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BFTP/NEP has busy July, announces another batch of funded companies

In addition to last week's slate of funded companies, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania's (BFTP/NEP) has announced the following investments, provided to clients in the form of loans.

Cerora Inc., Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $150,000
This investment will go towards the development and commercialization of the company's first product, Cerora Qumpass, a cloud-based software as a service medical-grade neurodiagnostic solution. The company's MindReader is a portable electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave biosensor that measures the electrical activity of the brain. It combines cutting-edge advancements in EEG design with cognitive and voice-based data streams, all integrated with software to provide real-time, objective neurodiagnostic information in the field. The rapid diagnosis of brain disease and injuries can lead to early and effective intervention with resulting cost savings, improved clinical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction. There are currently no affordable, portable and accurate neuro-diagnostics available to physicians, nurses, first responders and trainers for use in real time.

Map Decisions, LLCBen Franklin TechVenturesBethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
This loan will help provide sales, marketing, product development and customer service support. Map Decisions produces infrastructure asset and work management software, and provides field mapping and data management services. The company's secure, cloud-based mobile platform is designed for state and local governments, utilities, oil and gas, transportation, and construction industries. Map Decisions helps organizations increase operational efficiency, improve customer service, reduce compliance risks and decrease operational costs. 

Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Orbweaver aims to complete development of a bill-of-material authoring tool as a module in a cloud-based software solution for electronic circuit board manufacturers. Current sourcing and procurement models in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly inefficient. Orbweaver's software platform will allow for more well-negotiated terms with suppliers, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity for clients.

Pivitec, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $21,100
This developer of audio streaming and distribution products will continue commercialization and enhancement of hardware and software products. Live performances in theaters and houses of worship require a variety of approaches to provide performers the ability to hear their own performances as well as cues. Wired systems currently in use require extensive cabling, limiting performers' movements, and have limited audio source reception. Pivitec uses wireless mobile devices as interactive controllers for its network devices to address these problems.

PROVA Systems and Technologies, Inc., Carbondale
Ben Franklin Investment: $40,000
This infusion will support the commercialization of PROVA Systems' Fleet Genius® PRO, a fleet management software system for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The software integrates PROVA's plug-and-play fleet management monitor that links with its cloud-based SAAS application to collect, monitor and analyze the performance of vehicles and drivers. PROVA's system enables proactive management of vehicles using data derived from their usage patterns and collected from on-board computers. Fleet Genius PRO can reduce fleet operations costs by more than 60 percent versus current technology, and, in many instances, pays for itself in less than a year. 

Skaffl, LLC, Allentown
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
This company will complete the development of Skaffl, a new mobile application through which teachers and students can exchange class materials, assignments, completed homework and grades. This digital application addresses the growing use of tablets in K-12 classrooms and the needs of teachers as they develop tools and curricula to enhance real-time educational interaction. There are no other applications that address these needs comprehensively while also being simple to use for students, teachers and administrators. 

Susquehanna Mining Solutions, Shavertown
Ben Franklin Investment: $150,000
SMS will design, construct and begin operation of a four-million-gallon-per-day pilot facility for the recovery of minerals and clean-up of water from acid mine drainage. The company's process produces clean water and harvests iron oxide, while utilizing accessible geothermal energy as the power source for material processing operations. Once completed, the patented technology will be commercialized for large-scale use.

XiGo Nanotools, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
Thanks to this funding, this manufacturer of patented products that rapidly measure the wetted surface area of nanoparticles and droplets using magnetic resonance technology aims to complete software enhancements, allowing expanded sales. Nano-particles are minute; they typically have diameters that are 1/1,000th the diameter of a human hair. Nanoparticle properties are key predictors of material performance in many industrial applications, including energy, electronics, ceramics and pharmaceuticals, and currently there are no other efficient measurement methods. XiGo's new Acorn Drop is a product extension of the company's initial product, the Acorn Area, and measures the drop size of emulsions.

Ben Franklin also announces the following established manufacturer investments. Ben Franklin provides 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on technology-based manufacturing innovation in established manufacturers.

Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC, Reading
College Partner: Northampton Community College's Emerging Technologies Applications Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $22,350
Cambridge-Lee will conduct controlled testing to optimize their manufacturing process for copper tubing, helping the company enter new markets and capitalize on market growth. Copper tubing is used in plumbing, refrigeration and other commercial applications. The process improvement will increase throughput and reduce energy costs.

Georg Fischer Harvel, LLC, Easton
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $10,000
This company aims to complete a sustainability analysis to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent or more. GFH is an international leader in thermoplastic extrusion, primarily manufacturing PVC and CPVC piping for a diverse set of customers. Energy costs are a top manufacturing expense, so cost savings in this area will yield a significant competitive advantage.

BFTP/SEP closes the fiscal year with $6.6 million invested in 37 companies

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania closed their books for the fiscal year 2014 with some big numbers.
 
BFTP/SEP announced it had approved $6.6 million in investments in 37 companies across the region.
 
Eight deals totaling $2.4 million were in the physical sciences (four in energy infrastructure, one in engineered electronics, one in energy water infrastructure, one in consumer products and one in sustainable technology).
 
Seventeen deals totaling $2.3 million broke down to seven in software-as-a-service, three in web services, three in infrastructure-as-a-service, two mobile, one gaming and one regional initiative.
 
Life sciences accounted for $1.9 million over 12 deals: four digital health and diagnostics, three diagnostics, three medical devices or biomaterials, one consumer medical products, and one medical imaging and dental tech.
 
Geographically, the deals broke down like this: Philadelphia County, 16; Chester County, seven; Montgomery County, six; Bucks and Delaware counties, four each.
 
Sixty-eight percent of the companies are new to BFTP/SEP; the remaining 32 percent received  follow-on investments.
 
Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

County Seat Spirits is the Lehigh Valley's first modern distillery

County Seat Spirits, the Lehigh Valley’s first distillery since Prohibition, is joining the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, with plans to begin manufacturing aged and un-aged whiskeys, vodka, gin and rum upon licensure.
 
"We are very excited to have the Lehigh Valley’s first distillery choose Allentown and the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center as the location to launch its venture," says Scott Unger, executive director of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). "Craft spirits fits perfectly in the niche we have developed, that includes a craft meadery -- The Colony Meadery -- and a microbrewery, HiJinx Brewing Company."

(For more on Bridgeworks, check out this feature in Keystone Edge.)
 
"The Lehigh Valley is already home to some of the region’s finest bars, restaurants, sports venues, attractions and microbreweries," adds County Seat Spirits co-founder Anthony Brichta. "Yet, the Lehigh Valley doesn’t yet have a distillery to call its own. County Seat Spirits will fill that void."
 
"The market for high-quality spirits is strong and should remain so for the foreseeable future," explains John Rowe, County Seat’s other co-founder. "The timing is right for us to get established in a growing industry and to be part of the revival of craft distilling in Pennsylvania."
 
Rowe and Brichta will spend the next few months navigating the licensing process at both the federal and state levels, while purchasing equipment and fitting out their space at the center. The company hopes to be licensed by the end of the year so that it can begin production at Bridgeworks. Plans also call for a tasting room, open to the public on weekends for distillery tours, cocktails and direct sales. Their initial market will be local bars and restaurants, says Brichta.
 
Pennsylvania has a long history of distilling dating back before the Revolutionary War. However, all of the Commonwealth’s distilleries were wiped out during Prohibition. In 2005, Philadelphia Distilling became the first Pennsylvania distillery since the 1920s. A 2012 change in state law made it easier for small distilleries to operate, and since that time a number of successful operations have been launched throughout the state.
 
Source: Anthony Brichta, County Seat Spirits and AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/NEP announces latest funding round

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania's (BFTP/NEP) has pledged $620,000 in support of regional economic development. The funds will go towards developing and growing early-stage tech companies, helping manufacturers apply new technology and achieve industry leadership, and fostering a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.

Ben Franklin has also announced the following investments, provided to companies in the form of loans.

CEWA Technologies, Wyomissing
Ben Franklin Investment: $350,000
This company hopes to complete design, construction and prototype testing of a new kind of point-concentrated solar power dish. Their product should deliver power for industrial and institutional applications at a lower cost due to its innovative shape and build.

Good Vittles, Hamburg
Ben Franklin Investment: $56,000
This company aims to complete the development and implementation of its exclusive technology to support its e-commerce marketplace for specialty foods. Good Vittles' two e-commerce portals serve as direct distribution channels, connecting food suppliers with professional chefs and individual consumers. Suppliers will use the company's proprietary packing process to maintain freshness while employing cost-effective shipping methods.

U.S. Specialty Formulations, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
U.S. Specialty Formulations will complete the set-up, staffing and cGMP-approval process to produce sterile injectable pharmaceuticals for the medical community. Millions of Americans require specialized and custom-compounded drugs, and the current infrastructure is insufficient. As an FDA-registered outsourced manufacturer, USF will employ advanced quality and manufacturing controls to comply with new, more stringent federal quality standards.

Ben Franklin is also investing in the following established manufacturers, providing 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner.

Bosch Rexroth Corporation, Bethlehem
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

This Lehigh Valley manufacturer of motion-control equipment aims to develop and implement a process to automate data collection, driving process improvements and enabling predictive maintenance for machining centers throughout the company.

Fidelity Technologies Corporation, Reading
College Partner: Northampton Community College's Emerging Technology Applications Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

Fidelity will develop superior tactical electric power generator technology, primarily for the U.S. Department of Defense. These new generators meet a need for compact, reliable, fuel-efficient and fuel-flexible generators in the field.

Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg
University Partner: The Pennsylvania State University
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

The company will further develop and optimize the economic extraction of useful materials from residual "frac" water used in natural gas wells. Hydro Recovery's process converts the used water into a Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid (HSF™) that can then be reused. This process eliminates the need to transport wastewater over long distances, will save millions of gallons of freshwater each year, and eliminate discharge of treated water into waterways.

Palram Americas Group, Kutztown
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $12,500

This manufacturer of polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride plastic sheets will complete the development of standard operating procedures to maximize efficiency. These standards will enhance safety and reduce both direct and indirect costs, leading to improved competitiveness and customer satisfaction. 

PMF Industries, Inc., Williamsport
University Partner: Pennsylvania College of Technology
Ben Franklin Investment: $23,000

The company aims to optimize the electrical consumption of its largest motors -- energy consumption represents a significant cost of manufacturing. PMF provides contract manufacturing services with an emphasis on flow forming -- producing metal parts that are cylindrical, conical, or contoured with precise control of wall thicknesses. Customers include the aerospace and energy sectors, as well as users of precision pressure vessels. 

Suburban Testing Laboratories, Inc., Reading
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $3,500

This Reading company will define current and future facility requirements for the installation of a new, centralized walk-in incubator room. Suburban provides environmental, product and water testing and analyses for both industry and municipalities. 
 

Jump Start Grants to boost state's early-stage life science companies

It’s a classic dilemma: scientists have profound therapeutic or drug discovery expertise, but often lack the comprehensive development, regulatory or commercial expertise -- to say nothing of the necessary funds to engage consulting help -- to commercialize their discoveries. 

The Jump Start Grant, now accepting applications, is aimed at filling this void in Pennsylvania. Early stage therapeutic companies can compete for professional services and expertise in the form of product development and commercialization plans, which are critical to raising venture capital and growing efficiently. 

"Early stage companies often lack the expertise to comprehensively address the myriad commercial development challenges which exist in the life sciences marketplace," says Pennsylvania Bio President and CEO Christopher P. Molineaux. "We are fortunate to have partnered with two industry leaders on this unique grant opportunity which gives our members access to development and commercialization insights required for preparation of funding applications and presentations."

PharmaDirections of North Carolina and New Perspectives in Alabama are partnering with PA Bio, the statewide trade association for the life sciences, to award two grants of about $50,000 each.

Subject matter experts will assess applications based on the following submission criteria: concept, scientific rationale, innovation, market opportunity understanding, management team and impact. Two winners will receive service grants that include an additive development plan and budget, associated Gantt charts, and commercial opportunity assessment.

Applications are due August 21. Winners will be announced in October 2014 at PA Bio's Life Sciences Future Signature Event. 

Source: PA Bio
Writer: Elise Vider

Lehigh Valley Angel Investors seek to support more startups

What do Carmell Therapeutics, developer of biomaterials manufactured from human blood plasma that contain a concentration of natural regenerative factors to promote healing; EggZack, a software-as-a-service solution that requires only a single entry to update a client’s website and other marketing functions; mdCurrent, a health and medical publisher serving practicing doctors in India; Orion Fleet Intelligence, which provides GPS-derived business intelligence software and services to companies with fleet operations; and Cerora, a brain biosensor information company developing accessible neuro-diagnostic information for brain health assessment, all have in common?

They are all Lehigh Valley startups that got an early boost from the Lehigh Valley Angel Investors network (LVAI). Now LVAI is seeking new partners to expand its portfolio and allow for greater investment in the region.

LVAI was founded in 2010 by Todd Welch of Charter Partners, Stu Schooley, founder and co-owner of Dutch Springs, and about a dozen other successful entrepreneurs.

"All of us are entrepreneurs and we all built our companies from the ground up," says Schooley, president of LVAI. "Now, we are interested in supporting like-minded people. Somewhere along the way, someone helped us and we want to return the favor."
 
Schooley said that the network’s goal is to grow from the current 21 members to a group of about 35 to 40 investors. Prospective investors should contact Schooley by email or by calling 610-759-2270. 

LVAI is associated with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania as an affiliate member of the Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator/post-incubator at Lehigh University

Source: Stuart Schooley, Lehigh Valley Angel Investors
Writer: Elise Vider 

BFTP/SEP issues request for proposals to commercialize alternative and clean energy technologies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) is inviting companies developing solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, advanced uses for natural gas resources, novel energy storage technologies and technologies related to energy conservation or transportation to apply to its Alternative Energy Development Program (AEDP). 

AEDP offers loans between $50,000 to $750,000. The program is intended to accelerate the development and commercialization of promising clean and alternative energy technologies. BFTP/SEP says it will consider proposals for technologies that have demonstrated impact for energy generation, conservation and/or distribution.

To be eligible, companies must have fewer than 250 employees and be located in -- or willing to relocate to -- Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties. Technologies employed in the proposals can range from early-stage to commercialization ready. 

Under the terms of BFTP/SEP’s request for proposals, a five-to-one cash match is required for $50,000 loans; loans greater than $50,000 require a one-to-one company match.
 
An email notice of intent to apply is due by 5 p.m. on June 23; completed proposals must be submitted by 5 p.m. on July 7.

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pennsylvania SBDC reports 2013 results amid a challenging funding environment

Nearly 11,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners benefitted from free, confidential business management advice provided by Pennsylvania’s 18 Small Business Development Centers in 2013, and SBDC can point to an array of success stories and positive results.

But, in releasing its 2013 annual report, SBDC also makes clear that with an 8 percent drop in federal funds due to sequestration, its capacity is diminished.

Altogether, the centers advised 10,966 entrepreneurs and businesses in 2013, providing nearly 110,000 hours of consulting. Most participants were very small ventures, with fewer than six employees, and most requested help with developing a business plan. More than half -- 55 percent -- were operating in the service industry. Many were women-, minority- or veteran-owned. 

SBDC reports that the number of advisees fell by about 1,000 from 2012. The number of educational programs and attendees fell, too.

"Automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to federal funding took a toll on our program last year…directly impacting services to Pennsylvania’s small business owner," said PA SBDC State Director Christian Conroy in a statement. 

Still, client-obtained financing grew to more than $138 million and client government contacts rose to more than $305 million. 

Success stories included the Gannon University SBDC, which helped McKean Veterinary Hospital in Edinboro raise $960,000 to expand operations. The Bucknell University SBDC helped the father-daughter founders of Upper Desk in Hughesville with patent and market research for their product. And in Philadelphia, the Widener University SBDC helped the AAA School of Trucking navigate the federal procurement data system and find new opportunities.

SBDC says it is seeking "stable federal funding" for the 2015 fiscal year in order to "best serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in Pennsylvania and nationwide."

Source: Kelly Cofrancisco, SBDC
Writer: Elise Vider

Penn State life science researchers now eligible for QED proof-of-concept funding

Philadelphia's University City Science Center’s successful QED proof-of-concept program has an important new academic partner: Penn State University has expanded its involvement from the Medical College at Hershey to include its main campus at University Park, opening the seventh round of QED funding to hundreds of life science researchers. 

"Penn State Main Campus’ participation in QED signals growing interest in cross-disciplinary collaborations in technology commercialization across Pennsylvania," says Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "Innovative minds and the discoveries they will make contribute to our region’s future as a technology hub and innovation center."

In May, the Science Center issued its latest RFP for technologies ripe for commercialization to 21 participating institutions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Over the next seven months, QED will offer advisory support and the chance for direct project funding to researchers from the participating institutions as they position their technologies for product development and private investment. After the QED Selection Team makes an initial cut, approximately 10 researchers will be paired with business advisors and work to develop business plans to commercialize their technologies. Ultimately, four projects will be selected to receive up to $200,000 each in funding. 

"Faculty in the College of Medicine participated in last year’s QED Program with some success," says Neil Sharkey, Penn State’s Interim Vice President for Research. "Four teams were selected as finalists in the competition, one of which garnered an award. We are hoping for the same level of enthusiasm from Penn State bioscience faculty located at University Park."

QED describes itself as "the first multi-institutional, proof-of-concept program for the life sciences and health IT [bringing] together academic invention, market insight and commercial guidance." To date, five projects funded by QED have been licensed and gone on to raise additional funds. One, a portable low-cost radiation-free breast cancer detector invented by Drexel University Professor Wan Y. Shih, was funded by QED in 2009 and licensed to UE LifeSciences, a growth-stage company in Philadelphia. 

QED continues to attract additional funding based on its track record of successful commercialization outcomes. This year, the program received a $300,000 award from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to help fund Pennsylvania-based awardees.

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Hot in Pittsburgh: 2013 was a watershed year for economic development

Pittsburgh’s economic development community is reporting numbers from 2013 that reflect a watershed year, with strong growth, increased investment and a robust entrepreneurial climate.

In its annual report, Innovation Works (IW) announces that it assisted 188 companies and invested $6 million in the region. A record 37 new companies received first-time investment from IW through its seed fund and accelerator programs, making IW the seventh most active seed investor in the U.S. in 2013.

"There is a general sense of momentum in our region’s startup community," says IW President and CEO Rich Lunak. "Whether it's the increased level of spinouts from our universities or the growing number of grassroots organizations, co-working spaces, hackathons and other day-to-day events -- Pittsburgh's startup community is energized. Entrepreneurs are launching new products, receiving national recognition, gaining customer traction and expanding into larger offices to support greater levels of revenue and jobs."
 
And, he adds, 2014 is off to a strong start: "Pittsburgh's first quarter venture investment totals were the highest of any quarter in five years and that bodes well for future growth."

Lunak attributes the success to the fact that "Pittsburgh’s startup community is characterized by multiple areas of technical strength. The region has a highly educated workforce that feeds our diverse startup community in areas that range from computer science and biotechnology to electronics, energy and advanced materials. One broad area where we have a clear advantage over any other region in the country is the merge point where hardware and software meet, whether that's sensors, robotics, 3-D printing and customization, mobile apps for connected devices -- these are all examples of growing technology trends and unique strengths of Pittsburgh."
 
In a separate development, Site Selection magazine named the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA)  one of the U.S.'s top 10 economic development organizations for 2013 -- the only such group in the Northeast -- based on the group's 2013 performance.

Source: Rich Lunak, Innovation Works and Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
Writer: Elise Vider

Blackstone LaunchPad Philadelphia boosts student entrepreneurship

Student entrepreneurs on two Philadelphia campuses have a major new resource thanks to the Blackstone LaunchPad Philadelphia, a new partnership between Philadelphia UniversityTemple University and the University City Science Center. The LaunchPad centers offer mentoring, coaching and other innovative co-curricular support for student entrepreneurs. 

The program, developed by the University of Miami, has grown to include 14 campuses in six regions, bringing a total of 350,000 students into its network. The goal is to help students view entrepreneurship as a mainstream career path and drive regional economic development.

According to Zoe Selzer McKinley, executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Philadelphia University, the 3,600-student school is the smallest in the Blackstone network. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in entrepreneurial gusto. 

"Philadelphia University's approach to education is collaborative, multidisciplinary and engaged in the real world, making it an ideal platform for entrepreneurship," says McKinley. "The Blackstone LaunchPad builds on [the school's] unique approach to innovation education by providing our students a coaching program tailored to their entrepreneurial needs."

The center had its official ribbon cutting this month, but has been operational since February. Among the student projects already in the pipeline are an online magazine (crowdfunding is being used to support a print version), a surf and snowboard company, a baseball equipment concern, fashion-related businesses and Milkcrate, an app for sustainable urban living that will launch in August. 

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Temple University is housed on the first floor of the Howard Gittis Student Center and run by Executive Director Jaine Lucas and Director Marilyn Barry.

As the regional partner for Blackstone LaunchPad Philadelphia, the Science Center supports the programs at both Philadelphia University and Temple, and will develop and manage a Venture Coaching Network open to LaunchPad students. The Science Center is also identifying ways to support student entrepreneurship in the Greater Philadelphia region's broader collegiate ecosystem.

Source: Zoe Selzer McKinley, Blackstone LaunchPad at Philadelphia University, and the University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Shale innovators win funding and exposure in third annual Innovation Contest

Four companies will share a $100,000 purse to develop their innovative, shale-related product or service as winners of the 3rd Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest, sponsored by the Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (SGICC),  a Ben Franklin Technology Partners-supported center. 

One winner, KCF Technologies, Inc. of State College, has developed a low-cost, low-power sensor used for wireless monitoring of rotating equipment, also known as condition-based maintenance. Current customers include the pulp and paper industry and the building maintenance sector. As reported last year in Keystone Edge, KCF is diversifying into the oil and gas industry, and with the support of an SGICC seed grant, is conducting a demonstration project to prove the value of its technology to this new market segment.

OPTIMUM Pumping Technology in Morgan was named a winner for its high-performance manifolds -- they reciprocate natural gas compressors, eliminating pulsation control bottles and their vibration-related failures, significantly improving compressor reliability and operating efficiency. TM Industrial Supply of Erie won thanks to its technology that filters contaminants from the natural extraction process.

A fourth company, NG Innovations, Inc. of West Virginia, was also named a winner. 

Opportunity abounds, but bringing shale-related products and services to market can be daunting, says SGICC Director Bill Hall.

"Until you’ve been in the trenches, so to speak, it’s hard to explain how challenging it is to advance an idea all the way to commercial success," he explains. "SGICC’s job is to sort through the dozens and dozens of promising ideas, and identify the ones that we can impact by shining a light on them using a small amount of seed funding, and then helping them vet their concept with potential end users.”

The contest brings value, he adds, not only for the dollars but also for the wide industry exposure. He cites REV LNG of Ulysses, one of last year's winners and a supplier of "on demand" liquid natural gas. CEO David Kailbourne says the win was instrumental in propelling recent company growth.

"Our process is making a difference for the next generation of shale energy innovators," says Hall. "Our partnership with many of the leading shale energy companies helps expose these ideas to the right audience, and fast track the best ones to a successful commercial launch."

Source: Bill Hall, SGICC
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/SEP invests $975,000 in nine startups

Startups working on social gaming, a meal-planning app, a sports video publishing platform and medical technology and devices are among nine early-stage regional companies approved for a total investment of $975,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) 

BioDetego, LLC of Philadelphia will receive $50,000 to further develop VASPfore, a new biomarker test for selecting cancer treatment protocols. BioDetego predicts that the VASPfore will save millions of dollars a year by reducing total treatment costs.

Essential Medical in Chester County has been awarded $75,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $500,000) to develop X-SealTM and MANTATM, two innovative vascular closure devices. These devices are used to close incisions in the leg artery after cardiac catheterizations.
 
Fitly, Inc. of Philadelphia will receive $50,000. The company's web app allows customers to personalize weekly meal plans featuring healthy recipes in less than five minutes; the necessary ingredients and cooking instructions are then delivered to the diner's door. 
 
Grand Round Table of Philadelphia has been awarded $50,000. GRT has developed an innovative clinical decision support tool integrated into the electronic health record. GRT helps hospitals and clinics save time and money by directing doctors to appropriate solutions faster, reducing the number of unnecessary tests, ineffective treatments and consultations that patients receive.

HealthQx in Montgomery County will receive $250,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $150,000). This healthcare technology company delivers a big-data driven SaaS solution to healthcare payers, providers and partners on the leading edge of the shift from fee-for-service to transparent, value-based healthcare payment.

MemVu in Bucks County has been awarded $50,000. This social gaming company delivers an innovative and engaging brain fitness gaming platform that facilitates the involvement of families and caregivers in the care, socialization and stimulation of loved ones suffering from a brain health condition such as Alzheimer’s.
 
NETMINDER in Montgomery County will use its $150,000 to increase the sustainable efficacy of saltwater nets, traps and related equipment -- their products dramatically decrease underwater fouling by using nontoxic coatings. 
 
SideCar in Philadelphia has been awarded $100,000 (Ben Franklin previously invested $385,000). The company is positioning itself as a name-brand powerhouse in the world of big data marketing solutions by combining paid search, comparison shopping, on-site personalization and personalized email.
 
SilverLine Global in Philadelphia will receive $200,000. A digital video publishing platform for the endurance sports industry, the company enables endurance sports events to leverage digital video directly on their websites and social media. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

A father-daughter team spearheads Kempton's Tree Armor

In 1992, when Jill Saunders was a year old, her family planted 20 sycamores and maples on their Kempton farm. Since then, only one of those trees has survived the year-round damage done by deer.
 
Jill and her father, Jim, tried wrapping their trees with a variety of tree guards -- "glorified ace bandages," recalls Jill. Eventually, the pair decided to design a better tree guard.
 
Their invention, Tree Armor, is a coiled PVC plastic engineered to unwind around any size trunk. The product is brown and almost invisible from a short distance. It is reusable, perforated to prevent mold and mildew, and certified to be free of heavy metals and other toxins that can leach into the ground, a critical factor for orchard farmers and food growers.
 
And the product is now made in America, a special point of pride for the Saunders family.

"Dad and I took our prototypes to 12 different extruders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware," says Jill. "Some wouldn't even bid on making samples. Others couldn't give us a price that we could sell at. We were frustrated when we sent the prototypes to China. The Chinese were glad to make our initial order -- the price was right and the quality was pretty good. The second order came back at a higher cost and the quality wasn't nearly as good. That last order made us more determined to find an American manufacturer."
 
A sales call to Lehigh University resulted in an introduction to Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center; they connected Tree Armor with GSH Industries in Ohio, who began manufacturing the product in November.
 
That third run of 30,000 pieces is selling well over the Internet, and Tree Armor hopes to move into big-box retail. Meanwhile, the Saunders have invented a new product, Tree Armor Plus, a tree guard impregnated with a scent that repels deer, rabbits and rodents. 
 
Source: Jill Saunders, Tree Armor
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Penn State student entrepreneurs earn scholarship support

Coffee, tea, beer, spirits -- how do makers of craft beverages like these measure and quantify flavor in a consistent, even standardized, way? 

Analytical Flavor Systems aims to solve that problem with Gastrograph, a tech-based flavor analysis system for artisan products.

Jason Cohen founded the company in 2012 as an outgrowth of his undergraduate research at Penn State. Now co-founder and frontend developer John Dori, a junior at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), has been awarded the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship, which carries a $10,000 stipend, along with support from a faculty mentor and the opportunity to earn six credits while working on the startup.

Gastrograph is based on Cohen's research "and thousands of Gastrograph reviews done in pen and paper and manually entered into a database in order to help producers of artisan coffee, beer and spirits understand their products' flavor profiles and make a more consistent product," explains Dori.

The company currently has nine employees (including Ted Papaioannou, the other co-founder) who live and work together in State College, and four customers: Otto's Brewery, Robin Hood Brewery, DJ Coffee and Perfect Coffee.

"We've begun development on two sensors that will be used inside of coffee roasters and beer tanks as the products are made," says Dori. "[This provides] the producer with as much data about their product as possible."

The startup is also planning to release an iOS version of its Gastrograph Review app by September.

Meanwhile, IST sophomore Jules Dupont received the Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship for his startup, Mobile Library Apps, a product that provides mobile access to library catalogs. 

Rusenko, a 2007 IST alumnus and co-founder of Weebly, a San Francisco-based web hosting service, donated $400,000 in 2012 to establish the scholarships.

For more on how PA colleges and universities are fostering entrepreneurship, check out this week's lead feature.

Source: John Dori, Analytical Flavor Systems; Jules Dupont, Mobile Library Apps and IST
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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