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Horsham's Clinical Ink selected for international Ebola studies

A Horsham company that provides technology for clinical drug trials has been selected for multiple Ebola studies in West Africa.

Clinical Ink’s "SureSource" platform allows for real-time analysis and remote review, especially important with Ebola research since it limits the number of healthcare workers that come in contact with the virus while speeding up the analysis process.

"Conducting clinical research in this part of the world is always challenging, given the remote location of the research sites and the generally poor quality of Internet connectivity," says Clinical Ink President Doug Pierce. "The Ebola epidemic heightens these difficulties dramatically. Clinical Ink was chosen because our SureSource platform allows sites to capture the data electronically rather than on paper, and seamlessly transmit that data to the pharmaceutical company for analysis -- in real time.

"A process that typically takes weeks takes minutes using SureSource,"  he continues. "Furthermore, those needing to see the information captured by the research sites can do so remotely, wherever and whenever the need arises. With this many lives at stake, saving time has never been as important."

The clinical trials are scheduled to start in several months, Pierce reports. For now, the company is preparing the electronic forms and helping assess Internet connectivity and related IT infrastructure at the sites. Once the sites have been selected, Clinical Ink will train the users and deploy tablets to the research sites.

Clinical Ink launched in 2007 when the only way to capture data in the clinical research market was paper-based, slow and expensive. SureSource, the industry's first purpose-built platform to capture data at the point of care, has been used in close to 60 trials since 2012 for clients ranging from large pharmaceutical companies to small biotech companies to large consumer product companies.

2014 saw Clinical Ink more than double in size, both in terms of revenue and employees, and further growth is projected for this year. Besides its offices in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Philadelphia, Clinical Ink plans to open offices in Boston and at a to-be-determined European location. As for the platform, it continues to evolve and the company plans to introduce what Pierce calls "a whole host of new functionality" early this year.  

Source: Doug Pierce, Clinical Ink
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philly's Entrepreneur Works Fund nabs a national grant to help creative clients

With a $100,000 infusion in the form of a special grant from two national foundations, the Philly-based community development financial institution (CDFI) Entrepreneur Works Fund is planning to offer a four-pronged, two-year pilot program to local creative entrepreneurs.
 
"We’re in great company there," says Entrepreneur Works Fund (EWF) Executive Director Leslie Benoliel. "It’s great to be recognized by national funders and also to be among such a small group."

Nationwide, about 40 CDFIs answered a special joint call from the Kresge and Surdna foundations for their Catalyzing Culture and Community through CDFIs initiative. The foundations selected just seven winners. (Three are in Philadelphia; The Reinvestment Fund and the Enterprise Center also received grants.)
 
EWF is a nonprofit, mission-based CDFI working for "disinvested neighborhoods," as Benoliel puts it, helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch or expand a small business by offering loans, workshops and other training. They work primarily with low-income, minority or immigrant clients, Benoliel explains: people who "typically do not have access to the same resources as mainstream or larger businesses," or can’t afford or qualify for more traditional sources of support.
 
The Kresge and Surdna grant goes specifically to EWF’s "Championing Revival, Empowering Artists, Transforming Economies" program (CREATE), and the organization will partner with two others for this pilot program: Chester Arts Alive! and the People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia.
 
The money will allow EWF to deepen its services for a small group of chosen creative entrepreneurs. The CREATE program has four elements: small loans for artists or other aspiring businesspeople with a creative bent, grants of up to $1000 that will be disbursed alongside the loans, public workshops, and one-on-one business guidance for participants.
 
Artists have a great ability to activate underutilized spaces or sectors, but because of the often unpredictable nature of their earning power from project to project, they’re not always in a good position to acquire a capital loan.
 
"We don’t want to put them more at risk, but we also want to help them learn how to use and manage capital," says Benoliel of how pairing disbursement of a grant (recipients can opt to put the grant toward repayment of the loan or use it for another purpose) gives the artists more flexibility and leaves them less financially exposed, while still helping them to build a credit history.
 
"CDFIs can play an important role in helping artists, arts and culture organizations, and non-arts organizations create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies,” said Surdna Foundation President Phillip Henderson in a statement. He lauds the CREATE program for making communities "healthier, more equitable and sustainable."
 
Benoliel says the dollars will help their clients "participate in the mainstream economy, access more resources, grow, employ people, [and] contribute to the economic base and vitality of our city’s neighborhoods."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Leslie Benoliel, Entrepreneur Works Fund
 

Microgrants will launch community anti-litter initiatives in 2015

Last week, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) released a new RFP for community nonprofits looking to nab seed funds for their anti-litter initiatives.

"You can have all the ideas in the world but not secure the funds to do it," explains Michelle Feldman, the organization's director. "At Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, we're not the only ones with good ideas."

The new program consists of three microgrants: two of $1,000 and one of $500. A former CDC employee herself, Feldman knows how far even a small amount of money can go for a community group trying to get a new idea off the ground.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful "believes that communities know their challenges and opportunities best," says the RFP of working through grantees on litter abatement. "We want to provide community-based organizations with the resources to help solve neighborhood beautification concerns, and the space to experiment and test new ideas."

Successful applicants will need to demonstrate measurable, collaborative, sustainable and scalable impact, says Feldman (she expects at least ten to 15 applicants for the inaugural round). The organization will consider brand-new proposals or expansions of existing programs that meet the criteria.

Empirical data proves that tackling litter can have a direct impact on factors like the growth of small businesses, property values, crime, and perception of the neighborhood both inside and outside the community. According to Feldman, a good example of community innovation on the issue is the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation's $1-A-Day program -- participating businesses each contribute $365 a year toward daily litter clean-up.

It turned into "a great way to help fund the daily cleaning and involve the community, and give them ownership over the cleaning effort," she explains.

The hope is that this year’s participants will be help model best practices, inspiring and informing other groups in the future.

Proposals are due on March 1; the winners will be selected by March 15. The project cycle will run through December 15, 2015.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

Game On: Three PA schools -- including Drexel -- collaborate on interactive media

Harrisburg University of Science & Technology, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and Drexel University in Philadelphia are establishing the PA Interactive Media Consortium, with the goal of growing the high-tech sector of digital entertainment and video gaming. 

The consortium is funded by a $750,000 Discovered in PA – Developed in PA state grant to Harrisburg University.

All three schools are known for their interactive media and gaming programs. Harrisburg has its Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies (CAELT), Drexel its Entrepreneurial Game Studio, and Carnegie Mellon its Integrative Design, Arts & Technology Network.  

The consortium will unite various stakeholders around a strategic marketing and recruitment campaign promoting Pennsylvania to interactive media companies and potential entrepreneurs. It will also enable the universities to expand education, applied research and entrepreneurship programs. Each school will employ unique strategies including awarding of micro-grants to startups, employing a gamer in residence and improving startup mentoring.

According to Charles Palmer, Harrisburg’s CAELT director, the consortium’s mission "is to build a community of higher education partners and interactive development firms which will focus on the cultural, scientific and economic importance of digital media across the Commonwealth. By creating robust mentoring networks we will assist in the incubation of new companies grown from Pennsylvania’s rich pool of talented innovators."

At Drexel in Philadelphia, "this grant will help the Entrepreneurial Game Studio fulfill its mission of being a place where students can take risks as game developers and as entrepreneurs,” adds Professor Frank Lee.

Source: PA Department of Community & Economic Development; Drexel University
Writer: Elise Vider

Health care tech startups and cancer drug developer come to Science Center incubator

Two health care IT companies and a biotech startup are the newest members of the entrepreneurial community at the University City Science Center’s Port business incubator. 

Denovo Health (de novo is Latin for a new beginning) is an engagement platform targeting chronic diseases that have a high annual cost per patient and where even marginal improvements in patient engagement drive significant health and financial benefits.

According to their website, the company incorporates "design thinking with behavioral psychology and [uses] advanced technologies to make prescribed activity easy, enjoyable and rewarding." Using mobile apps, digital and physical world interactions and behavioral change tactics, Denovo’s products target glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, assisting users with tracking their medication, monitoring their condition and communicating with care providers. Competitive game dynamics, rewards and social reinforcement are incorporated to boost compliance. 

Smart Activities of Daily Living (Smart ADL) is developing a digital health technology called Smart Cup that enables patients and clinicians to unobtrusively record and monitor fluid intake for effective clinical and self-care management.
 
Oncoceutics, Inc. is a drug discovery and development company targeting the most potent natural suppressor pathways in human cancer. The company’s lead compound is ONC201, a novel small molecule that promises strong anti-cancer activity in the most challenging indications in oncology. 

Oncoceutics' application to initiate clinical trials with ONC201 was accepted by the FDA in February 2014 and a series of clinical studies at leading cancer centers is being activated. Oncoceutics has development ties with Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania.
 
Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Philadelphia's first Spanish immersion preschool comes to Fairmount

Teacher and educational entrepreneur Melissa Page thinks Philly is "a little bit behind the curve," linguistically speaking. Until now, our city did not have any Spanish-language immersion preschools. Page is changing that with the launch of Mi Casita this month, a new 4,600-square foot preschool at 1415 Fairmount Avenue.

When it comes to language acquisition, "the earlier you can get it the better," she insists. "Early childhood education in a second language doesn’t exist in Philadelphia, and it’s so much harder to learn a second language the older you get." 

Page learned Spanish at age five and went on earn her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish as well as Master’s degrees in education and business; she has traveled widely in Mexico, Spain and Latin America. Page then worked for Telemundo before spending five years as a Spanish and French teacher at South Philadelphia’s Girard Academic Music Program High School.

Mi Casita's staff -- part of a 1:6 teacher/student ratio -- are mostly native Spanish speakers and will offer an intensive all-Spanish curriculum (serving ages 18 months to five years) including play-led literacy, arts and math skills. The teachers will have ongoing career development through a partnership with the Waldorf School of Philadelphia.

"It’s more than just speaking Spanish every day," explains Page. It’s about "developing students academically, emotionally [and] socially through a really rigorous curriculum."

Promoting the social, cognitive and career benefits of early bilingual education are a big part of Page’s life mission, and she says the school’s inaugural winter 2015 session is already booked with about 30 families from all over Greater Philadelphia.

Cultural appreciation is part of what the school will offer, but it’s bigger than simply teaching Spanish. It’s about the value of having a second language from an early age, especially the one that is the most commonly spoken in the U.S. after English. And the school welcomes kids of all backgrounds.

"We are an amazing melting pot," expains the founder, with everyone from Main Line families to students whose parents hail from countries in Asia and South America.  

The school is opening with two classrooms this month; five classrooms are planned for a fall 2015 session.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Melissa Page, Mi Casita

 

Could city-wide composting become a reality in Philadelphia?

According to a report from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia spends over $6 million per year transporting and dumping our wasted or uneaten food into landfills. Why can't we be more like Austin or New York City, which already have food waste recycling programs? Councilwoman Cindy Bass, of Philadelphia’s 8th District, wants to get the ball rolling.

"It’s probably easier to refer to it as composting. The ‘food waste’ thing hasn’t really caught on," says Elliot Griffin, a spokesperson for the Councilwoman, referring to a recent City Council hearing on the feasibility of a city-wide food waste recycling program.

Participants in the November 12 hearing included representatives from the City’s Committee on Streets and Services and Committee on the Environment, alongside composting experts from groups including the U.S. Composting Council's Institute for Local Self Reliance and RecycleNow Philadelphia.

The administration testified that the estimated cost of launching a city-wide composting program, including street pick-up of compostable materials -- and a composting center to handle a city-sized mound of nature’s recycling -- could cost $37 million.

"We’re not exactly in a position to start that today," explains Griffin, but the point of the hearing, which she says was well-attended especially by supporters from Philly’s Northwest neighborhoods, was to help people realize that such a program could be feasible.

According to Griffin, Councilwoman Bass first got inspired on Philly’s composting potential when she read a spring 2014 article in the New York Times about comparable American cities that have already started these initiatives. At the hearing, the biggest surprise was how many locals, from restaurant owners to ordinary citizens to organizations like Weavers Way Co-Op, are already composting on their own.

“We recognize that we have to start the conversation now,” says Griffin, so the next generation can keep the momentum going and make wide-spread composting a reality, benefiting the environment, saving energy and creating jobs.

The construction of an organic recycling center and the jobs created for those who would manage it is "something that could benefit the whole Delaware Valley," adds Griffin.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elliot Griffin, office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass

 

Startup Santa: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeast PA brings $2.8M to 16 companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, aka "Startup Santa," is closing 2014 with $2.8 million in investments to 16 companies. The largest dollar share, $1.5 million, is allocated to the life sciences sector; $925,000 is going to IT companies and $400,000 to the physical sciences.

Advent Therapeutics in Bucks County focuses on providing therapies for micro-orphan applications. The company is currently working on its first product, which will address a serious disorder in newborn infants in the ICU.
 
AlphaPoint is the leading exchange technology platform provider to support digital currencies. Working with some of the top Bitcoin and altcoin exchanges in the world, AlphaPoint’s platform is faster than traditional digital currency exchanges with the ability to process nearly one million transactions per second. The company has offices in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
 
Philadelphia’s Edify Investment Technologies has the potential to radically alter how typical new home construction is built, marketed and financed. Edify’s software shifts the financing responsibility of purchasing land and constructing homes from the land developer to the home buyer in exchange for a discount on the home’s purchase price, offering significant advantages for all parties within the transaction.

Montgomery County’s Core Solutions is transforming the health and human services experience by improving the provider, client and payer relationship. Its technology has the ability to simplify the end-to-end behavioral health experience, deliver integrated care coordination, improve consumer engagement and streamline accurate provider reimbursement.

Fischer Block in Montgomery County is at the forefront of the Industrial Internet, bringing an unprecedented value proposition to the electrical power industry. With a unique solution to embed millions of advanced high-speed sensors throughout the electrical grid, this widely deployed platform will become the industry standard for applying data analytics and predictive analysis techniques, and will improve energy reliability and prevent power outages at a fraction of the cost of traditional alternatives.

In Philadelphia, Infarct Reduction Technologies is developing a device, the LifeCuff, to deliver an ischemic pre-conditioning protocol. Ischemic preconditioning has been found to improve outcomes in heart attack, stroke, sepsis and other conditions. Currently the only other method of providing this protocol is manually via intensive care, surgical or emergency medical staff.

Opertech Bio in Philadelphia has developed a revolutionary approach to taste testing, a multi-billion dollar market covering the food and beverage, flavor ingredients, pet food and pharmaceutical industries. Opertech Bio’s technology can be used to discover new flavor ingredients, measure palatability and optimize flavor formulations. Opertech’s proprietary technology accomplishes the task of taste testing on hundreds of samples in an afternoon, using far fewer subjects and samples at a fraction of the cost, with greater accuracy and consistency than previously possible.

Bucks County’s OrthogenRx is a late-stage, product-development company focused on the commercialization of class-III orthopedic medical devices. Its business model is to obtain exclusive licenses for products currently on the market outside the United States and seek FDA regulatory approval through a novel regulatory pathway. OrthogenRx is positioned to be the first company to obtain approval for a generic Class III medical device using this pathway by the end of 2014. The company will launch its first product in early 2015 and file for several additional product approvals by the end of 2015.

In Montgomery County, PhotoSonix Medical is developing a treatment for dermal diseases generated by bacterial biofilm, such as acne. Biofilms, which make treatment extremely difficult, shield bacteria from attack by both drugs and the immune system, often inducing a chronic inflammatory response. Photosonix’s product, CLENS™, cuts through biofilm by combining both ultrasound and violet light, killing underlying bacteria.

Polynetworks in Montgomery Count has developed a secure, open architecture PaaS (platform-as-a-service), which allows multiple types of sensor data to be captured, processed and transmitted to multiple users in real time using any communication media. This "any data, any device, anywhere" solution is scalable to multiple applications. Potential markets include defense and law enforcement; emergency response; heavy industries such as energy, mining and construction; infrastructure security such as city, schools and hospitals; and information gathering such as news media, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and robotics.

In Chester County, Stabiliz Orthopaedics focuses on developing, refining and bringing to market innovative orthopaedic medical devices. The company has crafted a proprietary plate and screw system used for the treatment of traumatic bone fracture. By integrating biocompatible metals with bioabsorbable polymers, Stabiliz’s technology allows clinicians to customize the repair process for every patient, eliminating the need for future surgeries and reducing costs to burdened healthcare systems.

Squareknot in Philadelphia has the simple goal of allowing everyone to do more with its interactive outlet for making how-to-guides. The Squareknot platform allows users to generate step-by-step guides from scratch, or contribute to someone else’s project, or branch off in a new whole direction. 

Developed in Montgomery County, Superior Solar Design’s "SolarPower Table" is a collaboration of world class engineering and photo-voltaic science. The SolarPower Table is a highly reliable, year-round, off-grid solar energy charging station for cell phones, mobile devices and small electronic equipment.

Montgomery County's Telefactor Robotics is a research and development company focused on commercializing advanced vision systems and dexterous manipulation solutions for the first responder and military explosive ordnance disposal markets. The company’s suite of integrated technologies components add value to military and security robots, and enable new forward-looking industrial and manufacturing applications.
 
In Philadelphia, TowerView Health’s mission is to ensure that patients never miss a dose of critical medication. The company has developed a smart pill box and accompanying pre-filled medication trays that fit into the pill box like a k-cup fits into a Keurig. The pill box senses the presence or absence of medication and automatically reminds patients via text message or phone reminder when they’ve forgotten a dose. The data generated by the pill box will be accessible to clinical staff, allowing them to efficiently monitor patients.

Philadelphia’s Yorn is a unique, closed-loop platform for healthcare, business and hospitality settings, enabling patients/consumers and participants to provide feedback, in the moment, on any experience. Utilizing a unique URL through a smartphone, tablet or any web-enabled device, participants can submit comments or ask questions. 

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

 

Gearing Up puts formerly incarcerated women on two wheels

While teaching yoga and aerobics at Interim House, a recovery center for women overcoming addiction and other mental health issues -- many of whom had been incarcerated -- Kristin Gavin noticed that her classes weren’t reaching everyone.

"I surveyed them and asked, would you ride a bike?" recalls Gavin. Many of the women, including those who wouldn’t come to yoga or aerobics, said yes.

What was the difference?

"Women said, 'it’s fun,' 'it’s exercise,' and ‘I want to get out of the house,'" she explains.

So Gavin, who came to Philadelphia in 2007 to earn her Masters degree from Temple University in Exercise and Sport Psychology, launched the Center City-based Gearing Up with five bicycles in 2009. In December, the program nabbed a $40,000 grant from the GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Awards.

Part of what spurred Gavin to create a community cycling program for formerly incarcerated women was realizing what a challenge even a relatively short jail term could be for a woman’s health. Many of her students talked about the problem of weight gain. One said she had gained 80 pounds while incarcerated for six months.

In 2011, Gearing Up's program expanded to serve not just women outside the walls, but those still residing in Philadelphia County's Riverside Correctional Facility, offering three indoor spin classes per week for inmates. Those who complete 18 sessions in eight weeks are invited to join the outside Gearing Up program upon their release.

By tracking the health of Riverside participants, Gavin learned that women who had an 80 percent class attendance rate maintained their weight throughout their incarceration.

But cycling isn’t just about the number on the scale. Since founding Gearing Up, Gavin has been surprised by all the ways this activity has helped women re-integrate into physically and socially healthy lives.

For women emerging from correctional facilities, Gearing Up has four partner programs in Philly: Interim House, CHANCES, University City's Kirkbride Center and Gaudenzia Washington House. The organization leads two to three group bike rides per week for their clients, who track their miles until they reach 100. At that point, members graduate from the program, receiving a refurbished bike of their own (along with a lock, flat-changing kit, helmet and other gear).

"It has this whole other social component to it that wasn’t as palpable with an aerobics class or a yoga class," insists Gavin. And especially for the many women coming from repressive or abusive environments, the exercise was a great mood elevator and change of scenery.

"Women say, 'The fresh air feels so good in my face,'" she explains. They enjoy getting out in the community, seeing new places and "developing relationships with people in a very different way, a very kinesthetic way, and those are very normalizing experiences."

"Our focus has been going deeper," Gavin says of how the GSK dollars will help Gearing Up (a first-time applicant for the grant). That means extending services to the 40 women the program serves at any given time. The money will help provide increased support through volunteers and staff, even after participants’ graduation from the program, ensuring riders can make their skills on the road a permanent part of an independent life.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kristin Gavin, Gearing Up

Philly's foodie community gives a local dairy farm its own cheese cave

For Sue Miller, making cheese on her family's Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County is more than a way to make a living.

"It’s a beautiful process," she says. "We really have touched everything from the very beginning."

They breed the calves on the farm, grow the grass their Holsteins (over 80 of them) graze on, and do all of the daily milking. Up until now, they made and aged the cheese at a rented space nearby, before bringing it to market at Philadelphia-area stores and restaurants. Now, thanks to a successful Kickstart campaign -- more than fully funded with $33,507 raised as of the drive’s close on December 13 -- that is about to change.

After seven of cheesemaking, Birchrun Hills had outgrown that rented space. The funds will allow the Millers (which also includes Sue’s husband Ken and their adult sons Randy, a recent Cornell University graduate, and Jesse, who will receive his degree from Cornell next year) to build their own fully outfitted cheese caves. 

Because dairy farming is so capital-intensive and involves many complicated disciplines, from horticulture to nutritional and veterinary science to milk production, "it’s a challenging thing in the dairy industry to be a first generation [farm]…and unusual in cheese-making," Miller explains. "A lot of people come into cheesemaking after another career."

"You have to be committed to it not as a career, but as lifestyle," she adds.

Their first cheese customer, Di Bruno Bros., is a testament to the quality of their handmade raw-milk cheeses. Now, you can buy favorites like Birchrun Blue, Red Cat, Fat Cat and Equinox at venues such as the Fair Food Farmstand and Salumeria in Reading Terminal Market. Local restaurants, including White Dog Café, Fork and Nectar, also serve Birchrun cheeses.

A loan is allowing the family to build the new structure and the crowdfunded cash will go towards equipment, including a curd vat, specialized shelving and a cooling system.

Miller is proud that her two sons have chosen to return to the family business post-college, and she loves the chance to make a living based on the humane and healthy treatment of farm animals.

"I just love everything about [dairy cows]," she enthuses. "Their personalities can really come through…They are calm and lovely and accepting of human beings. It’s nice that they’re kind of unflappable."

She says the family has been overwhelmed by fans' support -- the crowdfunding campaign easily surpassed its initial $25,000 goal.

"We’re excited that people in our community have so strongly supported this project," adds Miller. "It’s tremendously humbling.”

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sue Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm

Art meets science in University City with stunning, shifting "Blueprint" installation

Most art pieces invite the viewer to bring their own perspective, but rarely does the art itself shift before you can look away. With "Blueprint," a new two-piece installation in lobbies at the University City Science Center’s 3737 Market Street, members of London's United Visual Artists (UVA) have taken the laws of science -- in fields like biology, software and genetics -- and married them to the light, color and texture of art.

When Flying Kite caught up with UVA's Nick Found and Ben Kreukniet in early December, it was a busy week for the internationally acclaimed arts group, which works on projects that encompass sculpture, installation, live performance and architecture. UVA recently installed pieces in Seoul, London and Philadelphia -- that's three exhibitions on three continents opening in the same week.

Each rectangular Blueprint piece is eight feet high and four feet wide, and weighs over 286 pounds. They’re a combination of color-shifting LED lights glowing through a translucent acrylic matte broken into 1,536 rectangular cells thanks to an aluminum grid (or aluminium, depending what side of the pond you’re from).

"We’re not very pro using off-the-shelf products," explains Found, referring to the painstaking year-long process of creating the works by hand, not to mention the software that powers Blueprint’s undulating look.

Because if you look at Blueprint for more than a few seconds, you’ll notice that the colors are constantly shifting and shading, fighting each other for chunks of the board, constantly spreading and receding in different ways. Occasionally, the board resolves into one solid shade before the waves of color pulse back to life.

It’s all thanks to an algorithm "inspired by the building blocks of life," explains Kreukniet. "Instead of deciding the composition [of the piece], we’re deciding on a set of rules."

Think the natural laws that govern things such as weather patterns, soil conditions and evolution. The rules are constant, but the practical outcomes -- from drought to monsoons or frogs to giraffes -- are infinitely varied.

Found and Kreukniet have a curious relationship to their Blueprint creations, each of which plays host to two distinct software "organisms." As long as the installation is turned on, the two computer-engineered entities, representing themselves with different colors, wrestle each other for control of the board's grid, within the rules of their co-existence.

Found and Kreukniet are pleased with the location of the pieces -- these permanent installations are free for everyone to view and consider, outside of a rarefied gallery setting.

"Every time you see the piece, it’s doing something different," says Found.

Blueprint is funded by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program, which teamed with the Science Center and its 3737 Market Street development partner, Wexford Science + Technology.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Nick Found and Ben Kreukniet, United Visual Artists

 

Kensington Quarters, Philly's only restaurant/butcher shop, opens in Fishtown

We're all used to picking up everything -- from steak to veggies to detergent to wrapping paper -- in one stop at the grocery store, and it’s hard to remember that we used to shop very differently.
 
Philly restaurateurs Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello, who together own Bufad, Prohibition Taproom and Café Lift, want to revive the specialized shop tradition with their new restaurant/butcher shop Kensington Quarters (KQ).
 
Opening KQ, housed in a former welding facility on Frankford Avenue, was a journey that took two years. According to Michael, the 25-foot ceilings and sheer size of the spot -- 35 feet wide and 100 feet long -- was initially "very daunting."
 
But that surfeit of space is part of what inspired them to create something unique for Philadelphia: a restaurant that butchers humanely-raised, locally-sourced animals in its own kitchen (instead of ordering cuts of meat) and a butcher shop within the space where folks can purchase their own high-quality cuts.
 
In service of that goal, Michael teamed up with expert butcher Bryan Mayer, who he first connected with over a beer in 2012.
 
"Originally, the concept was a restaurant centered on whole-animal butchery," recalls Michael. "We’re buying animals from farms and not bringing them in in boxes…We believe this is the most efficient way to run a restaurant."
 
While the space was still in its design phase, the two men were touring it and stopped to look at an area that had originally been designated as a lounge and coat closet.
 
"Why don’t you put a butcher shop over here?" Michael remembers asking Mayer, who had been looking to launch his own small-scale, locally-sourced butcher shop.
 
"Come here, get your meat, make it an adventure, talk to the butcher," he explains, insisting on the appeal of getting people out of the grocery-store habit.
 
Michael now says it’s a good thing that the space took so long to develop.

"The more time it took to get that place built, the more the concept evolved and became better understood and well-rooted," he insists.
 
Today, along with the butcher shop, that means wood-fired meals (with herbs from the garden out back) from pastured animals that spent their entire lives on local farms dedicated to humane husbandry, no antibiotics or GMOs (even on the drinks menu), and a simple cooking philosophy.
 
And, starting n 2015, the KQ team hopes to offer classes for those who want to learn more about cooking, butchering, using the whole animal and where food comes from.
 
The kitchen at Kensington Quarters (1310 Frankford Avenue) is open Sunday through Thursday, 5 - 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 - 11 p.m. The butcher shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, Kensington Quarters 

 

Philly hosts the world's first top-tier accelerator for women entrepreneurs

In November, Flying Kite brought you the announcement of the latest round of Startup PHL grant and seed-fund recipients, and all of the chosen CEOs were men. DreamIt Ventures’ Archna Sahay was in the audience, and she can tell you that this scene is all too common in the tech and venture capital world.

In October, Sahay was tapped to head a new accelerator at DreamIt Ventures: DreamIt Athena. She says there have been virtual, online-based accelerators or temporary "ad hoc" accelerators dedicated to women with big business dreams, but Athena is the world’s first permanent top-tier accelerator focused especially on women entrepreneurs.

The deadline for Athena’s first round of applications -- which Sahay predicted would draw up to 500 applicants from across the country -- was December 8. A $491,930 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development made the new program possible (there is already enough funding for a second round of the accelerator).

A minimum of four slots will be open for the Philly-based program, which will run from February through May of 2015 at the DreamIt headquarters at Innovation Center @3401 (a collaborative space run by Drexel and the University City Science Center).

Remember that saying about history being written by the winners? Born in India, raised in Virginia, and now a Philly resident with a decade in the finance world under her belt, Sahay has her own twist on that one.

"The future is being determined by those who are funding it," she says, and right now, most of those people are white men.
And there’s nothing wrong with white men, she insists. She appreciates all her colleagues.

"It’s not about dissing anybody. It’s celebrating diversity and celebrating the differences,” she continues. "We also have to recognize that the infrastructure has to be different to support and nurture and grow this diverse talent."

Sahay cites a recent Babson College study finding that in 2013, just 18 percent of all venture capital-funded businesses had a woman on the executive team, and less than three percent of those had a female CEO. And despite this under-representation in venture capital boardrooms, U.S. women are founding businesses at one and a half times the national average. That said, they receive less than 10 percent of the funding, delivering 12 percent more revenue with a third less capital than their male peers.

And, vitally important to Sahay, the study also found that venture capital firms with women partners are three times more likely to invest in women CEOs.

The tech-focused DreamIt Athena accelerator will connect participants to a national slate of mentors, speakers, investors and managers, and offer free workspace at the DreamIt headquarters.

"We’re really trying to get more women on that investing side of the table," explains Sahay. It’s valuable "to see someone [who] looks like you, and maybe is five years ahead of you in the game," and to learn how they achieved success.

"I think that’s really powerful."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Archna Sahay, DreamIt Ventures

 

An authentic taste of Nigeria comes to the City of Brotherly Love

Don’t call Tunde Wey a chef.

“I’ve been cooking to survive all my life,” insists the Nigerian-born Detroit resident, who’s been taking his brash take on West African cuisine on a coast-to-coast tour this fall and winter.  

"I don’t know how I feel about the word 'chef,'" the former restaurant owner continues. "I don’t consider myself a chef. I consider myself a person who cooks food for people.”

Wey, who has been cooking professionally for only the last eight months, insists that all the best experiences he’s had at the table were from ordinary folks who loved sharing a good meal.

That’s the vibe he wants to bring to his LAGOS bus tour. Shortly after selling his share of a new Detroit restaurant (operating with a rotating roster of eclectic guest chefs) to his business partner, Wey had the idea for a Nigerian food tour -- it struck him on a road trip from New Orleans to Chicago.

"Somewhere between New Orleans and Minneapolis, the idea occurred to keep going and keep cooking," he says. Now, his dinners are drawing 20 to 50 people in each city.

With six stops on the LAGOS tour under his belt as of December 7, Wey is loving bringing his distinctive West African flavor to Americans. He doesn’t want to say that American food doesn’t have flavor (even if the LAGOS website declares that it’s time to "unfetter diners from the tedium that is 'modern American cuisine'"), but honestly, he’s not impressed with our carefully cultivated and portioned subtleties.

With the bold approach of African food, he insists, "there’s no mistaking what just happened. I just had some food, and it’s like, wow, that was food. That was delicious. I’m pro-flavor."

Inspired by his love for his own mother’s rice or beans with tasty fried plantains, Wey says his dishes are tried and true, adding up to the kind of dinner that makes you "take off a couple of buttons on your pants because you have to catch your breath."

The LAGOS bus, where he cooks most of the food himself with the help of one or two others, is coming to Philly on Friday, December 12, at Sabrina’s Café (1804 Callowhill Street). The event is BYOB and the $45 ticket price includes authentic Jollof Rice, peppered goat meat, Egusi (a melon seed and spinach stew), Isi Ewu (stewed goat head) and, of course, fried plantains.

"Philly, get ready!" says Wey. "Cuz I’m coming!"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tunde Wey, LAGOS

 

New entrepreneurship opportunities for military veterans in Philly

A version of this story originally appeared in our sister publication Keystone Edge.

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

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

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

Source: Mike Maher, Benjamin’s Desk
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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