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Two newcomers among six startups to rake in more than $1M in Ben Franklin Technology funds

Two suburban companies, AssetVUE  in Bucks County and MobileReactor LLC in Chester County, were each approved for $200,000 investments in the latest round of funding announced in a news release on Monday from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

AssetVUE, based in Bristol and led by President Sean Cotter, provides hardware, strategies, support, assembly and upgrades for data centers. The other new investment was for MobileReactor, based in Devon and doing business as OneTwoSee, which develops products and services that allow TV viewers to use mobile devices to play along with their favorite shows and other viewers in entertaining ways that are also meaningful for advertisers.

Also funded were:

Essential Medical, Wayne: $250,000 to aid in developing innovative products for use in cardiac catheterizations in leg arteries.

Novetas Solutions, Philadelphia: $200,000 toward processing and marketing of recycled glass that is crushed through a patent-pending grinding process and used in industrial processes. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $300,000.

Real Time Tomography, Villanova: $150,000 to continue its development of state-of-the-art image processing and image reconstruction for next-generation 2D and 3D medical imaging systems. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $425,000.

, Philadelphia
: $25,000 for the e-commerce company providing online ticket-selling services for event organizers also provides barcode scanning, instant credit card swiping and design and tracking services. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $500,000.

Source: Jaron Rhodes, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Joe Petrucci

King of Prussia life sciences Sharepoint provider NextDocs 'hiring nonstop'

NextDocs has probably quadrupled in the last two years, according to CEO and co-founder Zikria Syed, who says the company, a Microsoft SharePoint partner, is now in a period of 60 percent year over year growth. "We have 100 people now. In 12 months we'll employ 160."

As a result, King of Prussia based NextDocs is in a hiring way, and jobs are available throughout the entire organization, from technology and customer support to sales and marketing. NextDocs is also growing geographically, with a new office in Portland, Oregon to cover west coast operations. The company already has a presence in Western Europe and Canada, and in the next few weeks, will open another office in Japan.

When asked how many people NextDocs is hiring, Syed responds, "We're hiring nonstop. It's hard to tell. New people start literally every day. We are only limited by our ability to find people quickly enough."

In the past three years, the company has grown more than 3,000 percent; at the end of fiscal year 2010, it reported $9.8 million in revenue, and it projects 2011 annual figures at $15 million. NextDocs just received $10.3 million in Series A financing from OpenView Venture Partners.

The company, which has garnered best in class status in just five years, was founded by Syed and CTO Matt Walz in 2006. Both had been at Microsoft. "Essentially we are a technology company. We're focused on document quality management." When NextDocs began in the basement of Syed's home, it was in response to a lack of existing solutions for compliance and quality management.

Syed defines NextDoc's relationship with Microsoft as the software giant's go to market partner for life sciences, pharma, medical devices and biotech. He says that the recent $10.3 million injection will go to three areas: first, further investment in solutions and products; second, geographical expansion, and third, a deeper investment in customer support.

Source: Zikria Syed, NextDocs
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

Growing Greenphire: KOP clinical research firm doubling staff

Put that paperwork down. Greenphire is fundamentally changing the entire clinical research industry. The King of Prussia based company has two products, ClinCard and eClinical GPS, designed to streamline clinical research studies. The technology is working, and it's well received, having just closed a round of Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital, on the heels of Ben Franklin Technology Partners funding last year.

Greenphire's COO John Samar reports that this year, the company will achieve 300 percent revenue growth over last year, currently serving 200 customers including big name pharma, biotech and medical device companies. Just four years ago Greenphire consisted of Samar and co-founder/CEO Sam Whitaker, and with the cash influx, the company is hiring. Samar estimates that the current staff of 16 will double by spring of 2012. Currently, there are three openings: VP Program Management, Program Manager and Office Manager/Client Support/Bookkeeper.

ClinCard, says Samar, is Greenphire's debit card based product that handles payments for participation in clinical research trials, adding email and SMS functionality to keep patients engaged in studies. Participants receive tailored messaging and appointment reminders.

"There are a lot of value adds that result from the way we package," says Samar. "Sponsors get cleaner, more robust data, and patients are happier. The whole clinical research industry is realizing that it needs to be more patient centered." Increased compliance on both sides of the equation, from patients to paperwork, sets ClinCard in its own class, and it's not hard to see how Greenphire's technology could be applied to a much wider healthcare market.

But Samar says right now Greenphire is sticking to its expertise in the clinical research sector, and this year launched its second product, eClinical-GPS (Global Payment System) to address payments involved in the execution of the study. So, for example, if a clinician draws blood, reimbursement -- which previously took 6 to 8 months -- now arrives within three days.

The high growth private company is partnering with Mytrus for Pfizer's virtual clinical trial program that allows participants to remain at home, using electronic communication tools to recruit, retain and administer studies.

Source: John Samar, Greenphire
Writer: Sue Spolan

From trading bonds to raising chickens, sustainably of course

Agriculture wasn't in Dean Carlson's original plan. "I was a bond trader working in derivatives," says the owner of Wyebrook Farm, a 355-acre spread in Chester County. Carlson is now offering sustainably raised chicken and eggs, with beef and pork on offer this fall. "We have two full time employees, three summer employees and two chef interns," says Carlson of the Honey Brook operation.

Carlson left Susquehanna International Group in 2009, hoping to take time off in a bear market. "I came across the idea of sustainable agriculture and became captivated by it," says Carlson, who explains that conventional agriculture, with its dependence on cheap oil, cannot last forever. "Five to 10 years years from now, it will be obvious. Food will become higher priced and more scarce. You see it already."

Carlson purchased the foreclosed 200 year-old farm from a bank for $4.25 million, and has invested over $750,000 in improvements, which include solar power and renovations to three existing 18th century stone buildings. "The previous owner was going to develop the land into a 100 house tract," says Carlson.

"I looked at the business of conventional farming and didn't like it," explains Carlson, who refers to standard practices as the definition of a bad business -- capital intensive and fraught with variables. "With sustainable agriculture, you are minimizing your input cost. Instead of machinery and hay in a barn, animals are out in the field, harvesting the grass themselves. Our input costs are sunshine and rain."

Wyebrook Farm's first product, Freedom Rangers Chicken, is now available for $4 a pound direct from the farm. Carlson is transforming the old stone barn into a store where customers will be able to purchase chemical-free grass fed meat and poultry directly. It's just a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and not much farther from New York.

Carlson draws inspiration from billionaire financier Jim Rogers, who, when asked by a room full of MBA finance students for advice, replied "Quit school and go work on a farm."

Source: Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Do you know where your drugs are? Exton's Absorption Systems has the answer

Maybe you take a couple of different prescription medications. If you don't now, chances are that as you get older, you will. And the interaction between drugs can be a wild card. That's where Absorption Systems rides in like a pharmaceutical cavalry. Based in Exton, the privately held company is a pioneer in the field of pharmacokinetics. As CEO Patrick Dentinger explains, there are two areas of preclinical drug research: pharmacodynamics, or what a drug does to your body, and pharmacokinetics, which is what your body does to the drug. The latter is Absorption Systems' specialty. "The FDA has gotten tougher in trying to understand what a drug does when it hits your body," says Dentinger. The company researches the path that singular and multiple meds take through the body.

In a series of buildings filled with lab coated technicians and millions of dollars of equipment, Absorption Systems is big pharma's first stop on the way to developing a drug that will eventually go to market, perhaps a decade down the line. Many compounds don't even make it out of the research phase, and Dentinger reports that most of the time, pharmaceutical clients do not share the purpose of the proposed drug, just the chemical compound.

Once a compound is submitted to Absorption System's lab, it goes through rigorous testing involving human tissue to simulate the interaction. Absorption Systems grows intestine, liver and skin cells, and out of a scene from the classic Woody Allen film Sleeper, the company has even used human noses (harvested from cadavers) to measure the way a molecule does or doesn't get into a body.

"The industry has changed in general," explains Dentinger, who describes formerly high walls of privacy surrounding pharmaceutical research crumbling in recent years with outsourcing to biotech startups and contract research organizations (CROs) like Absorption.

While Dentinger, whose sole partner is Ismael Hidalgo, does not disclose details of the privately held company's revenue, Absorption Systems is certainly growing, with over 200 customers and 115 employees, a satellite lab in San Diego and direct interaction with the FDA. The company hopes its future proprietary data collection technology can revolutionize the way all scientific research is documented and potentially create a spinoff company.

Source: Patrick Dentinger, Absorption Systems
Writer: Sue Spolan

Business leaders name area's top tech companies at PACT Enterprise Awards

It was like swimming in a sea of money. On May 4, The Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies hosted the 18th Annual Enterprise Awards. About a thousand business leaders and executives attended. Beginning with a VIP reception, the kudos flowed as easily as the cocktails, while down the hall a larger food and drink fest filled with tuxedo and evening gown clad representatives from Philadelphia's top law and finance firms, who networked with the area's best and brightest entrepreneurs and incubators.

Out of 27 nominees, these are the results: the Life Sciences Startup Company award went to CareKinesis, Philly's top Technology Startup Company of 2011 is Monetate, an eCommerce leader that runs websites for Urban Outfitters and QVC; the area's Emerging Life Sciences Company was NuPathe, which works on branded therapeutics for diseases of the central nervous system; SevOne was named Emerging Technology Company, following a 2009 PACT award for Tech Startup, and this year's award for a MedTech Pioneering Company was sewn up by medical device provider Teleflex.

The award for MedTech Product Innovation went to Siemens Healthcare. The venerated Morgan Lewis attorney Stephen M. Goodman received the Legend Award for his many years assisting entrepreneurs; the IT Innovator Award of Excellence went to Lockheed Martin, Information Systems & Global Solutions � Defense, based in Maryland but with offices in King of Prussia. The Investment Deal of the Year went to Safeguard Scientifics for the acquisition of Clarient Inc., formerly in Safeguard's portfolio, purchased by GE Healthcare for $144 million. "It was a spectacular dinner," says attorney Michael Heller, one of the evening's presenters and Chair of Business Law at Cozen O'Connor. "It was wonderful to see such a terrific turnout among the venture capital community. The region is more active today than it was a year ago, and there's more excitement in the air regarding the VC community."

PACT judges named James Walker of Octagon Research Solutions Technology CEO of the Year; Life Sciences Company of the Year was Health Advocate, and ICG Commerce beat out HTH Worldwide and Qlik Tech to win Technology Company of the Year.

Prior to the event, three CleanTech Companies to Watch were named: ElectroPetroleum, NovaThermal Energy, and Viridity Energy. Video of the entire event is available here.

Source: Michael Heller, Cozen O'Connor; PACT Enterprise Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

Photo : Attorney Stephen M. Goodman

Malvern biopharma startup Vicept on fast-track to get the red out

Rosacea is not a life threatening condition, but the facial redness of the disorder can be embarrassing enough to make a sufferer want to die. Rosacea is characterized by a red blush, spidery veins and acne-like pustules on the face. The condition may be intermittent or long term. Malvern-based Vicept is a specialty biopharmaceutical startup that has developed a topical cream that treats the most obvious symptom of the facial condition.

"There's nothing right now on the market that's strictly indicated for the treatment of the redness of rosacea," explains Vicept Director, President and CEO Neal Walker, MD. With $16 million in Investigational New Drug (IND) capital raised during a very tough time for the economy and for life sciences investment in particular, Vicept's prescription cream is an easy fix compared to other rosacea treatments on the market, none of which address the symptom of redness. Laser procedures are considered cosmetic and are not reimbursed by insurance; Oracea, a low dose antibiotic in pill form, affects the whole body and only targets the bumps and pimples, not the redness, according to Walker.

In contrast, Vicept's as-yet unnamed product goes after receptors in facial blood vessels, clamping them down with a vasoconstrictor mechanism and blanching out the redness. Walker is a practicing dermatologist and reports that the active ingredient in the cream has been around since the 1960s, and was originally in Afrin nasal spray.

Vicept has completed Phase 2 clinical studies and is ready to move on to Phase 3 as it continues to move the product along in development, talking with different types of potential partners for distribution both in North America and globally. The fast track company, founded in 2009, has seven full time employees and is nominated for a PACT Enterprise Award this year. Walker says he expects the prescription cream to be available within the next few years.

Source: Neal Walker, MD, Vicept
Writer: Sue Spolan

Safeguard drops $25M on chip-enabled eyeglasses

Eyeglasses are about to change dramatically, thanks to a major investment by Safeguard Scientifics. The Wayne-based holding company, in an effort to expand its footprint in life sciences investments, announced that it has provided $25 million plus an additional $10 million in venture debt to PixelOptics, a medical technology company in Roanoke, Va., for its emPower! line of chip-enabled glasses aimed at bifocal and progressive lens wearers, of which there are a total of 100 million in the US alone. Safeguard's Senior Vice President and Managing Director in the Life Sciences Group, Gary Kurtzman MD, notes that investment in life sciences start ups is shrinking, and Safeguard is seeking new opportunities by getting into consumer-driven companies like PixelOptics.

Rather than divide eyeglasses so that the top section is corrective and the bottom section is for reading, emPower! glasses rely on a chip embedded in the frame which electronically transforms the focus of the entire lens from corrective to reading power at a touch. The chip is powered by a battery which lasts at least two years and requires recharging every three days.

Kurtzman says the new eyeglass technology has significant near term potential both as a product and for revenue, citing a low regulatory bar, a big market, and the fact that the product is ready to go to market. "We think it has all the features of an ideal investment," says Kurtzman of PixelOptics' new product, the result of 12 years of research.

Kurtzman, who is already wearing a pair of the glasses, is impressed that he can use the entire lens for either purpose. "There is a small liquid crystal embedded in the glass of the lens. If I need it, I turn it on and it's there." He reports that the glasses are the same weight as their conventional counterparts, and the company is initially rolling out 36 different frames, competitively priced, in a variety of shapes and colors. Kurtzman says emPower! frames will be available in the Philadelphia area within six months.

Source: Gary Kurtzman MD, Safeguard Scientifics
Writer: Sue Spolan

Wallquest's World: Wayne wallcoverings firm wins small biz award for exports, hiring up to 40

Wallquest has China covered. Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and India, too. The Wayne-based wallcoverings firm was just named Small Business Exporter of the Year by the Export-Import Bank, and received an award this week in Washington, DC. Wallquest's exports rose 76 percent to more than $17 million since 2008, thanks to robust sales overseas. Jack Collins is Vice President of the family-run company, which he runs along with his brother and father, who acquired Wallquest in 1985.

While the original customer base was domestic, big box retailers and toll free sales left no one to sell to in the United States, and Collins says Wallquest had to go overseas around 2005, now selling environmentally-friendly products in more than 50 foreign markets. With a good brand name in America, the company has had great success in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, and the trend is toward American design.

"You wouldn't think someone in Saudi Arabia or China would want American country style, but they do," says Collins, who explains that among affluent Chinese homeowners, a big wooden kitchen table is a sign of wealth, and American design dovetails with that table.

While Wallquest is a relatively small company, says Collins, its line is more extensive than competitors', with around 35 collections coming out this year.

"Our business used to be more seasonal, and now it's not because of our international clients. When the US market is strong in winter and spring, it's Chinese New Year, and in the summer, when the US market is down, the Chinese and Middle East markets are coming up."

Collins is grateful to both Ex-Im Bank and PNC Bank for playing an essential role in the company's global growth. Wallquest wallcoverings are made with water based inks and the highest quality printing technology in the main manufacturing facility in Wayne; recently, the company acquired and retooled two other factories in New York and New Jersey, bringing the total number of employees to 150. Later this year, Wallquest plans on opening another facility in King of Prussia, hiring an additional 30 to 40 employees.

Source: Jack Collins, Wallquest
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: Microsoft in Malvern, Art in the Open and the Canal

Flying Bytes is a roundup of innovation nuggets from across the region:

The second annual Art in The Open exhibit has been announced for June 9-12, 2011. The citywide exhibit features a juried selection of artists who will create site specific work along the Schuylkill Banks, from Bartram's Garden in Southwest Philly, and as far north as the Fairmount Park Waterworks. The result is a giant outdoor studio, with art stations for the public to get into the creative process. AIO co-founder Mary Salvante reports that all 2011 artist applications have been received, and the 40 winners will be announced shortly.

The Manayunk Canal Towpath is about to get an art facelift. The Mural Arts Program, in association with the Manayunk Special Services District (MSSD) and the Manayunk Development Corporation, is calling for proposals to transform the disused canal into a temporary public art location with a focus on sustainability, incorporating water. The canal is the last surviving segment of a waterway that once ran as far as Schuylkill County, bringing coal from the mines into Philadelphia. The installation will coincide with this September's Manayunk Eco-Arts Festival. For more information, send email here.

This week Microsoft opened a new 17,500 square foot Technology Center in Malvern. In attendance at the opening ceremony were Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The Philadelphia area tech center is the tenth in the United States, and joins 21 similar technology centers globally. According to Microsoft, "the center is designed to help companies throughout the mid-Atlantic region improve their use of technology to grow their businesses, add jobs, and strengthen their local communities."

Digital Philadelphia and Code for America reports that our local team of fellows is working hard to get government data to citizens. Jeff Friedman says the Philly CfA team conducted over a hundred interviews in February, polling government and city workers, civic leaders including heads of non-profits, block captains, civic developers, and citizens. CfA Philly also held three Friday "hack" events to encourage local developers to engage with government data, an Open Data Forum with help from Young Involved Philadelphia, Technically Philly, and the City, and an open data camp where developers built out four functional mini-apps based on city data.

Source: Mary Salvante, AIO; Microsoft Technology Center, Jeff Friedman, CfA Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

PA's power choice: The answer is blowing in the (local) wind, says Radnor's Community Energy

It's 2011. Do you know where your power is? With the expiration of Pennsylvania power rate caps at the start of this year, state utility customers are searching for alternative providers. If you are all about clean renewable energy that's local and sustainable, Community Energy provides 100 percent Pennsylvania generated wind power, and it's expanding to provide solar as well.

The Radnor-based company, founded in 1999, began selling retail wind power to commercial customers ahead of state mandates, enabling Community Energy to build demand for the construction of its own wind projects in Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey. "In 1999, there were a total of 10 megawatts of wind power east of the Mississippi," says Jay Carlis, Vice President of CEI's Retail Division. Texas boasts two of the world's largest wind farms, and California is not far behind. Carlis reports that in the past year, CEI experienced strong growth and has doubled in size, thanks largely to the addition of solar energy to its offerings. After CEI's initial foray serving commercial clients such as Carnegie Mellon University and Giant Market, CEI added residential clients to the roster, and then partnered with utility companies, enabling its reach to include the entire northeastern United States.

While the Pennsylvania PUC has created PA Power Switch, an easy to navigate website that helps customers shop for energy, Carlis says the site leaves out some vital information. "Most people don't understand the complicated aspects of the market. If you want wind power, and it's coming from Texas, the grids don't even connect," says Carlis. Rather, utilities are dealing in tradable Renewable Energy Certificates. For someone living in Pennsylvania, he says, there's a lot of benefit to having wind in the local grid, including a future price edge benefit. "Twenty years from now, if all of Pennsylvania is buying from Texas, Texas will look good, and it won't make a bit of difference for Pennsylvania. It's important that people understand the implications of their choices."

Source: Jay Carlis, Community Energy
Writer: Sue Spolan

Virtual environments mean big business for Conshohocken's VCopious

"Events come and go, but persistent worlds live on," says Ken Hayward, CEO of VCopious, a virtual meeting platform that allows users worldwide to meet in cyberspace. It's an amalgamation of virtual environments like Second Life with social networking, and VCopious is gaining momentum. With VCopious, physical location is no longer a barrier to gathering. It doesn't matter if you are in Athens, Georgia or Athens, Greece.

After downloading the VCopious application, participants create avatars able to meet, talk and shop in-world. VCopious predecessor Second Life peaked back in 2007, and now that the dust has settled and the thrill of cybersex has worn off, corporate and academic entities are now seeing the greatest benefit from virtual engagement.

Based in Conshohocken, VCopious counts as its biggest customer software giant SAP, which is hosting between 30 and 50 virtual meeting instances on any given day, according to Hayward. This week, the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Technology and Capital (PACT) announced that VCopious has been selected as a finalist for the 2011 Technology Start Up of the Year.

"We believe that persistent virtual worlds are an important branding mechanism," adds Hayward, who touts his software's scalability. The recent SAP Sapphire event hosted a total of 51,000 participants, with 17,500 on the platform at same time. Hayward says it's the hardware, not the software, that might limit participation. "We believe we've done the largest single event in 2010 of anyone in the industry."
Unlike Second Life's virtual currency, Hayward says VCopious users spend real money for in-world transactions, and that virtual private environments are a way to monetize social media, representing, says Hayward, "a brand new gigantic market."

Source: Ken Hayward, VCopious
Writer: Sue Spolan

Chesco's ThingWorx, 'Facebook for objects,' lands $5M, to hire 30

Your objects may have social media envy. John Richardson, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Downingtown's ThingWorx explains that within the next decade, the number of things communicating on the internet is set to eclipse the number of people who communicate. Think of it as Facebook for the manufactured world. Holding company Safeguard Scientifics agrees, announcing this week $5 million in Series B financing for ThingWorx.

Richardson predicts that by 2020, well over a trillion devices and machines will connect via cloud computing. It's known as IoT, or the Internet of Things. Almost everything, large or small, will have a network enabled chip, including cars, factory equipment, and thermostats.
ThingWorx is a 100 percent software solution, according to Richardson, who cites the example of a beverage factory bottling line running low on syrup that will be able to send out an alert to a computer or smartphone, enabling adjustment, potentially without human intervention. "We've written the software in as small a footprint as possible," says Richardson. "A piece of the code could be imbedded in a device." Using the cloud-based proprietary program, devices will talk to open protocols.

While Richardson is not at liberty to divulge the names of his company's Fortune 500 clients, he says ThingWorx is moving software into pharmaceutical, food, oil and gas, and electric grid sectors at local, national, and international levels. Most are running ThingWorx on Amazon's cloud platform, but "companies that are averse to private data in the cloud could host on site." And there's good news for local job seekers. Richardson reports that the company is on track to create 30 new jobs at its Chester County headquarters by the end of 2011, with a projected workforce of 140 employees in three years.

Source: John Richardson, ThingWorx
Writer: Sue Spolan
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