of heat  -- and that's not a good thing.

Dynalene, headquartered in Whitehall, specializes in industrial heat transfer fluids or, as president and CEO Satish Mohapatra explains, "something that carries heat from one place to another, similar to the antifreeze in your car engine."

The company's products are used in a wide range of applications: pharmaceutical (reactor cooling), food and beverage process cooling, climactic chambers (wind tunnels), ice rinks, heating and air-conditioning of buildings, solar thermal and electronics cooling.

Dynalene's roots go back to a 1993 research grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennylvania that went towards development of ultra-low temperature heat transfer fluids that work efficiently below -80°C (-112°F). The resulting products were commercialized and sold under the Dynalene name by several antecedent corporations until 2005 when the company changed its name to Dynalene Inc. 

Today, the enterprise has more than 50 products, offers a wide range of analytical testing through its laboratory services division, and fields an active R&D group.  
 
"Looking ahead, we are developing several products to go into solar thermal, fuel-cell cooling and flushing fluid applications," adds Mohapatra.

Dynalene works closely with Lehigh University and has won a number of grants from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance.  

The company made its first expansion in 2013 with a new production facility in Chicago to serve midwest customers and is currently planning another such facility in the west.

Source: Satish Mohapatra, Dynalene
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pittsburgh startup NetBeez monitors networks in real time

The enterprise networks that healthcare organizations, university campuses and big retailers rely upon are complex and notoriously difficult to build, operate, monitor and troubleshoot.

Pittsburgh's NetBeez has developed a network-monitoring tool that tests and validates enterprise networks from an end-user perspective. The company uses small and low-cost sensors to verify that users can connect to the network and have good performance from the applications. Data is collected in real-time. When a problem occurs in the network, it is immediately detected and reported to the network support group so it can be corrected before users have to call the help desk.

Stefano Gridelli, Panickos Neophytou and Panos Vouzis founded the company in 2013 at Innovation Work's AlphaLab incubator. Neophytou is credited as the main developer of the central server that provides the "swarm intelligence" of the system. Vouzis developed the network sensors -- called BEEZ -- that collect and process network and application performance.

"The solution can be deployed in any network environment: from small remote offices to large corporate locations, from data centers to cloud environments," explains Gridelli. "The development team puts considerable effort into making the solution easy to use and deploy so our customers can start monitoring with NetBeez from day one, without requiring too much effort, skill or training for its adoption."

NetBeez recently released new wireless monitoring agents -- "a killer product that is [generating] strong demand from universities and from retail customers," says Gridelli -- and will be showcasing its wares next month at Interop Las Vegas, a mega IT industry event. 

Since its founding, NetBeez has received funding from Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Innovation Works via the Technology Commercialization Initiative.

"Without their support and the ecosystem that is taking place in Pittsburgh, it would have been almost impossible for the founding team to [achieve] such accomplishment in two years only," insists Gridelli.

Source: Stefano Gridelli, NetBeez
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Titusville sketches a downtown arts and crafts incubator

Officials in Titusville are taking first steps towards creating a downtown arts-and-crafts incubator.

Deb Eckelberger of the Titusville Community Development Agencies (TCDA) describes the project as "a win-win…a way to fill a vacant downtown location and to showcase the wealth of talent in this area."

A wide array of artists, crafters and artisans -- jewelry makers, photographers, alpaca wool providers, spinners of yarn, handmade soap providers, wood crafters, maple syrup makers, bead and glass artists and more -- have expressed interest in taking space at the former Angeli Winery Store.

The approximately 3,000 square foot space would house microbusinesses, giving the vendors a year-round retail presence, and freeing them from reliance on holiday and craft show sales. The incubator could also leverage the reuse of an adjacent, one-time restaurant.

"The two locations could work well together," says Eckelberger.

Establishing the incubator is a true team effort. Titusville Redevelopment Authority (TRA), TCDA’s economic development arm, owns the building.

"We are uniquely positioned to work together with the artisans and crafters, the City of Titusville, local community organizations -- Titusville Industrial Fund Inc., Titusville Council on the ArtsTitusville Chamber of Commerce and Titusville Renaissance Inc. --  and with our Northwest Partnership for Regional Economic Performance partners," explains Eckelberger.

In addition, TCDA is working with the Gannon Small Business Development Center to provide business support services to the vendors.

Source: Deb Eckelberger, TCDA
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA names seven top innovators

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) will honor seven innovators who have achieved success through Ben Franklin funding and assistance, have helped others to achieve success, or have improved their businesses through innovation. The annual Ben Franklin iXchange will take place on Thursday, May 7.

BFTP/NEP named Hometown’s Highwood USA as the company that best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement. A manufacturer of extruded-plastic, synthetic-wood products for outdoor furniture, hot tubs/spas, decks and other exterior lumber uses, the company "demonstrates the successful leverage of Ben Franklin support to accelerate the growth of a young firm," said BFTP/NEP in a statement. "Founded in 2003, Highwood proactively and continuously innovates its processes, introduces new products, and identifies and develops untapped niches in the marketplace…Through thoughtful planning, bold strategy and skillful execution, the firm continues to grow, providing high-value jobs in Schuylkill County for years to come."

Slatington's Luminaire Testing Laboratory (LTL) was honored for its success as a BFTP incubator graduate. In 1989, LTL was the first company to locate in Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. In 2010, the owners sold the company to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the well-known international electrical testing company. The founder recently launched another new company.

"The LTL story demonstrates the importance of business incubators in providing support to early-stage firms," explained BFTP. "It portrays a successful business exit, executed by a founder who was able to attract an international business to the region that continued to create and retain good jobs. Finally, the LTL story illustrates the commitment of a serial entrepreneur who is now developing a second venture."

LifeAire Systems in Allentown will be honored for product innovation. The company’s revolutionary air purification systems "will impact a continuum of patient care, beginning with the protection of the embryo, to the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit, to the patient in the operating room, and to the elderly in long-term care facilities."
        
Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, meanwhile, is revolutionizing the $1 billion renewable energy market with a patented and proprietary Thermal Energy to Electric Power System. The company best demonstrates "a 'break-the-mold/ approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business," said BFTP/NEP.
        
BFTP/NEP also recognized Wilkes-Barre’s Medico Industries, which produces metal parts for oil and gas drilling companies, the automotive industry and other customers, for manufacturing achievement. "A focus on constant improvement has enabled the company to establish a truly flexible manufacturing facility that has economically transitioned through many changes in industrial needs," explains BFTP/NEP.
        
Andrew Stanten, president of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus, "an unwavering supporter of regional entrepreneurship [who] freely shares his expertise and experience widely with startups, established manufacturers and students in northeastern Pennsylvania" was named winner of the entrepreneurial advocate award. Edward J. McCann, Jr., retired COO of the Berks County Workforce Investment Board, will be honored for his "strong vision, dedication and commitment [that] have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals."

The awards dinner is set for May 7 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Out of the Office, into the Kitchen: Allentown's Sarbari provides restaurant-purchasing software

Restaurants and food service providers, from small family-owned eateries to large restaurant groups, all devote significant resources to purchasing food and supplies. 

Sarbari, based in Allentown, aims to get restaurant personnel out of the office and into the kitchen, with a software solution that organizes supplier data, streamlines the ordering process, boosts productivity, and saves money on food and labor costs.

Founder and CEO Sebastian Serra started his career as a produce supplier in the North End of Boston, eventually starting his own company.

"After selling that company to a larger competitor, I saw a need for restaurant owners to have the ability to organize the pricing and product information from all the suppliers they were using," he recalls. "By starting with an Excel spreadsheet and creating formulas that helped them shop more intelligently, the restaurants saw savings in both time and money immediately."

That spreadsheet eventually led Serra to Allentown's Trifecta Technologies, which developed Sarbari’s web-based software program, and, most recently, to a new headquarters in downtown Allentown.

"We're excited to be part the amazing revitalization going on here," he says. "With our new space we now have plenty of room to operate. We're currently working to add new members to our operations team, and the sales team will expand into New York and Boston in the coming months. We expect to add five to 10 new jobs in the next six months."

Working with its clients, Sarbari has identified several new features for the next software update, scheduled for this summer. 

Source: Sebastian Serra, Sarbari  
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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