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On the Ground: What does a longtime local print paper mean to Southwest Philadelphia?

Soon Flying Kite will be landing in the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Kingsessing for our On the Ground program, and we’re starting things off by connecting with a publication that’s been on the ground there for a long time: since 1946, to be exact.

The Southwest Globe Times was the inaugural publication of Joseph Bartash's Bartash Printing (a company legacy that continues in Southwest Philly today thanks to Bartash’s son-in-law Sidney Simon and Simon’s son Michael).

From the beginning, the Globe Times focused determinedly on disseminating good news throughout the community. It hit a peak circulation of about 30,000 homes in the 1950s. Bartash, who went on to publish several other community papers, retained the Globe Times for the longest. He ceased publishing it in 2002 and died in 2007 at the age of 93.

"There was a two-year hiatus while various people in the community tried to start it up again," says Ted Behr, a Southwest Community Development Corporation volunteer who manages the Globe Times’s new incarnation. In 2004, Bartash agreed to sell the name to the CDC on the merits of "their unique characteristics as a nonprofit working within the community for its general well-being."

The paper re-appeared in 2005; to this day, Bartash is listed on the masthead as publisher emeritus. The Globe comes out in print and online on the first and third Friday of every month.

"We characterize ourselves as the good news newspaper because we try to only publish the positive activities of people," explains Behr. Southwest Philly "has more than its share of negative [news]. We counterbalance that with stories about people and groups doing things to improve the quality of life here."

Behr is a North Jersey native who moved to Wayne in 1971 after an international career in the pharmaceutical business that also included 16 years of teaching business courses at Eastern University and Beijing University.

He’s a member of Wayne Presbyterian Church and its non-profit community service arm CityLights, which partners with groups in Southwest Philadelphia, and that’s how he began working with Southwest CDC.

"I see my work with the paper as a calling," he says. Globe Times stories typically focus on figures like effective block captains, "outstanding teachers," and neighborhood leaders.

Block captains are integral to the paper’s circulation: For the last four years, they’ve volunteered for door-to-door delivery of about half the paper’s print copies. Other copies are picked up by the public at locations like the ShopRite grocery store in Eastwick -- it's the paper’s largest distribution point, with over 700 copies departing the rack there.

Even in 2016, a hyperlocal print paper is important, argues Behr. When the newspaper re-launched a decade ago, fewer than 15 percent of Southwest Philly homes had internet access. Today, he estimates that percentage has doubled, but there’s still a massive digital divide for many residents.

Southwest CDC is currently working with the 12th Police District and the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee to increase circulation and delivery of the paper. The publication is partly supported by ads from local businesses, but still operates at a loss of about 20 percent a year, a gap that donors at Wayne Presbyterian fill.

"We like to feel that our readers take ownership of ideas behind the paper," says Behr. "There are good people working in Southwest Philadelphia to make the community better. Dedicated public servants; dedicated people from block to block. We feel that’s what life is all about… We believe that our young people and our elderly people need a positive vision for the future."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ted Behr, the Southwest Globe Times

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company


A new indoor wayfinding app works to grow an industry

Once upon a time, we humans were content to sail ships across oceans with nothing but the sun and stars to figure out where we were, but things are a little different today. Chet Dagit, founder and managing director of the Radnor-based RTP Holdings, says that nowadays, satellite GPS can help us locate ourselves on this round earth within three meters of a given spot, but for a lot of industries, even that’s not enough.

"Micro-location solutions" is what RTP has been working on since its genesis three years ago; the company now has one year of operations under its belt. The technology is also called "augmented GPS"  -- it works with the help of a radio tower on the ground. On a large outdoor site such as a golf-course, plugged-in users can locate themselves to within a single meter with the help of a map in the cloud.

This technology is crucial for the modern aviation and maritime industries, says Dagit, but RTP is also helping to develop the next wave of micro-location: GPS that works through a specialized app indoors, helping users navigate their way through large buildings and attractions such as college campuses or museums.

The apps use WiFi and now Bluetooth Beacon for ground references, and RTP’s services to their clients come in two main parts: the positioning of these devices and the actual indoor mapping. They survey buildings to ensure the right number and location of WiFi access points, input those spots to a three-dimensional grid of the space, and then get the building’s floor-plan mapped into the app-accessed cloud.

To imagine an immediate and urgent application, picture calling 911 on your cell phone from inside a huge building and letting the app guide EMTs right to you. Or you can simply figure out what museum exhibit is a two-minute step from where you’re currently standing.

RTP recently held its first public demonstration of its trademarked Lokita Solution system for indoor micro-location mobile apps. It was a big success: Their new beta app, The @UPenn Xperience (now available in the Apple iTunes App store) took first place at the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) Wayfinding App Challenge in late June, hosted by PACT and co-sponsored by Penn and Independence Blue Cross.

"The new app helps students and visitors to Penn’s campus navigate and discover the art-filled campus and surrounding city," said RTP in a statement about the win, which came with a $30,000 prize.

"It really makes our solution tangible, so [people] can see it in action," says Dagit of the presentation and the prize. The company put their competition team and demo together in less than a month.

"That really shows our prospective customers how quickly we can get things done, and the quality of our work on a certain timeline," he adds.

"Philly is one of the leading cities in the country for indoor mapping," he continues, expaining that we're second only to Las Vegas in the number of buildings using this type of technology. "I just think we’re progressive with technology, maybe a little bit more early adopters, and we’re all about these great public venues that we have."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Chet Dagit: RTP Holdings

WizeHive expands with business apps, hiring

In just a few years, WizeHive has established a successful track record selling their collaborative platform as an application review tool and is ready to expand into new verticals. The Conshohocken comapny is hiring several positions including high-level web developers, web designer, experienced sales lead, and business development expert.
So far, WizeHive has largely served national and international nonprofits. Many of WizeHives clients, which include Society for Petroleum Engineers, American Humane Society, American Heart Association, Global Health Core, and Consumer Electronics Association, manage multiple programs. Some have up to a few hundred reviewers and receive as many as tens of thousands of applications. WizeHive's "customized workflow" has successfully eliminated endless sorting and meandering email chains from their review process.
"Foundations have sent us pictures of their offices before WizeHive and its just stacks and stacks of paper everywhere," Sarah Lang, Director of Marketing, says. "Now its all online and it's much easier."
The company is realizing their sophisticated automation of data and tasks may serve a variety of internal business needs as well, including bug tracking, employee database, and project management. The company has launched WizeHive 3.0 in private Beta for new business applications.
WizeHive has been doubling their business every quarter. They recently returned from the Dublin Web Summit, where they were one of 50 companies selected for Start.
"Every two weeks we're adding new features," Lang says. "Compared to this time last year we are well over double [our clients] and we keep growing every month." 
Source: Sarah Lang, WizeHive
Writer: Dana Henry

Malvern's ModSolar moving, seeking investors and adding jobs

Solar power seems like a great idea, but design and installation of solar panels is complex. Every roof is different, and power needs can vary greatly. "I was surprised how little technology was used in home improvement sales," says Mike Dershowitz, founder of ModSolar, a new B2B technology company that supports solar panel installers.

ModSolar allows the installer to use a satellite snapshot of a customer's roof and design the ideal solar array on a mobile device or a web browser. Shoulder to shoulder with the client, ModSolar has been an immediate hit. "At this point we average $100 million a week in proposals quoted on the platform," says Dershowitz, who reports that since launch close to $4 billion have been quoted on ModSolar. 
Inspiration hit Dershowitz in 2010 at the Philadelphia Home Show. At that time he was an employee for JP Morgan Chase leading their mobile design department. Dershowitz knew about the iPad due out just a few months later. "I saw pretty early that the iPad was going to be a great sales tool. I felt like it could create an intimate experience between the customer and salesperson."
In early 2011, ModSolar teamed up with its first customer, who had a booth at the Allentown home show. "He generated five times more leads on the iPad app than his competitors," reports Dershowitz, who credits his CTO and co-founder Kevin Ilsen with the ability to work lightning fast on a budget."One thing ModSolar is lauded for is our pace of change compared to everyone else. I'm not 100% worried about copycats," says Dershowitz.
ModSolar, based in Malvern, is completely bootstrapped and has four full-time employees, as well as several full time interns, and is in the process of hiring. Dershowitz is looking to fill two junior positions: a front end and a back end person. The company has a patent pending on its panel layout technology, and is in the process of raising a friends and family round of funding to accelerate growth. The company is also set to move somewhat closer to Philadelphia and is now seeking space in Bryn Mawr.

Source: Mike Dershowitz, ModSolar
Writer: Sue Spolan

King of Prussia's LiftDNA doubling staff following recent acquisition

Here's something you may not know: When you click on a website, ads you see are often the result of a real time auction. It's an outrageously fast paced auction, where bidding takes place within 300 milliseconds.

LiftDNA, based in King of Prussia, is in the business of managing online publications that derive revenue from these advertisements, and the company is growing very fast. "We manage 80 to 90 percent of their revenue," says Dan Lawton, Senior Vice President of Operations. "The goal is that we allow them to focus on publishing, and we take care of field management and the technical concerns of an advertising operations department."

A typical LiftDNA client gets over a hundred million impressions per month, says Lawton, and in total, the company serves well over 20 billion monthly impressions internationally. "Every millisecond counts when talking about scale and volume. If the ad doesn't load fast enough, that creates revenue loss."

Try this: go to Philly.com on two different browsers. First use Internet Explorer, and then go to the same site on another browser, like Google Chrome or Firefox. You will likely see entirely different ads. Your eyeballs were purchased in nanoseconds, based on cookies and other stored information. It's not something the consumer realizes or considers. "It's definitely the wizard behind the curtain kind of stuff," quips Lawton.

LiftDNA was recently acquired by Los Angeles based OpenX for an undisclosed sum comprised of stock and cash. On the heels of that acquisition, LiftDNA is planning on doubling staff in the next few months, going from over 20 to nearly 40 employees. The majority of hires will be in operations, says Lawton, plus a handful of developers and administrative support staff.

LiftDNA is going up against the giant of ad servers. "Google has taken over the entire ad ecosystem. They own Double Click Ad Exchange and AdSense, but they are advertiser focused.

We write code against Google to benefit the publisher," says Lawton. "There's nothing for free in this world. The only way the cost of free content is justified is to have effective ads on a site. Without ads, the content goes away."

The next big opportunity in online advertising will be mobile, says Lawton, who predicts we will see major changes in the coming months as real time placement jumps from desktop to handheld. "Mobile devices are outpacing PCs for the first time. There's a huge global impact. The reach is huge, and the dollars are going to follow that audience."

Source: Dan Lawton, LiftDNA
Writer: Sue Spolan

On and off: Zonoff hiring three to ramp up smart home software

Zonoff, in the business of facilitating smart homes, has just received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Zonoff is hiring three: a web and mobile UI developer, an embedded software engineer, and a contract technical writer. Cooper reports that the $200,000 from Ben Franklin will go toward ongoing product and market development.

The recipient of the largest sum in this most recent round, Zonoff launched in April 2011 to provide software that no one will ever see. Residing inside any "always on" device, like televisions, thermostats, security systems, door locks, garage door openers and refrigerators, to name just a few, Zonoff's software allows homeowners to control a variety of processes remotely.

The name of the revenue-positive company comes from the letter Z plus on and off, says Bob Cooper, Zonoff's Chief Marketing Officer and one of its co-founders. There are two smart home industry standards, he explains: the Z-Wave Alliance and the ZigBee Alliance. Zonoff works with both. "Consumers don't care if it's Z-Wave or ZigBee. They just want it to work," says Cooper.

"What's happening in the space now is the convergence of a number of factors," says Cooper, who attributes increased interest in the smart home to concurrent rises in broadband penetration and smartphones, along with a higher awareness of energy management. "Big players are entering the market." Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, for example, are beginning to take steps into facilitating the connected home.

Suppose, for example, you could turn on your hot tub, turn off your home security, and run your dishwasher from a mobile app. With Zonoff, it doesn't matter if it's a Z-Wave or ZigBee enabled device. Further, Zonoff learns from the homeowner's habits. If the thermostat is getting turned down to 62 every night, the program will ask if it should add the adjustment as a regular feature.

"We found Bulogics, another company in Philadelphia, that had developed the technology," says Cooper. "It was world class, but it was the best kept secret out there." Bulogics spun off its consumer technology portfolio and Zonoff was created, with a much more assertive go to market plan. Michael Balog, Zonoff's CTO, left Bulogics and joined Cooper and CEO Mike Harris at the Malvern HQ.

Cooper envisions all manner of disruptions. Alarm companies would be rendered obsolete by technology that automatically turns on cameras and sends a live feed to the owner's smartphone when a secure area is breached. The software can also alert the police.

Zonoff will soon be seeking an A round of funding and is forging relationships with channel partners for international distribution.

Source: Bob Cooper, Zonoff
Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern's ReadySetWork hiring on heels of expanded scheduling platform, acquisition

ReadySetWork has served tens of thousands. While it all began with a sandwich franchise, co-founders Joel Frisch and Jacob Dreyfuss are in the business of serving those who serve. The company is hiring ASP.NET MVC developers, mobile developers and business development experts, on the heels of an acquisition for an undisclosed amount by national payroll solutions provider PrimePay.

ReadySetWork was created to schedule shift workers, first in the restaurant industry, and now branching out to any vertical that employs hourly, on-demand labor. Frisch and Dreyfuss first got the idea for the company when they owned several Pita Pit franchises, and developed the technology to fix a major pain point that had previously been a pencil and paper solution. "The whole pitch of our product is taking the schedule off the back wall and bringing it to life," says Frisch.

The RSW suite is a set of web and mobile tools that allow managers to schedule workers online, but also allow employees to tell bosses when they are available. "When employees have more access with ReadySetWork, they feel more a part of the process. Accountability and morale are higher," says Frisch.

The acquisition does not affect the management team or the location of company, which remains in Malvern. Frisch says the company's national client base has been built up through distribution channels, not one-by-one sales, and PrimePay is now offering a co-branded version of ReadySetWork.

Frisch reports that the company now schedules hospitality, healthcare, and recreation staff, and is moving into the rapidly growing on demand workforce that includes home health care, catering and security. "A tool like ReadySetWork is situated perfectly for that change." Look for a new RSW mobile app, to be launched this summer. By the way, RSW has lots of branded merchandise for sale, including a clock.

Source: Joel Frisch, ReadySetWork
Writer: Sue Spolan

Vascular Magnetics' $7M Series A round shows impact of Science Center's QED program, company's team

Fresh off a $7 million round of Series A financing, Richard Woodward says without hesitation that the company he co-founded, Vascular Magnetics, would not exist without the first-of-its-kind QED Proof of Concept Funding Program at the University City Science Center.

A veteran executive from the biotech sector with extensive startup and early stage experience, Woodward was semi-retired and consulting in 2009 when he learned about the QED program, which assesses white papers on promising technologies and links the best with a business advisor and the possibility of funding. In the case of Vascular Magnetics, Woodward was paired with Dr. Robert J. Levy of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and they were awarded $200,000 by the QED program in 2010.  The result was CHOP’s first spin-out company, focused on developing its proprietary, magnetically targeted drug delivery system for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

“I was joking with my wife that this would have been a whole lot easier when I was 40,” Woodward says. “She said that when I was 40, I wouldn’t have had any idea what to do.”

In one respect, Woodward has come full circle with CHOP. His daughter had a medical condition that incapacitated her for her a couple years and a physician from CHOP helped contain the ailment, allowing Woodward’s daughter to pursue a career working for another children’s hospital.

“Dr. Levy, I have so much respect for that man,” says Woodward, the COO, of the company’s founding scientist. “He’s brilliant and a very prolific inventor, with something on the order of 31 issued patents. He probably has another 30 in various stages of the application process.

“It’s fairly rare to find an academic like that.”

The entire Series A round was funded by Wayne-based Devon Park Bioventures, whose general partners Christopher Moller and Marc Ostro will join the Vascular Magnetics board and rounds out a compelling case study of the potential of Greater Philadelphia's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Funds will allow the company to complete clinical trials, which are expected to begin in 2014. While the company will stay “aggressively virtual,” according to Woodward, there’s a good chance it will hire up to two more individuals. Also, the company is planning on maintaining workspace in the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator.

PAD effects about 30 million in Europe and North America, including 10 million in the U.S. Vascular Magnetics’ system aims to provide a more durable and effective treatment than angioplasty, grafts and drug eluting stents. It does this by combining biodegradeable, magnetic drug-loaded particles, a magnetic targeting catheter and an external device for creating a uniform magnetic field.

Woodward says some of Levy’s team at CHOP will be involved as consultants.

“These are some of the people that have developed the whole system. It’s important to have them around.”

Writer: Joe Petrucci
Source: Richard Woodward, Vascular Magnetics

Photos courtesy of Vascular Magnetics
Richard Woodward
Dr. Robert Levy

Collegeville's GigiK helps beat the system with KOP-based Free Court Dockets

He has a big, long, hard to pronounce name, so Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha generally goes by the moniker Gigi K in Philadelphia entrepreneurial circles. Kizhakkechethipuzha's website Free Court Dockets is, he says, the only place online to get a federal case docket for free. The site, with a brand new design, will relaunch on or before February 14.

Otherwise, attorneys and legal researchers must use the Public Access to Court Records (PACER) Case Records locator system, which is about to raise prices 25 percent, from $.08 to .10 per page, starting in April 2012.
Kizhakkechethipuzha explains that while researchers have been charged per page for US District Civil or Criminal, US Bankruptcy, US Appellate, US Federal Claims, or US International Trade records since 2005, 14 universities were exempt until 2009, when even that avenue was closed.

According to an article in Ars Technica, "PACER locks public documents behind a paywall, lacks a reasonable search engine, and has an interface that's inscrutable to non-lawyers."
While activist Carl Malamud and Senator Joe Lieberman fought for the public's right to access to the documents, the paywall remains, and the search function remains a hurdle for lay audiences. Two large firms, LexisNexis and Westlaw, offer a more user friendly interface, but that ease comes at a premium price.

The King of Prussia startup Free Court Dockets has a different pricing structure, explains Kizhakkechethipuzha. The cost of obtaining the records will be covered by advertising revenue on the site and user donations.
Kizhakkechethipuzha, who lives in Collegeville, originally got into legal information services via inspiration delivered nearly to his front door. His neighbor, an attorney, was explaining how court scheduling orders often got mixed up, and a lawsuit could result from a missed court date. Kizhakkechethipuzha developed Docket Digest, which was an automated system to download and extract court dates to keep attorney calendars straight. While Docket Digest is no longer in existence, Free Court Dockets grew out of it.

Kizhakkechethipuzha, whose office is in King of Prussia, also operates several other startups, including Courtport, for legal research, Gami LLC, which offers outsourced business processes and applications (Kizhakkechethipuzha works with developers based in India), and Talentoid, an online job recruitment resource.

Source: Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha, Free Court Dockets
Writer: Sue Spolan

Life sciences, tech, and food drive job creation as city's unemployment lags behind national average

Philadelphia's most recent unemployment rates checked in at 10.9%, which is well behind the national average of 8.8%. While the entire tri-state Greater Philadelphia area fared better at 8.4%, 2011 showed plenty of companies that are hiring.

When a company cannot hire employees fast enough, it's got to be NextDocs. The Microsoft SharePoint provider is bringing people in at breakneck speed. Transcend United continues to expand in IT, through mergers, acquisitions and hiring. GPIC is always looking to staff its constituent companies.

Google search challenger DuckDuckGo expanded from a basement operation to offices in Paoli and is seeking employees to fill the new space. VCopious, which provides virtual environments for enterprise, expects to double its staff by the end of next year. GIS expert Azavea continues to expand.

Center City based Cliq is looking for engineers who can assist in the mission to transform social data into social knowledge.

Other growth areas are in life sciences; Greenphire, founded to streamline clinical research, expects to double staff following a Series A round of funding. Echo Therapeutics reported earlier this year it was hiring 25.

Farm to table continues upward. South Jersey based Zone 7 and Chester County's Wyebrook Farm expanded considerably this year. Philly Cow Share, Bennett Compost, and Common Market all thrived this growing season. The Healthy Carts initiative launched to address the problem of food deserts in underserved areas of the city.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern startup AboutOne about to be the center of attention, hiring

Joanne Lang has star power. It wouldn't be surprising if the founder and CEO of AboutOne left a trail of glitter dust in her wake. In the past several months, the Malvern based startup has received a huge amount of attention and money, including nearly $2 million in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, which pledged $100,000 in May, and a $1.6 million Series A round led by Golden Seeds, a majority women owned national investment network. Lang's company also just announced partnerships with Microsoft and Suze Orman's IDSafe.

AboutOne addresses the needs of an increasingly powerful online contingent: moms. While dads can also use AboutOne's family management tools, Lang's idea was borne of her own pain point as a parent. Lacking proper medical information in an emergency involving one of her four children, Lang realized that data stored in the cloud could literally be a lifesaver.

She left her job at SAP to start AboutOne, which aims to organize all household management tasks. In addition to medical data, subscribers can store images and videos, keep track of bills and receipts, maintain contacts and calendars with important family dates and deadlines, and even automatically send out cards. "I have Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, but nothing in the middle for the people I love the most: my family and children," says Lang. "There was nothing to manage my home life more smoothly."

The service has been in beta since April, and in January launches the full gamified version, using feedback from beta tester moms. Several key improvements include automation of information gathering via social media sites and points for using AboutOne that translate to gift cards and credits.

Lang is featured in the soon to be released documentary about entrepreneurs called Control+Alt+Compete, produced by Microsoft. "There were 63 companies presenting, and they picked three to follow," says Lang, whose gentle charm and enthusiasm outshines the other two companies profiled.

AboutOne is on a mission to give back, with a lifestyle blog, special help for military families, a Comeback Mom program for women re-entering the workforce, and promotions designed to give back to the community. The company, which was founded with five employees, has just doubled staff and is continuing to hire.

Lang will also be featured in an upcoming series The Alchemist Entrepreneur. "It's how about when you want something mentally, the forces come together and help you achieve that goal. Really weird things happen to me all the time. I feel like I have a business angel. When we got our office space, we couldn't afford to buy furniture. Twenty minutes later, someone's mom called asking if anyone wanted office cubicles. She dropped off top of the range furniture."

Look for the full scale release of AboutOne in mid-January. Those who sign up friends will be entered into a contest to win an Amazon Kindle.

Source: Joanne Lang, AboutOne
Writer: Sue Spolan

One-stop IT shop Transcend United continues to expand footprint, hiring in Wayne

From headquarters in stately Wayne, Transcend United Technologies is taking over the world of IT and telecom through mergers and acquisitions. The company originally known as Fastech is on a fast track, acquiring nationally to provide infrastructure, networking, telephony, data center optimization and more, becoming a one-stop shop for the CIO.

"Historically, a CIO might be approached by two to four vendors," says
Transcend United's CEO Rick Hirsh. "We saw that was inefficient." Companies, he says, have an easier time dealing with one partner.  While Hirsh says Transcend United isn't 100-percent vendor neutral, he terms his offerings vendor agnostic. The newest challenge for his company, and for IT in general, is keeping up with the explosion of wireless bandwidth requirements. Employees now have WiFi enabled smartphones, laptops and tablets. "Estimates of how they would use the network weren't even close," explains Hirsh of the BYOD revolution (Bring Your Own Device).

"We started with a strategy in 2009 to change Fastech’s model," says Hirsh.  "That strategy was based on the convergence of IT and telecom, the fact that most mid-market VARs were only successful at either IT or Telecom, but not both, and that we could build scale on both geography and breadth of solutions."

Fastech, originated in the Philadelphia area. Hirsh engineered the acquisition of two Philadelphia area companies, and another two in the upper Midwest, with a current total of 115 employees, 15 of whom were hired this year. Roughly half of the company works out of the Wayne facility, with centers of activity in Minneapolis and Omaha. "We can grow organically at about the speed that the tech market grows, which is 20-25 percent," says Hirsh of his company that is two-thirds employee owned.

Transcend United continues to hire in sales and marketing, and plans to acquire more companies in the near future.

Source: Rick Hirsh, Transcend United Technologies
Writer: Sue Spolan

Search challenger DuckDuckGo expands to new office in Paoli, hiring

How much smaller is the bubble going to get? If Google and Facebook have anything to say about it, predictive search will narrow your results to the size of bath bubbles, one cell of information at a time.

Enter DuckDuckGo, a search engine challenger to the big guys that aims to burst the bubble, offering a disruptive paradigm worth $3 million in recently raised first round VC funding, which also allows for DuckDuckGo's physical expansion, from self-funded, home-based business to offices in Paoli by next month. The company now has two full time employees and four contractors, with plans to double staff by the end of 2012.

MIT-educated Gabriel Weinberg is the mind behind the engine. He launched his company in 2008, garnering national press. "I was well aware of Google's domination but it didn't phase me," says Weinberg. "It's not my goal to make a dent. One of my reasons for starting DuckDuckGo was the feeling that Google was too cluttered with ads and commercial results." 

Ad clutter's not the only thing DuckDuckGoes after. Another feature is Zero Click, aka goodies, which are all free and open source. Type your query into the search box to get instant results for complex calculations, recipes, and statistics, rather than just links to web pages with answers. Weinberg and team are adding new features constantly, with growing contributions via open source channels.

To get the eye of the tech elite, DuckDuckGo rented a high traffic billboard in the SF Bay area at a cost of $7000 for two weeks. Weinberg, who grew up in Atlanta and went to school in Boston, strategically chose the Philadelphia area, and specifically Valley Forge, to raise a family and grow the business.

Weinberg attributes the surge of interest in DuckDuckGo as "a bunch of threads coming together," citing an increase in people looking for alternatives and growing concern about spam and privacy.

On privacy, and its increasing lack thereof, Weinberg says, "A large percentage of people would like their privacy reasonably protected if they had real choices and were educated on the issues."

Source: Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo
Writer: Sue Spolan

Fast-growing software startup VCopious receives funding, expects to double staff by end of 2012

VCopious is expanding rapidly. The nine month-old, Conshohocken-based software company just announced it has received funding of an undisclosed amount from a consortium of four funders, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, Emerald Stage2 Ventures, MAG and Silicon Valley Bank.

CEO Ken Hayward says VCopious is now "into a stage of development geared toward market facing activity," and capital raised in this round of funding will go toward global expansion. VCopious also announced that Siemens Corporation has signed a multi-year agreement to use the VC2 platform, billed as the "world's first virtual spaces application server appliance." The firewalled networking, socializing and tracking tool allows people to meet in cyberspace, regardless of physical location.

VCopious already has a strong relationship with SAP, which it counted as one of its first customers. "It's a proven model," says Hayward of the technology that was built with no original outside financing. "Unlike other tech startups that are trying to raise money to build the technology, we've been out raising money to expand market activities."

The next step for VCopious is to build out a sales organization that's focused on high level direct sales to enterprise, and then find distribution partners that will move the product beyond the reach of its own direct sales force, according to Hayward. "One of the most sought-after destinations is around collaboration, ecommerce and social media. Between those, the VCopious platform is an aggregation tool for all those capabilities."

While Hayward will not talk about revenue or company growth in concrete terms, he projects that the company's staff will double by the end of 2012, from 25 to 50 employees, which is impressive for a company that only launched in early 2010.

Source: Ken Hayward, VCopious
Writer: Sue Spolan
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