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Local startup 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
 

Turning artists and creatives into entrepreneurs at Corzo Open Office Hours

According to Todd Hestand, manager of incubator programs at University of the Arts’ Corzo Center for the Creative Economy, there’s no excuse for creative professionals in Philly not turning their ideas into businesses.

"This is one of those great lies," he explains. "Artists love to say that there’s no resources out there for them, there’s no funding, and that’s all just a big excuse…there are tons of resources out there for artists. You just have to go out and look."

One of those resources is the Corzo Center (which receives funding from PECO, Wells Fargo and the Knight Foundation). It offers a four-pronged program for different levels of engagement, including free lectures and workshops, Corzo’s Open Office Hours program, two-week business Boot Camps, and a Creative Incubator Grant.

The Center defines artists as broadly as possible -- everything from musicians and performers to fine artists, craftspeople and industrial designers. And they can help any artist who wants to start a business, either for- or non-profit, from supporting themselves with their own practice to developing an app.

Hestand, a serial entrepreneur with a long resume as an executive management consultant who is also an artist and musician, first came across Corzo Director Neil Kleinman about five years ago when he joined Philly Startup Leaders.

"He said he was running this thing called the Corzo Center," recalls Hestand. "I said, 'Who’s on your team?' He said, 'Well, just me.' I said, 'Well, not anymore.' That was about it."

Hestand is also the administrative coordinator for the Open Office Hours program, providing unlimited, free, confidential entrepreneurship counseling sessions to the public. This rapidly growing four-year-old initiative offers access to about 25 experts at three different partner locations: UArts, the Curtis Institute and NextFab.

All consultants are well-rounded business strategists, but aspiring entrepreneurs can pick from a long list of specialties including accounting, marketing, PR, taxes, finance, web design and development.

While the Corzo Center isn’t the only place in the city offering counsel to aspiring entrepreneurs, "there really isn’t any other organized, growing operational office hours capacity for artists starting businesses in Philly," argues Hestand.

Recently, a new scheduling platform through the Timely app has dramatically increased program participation: The number of appointments has doubled every month since it launched.

Hestand estimates that 100 people used the old platform last year, but that number could easily jump to three or four hundred in 2015.

"All locations are free and open to the public," he urges. "Sign up for a much help as you need."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Todd Hestand, The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy

 

PlanPhilly finds a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks

Ever since its launch in 2006 as a project of University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis design school, PlanPhilly has been in a fortunate yet challenging funding situation. Now, with a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks, the publication is looking at some exciting new horizons.
 
In itself, PlanPhilly is "not an entity," explains manager Matt Golas, a veteran journalist and former Metro editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The publication features in-depth reporting on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, zoning code battles, and all aspects of the Philly's built environment, from transportation to historic preservation to casinos and the Delaware Waterfront.
 
"We're a project of something else that’s a 501 (c) 3, so the idea of bringing money in was unbelievably complex," says Golas. "We were very reliant on foundations."
 
Though PlanPhilly had the good fortune of funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation (which is making the current move possible), and the Knight Foundation, it had long wanted to expand and diversify its financial footing. And with increasing readership -- up to 150,000 pageviews per month -- that shift is warranted.
 
Their new home will help them achieve this goal. Golas will transition into the new title of project editor at NewsWorks, while maintaining a "non-fiduciary relationship" with Penn -- the university is supportive of the move and will continue to help PlanPhilly get the scoop. (The site's reporters and editors will become independent contractors at WHYY.)
 
"They’re fundraising experts," says Golas of WHYY. "It has way more potential for us to generate some revenue and work toward being more sustainable."
 
With longterm financial stability, Golas hopes PlanPhilly will be able to expand their coverage in the Northeast and other outlying areas of the suburbs such as Conshohocken, Cherry Hill and King of Prussia. They want to produce a record of more zoning and development meetings, and also to begin to master the world of podcasts and radio segments.
 
And the benefits aren’t just for PlanPhilly: WHYY’s NewsWorks, a longtime content partner, will get a boost as well.

"We have some unique areas of coverage and unique people doing it," explains Golas. Examples include their in-depth coverage of zoning issues, their attention to the Land Bank, and stories about transportation geared towards the user experience. Since so many people listen to WHYY in their cars or while riding on SEPTA, it’s a perfect fit.

In the future, the PlanPhilly site may merge with the NewsWorks site, but for now, they're staying put. While PlanPhilly reporters will work out of WHYY headquarters when they’re not out on their beats, "you’re going to able to find PlanPhilly the same way you find it now," insists Golas.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Golas, PlanPhilly


Alaina Mabaso is also a freelance contributor at WHYY’s NewsWorks. 

PAFA students launch their own gallery collective

Six Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for young and emerging artists to exhibit their work. They decided not to wait around for the local scene to give them their chance.

"Though many amazing spaces and programs exist, it remains difficult to exhibit, especially coming right out of graduate school," explains recent MFA grad Tiffany Tate. "We want to be part of the solution," and make a new space where Philly’s emerging artists can "take chances."

Tate and fellow students Morgan Hobbs, Jillian Schley, Rebecca Sedehi, Shane Allen Smith and Zach Zecha have formed AUTOMAT, a gallery collective with a new 750-square-foot home on the second floor of a former sewing factory at 319 N. 11th Street.

Chatting with Flying Kite about the new collective and its space, Tate explains that 319 -- as it’s called by the artists -- is full of galleries, independent artist collectives and studio space.

Tate, a photographer, now works for PAFA; the other AUTOMAT partners will graduate this year.

"We’re always talking about ways to stay connected and stay inspired," she says. "And as emerging artists outside of school looking for show opportunities, we know how difficult it is to find spaces to show when you don’t have gallery representation."

Funding AUTOMAT is a three-pronged process. There are monthly dues from the six collective members, plus over $6,000 from a successful Indiegogo campaign (ending March 4) that will help cover renovation of the space, including new paint, a projector, fixtures to hang the artwork, furniture and marketing dollars. AUTOMAT also secured a grant of about $3,000 from PAFA’s Venture Fund, which helps students take the next step in their careers.

According to Tate, space at 319 was the collective’s first choice. The founders liked how dedicated the building's tenants are to new media and the contemporary arts scene. This is the attitude the AUTOMAT crew needs: Schley makes sculptures out of poured paint. Hobbs, Sedehi and Zecha are painters, and Smith does a bit of everything, from videos and printmaking to sculpture.

They’re still working on prepping the walls and floors, and installing new lighting, but they’re on track for an official opening show on Friday, April 3. The first exhibition will feature work by the founders.
 
"It’s not primarily about showing our own work," Tate says of the collective’s future curatorial goals. "But our first show is like, 'Hi, we’re AUTOMAT. Come meet us!'"
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tiffany Tate, AUTOMAT

Rad Dish is Temple's new sustainable student food co-op

Temple University junior Lauren Troop started out as an environmental studies major, but when she became part of a bold new food co-op business plan with her fellow students, she found the perfect convergence of her interests, and switched to studying entrepreneurship.

The concept for Rad Dish, which opened on February 5 in a former Sodexo café space in Ritter Hall, grew out of a student research project completed a few years ago. The idea failed to move forward once the original thinkers graduated.

But then founding Rad Dish co-op members got hold of the idea, and began working in fall 2013 to make the space a reality. The group met under the auspices and mentorship of Temple’s Office of Sustainability, with participation from campus organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Temple Community Garden and Net Impact, the university’s sustainable business club.

The team started meeting once a week with help from a three-credit independent study course that allowed them to devote the necessary number of hours to getting the co-op café off the ground. Meetings with West Philly’s Mariposa food co-op, as well as other student groups, including one from the University of Maryland, helped them clarify their vision.

"Our mission was really to provide affordable locally and ethically sourced fresh food to our Temple community," explains Troop, a Lancaster native. "We do that by sourcing everything within 150 miles."

Items like tea and coffee and certain spices, which the co-op can’t get locally, are sourced through a major organic and fair-trade supplier. 

Rad Dish opened its doors with the help of one year of free rent from Temple and $30,000 in seed money from the Office of Sustainability to help cover the first round of inventory and salaries for workers.

The space is a café now, but Rad Dish organizers hope to expand into more of a grocery model as they gain experience and more local, seasonal produce becomes available. In the meantime, the space already has its own appealing vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows and art on the walls.

The community has already started to embrace the idea. Someone donated a bike-powered blender, and then a record-payer.

"People have just started to bring in random stuff that made it a unique space to hang out in," says Troop.

Prospects for the co-op’s future are good, she adds: a large crop of sophomores are just now stepping into leadership roles, replacing graduating founders.

"My favorite part about the project is how we’ve incorporated so many fields of study and so many people with different majors," insists Troops. "There are people from our business school, arts school, communications, engineering, and people who just love food."

Rad Dish is now open from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Ritter Hall, on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and 13th Street.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source, Lauren Troop, Rad Dish

Eleven Southeast PA companies share $1.9 million in new funding

Eleven early-stage companies -- everything from a bagel bakery to a company that prints living tissue -- are recipients of $1.9 million in new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Philadelphia's BioBots expects that within 20 years its 3-D bioprinters will allow patients with organ failure to receive custom replacement organs built by and constructed out of their own cells.

Another Philadelphia company, EnviroKure Inc., uses proprietary technology to produce liquid organic fertilizers. Their unique product upcycles chicken manure in a fully sustainable, highly efficient process to meet the needs of the fastest growing fertilizer markets in the United States: large-scale organic farming and natural turf management.

In Chester County, Essential Medical is developing X-SealTM and MANTATM, two innovative vascular closure devices for both small bore and large bore femoral closure. Vascular closure devices (VCDs) are used to close incisions in the leg artery after cardiac catheterizations.

Philadelphia's Fitly is a Digital Health Accelerator company. Fitly’s mission is to empower anyone who needs to eat healthy by making cooking easy, delicious and affordable. 

LifeVest, a Philadelphia nonprofit, sits at the intersection of physical and financial health. Using evidence-based science and behavioral economics, LifeVest motivates users to invest in their own wellbeing by rewarding them for learning about, tracking and improving their health.

Livegenic in Philadelphia delivers technology to enhance the customer service environment. It provides an easy way to gain a real-time video from the customer’s point of view through something most customers already have: a smartphone. Livegenic helps organizations reduce support costs, improve customer and employee satisfaction, and minimize business-related risks.

Mitochon Pharmaceuticals is a Delaware County biotech startup that focuses on developing drugs targeting the mitochondria for a host of serious diseases. The company’s development programs are primarily focused on neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases including Huntington’s, Batten Disease, Stroke, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson Disease and severe burns, and secondarily on metabolic disorders due to over-nutrition (diabetes, obesity and NASH). Ongoing research has linked these diseases to various malfunctions of the mitochondria. By correcting them, Mitochon aims to open the way for a broad range of disease modifying therapies.

Montgomery County’s NETMINDER produces a unique protective coating, offering an environmentally acceptable way to protect aquatic gear such as salmon, cobia, and bluefin tuna nets; oyster cages; trays and bags; crab pots and other gear from the high costs of fouling.

Also based in Montgomery County, PAST offers its Software as a Service (SaaS) to help doctors efficiently distinguish patients who can safely use controlled substance prescription medication from those who require more complex care or additional safety considerations.
 
Locating in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood, Sweet Note Bakery is a gluten-free and allergen-free bagel manufacturer.

Montgomery County’s Zuppler is a global Internet commerce solution for restaurants and caterers. Zuppler powers millions of mobile and web food-ordering transactions using their proprietary SaaS platform. This enables consumers to order food from their preferred restaurants and caterers using any device via the restaurant’s branded website or mobile app.

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

Philadelphia Macaroni to the Rescue: Harrisburg acquisition saves 43 jobs

Philadelphia Macaroni Company, a more than 100-year-old, family-owned company, is operating a new pasta-making plant in Harrisburg, saving 43 jobs in the process.

The company makes dried pasta and noodles at the plant, which was previously operated by Unilever. The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC recently reported that Unilever had been contemplating vacating the facility. 

"Philadelphia Macaroni Company’s purchase agreement and business plan to operate from this facility effectively saved 43 full-time jobs in the city of Harrisburg," explained the Chamber.

"The Harrisburg plant was recently updated with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment," said Philadelphia Macaroni President Luke Marano, Jr. when announcing the plans last year. "This facility, complemented by its dedicated and professional workforce, is a valuable asset critical to the future development, growth and success of Philadelphia Macaroni Company."

Philadelphia Macaroni Company was founded in 1914 in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. Today, a fifth generation of the founding family runs the company, still headquartered in Bella Vista. In addition to the new Harrisburg plant, the company operates factories in Warminster, North Dakota and Washington State, and mills durum and hard red spring wheat at its Minot Milling division in North Dakota. Besides being one of the country’s oldest pasta makers, the company is one of the largest industrial pasta manufacturers in the U.S.

Company spokeswoman Linda Schalles declined to reveal terms of the sales agreement in Harrisburg, but according to the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, the chamber’s economic development arm, the company recently closed on a $450,000 Enterprise Zone Loan towards the purchase of machinery and equipment at the facility.

More hiring is expected at the plant, Schalles adds.

Source: Linda Schalles, Philadelphia Macaroni Company
Writer: Elise Vider

With a big NSF grant and new accelerator, UPenn takes technology from lab to market

The University of Pennsylvania's new Penn Center for Innovation, described as "a dedicated, one-stop shop for commercial partnering with Penn," has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to foster entrepreneurship and commercialization.

Under the three-year grant, Penn is launching the Penn I-Corps Site, a new business accelerator, in collaboration with Wharton's Mack Institute for Innovation Management, Penn Medicine’s Center for Healthcare InnovationBen Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) and the City of Philadelphia.

In its grant announcement, Penn said the Penn I-Corps Site will "support translation of research areas into the marketplace by providing educational programming, financial advice and strategic guidance."

The accelerator gets underway this summer with 30 faculty-student interdisciplinary teams creating commercialization plans for their early-stage technology. The goal is to help the teams launch new ventures by the end of 2015 with well-developed business models that position them to apply for further NSF funding.

The Summer Accelerator Program is open to Penn faculty and students as well as local entrepreneurs. An organizational meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 24 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia).

A committee comprised of investors, experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts will select the participants; the program will launch in May. The teams will have access to lectures and hands-on activities, guidance on developing and testing their business models, up to $2,500 in NSF funding for prototyping and other expenses, and connections to an extensive entrepreneurial network.

"We’re excited to work together to build a network of mentors and advisors to help the teams gain real-world experience in bringing technology from the lab to the market," explains RoseAnn Rosenthal, president and CEO of BFTP/SEP, "and to build a pipeline of investable enterprises that can creative economic value in our region."

Source: The Penn Center for Innovation
Writer: Elise Vider

 

'Philadelphia Liberty Trail' raises Philly's national profile

Writer and world traveler Larissa Milne conjures a troubling statistic, based on the years she and her husband Michael have spent in cities across the globe, writing for the Inquirer and their own award-winning "Changes in Longitude" blog.

Outside of Philadelphia, Larissa estimates, "85 percent of people don’t know what a cheesesteak really is."

So their new book, Philadelphia Liberty Trail, published by Globe Pequot Press last month, includes a sidebar on "cheesesteak etiquette," while recommending some favorite local spots for tourists ready to venture beyond the neon lights of Pat’s and Geno’s.

"It’s a little bit different than the average guidebook that’s out there," explains Larissa. "The publisher wanted us to produce a creative book that was similar to…a book they’ve had out for many years on the Boston Freedom Trail."

Despite having more Revolutionary historic sites than Boston, Philadelphia lacks the equivalent of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail route. The couple set out to write the book that might create one.

While Liberty Trail includes advice on visiting slightly more far-flung sites such as Valley Forge, Fort Mifflin, Bartram’s Garden, and historic houses in Germantown, it focuses on the Revolutionary War history of Old City and Society Hill, and invites tourists beyond the usual stops at Independence National Historic Park. Some of the highlights in their book are the Physick HouseChrist Church and Washington Square. There's also advice on where to stay and where to park, how to go on foot or take SEPTA, and info on restaurants that might not otherwise be on the radar for visitors.
 
Michael, a New York native, and Larissa, who grew up in the Philly suburbs, lived at 11th and Pine Streets before making an unusual decision in 2011. They sold their house, quit their jobs, gave away their stuff, and began traveling the world and writing along the way. They still don’t have a permanent address, but talked with Flying Kite about their new book from their current perch in Arizona.
  
Larissa, who’s also a consultant with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, loves to fill visitors in on the real story of Pennsylvania Hospital, America’s oldest hospital, which many pass on bus tours, but few actually visit.
 
"Benjamin Franklin was very instrumental in getting funding for that hospital in the early 1750s," she says, after the local governing bodies declined to support it. Franklin spearheaded an effort to draw contributions for the project from local citizens: "It was like a Kickstarter campaign in 1750."
 
The Milnes hope their book can help make Philadelphia a worldwide tourist destination, not just for tri-state day-trips, but for visitors who will stay, eat and shop in the city for days.
 
"I grew up in New York, and the image of Philadelphia back in the old days was, well, it’s kind of a drive-by tourist destination," recalls Michael. "You didn’t stay overnight, you drive down, you see the Liberty Bell, you see Independence Hall, you get back in the car, you leave."
  
But with major publications like Fast Company magazine and The New York Times recognizing Philadelphia as a top global destination, the Milnes believe it’s a perfect time for a new kind of Philly guidebook. And after seeing the world for the last several years, they still insist there’s nowhere they’d rather settle.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Larissa and Michael Milne,
Philadelphia Liberty Trail 
 

Wash Cycle Laundry forges a new path for socially conscious investing

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia startup Wash Cycle Laundry (WCL) closed on a major new loan from the Distinguished Social Ventures Foundation (DSVF) which may help the company create hundreds of new jobs and nab new contracts on the way to major expansion.

According to founder and CEO Gabriel Mandujano, the $450,000 loan isn’t just important for what it will help WCL achieve, but also in the new model it will help forge for foundations who want to invest in mission-based businesses.

WCL, now operating in Austin and Washington, D.C., as well as Philly, was founded here in 2010. The company provides laundry and linen rental services for institutions, businesses and residents, with environmentally-friendly high-efficiency machines and powerful bike trailers for hauling. The company also focuses on hiring its employees from vulnerable populations such as formerly incarcerated people and longtime welfare recipients. The company currently employs almost 50 people, with a retention rate topping 80 percent in workers' first six months.

"What [this] capital allows us to do is come to the table as a ready partner," explains Mandujano. When WCL negotiates with potential clients like a hospital system or university, whether or not the company has the capacity to handle the contract in terms of staffing and inventory has always been a big question. "What this investment has allowed us to do is…go out and close more of these institutional contracts."

The terms of the loan are unique, and give WCL a powerful incentive to expand its socially conscious mission. The current interest rate on the loan is 5 percent, but WCL has five years to reduce that interest rate drastically.

"We’re talking about the net number of jobs that we create," says Mandujano of the loan’s "five-year time clock" from its January 21 closing date. If WCL can create 200 jobs with the help of the new capital, interest on the loan will drop to three percent, and if it can create 500 new jobs within five years, the interest rate will go down to just one percent.

"I’m really excited that this financing aligns our financial interests with our mission interests," he enthuses. "If we’re better at achieving our mission, we’re also financially rewarded for that."

And for both WCL and DSVF, a bigger goal is creating a model that will work for other "purpose-driven businesses" and the foundations who might be interested in similar "impact investing," but do not know how to select the right company, set the right goals, and hammer out the paperwork.

According to Mandujano, "we wanted to create an instrument that that we thought could be copied both by other foundations that want to invest in Wash Cycle, but also just by foundations interested in this type of investing in general."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Gabriel Mandujano, Wash Cycle Laundry

 

Girl Power: DreamIt Athena announces its first class of female entrepreneurs

Philadelphia’s DreamIt Athena, a new accelerator track aimed at female entrepreneurs, has announced its first cohort. The selected companies will take up residence at DreamIt Ventures HQ, housed at the Innovation Center @3401, through May. They will each receive $25,000 in seed money, along with female-centric guidance on raising capital, developing mentors and networks, and self-promoting.

"Female entrepreneurs face a level of scrutiny that places them at a disadvantage from the start," says Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt’s managing partner. "For all the talk about the unique challenges female founders face, there's been little action in how to solve such issues. DreamIt took the lead by being the first top-tier accelerator to solve the problem. We’re going beyond typical platforms of discussion and networking [and hope to] change the dynamic of what’s been the startup norm for far too long. 

"DreamIt Athena aims to make a significant difference by providing specific, dedicated resources that help remove the all-too-common barriers," she continues. "[That way] female founders can develop the required skill sets to build sustainable, competitive businesses. Without a doubt, we expect to see significant personal development and company milestones throughout the cycle."

The Athena companies are:

Captain Planner (Boston) streamlines the process of trip-planning by aggregating information on attractions, restaurants and events, while providing reviews and map-centric itineraries. 

Forecastr (Detroit) provides ready-made analytics and predictive recommendations specifically tailored for television executives available via the cloud. 

LIA Diagnostics (Philadelphia) is developing a flushable pregnancy test, helping women address the challenges surrounding privacy, usability and sustainability in current at-home diagnostics. 

Ohneka Farms (Mount Laurel, N.J.) is a social enterprise focusing on urban farming products and services. They are developing ROOT, a smart countertop planter that enables users to grow organic edible plants at home with minimal maintenance.
 
Roar For Good (Philadelphia) is a social impact company with the mission of reducing assaults against women through wearable technology, empowerment and education. The initial product line combines fashionable self-defense jewelry and mobile technology to reduce the incidences of assault against women. 

The Athena companies will work alongside these other startups at DreamIt:

Bungalow Insurance (San Diego) is building the first online, independent, renters’ insurance platform to improve insurance experiences for millennials. 
  
Commit Analytics (King of Prussia) optimizes human performance using machine learning algorithms to design data-driven solutions for athletes and health-conscious consumers. 
 
IglooHome (Singapore) is developing smart home technologies that offer Airbnb hosts a novel way to welcome guests; they focus on convenience, safety and cost savings. 
 
LocoRobo (Philadelphia) is a non-profit robotics company whose mission is to provide educational and scientific training using high-quality robotics platforms, promoting STEM education and workforce development. 
 
Whose Your Landlord (Elliott City, Maryland) is a website and mobile app enabling renters to rate their landlords and housing complexes, and giving them the ability to find their next home. 

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

Temple boosts student entrepreneurship with its Blackstone LaunchPad Center

A little over two years ago, Temple University announced that it was partnering with Philadelphia University and the University City Science Center on the $3 million Blackstone LaunchPad grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, and now, Temple's Blackstone Launchpad Center is officially open.

"The Center has been up and running in one form or another since spring of 2013, but really most of the activity has been going on since fall of 2014," says Temple Vice Provost for Research Michele Masucci of the facility’s soft launch; the official ribbon-cutting was on January 30.

Before students from across Temple’s many programs could begin to utilize the entrepreneurship resources now available there, the university spent several months focusing on organizing the space on the lower level of the Howard Gittis Student Center (located on Temple’s main campus at 13th Street and Montgomery Avenue). That work included getting a board of directors up and running, adopting a programmatic structure, and allowing faculty to integrate the center’s offerings and their own resources.

Temple's share of the Blackstone grant is $1.2 million. Organizers were excited by a turnout of about one hundred people for Friday’s opening ceremony. The event featured a few of the eleven new companies Temple students have formed since last fall with LaunchPad’s help.

"What the center does is provide a venue where students can take their [ideas] and get feedback on the spot from our venture coaches," explains Masucci. Student can "come with an idea in its infancy, or if they already have a business and want to grow their market share," and get tools for their next steps.

Other programming includes guest speakers, mentoring and networking with like-minded students.

The LaunchPad complements but doesn’t replace Temple’s existing business and entrepreneurship programs, and it’s unique among entrepreneurship centers on Philly campuses, because of its inclusive approach.

"What we’re really trying to do is specifically work with students who fall outside of the traditional entrepreneurship umbrella," says Masucci. That means not just catering students in business or technology, but all kinds of folks considering an independent career.

For example, Tyler School of Art "has a large number of people who may well want to be able to pursue their passion for making and creating…but they don’t necessarily have a set answer upon graduation for how to do that," explains Masucci. Another example might be students interested in an educational or nonprofit venture for social good. The LaunchPad can help.

"A lot of the traditional programs that are there for entrepreneurs are catering to people who are business majors," she adds. "What makes Launchpad unique is really there is no barrier to entry. You do not need to have formulated what comes next before you walk in the door."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michele Masucci, Temple University

 

An award-winning team at Penn works to make fracking safer

Last week, we took a look at how the graphene technology developed at the University of Pennsylvania is shaping the global marketplace, and now, a pair of Penn students has won the annual Y-Prize contest for applying this rapidly-growing field to the problems of fracking.

Winners Ashwin Amurthur and Teddy Guenin are both fourth-year students of dual-degree programs at Penn Engineering and the Wharton School. Guenin, a Lancaster native, is doing his undergrad work in bioengineering, marketing and management, with a master’s in mechanical engineering on deck after that, and Amurthur, from Princeton Junction, N.J., is majoring in bioengineering and finance.

This year, the Y-Prize contest invited students to develop a new application for existing Penn nanotechnology, and drew a record 19 entries. Four finalists presented their concepts to a panel of judges on January 28, and Guenin and Amurthur nabbed the $5,000 first prize. The funds aren't the only reward: they also receive the framework for a non-exclusive license to the Penn technology, an important first step in commercializing their proposal.

Guenin says the controversy of natural gas drilling's environmental effects loomed large as he grew up in central Pennsylvania. Together, the young men have applied Penn’s graphene field-effect transistor (GFET) technology to the detection of benzene in groundwater.

Currently, drilling companies who suspect leaks in the underground casings of their equipment -- and local governments and consumers worried about water contamination -- don’t have a reliable way to confirm and pinpoint those leaks. Groundwater can be tested for levels of various chemical ions and compounds like chlorides, but since these can occur naturally in some water samples regardless of the side-effects of fracking, the tests don’t offer conclusive answers.

"The oil companies want to know for sure, do we have a leak or not?" Amurthur explains.

The Y-Prize team’s answer is GFETs for detecting benzene, a carcinogenic compound used in fracking fluid that usually does not occur in groundwater naturally.

If the team can develop their benzene GFETs and bring them to market, "you could more conclusively say that you do have a leak," Amurthur continues. It’s vital information for municipalities, drilling companies and consumers alike, and could ensure more rapid and accurate repair of leaking casings, enhanced safety, increased profits and a protected environment.

Though there’s a lot of work yet to be done to bring this concept to market, Guenin is excited about the opportunities for networking and the support the Y-Prize win will bring.

"It’s awesome that we were able to get this," he says. "And we’re really really excited to move forward with it."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Ashwin Amurthur and Teddy Guenin, GFET-Frack Technologies

 

'Temple Ventures - Powered by Ben Franklin' is new tech accelerator for Philly-area startups

Temple University and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) have launched a new initiative to spur technological innovation and entrepreneurship in Greater Philadelphia.

Each partner has contributed $500,000 to Temple Ventures – Powered by Ben Franklin for investment in projects generated from Temple’s discoveries in advanced technologies. Ben Franklin will manage the fund, and provide mentoring and access to networks to assist those early-stage ventures.

"For an inventor in a university, it’s critical to find the right partnership to bring his or her ideas into successful businesses," said Temple Provost Hai-Lung Dai in a statement. "Ben Franklin is an effective venture partner that provides not only investment expertise, but mentorship and strategic advice that can enable technologies developed at Temple to benefit society at large."

Over the past five years, Temple has created 13 startup companies to assist in developing university-created technologies for the marketplace. The university is expecting to significantly increase that number with the help of Temple Ventures.

The collaboration features three main components: a joint Temple/Ben Franklin Seed Fund for prototype and startup funding; new business launch resources to support the formation of the new Temple-created technology ventures; and incubation services including workspace, professional resources, and management and commercialization guidance.

The $1 million commitment is for the initial pilot, the partners say, with intent to commit an additional $1 million annually for up to five years. Temple’s contribution to the initiative will be comprised of royalty revenues obtained from the previous licensing of Temple-created technologies.

Impetus for the initiative comes from a recent report by the region’s CEO Council for Growth that urged a collaborative approach to advocacy and funding of early-stage tech firms.

Source: Temple University and BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Promising healthcare research gets funding from University City Science Center

Researchers in Greater Philadelphia developing technologies for high-speed eye exams, cancer treatment and healthcare sanitation will receive funding through the seventh round of the University City Science Center's  QED Proof-of-Concept Program

The program, started in 2009, funds novel university technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and product commercialization. To date, 24 QED projects have attracted $14.8 million in follow-on funding, leading to six licensed technologies.

"QED continues to resonate with both the academic and funding community," says Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "The number of submissions continues to increase round over round as academic researchers identify ways to commercialize their emerging technologies. At the same time, the support of our funders enables us to continue to facilitate the development of these exciting technologies and contribute to the robust life science ecosystem in the Greater Philadelphia region."

The new awardees include: 
  • Dr. Chao Zhou of Lehigh University, who is developing a diagnostic instrument that will allow faster, more sensitive eye exams for macular degeneration and glaucoma, improving an approach known as optical coherence tomography (OCT).
  • Dr. William Wuest of Temple University, who is developing the next generation of disinfectants for a variety of commercial industries including healthcare, transportation, water and energy.
  • Dr. Sunday Shoyele of Thomas Jefferson University, who is developing a product for delivering highly-degradable gene inhibitors to cancer and other cells using antibody-based nanoparticles.
The QED grants will also support stem cell research at Rutgers University. The awardees will receive a total of $650,000 in funding, along with guidance from the Science Center's team of business advisors.

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
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