Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of features and news items running on Keystone Edge this week and that ran on Dec. 10 that celebrate the successful people, companies, places and organizations we’ve covered in our first full calendar year of publishing and looks ahead at what we can expect in 2010. Last week, we wrote about the year’s biggest movers and shakers.
Success for many businesses in 2009 meant simply making payroll. But for many Pennsylvania companies, the year that was served as a blueprint for success in any economic climate, nevermind the worst recession in 75 years. In industries as diverse as healthcare, nanotech and manufacturing, Pennsylvania scored big victories thanks to innovative products, groundbreaking research and calculated risks.
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the most compelling companies Keystone Edge covered in the last year and why they’re worth watching in 2010:
The University City Science Center-housed company, which moved from Seattle in 2008, is fast becoming the center of the “hydrogen hub” it is helping create in Eastern PA. Bolstered by deep ties with Drexel University’s Nanotechnology Consortium, AlumiFuel’s groundbreaking technology is focused on generating hydrogen gas and steam for multiple niche applications. Earlier this month, the company’s proprietary AlumiFuel powder mix, which can generate 1,000 liters of hydrogen to launch a five-foot weather balloon in about 20 minutes, was featured on the Lehrer PBS NewsHour.
Geisinger Health System, Danville
Thanks to a few words from President Obama, the rest of the nation is finally learning what generations of Central and Northeastern PA residents have come to expect–quality, affordable and efficient health care at Geisinger Health System. Soon after Obama mentioned Geisinger in a June 11 speech on healthcare reform goals, the system’s praises were sung by major media outlets across the country, citing its recent successes like retail health clinics, electronic record-keeping and warranties on procedures. Geisinger’s venture arm, Geisinger Ventures, also continued to thrive and drive innovation throughout the system.
When we reported on the cable giant in the summer, Comcast was entrenched in a battle for subscribers on its home turf with Verizon’s Fios service. By the time December rolled around, Comcast was successfully orchestrating a $30 billion deal to acquire NBC Universal and obtain its long-coveted entertainment division. It was a busy year for Ralph Roberts and company, and while it’s not clear what the merger would mean for the more than 7,500 people from Greater Philadelphia who work for Comcast, the company could eventually pass Walt Disney as the country’s largest media company.
Earlier in the year, Comcast joined forces with Sony on a high-end electronics store in Center City. The company also made moves to improve its notoriously shoddy customer service through a social media push in the spring and more recently unveiled a customer guarantee campaign.
Our tale of the “millionaire boys club” was one of the most-read items on Keystone Edge this year, and rightfully so. Xoxide was the brainchild of three high school friends–Andrew and Steve Voudoris and Chris Francy–who drove dramatic growth of the company, which employed 80 at its $5 million warehouse in Malvern. Selling computer gadgets and items to modify them turned out to be big business, growing to $27.5 million in sales in 2008. The three founders were named the 2009 National Young Entrepreneurs of the Year during an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., in March, and the internet startup was named one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the country by Entrepreneur magazine. For reasons that are still uncertain, however, the now-twentysomething trio sold the business for $76,000 in late summer to eDimensional of Jupiter, Fla., which moved operations to the Sunshine State. We’re wondering what the trio is up to now, too, and will update sometime in the new year.
Founded by fellow Carnegie Mellon University undergrads in 2003, BitArmor closed on $5 million in Series B financing in the spring to ramp up its data protection software. The Pittsburgh company, honored locally and nationally as a rising IT star, is expanding its channels for product distribution and hired sales support throughout the country and engineering and marketing talent at home. BitArmor has also diversified its customer base by securing new clients in healthcare, education and government. The company’s persistent file encryption simplifies and reduces the cost of data security and management by attaching a Smart Tag directly to the data itself, allowing customers to secure, track and control it wherever it goes.
SRS Energy, Philadelphia
While the whole country has gotten intimately familiar with solar and its cost and benefits in the last year, SRS Energy has been busy innovating the concept for residential customers with its Sole Power Tile system, the first curved building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product designed for clay roofing systems. The product received a 2009 Best of What’s New Award from Popular Science last month. The system, already unveiled in select West Coast markets, will roll out nationwide next year. Thanks to state loans and grants, SRS opened its new manufacturing plant in Montgomery County in October, creating 50 new jobs, and production is slated to launch early in 2010.
International Battery, Allentown
As the only U.S. manufacturer to utilize a green water-based process in making large-format lithium batteries, International Battery made significant strides in 2009. The 55-person company raised $10 million in Series B financing to support expansion and marketing. It was awarded $2.1 million in September from the Department of Defense to develop batteries with high energy storage capabilities for use in U.S. combat tactical vehicles. The company also drew interest from NASA, which awarded the company a contract to build a prototype that will provide backup power in support of the space shuttle program.
Apeliotus Vision Services, Hershey
For a company that hopes to make it easier for those afflicted with age-related macular degeneration, Apeliotus is making it easy to see why they’re worth watching. With investors like the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and a first-place finish in the Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition this fall, Apeliotus is anxious to commence commercialization. The company’s AdapDx device measures the eye’s ability to transition from light to dark in 15 minutes and is in clinical trials in Hershey. The company, which calls the Hershey Center for Applied Research home, expects to grow its three-person staff to 15 in the next two years and is seeking close to $5 million in capital from investors.
ALung Technologies, Pittsburgh
Leading a growing number of medical device technology companies in Greater Pittsburgh, ALung secured $2.5 million from investors in the fall and is primed to make bigger strides in the new year. ALung, a leading developer of a device designed to replace or supplement ventilator sin hospitals, believes it can positively impact clinical outcomes and reduce the length of hospital stays by several days with its Hemolung System, intended for use among the 450,000 patients annually who are ventilated for chronic respiratory nationwide. Alung’s first-in-man clinical trials are underway in India and Germany, with FDA trials in the U.S. expected for the second half of 2010.
Ashland Technologies, Hegins
The company may operate in tiny Hegins, Schuylkill County, where it started with a six-spindle drill from a junkyard, but there’s nothing small anymore about Ashland Technologies. The fastest growing manufacturer in the state according to Inc. magazine saw revenues grow 218.4 percent between 2005-2008, ranking it 55th on the national growth list. Ashland, a fully integrated contract manufacturer, makes amusement rides, food service equipment, firearms and renewable energy components, was also named one of the top 10 machine shops in the country by American Machinist.
Pace Controls: The York company is attacking energy efficiency by helping stem the tide of demand for customers like Whole Foods and the City of New York.
Maintenance Reliability Group: The York company’s grease analysis kits are one of a kind, can save manufacturers big bucks and will come with software to manage analysis data through a partnership with Millersville University.
S&W Metal Products Inc.: The Berks County production and fabrication shop has grown because of its exemplary on-time delivery its planned powder-coating operation could add more jobs.
Diversified: The Scranton-based information management solutions provider continues to stay on the cutting edge of technology and now employs almost 400 in the Northeast Pa.
Saladax: The five year-old Bethlehem firm introduced its chemotherapeutic-dose testing tool to U.S. oncologists this spring after receiving the Product Innovation Award from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA.
Right Reason Technologies: This 2008 graduate of the East Stroudsburg University accelerator took home an Innovation Award at Ben Franklin’s iXchange 2009 this spring for its flagship product focused on e-learning.
Tyco Electronics: The Berwyn-based $13 billion global provider of engineered electronic components was recognized for its energy-saving initiatives and is focusing on a next-generation fiber optic interconnect system.
ClearCount: Another Carnegie Mellon-inspired company, Pittsburgh’s ClearCount began placing its RFID-based SmartSponge System in hospital surgical suites and was recognized by the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovation Awards.
Y-Carbon: The King of Prussia-based nanotech startup’s “tunable nanoporous carbon” was named one of the year’s most technologically significant products by R&D Magazine.
WebpageFX: The10-person Carlisle startup has grown revenue 500 percent in its first three years and is ranked 14th globally among organic search engine optimization companies.
AlumniFuel president and CEO David Cade (Jeff Fusco)
The BitArmor Team
Andrew Voudouris (C) with founding partners Steve Voudouris and Chris Francy inside a semi being loaded with products going out for shipment. (Jeff Fusco)
Product at International Battery
Bill Wydra Jr., Ashland Technologies