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Ardmore : Innovation + Job News

9 Ardmore Articles | Page:

ModSolar closes costly loophole for the solar industry, experiencing rapid growth and hiring again

Since launching last June, ModSolar facilitated over $5 billion in solar transactions, with thousands of proposals generated every month. Their app helps installers cut down on “soft cost” associated with creating sales, and allows solar companies to pursue more leads. They are designing new product features and hiring developers.
The ModSolar concept came to Mike Dershowitz, the company’s co-founder and CEO, while investigating solar options for his new home. The former design manager for JPMorganChase, discovered the solar industry was stuck in antiquated methods of appraisal. He got to work building an experimental mobile solution, later used by an emerging sole installer during a home trade show.
“The big [solar] companies generated 15 or 20 leads, but [our client] generated 113 leads by using the iPad app we developed,” Dershowitz says. “At one point there were lines at his booth of people wanting to get a solar quote. We knew that we could apply sales technology to the solar industry and really make an impact.”
“Previously, the sales person would have to visit a home, get up on the roof, take some measurements,  do a [solar] panel design, figure out how many [solar] panels they needed—you have to do all this by hand—then [the salesperson] went back to the office, crunched the numbers, and put a proposal together. We've eliminated all that. You can actually do a design for a solar system from your office before you get to the homeowner, pushing the designing and quoting down to the salesperson,” Dershowitz says.   
Dershowitz estimates 40 percent of the price of installing solar is “soft costs” or transactions that don’t include parts and labor. He says discrepancies between federal and municipal electric codes and inconsistent building codes contribute to soft costs for American buyers, which is more than double the expense paid in Germany. By comparison, Germany now gets 30 percent of their power from the sun.  Soft costs are a major setback to the industry’s domestic growth and our energy future.
ModSolar developed a complex “matching system” that automates current codes, utility rates and financing options for individual sites and has helped small and national companies produce accurate quotes in a third the time. With shorter sales, clients report a 10-20 percent increase in customer acquisition. The number of ModSolar clients and the size of their purchased subscriptions continue to grow.
“With the same amount of resources, [solar installers] can approach more opportunities,” Dershowitz says. “The home improvement industry is ripe for someone to help these folks who may not be digitally oriented, handle their business.”
The company, which recently moved from Malvern to Ardmore, looks forward to releasing finance and e-commerce solutions, including a platform that connects home owners to inventory providers.  According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, photovoltaic installations quadrupled in the United States between 2005 and 2010. With deflating soft costs, and increasing sales, ModSolar is providing disruptive technology that will make solar an increasingly affordable option for years to come. 

Source: Mike Dershowitz, ModSolar
Writer: Dana Henry

Main Line Delivery is also Cleaversoft, the app developer responsible for Beard Wars, Puppy Wars

Puppy Wars is the latest title from Cleaversoft, an app developer that grew out of an unlikely source: food delivery in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Nipping at the heels of Cleaversoft's previous title, Beard Wars, Puppy Wars has just been submitted to the iOS App Store, and will be available for download shortly.
Rich Siegel, founder of Main Line Delivery and co-founder of Cleaversoft, says Puppy Wars users upload pictures of their dogs to enter a battle that determines the cutest dog. Players can wager virtual bones, and canines are submitted to a worldwide vote. 
As in its predecessor Beard Wars, users start out with a cache of virtual payment (in BeardWars the currency is chips), receiving more bones for voting and uploading. If the bones get all used up, more are available for purchase at a reasonable price: "10,000 for a dollar, 35,000 for $2, 100,000 for $3 and 250,000 for $5," explains Siegel, who notes that the most popular purchase in Beard Wars is the five dollar pack. Five percent of all bones purchases go the the ASPCA, says Siegel, who makes virtually no profit from Cleaversoft, relying on the success of MLD to fund the fun.
It took Siegel and partners about three and a half months to develop Puppy Wars, and Siegel credits artwork by Paul Davey, who goes by the online moniker Mattahan, as inspiration. Davey painted 27 different breeds of puppies for PuppyWars, and has worked with the Cleaversoft team from its original title, iBubbe, which was developed in Siegel's first apartment after he graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. "Spencer Miller and I teamed up with our kooky across-the-hallway neighbor Marcus Goldman," recalls Siegel. Main Line Delivery and Cleaversoft partner Dan Ritterman is now in law school at Temple University. Both Ritterman and Siegel grew up in Lower Merion, and Siegel has returned to live on the Main Line.
No rest for the guys at Cleaversoft. They are already working on a new game called Dragon Runner. Check back here for updates on availability of Cleaversoft's upcoming titles.

Source: Rich Siegel
Writer: Sue Spolan

MilkBoy Recording taking over The Studio above The Electric Factory

First, MilkBoy the cafe took Center City. And now MilkBoy Recording is following suit. While the lease has not yet been signed, Jamie Lokoff reports that MilkBoy Recording has a signed letter of intent and will be moving from Ardmore to Philadelphia, taking over The Studio, Larry Gold's state of the art recording facility above the Electric Factory at 7th and Callowhill.

"It's the best studio north of Atlanta and south of New York," says Lokoff.

With the upcoming expansion, MilkBoy will breathe new life into a recording studio just blocks away from its live music venue at its new location at 11th and Chestnut. The Studio --a  20,000 square foot converted factory space with walls covered in gold and platinum records -- is legendary in the music business, having hosted luminaries like The Roots, Tori Amos, Al Green, Patti LaBelle and many other award-winning acts.

Gold, who is also a virtuoso musician and is still arranging for Jay-Z, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez, will be handing over the reins to MilkBoy, itself an established talent factory, working with Usher, Dave Matthews and the Dixie Hummingbirds. For a brief time last year, The Studio was run by Solomon Silber, who is no longer associated with the organization.

At this point, Lokoff does not have plans for MilkBoy's current multitrack digital and analog Ardmore recording studio, and until the impending move, continues with a full schedule that includes film and TV work as well as album recording.

Source: Jamie Lokoff, MilkBoy
Writer: Sue Spolan

As seen on TV: Danny's Guitar Shop of Narberth restrings marketing

Sometimes putting the cart before the horse works just fine. Danny's Guitar Shop began life as a media entity, morphed into a brick and mortar store on the Main Line, and now Danny's Guitar Shop is also the title of a new television show.

"It came to me in an epiphany six years ago," says Danny Gold, proprietor and host of the 30 minute series. "In the wasteland of cable TV, where there are whole stations about food, golf, and cars, there was nothing of substance about guitars." Sure, says Gold, there are plenty of performance videos and interviews with rock stars, but there's been no nutritional value about the instrument itself.

At that time, Gold was a rep for Fender, and saw a marketing opportunity in a media product. With the help of Bruce Warren, Gold created the radio series Danny's Guitar Shop for WXPN more than two years ago. While the budget starved series came to an end after four episodes, in its ashes rose the actual guitar shop in downtown Narberth, a bustling location that offers personal service, lots of lessons, and corny jokes to the Main Line and beyond. It's the only store of its kind for miles.

That quirky personality has been translated to the boob tube, thanks to the creative production team of videographer Ron Stanford and sound recording engineer Larry Friedman. "Danny is a natural," says Stanford. "He's able to speak in complete sentences in front of a camera."

Rather than make sizzle reels until the end of time, says Stanford, the team opted to create a complete 30-minute show, starting with a VIP tour of nearby Nazareth, Pa.'s Martin Guitar factory. "It gives the viewer a real insider's glimpse," says Gold. "It's a privileged look inside the world of music that's appealing to music geeks as well as a general audience." Stanford and Gold's proudest accomplishment is the new episode featuring a talk with Wilmington, Del.'s David Bromberg, whom Gold calls the popular kid on the block.

The series now airs on the web and on the Lenfest owned WMCN, also known as Get It On TV. It's got four sponsors: Old City Publishing, Union Transfer, Onion Flats and Yards Brewing. "We're responsible for filling the whole 28:30," says Stanford. It's like old time TV."

As it is, the team, which donates labor, goes so far as to create ads for those sponsors. "Our goal is to become an economically viable TV series," says Stanford. "It's a chicken and egg thing. No one will believe it until they see it on the air."

With three already in the can, eleven more shows are slated for this first season. You can catch Danny's Guitar Shop on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. beginning Oct.1 on WMCN, which is carried on cable stations from the Jersey shore to Reading. 

Source: Danny Gold, Ron Stanford, Danny's Guitar Shop
Writer: Sue Spolan

What's all this about LevelUp? Help your mom figure it out

My mom called. "What's this LevelUp? I got an email on my BlackBerry that I have two dollars off at Miel." When a brand new tech company already has the attention of the 70-somethings, it's got to be good.

LevelUp, which has a rapidly growing presence in the Philadelphia area, is a new kind of customer loyalty program for local business. Rather than carry around a walletful of punch cards, says launcher John Valentine, who has just been promoted to VP of LevelUp for the east coast. The company is hiring here in Philly, with two positions open in implementation and sales. Each city is slated to have a total of six employees.

Currently, says Valentine, there are 129 businesses in the LevelUp community, with 10 new merchants signing up each week. Here's how it works: Customers sign up online with a credit card. Participating businesses have a device, which is really a smartphone on a lucite platform, which reads a QR code on your phone screen (Valentine says the next generation of readers will be smaller and more streamlined). LevelUp then charges your card, bypassing the shop's cash register, and every 24 to 48 hours, says Valentine, LevelUp sends payment to merchants. As the customer, you receive several dollars off each purchase, and LevelUp tracks your activity, rewarding you for repeat business.

LevelUp evolved out of SCVNGR, a DreamIt Ventures funded startup. The location based scavenger hunt game led to a desire to solve the loyalty piece of the puzzle. "How do we get someone to frequent a place?" asks Valentine.

LevelUp is growing concurrently in Philadelphia and Boston, with plans to take over the world. New York is next, then Atlanta, Washington DC and Miami. "There's been enough validation for what we're doing in Boston and Philadelphia that we need to scale up fast." Valentine, who calls it sticky, says those who start using the program come back for more. "Within the next two weeks, 49% use LevelUp again."

Aside from the novelty factor, says Valentine, LevelUp gives businesses several advantages: the loyalty program brings people back more, brings in new customers, and has the added effect of incentivizing people to spend more money. Because shoppers are getting 5 to 15% back, they're actually spending more, according to Valentine. If you'd like to try LevelUp, Valentine is offering $10 in global credit to Flying Kite readers. Just use the code TECH when you sign up.

Source: John Valentine, LevelUp
Writer: Sue Spolan

Main Line's Milkboy expanding to Center City, hiring 20

A suburban boy is moving to town. Milkboy, one of the area's most beloved coffeehouses, is expanding from the Main Line to the Midtown Village section of Philadelphia, hiring a projected 20 new employees. Milkboy began in 1994 as a four-track cassette recorder and one microphone, growing into a recording, communications and promotional powerhouse, with two cafe/live music venues in Ardmore and Bryn Mawr.

Now Milkboy takes the party downtown, opening a multilevel bar and restaurant at 11th and Chestnut in Center City this spring. The venue will have two floors, with a fully stocked bar downstairs, and a stage upstairs. Milkboy co-founder Jamie Lokoff estimates capacity at 150 to 200 people, and of the food, he says, "Just because you're going to see a show in rock club, you won't have to sacrifice what you're eating." Milkboy is in talks with some of the city's best known chefs. "It's a lot more than what we can do in Ardmore," says Lokoff, "and it will be more geared toward a rock club environment."

Construction has been beset by the unexpected. "The owner of the building terms the area 'the hole in the donut,' " says Lokoff, who explains that the leased property, which couldn't possibly be more central, was lacking both a gas line and a telecommunications cable. Passersby to the Ardmore coffeehouse may have seen union picketers lately. Lokoff explains that the building owner, not Milkboy, hired the contractor. While several unions are represented, the contractor chose not to employ workers from the Carpenters' Union. Because of that hiring choice, says Lokoff, representatives are picketing Ardmore with signs reading, "Shame on Milkboy Coffee." Milkboy maintains a sense of humor about the controversy, selling Shame on Milkboy Coffee T-shirts. Lokoff says the Philadelphia location should be open late spring 2011.

Source: Jamie Lokoff, Milkboy
Writer: Sue Spolan

Bryn Mawr's WizeHive expands online data sharing platform with Ben Franklin funding

With social networking tools like online chat and photo sharing becoming more common, many employers have begun protecting against the use of these platforms at work. But the software developers at WizeHive in Bryn Mawr are working to bring these traditionally fun tools into the professional fold. Their online collaboration platform, utilizing many of these sharing tools, received a Ben Franklin Technology Partners investment earlier this month, which will help the company expand in the new year.

"When we started, the focus of the platform was around sharing: sharing documents, sharing tasks, managing projects, having online conversations," says CEO and Co-founder Mike Levinson. "As the product matured, it has become more about helping people automate business processes and about helping them make better, faster decisions whether they are sitting across the room from each other or across the world from each other."

This online collaboration has taken WizeHive beyond the workplace, partnering with universities on managing scholarship applicants and helping media companies like TechCrunch manage contests and competitions. With the Ben Franklin funding, Levinson and company hope to expand staff, increase sales and continue working together on working together.

"We have been very successful at building the sales channel and bringing the platform into different arenas," says Levinson. "What we are really trying to do now with the funding is expand that. The plan is to continue building out what we are doing, just doing a lot more of it in the new year."

Source: Mike Levinson, WizeHive
Writer: John Steele

First Flavor receives early-stage investment for Peel 'n Taste food marketing product

After seeing the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, millions dreamed of a day when everlasting gobstoppers would hit candy store shelves, oompa loompas could manage household errands and edible wallpaper would make the snozberries taste like snozberries. Only one true Wonka-esque innovator made it happen.

Entrepreneur Adnan Aziz dreamed of a marker that could draw edible taste strips onto paper, like the wallpaper in one of his favorite movies. With a little seed capital from Penn's Wharton Investment Management Fund and guidance from business partner and current CEO Jay Minkoff, Aziz founded First Flavor, a Bala Cynwyd-based food marketing company specializing in dissolving taste-test strips that allow consumers to taste new beverage and product flavors before they buy. It's a concept that has added a new dimension to the way companies market new brands.

"It's all about empowering the consumer," says Minkoff. "Before you bought your car, you took it for a test drive, before you buy a suit you try it on. It's funny that you walk down the aisle of the supermarket with all these new products and flavors and rarely given the opportunity to try them before buying."

Recently, First Flavor received early-stage financing from Ben Franklin Technology Partners in the amount of $100,000. When Aziz first introduced First Flavor, he thought of the greeting card industry. With a birthday card, he thought, why not offer a piece of cake. With new financing, increased brand presence and a partnership with American Greetings, First Flavor brings Tasties, a new line of flavorful greeting cards, to market this fall.

"Consumer products use us as a promotional marketing vehicle to launch new products and in 2009 and the first half of 2010, most national companies were not launching products," says Minkoff. "This should create more recurring revenue for us."

Source: Jay Minkoff, First Flavor
Writer: John Steele

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele

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