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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 

 

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

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
 

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

Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen is the 2015 BFTP Venture Idol winner!

Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, maker of an innovative power generator that produces electricity from sustainable and renewable sources, is the 2015 Ben Franklin Venture Idol champion.

Sponsor Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania describes Venture Idol as "a cross between Shark Tank and American Idol, but with entrepreneurs and investors instead of vocalists and celebrities."

Jim Abrams of EthosGen took the top prize with this pitch: "Our product, the CraftEngine, can convert waste heat into renewable electricity on-site. This presents a huge market as the largest waste heat producers are also the largest electricity consumers -- such as manufacturing and industrial facilities, hospitals, database centers and other energy systems like solar thermal and geothermal.

"Our win," he adds, "really comes from having a great group of strategic partners including BE Aerospace, Viking Development Group and AVL Schrick."

"EthosGen has developed and commercialized a renewable energy technology that leverages one of the most abundant resources available: waste heat," explains Kenneth G. Okrepkie, regional manager of the Pocono Northeast Region for BFTP-NEP. "EthosGen’s prestigious industrial partners…strategically position the company to ramp up production and sales."

About 250 guests attended the November 20 event, which started with eight finalists (all profiled in Keystone Edge in recent weeks). Besides EthosGen, JUJAMA of Scranton, which provides technology tools for events, and TSG Software of Bethlehem, a maker of software for commercial cleaning concerns, advanced to the final round to pitch their ventures to the audience.

In addition to a cash investment based on audience votes, EthosGen will receive a start-up package from Altitude Marketing of Emmaus that includes a revamped website, and a branding and messaging upgrade. (BFTP-NEP has already invested a total of $314,500 in EthosGen.)

Abrams reports that EthosGen recently won another honor, making the top 25 out of 2,500 companies worldwide in the Extreme Tech Challenge; judging will happen in January.

Source: Jim Abrams, EthosGen; Kenneth G. Okrepkie, BFTP-NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

HiJinx Brewing Company rolls out the barrel in Allentown

Allentown's HiJinx Brewing Company isn’t quite so micro anymore thanks to the opening of its newly expanded brewery at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

The new facility features a 10-barrel (310 gallon) brewing system -- boosting HiJinx's capacity tenfold -- and a tasting room where customers can sample the brewery's beers and purchase 64-ounce growlers of their favorites.
 
Brewer Curt Keck started as a self-taught homebrewer in 1995 "to satisfy my passion for great beer" and then worked at local producers to learn the business. He met Chris Becker, another accomplished brewer, through the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers Club and the pair launched HiJinx in Keck's garage. 

It was another fortuitous meeting, this time at a local brew festival with Anthony Durante, program manager for the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), that brought HiJinx to Bridgeworks.

"After a few sips of their beers and talking to the guys, my gut told me this was something special," recalls Durante. A couple of months later, while working with the founders of The Colony Meadery, another AEDC business incubator client, Durante crossed paths with Keck and Becker again.
 
"It turns out that everyone knows everyone else in the craft beverage industries," says Durante. "Through Colony Meadery, we were able to reconnect with the HiJinx team and began working through the process of bringing them into the business incubation program."

Accommodating a brewery at Bridgeworks required the installation of floor drains, bringing utility services into the space, building a bar for the tasting area and, of course, installing the brewing system.
 
The new HiJinx has space for a total of fifteen fermenters; the company aims to have its beers offered throughout Pennsylvania and additional northeastern states in the next several months.

For now, HiJinx products are available at Shangy's: The Beer Authority in Emmaus, and on tap at a number of bars in Pennsylvania. The tasting room is open most Fridays from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. and most Saturdays from noon - 4 p.m.

Source: Curt Keck, HiJinx Brewing Company; Anthony Durante, AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider
 

New opportunities for military vets in Philly and Pittsburgh

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh marked Veterans Day last week with new initiatives aimed at boosting opportunities for military veterans.

Philadelphia is the latest outpost for Chicago’s The Bunker, the country’s first incubator for veteran-owned businesses in the tech sector. Mike Maher, a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and co-founder of Benjamin’s Desk  a co-working community, is executive director of The Bunker’s new Philly affiliate. 

"We have a special obligation to provide opportunities for our veterans to achieve success once they return home," explains Maher. "With this program, we are making it a priority to promote and recruit veterans to be leaders in our startup and business communities. Veterans make exceptional entrepreneurs and our region is poised to benefit from their leadership."

The Bunker -- which is temporarily located at Benjamin’s Desk in Center City while Maher looks for permanent space -- will initially assist five startups beginning early next year. Technology startups are the focus, but any veteran-led and operated business is eligible. 

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched Service to Opportunity, a new program that places veterans with energy and manufacturing employers who need to fill in-demand jobs. Among its features, Service to Opportunity features a database to help match skills and interests to available jobs, and a toolkit for employers featuring best practices and techniques for interviewing and hiring veterans. 

"Veterans are a good fit for many of the critical workforce needs of energy and advanced manufacturing companies here," said Laura Fisher of the Allegheny Conference in a statement. "They bring technical skills, teamwork and leadership experience, and a strong work ethic."

Source: Mike Maher, Benjamin’s Desk; Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider
 

DreamIt Athena to provide female entrepreneurs with the tools for success

In the grueling startup culture, female entrepreneurs face particular and well-documented challenges, from limited access to early-stage capital, mentors and networks, to disinclination for self-promotion.

Now DreamIt Ventures has launched DreamIt Athena, a new Philadelphia-based accelerator track focused on providing women with the tools necessary to grow viable companies.

"DreamIt Athena aims to make a significant difference…by providing specific, dedicated resources to meet [female founders’] needs," says Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt managing partner.

The accelerator's female-focused curriculum will address the challenges head on.

"The lack of role models is one of the primary differences," she explains. "Women are relatively new to the entrepreneurial scene; we were only granted the right to business credit in our own names in 1974. Like any successful entrepreneurial ecosystem, the presence of role models is critical. 
 
"The lack of access to capital is another challenge faced more acutely by female entrepreneurs," continues Griffith Gryga, noting that most angel investors and venture capitalists are males and often not interested in women entrepreneurs’ ideas. "Female founders also face challenges that are more trait based. Women’s qualifications and decision-making skills are often scrutinized more deeply and critically than their male counterparts. Additionally, women have a tendency not to self-promote, and research indicates that women downplay their accomplishments in comparison to men even though they are actually over-performing."
 
Named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, DreamIt Athena will offer $25,000 in seed money, plus coaching, mentorship and workspace at the Innovation Center @3401, DreamIt Ventures’ Philadelphia headquarters. DreamIt Athena will also partner with the women’s angel network Golden Seeds and women entrepreneur/top-level exec network Springboard to further ensure access to resources, guidance and seed money.

DreamIt received nearly $500,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development  to launch Athena, and is looking to accept, at minimum, four women-led startups for the program, which runs February through May 2015.

The application deadline is Monday, December 8.

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

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Bethlehemís Ed startup Skaffl subs iPads for paper and pencil

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

"No paper, no problems" is the mantra at Skaffl, a Bethlehem-based ed tech startup that aims to substitute tablets for pencils and notebooks in K-12 classrooms.

Skaffl has developed a mobile iPad application that allows teachers and students to exchange class materials, assignments, homework, assessments and grades, all in real time. Students can write or draw on their tablet and teachers can view -- and provide feedback -- to student work in progress.

The last year has been a heady one for Skaffl, reports co-founder and CEO Rita Chesterton. The company launched the beta version of its app live onstage at Tech Crunch Disrupt in San Francisco in September 2013. That same month, Skaffl received a $100,000 investment from Ben Franklin Tech Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania. Shortly after, Skaffl was awarded a $15,000 grant from the city of Bethlehem as part of the Keystone Innovation Zone program.

Starting in February, Skaffl spent four months in Boston as part of the LearnLaunchX accelerator program, testing its product in several schools in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. And just a few weeks ago, Skaffl presented at the EdSurge Seattle Summit and was named "a S'cool Tool of the Week."

"Since returning to our home offices in Pennsylvania, we had our official launch in July of 2014," says Chesterton. "We have growing numbers of teachers and students across the U.S. and around the world who are now using Skaffl everyday in their classrooms."

Skaffl (available for most late-model iPads) is free at the App Store until January, as Skaffl rolls out new features. 

Source: Rita Chesterton, Skaffl
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Nine healthcare startups 'Dream' big in Philadelphia

Nine healthcare startups are poised for growth on the heels of the DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014 accelerator program, which draws to a close this week.

The participating companies, selected by DreamIt VenturesIndependence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine, received $50,000 each in seed capital along with four months of hands-on support and resources to develop their ideas into scalable companies with high-growth potential. The companies pitched to investors, industry leaders and potential customers last week.

"Philadelphia has all the right components to become a national magnet for healthcare innovation," says Independence President and CEP Daniel Hilferty. "Through this unique joint venture, we’ve already brought several promising, unique, young companies to Philadelphia, and we look forward to seeing the results of this year's program come to life at Demo Day."

DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014 participating companies include:

BioBots, a Philadelphia startup, offers plug-and-play desktop 3-D bioprinters, enabling users to easily create functional biological structures.

Philadelphia's Drop Diagnostics enables rapid mobile disease detection using only a drop of blood.

NarrativeDx from Austin, Texas, provides healthcare administrators and clinicians with actionable insights from patient experiences to improve care and reduce the risk of losing millions of dollars in reimbursements.

Bear, Del.'s RegDesk connects mobile health, medical device and biopharma companies with the largest global network of on-demand compliance experts, eliminating delays and expense in launching their products.

Pittsburgh's RistCall helps hospitals improve patient safety and satisfaction scores by replacing traditional wall-mounted nurse call-bell systems with wearable, connected devices.

Tissue Analytics from Baltimore turns the common smartphone into a sophisticated medical imaging and diagnostic platform for chronic wounds.

TowerView Health offers payers and other risk-bearing entities a service that improves patient adherence to multiple medications using a next-generation connected pillbox. The company is based out of Chicago, Ill., Houston, Texas, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif.

TrueClaim, based in both Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Fla., helps health plans engage their members to substantiate claims and prevent billing errors, waste, fraud and abuse.

Philly's Willseeyou has developed predictive scheduling software that helps clinics boost their bottom line by booking more appointments, reducing inefficiencies and improving the patient experience.

Additionally, two companies born out of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are participating in DreamIt's Open Canvas@CHOP program:

Haystack develops analytics and monitoring solutions that help hospitals detect, investigate and report patient privacy breaches.

3D Peds is currently operating in stealth mode.

Source: DreamIt Health Philadelphia
Writer: Elise Vider

Mercyhurst U 'Quickstarter' boosts entrepreneurship in Erie

You've no doubt heard of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding platform. Now Kristan Wheaton, a Mercyhurst University professor, has developed "Quickstarter," a tool to identify and help potential entrepreneurs conceive successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Quickstarter is to Kickstarter what entrepreneurs are to "pre-entrepreneurs," Wheaton’s term for individuals with ideas and skills who haven’t yet "made the mental leap to entrepreneurship."

Under Quickstarter, Wheaton and his students form support teams to provide pre-entrepreneurs with targeted assistance needed to move the project forward. The help might come in the form of copywriting, public relations, graphic design, social media management or video production. If crowdfunding is successful, Quickstarter will direct the entrepreneur to appropriate resources to advance their idea.

Three projects are already underway with funding from a Mercyhurst Academic Enrichment Grant. Now, a $10,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania will enable five more Quickstarter projects through June 2015.

"Quickstarter, which is basically just my plan for supporting crowdfunding campaigns and increasing the likelihood of their success, is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in the Erie region who need specific kinds of technical support to launch their ideas and potentially turn them into real business opportunities," explains Wheaton.

There is also a larger mission in mind. Citing a March 2014 report, "Northwest Pennsylvania’s ‘entrepreneur problem’ is a simple one. There aren’t enough of them," says Wheaton.

The lack of entrepreneurs and a workforce skills gap, "exacerbate the so-called ‘brain drain’ as both young college graduates seeking relevant skills to build their resumes and entrepreneurs leave the area. To remedy this, the No. 1 recommendation of the study…was to improve the entrepreneurial culture and generate additional deal flow -- in short, increase the supply of entrepreneurs. Quickstarter addresses this recommendation directly."

Wheaton has laid out a strategy for scaling up Quickstarter with the goal of supporting 100 successful projects over three years. 

Source: Kristan Wheaton, Mercyhurst University
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Lewisburg company builds software for accrediting physicians

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

Accrediting the hundreds of thousands of students and physicians who receive clinical training at healthcare institutions in the U.S. and abroad is a vast and complex undertaking. And now the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education requires hospitals to report performance data for each resident physician on a bi-annual basis, a much more onerous task from its old reporting requirement of every three to five years. 

Meeting the requirements is made even more difficult by outdated software products -- created in the mid-'90s to replace paper -- that dominate the industry. 

Santhosh Cherian, a radiology resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, was sure there had to be a better way. Combining his background in medicine and in software and web design, he formed Medtrics Lab in 2013 with Adityo Sagir, a management consultant, to fill the gap in the healthcare technology market.

Working with physicians who are actively involved in graduate medical education accreditation and software engineers, Medtrics developed a cloud-based clinical education management system for hospitals, medical schools and universities. The software handles all aspects of training, including scheduling, performance evaluations, demographics data, procedure credentialing and data necessary to maintain national accreditation. 

Several medical institutions are piloting the platform for their residency programs: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Lubbock) Internal Medicine program, Mayaguez Medical Center in Puerto Rico, and Lutheran Medical Center’s Internal Medicine program in Brooklyn, N.Y.  

The startup recently moved to Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator where it is at work adding features to improve efficiency for large institutions and to develop full featured iOS and Android applications. 

"Over the next year we also hope to improve our marketing and sales strategy, so that we can share what we built with more institutions," adds Cherian. "We have already started working with experienced advisors at [Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA] and Bucknell University to accomplish this." 

Source: Santhosh Cherian, Medtrics Lab
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philly's University City Science Center wins $1 million grant for new commercialization program

Philadelphia's University City Science Center has won a $1 million federal grant, enabling it to offer a new turnkey accelerator for the launch and growth of emerging companies.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the Science Center the funds to create Phase 1 Ventures (P1V), aimed at promising technologies that have moved beyond the initial, technical proof-of-concept stage.
 
"Initially, P1V will focus on projects in healthcare and the life sciences; however, it is our intent to expand the scope of the program in the future to assist projects in other science and technology domains, such as materials, energy, advanced manufacturing and communications," says Chris Laing, the Science Center’s vice president for science and technology. "The program is likely to have most impact in launching companies around technologies and industry sectors where there is traditionally a long development lead-time."
 
This is the second Science Center commercialization program supported by the EDA. In 2011, the Center was awarded $1 million for its QED proof-of-concept program, which Laing says can serve as a potential pipeline for the new effort. 

"It’s too early to identify specific projects/companies in the pipeline. However, we have been having conversations with most of the area universities and research institutions," he explains. "Our QED program is a great starting point for us -- it has earned us relationships with 21 research institutions throughout the region, and of course has developed more than 60 projects that could be candidates for P1V."  
 
The Science Center applied for the latest grant through a competitive process managed by the EDA, and matched the EDA funding. The grant period is two years and Laing says the Center is actively raising further funds in hopes of running P1V for five years.

Source: Chris Laing, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

EFE Labs boosts SE PA startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories
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