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BFTP/SEP invests $2.8M in 14 early-stage tech firms

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) closed fiscal year 2015 with $2.8 million in investments in 14 early-stage companies in sectors ranging from information technology to digital health to advanced manufacturing.

American Aerospace in Montgomery County provides endurance, beyond-line-of-sight, unmanned aircraft system products and services to oil and gas, electric transmission and emergency management customers.

BioBots in Philadelphia builds 3D bioprinters and bioinks, producing 3D living tissues out of human cells.

Montgomery County's Core Solutions is a progressive leader in transforming the behavioral, medical and social services experience for behavioral health providers, consumers and state agencies.
 
Philadelphia’s DECNUT provides healthcare organizations with dynamic point-of-care solutions designed to improve clinical decision-making. 

Defend Your Head in Chester County has developed an innovative protective helmet cover that reduces head trauma for all contact sports.

Philadelphia's Gencore offers a revolutionary cloud application analytics solution that provides high-fidelity performance analytics and monitoring. 

Grand Round Table in Philadelphia provides innovative clinical decision support solutions integrated into electronic health records.

Montgomery County’s KickUp aims to end the intellectual, physical and geographic isolation that educators face by providing access to quality coaching, collaboration and mentorship opportunities. 

MeetBall in Bucks County offers a location-sharing platform that helps fans navigate the crowd and improve their experience at large events such as NASCAR races, football games, concerts and festivals. 

Philadelphia's Optofluidics is enhancing particle analysis with state-of-the art, nanotechnology-enabled instrumentation. 

ROAR in Philadelphia is developing fashionable jewelry that doubles as an alarm and alert system to protect women from attack. 

Rocker Tools in Bucks County is an innovative designer, manufacturer and distributor of specialty construction tools. 

Philadelphia's Yorn is a real-time data platform that links patient-generated feedback with associated health data. 

Philadelphia’s ZSX Medical is a medical device company whose Zip-Stitch offers a rapid surgical closure platform. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin aims to raise capital for women-led businesses

In 1995, a small group of Philadelphia-region women entrepreneurs got together for mutual support and access to capital. Now, 20 years later, the group -- renamed the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) -- is the Mid-Atlantic's largest organization dedicated to fostering high-growth businesses founded or led by women. 

Still, according to Executive Director Victoria Burkhart, "there is a sense…that now is the time to 'move the needle' on women and entrepreneurship, and for AWE to take a more active role in connecting women to capital. AWE approached Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP), a longtime partner, to brainstorm strategies for aligning efforts in support of funding for entrepreneurial enterprises founded by women."

The resulting AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin is a crowdfunded, donation-driven initiative to raise $250,000 -- to be matched dollar-for-dollar by BFTP/SEP -- for seed-stage investments in women-led enterprises in the Philadelphia region. The new program will also provide hands-on support for entrepreneurs from both partners’ shared networks of capital, counsel and connections, and events, workshops and published content to empower entrepreneurs and celebrate successes.

“As much as it is our goal to help support the growth of female entrepreneurs, AWE Ventures will also provide an opportunity to mentor future women investors," explains Burkhart. "Programming offered by both AWE and Ben Franklin will be as much about ‘how to invest’ as it will be about entrepreneurship. Fostering increased participation of women in early-stage or angel investment is equally important to increasing the diversity of our technology ecosystem here in the Greater Philadelphia region; really, in the nation at large."

"AWE and Ben Franklin will identify potential entrepreneurs for investment, with full management of the due diligence and investment processes to be handled by Ben Franklin," explains RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP’s president and CEO. "Like all other Ben Franklin investments, companies will commit to being located in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware or Chester counties for at least five years, or until repayment/exit. The number of companies to be funded remains flexible and will depend upon the amount of funds raised."

"AWE does a great job in creating events and programs to connect and advance women entrepreneurs, providing opportunities to share experiences, insights, best practices and lessons learned," she adds. "Ben Franklin does as well, actively working to bring insights from its investors, portfolio companies and regional partners into the mix. There's really no end date or fixed total hours for what AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin can provide. That's what so great about our two organizations working together on this initiative."

Source: RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP and Victoria Burkhart, AWE
Writer: Elise Vider

Six months after launch, Philly's Kiva Zip loans are going strong

Last year, Flying Kite profiled the soft launch of Philadelphia’s Kiva Zip program, part of an international "social underwriting" platform for independent businesses. As of last October, Kiva City Philadelphia had made 13 loans totaling $52,000.

According to Kiva Zip Philadelphia manager Alyssa Thomas (of the City’s Department of Commerce), that number has jumped to 50, sending $208,000 to local small-scale entrepreneurs. The program's number of trustees has increased as well, from about 30 to 44, including the Enterprise Center, The Food Trust, New Kensington CDC and the Corzo Center.

Kiva loans -- which typically top out at $5,000, but can be as small as $500 -- help all kinds of nascent entrepreneurs make crucial upgrades to their businesses. The crowd-funding platform operates with the help of those trustees -- individuals, or, more often, organizations -- who direct entrepreneurs to the program and vouch for them, before the crowd-funded campaign for that entrepreneur goes live on the Kiva site.

"There’s a lot of due diligence on their part," says Thomas of the vetting and interviewing these volunteer trustees do before sending a loan applicant through. "We’ve had a pretty steady flow of businesses coming on to our site."

While many Kiva applicants don't fit the profile for a typical business loan, no applicant is ever turned away from Kiva Zip. Sometimes there are barriers to lending, such as the business owner’s high debt to income ratio or a lack of fluency in the digital platforms that make the campaigns a success, but these are overcome by starting applicants off with small loans, gauging their ability to repay on time, and then approving them for larger loans if all goes well.

The repayment rate in Philly is close to 100 percent. One recent loan recipient, shepherded via The Food Trust, is a small fruit and produce business operating in the Northeast. With the help of a Kiva loan, the owners leased a four-acre farm; they bring the produce directly to their store (which accepts SNAP payments) in an area lacking fresh food options.

Locals who want to learn more about Kiva in person can head to Dilworth Park on June 4 from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. A pop-up shop with feature several loan recipients and a lunchtime address from Alan Greenberger, the City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Director of Commerce.

Thomas hopes passersby will stop to learn more about how supporting Kiva loans contributes to the city's economic revival.

"The idea of this event is really to capture people while they’re walking by and let them know you can support a local business," she explains. "You can help shape the way your neighborhood looks."

In the meantime, the program is growing so much that the department has a new opportunity: Thomas is looking for a Kiva Zip fellow to join her office. Applications are due by June 5.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Alyssa Thomas, Kiva Zip Philadelphia

Wharton award-winners simplify renters insurance for the millennial market

Zack Stiefler and Tom Austin will receive their MBAs from Wharton this month, and their prospects just got a lot sweeter thanks to a $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize award in the 2015 Wharton Business Plan Competition.

Stiefler, who was born in Philadelphia but grew up in San Diego, and Austin, a Maine native, began working on their company, Bungalow Insurance, about a year ago.

The 28-year-olds both studied economics at Duke University as undergrads (Stiefler graduated in '09; Austin in '08), but didn’t connect personally until the summer of 2013, when they met in California, and later played together on Wharton’s hockey team.

The inspiration for their new online insurance-buying platform hit when they moved to Philly for school, and had to grapple with buying renters insurance for the first time.

"We really decided to start Bungalow because as consumers, we were frustrated with the experience of buying insurance," recalls Stiefler.

The two already have a lot to say about the insurance industry. First off, most insurance companies are much older -- some have been around for a century or more -- than major companies in other sectors. It’s a tough arena for entrepreneurs to break into. Plus, there's the feeling and experience, both for consumers and venture capitalists, that insurance is a complex, unglamorous field.

"Consumers have grown used to the fact that insurance is a complicated thing, and the industry has really benefited in a large way from that perception," says Austin. "Insurance doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems right now. The products are actually relatively straightforward."

Factor in many insurance companies' reluctance to join the online marketplace in a user-friendly way and you have the perfect opportunity for a new business niche. They note that when it comes to customer satisfaction with online service, only cable companies rank below insurance companies.

Bungalow is launching with a focus on renters insurance rather than a more conventional product such as homeowners or car insurance partly because of their own experience with the needs of renters. Stiefler points to a major demographic shift: People under 35 are twice as likely to rent versus own their homes, and 55 percent of them don’t own cars.

"There are 30 million millennials out there who don’t need auto, they don’t need homeowners, they just need renters [insurance]," he explains.

The industry has failed to effectively grasp this need or create the kind of online shopping experience this generation prefers.

"We thought not only could we build a great experience, we could also really deliver a product that people aren’t selling right now that customers really need," adds Stiefler.

The Bungalow platform (which will be headquartered in Philly but also operate in New York) and its industry partners will aim to simplify things both for buyers and providers, and the Wharton prize will help boost the company's growth.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Zack Stiefler and Tom Austin, Bungalow Insurance

 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners invests $2 million in 10 promising Greater Philadelphia companies

Ten early-stage companies in Greater Philadelphia are at work on innovative projects, and they're getting a boost from $2 million in new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Atrin Pharmaceutical is a Bucks County biopharmaceutical firm that centers its research on the treatment of cancers lacking effective therapies. Its technology will advance drug development for the treatment of solid tumors including breast, pancreatic, lung, ovarian and colon cancers.

Decision Simulation in Chester County is the creator of DecisionSim, a simulation-based learning platform that enhances decision-making by allowing organizations to easily create assessment, education and training programs. Leveraging adult learning and gaming concepts, DecisionSim allows custom learning experiences to be developed while evaluating the decisions of learners, and collects valuable objective behavioral data to allow for a greater understanding of decision-making.

H2Odegree (H2O) in Bucks County is a manufacturer of wireless sensors and Software as a Service (SaaS) that provides solutions for measuring, controlling and billing utility costs in apartments, allowing landlords to improve their overall financial performance. The company’s target market is multi-family housing customers who use the company’s products and services for tenant billing and energy conservation related to water, electric, gas, btus and thermostat controls. H2O has over 38,000 sensors installed in 13,000 apartments in over 130 properties throughout North America.

MilkCrate in Philadelphia engages and rewards users who want to live their values by providing sponsored civic and commercial opportunities related to sustainably. Its app serves as a central digital hub for municipalities, businesses and organizations to reach conscientious consumers with relevant and tailored information.

Philadelphia’s Pico is a real-time engagement tool for brands, allowing them to engage with fans during events through the fans' pictures. All fans' pictures are automatically uploaded to the brand’s Facebook Page. Using Pico’s auto-tagging abilities, a real bond between the fan and brand is created.

In Bucks County, PrescribeWell is a new Platform-as-a-Service that enables physicians, healthcare providers and integrated health systems to seamlessly implement a turnkey, self-branded prevention, wellness and obesity intervention business in their existing practice. Customers license the company’s "white label" solution as their own, enabling them to generate significant new revenue streams that leverage the changes in healthcare reimbursement policy for physicians in preventive medicine.

In Philadelphia, RistCall helps hospitals and skilled nursing facilities improve patient safety and satisfaction scores by updating traditional wall-mounted nurse-call buttons with wearable technology devices. RistCall currently focuses on reducing patient falls and improving hospital/patient satisfaction.

Philadelphia’s Textizen provides mobile technologies for public engagement. The company makes it easy for government, organizations and companies to connect with people on the device they use most -- their mobile phone. The platform sends, receives and analyzes text messages. Administrators can click one button instead of making 10 or 10,000 phone calls, and use real-time dashboards to inform policy changes or deliver better customer service.

TowerView Health in Philadelphia helps chronically ill patients manage complex medication regimens. Patients using TowerView’s service receive pre-filled medication trays that insert into a connected pillbox, facilitating complex regimens with preformed ease -- its akin to a single-serve coffee machine. The connected pillbox senses when patients forget medication doses and sends automated text message or phone reminders to patients and their loved ones.

Viridity Energy in Philadelphia, a software technology company focused on total energy management, has a software and technology platform that allows commercial and industrial users to identify inherent load flexibility in their operations and monetize it. The company says its"“software turns energy profiles into financial returns"” transforming how energy customers interact proactively and productively with the electric grid.

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

'Partnering' revolution in biotech comes to Philly along with international conference

When we think of the human element in medicine, we might think of the doctor who interacts with the patient in need of treatment. But thanks to a burgeoning revolution in the biopharmaceutical industry, there are thousands of other face-to-face meetings that need to happen long before any drug even reaches a trial, let alone the market.

In the biotech industry, these connections are called "partnering," and it’s a vital piece of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) 2015 BIO International Convention, coming to the Pennsylvania Convention Center June 15-18. The Washington, D.C.-based BIO is the world’s largest trade association for biotech companies, academic institutions and government science centers, and organizers say the convention will draw about 15,000 people from 30 countries (about one third of attendees will come from outside the U.S.).

"The 2015 BIO International Convention is where the global biotech community meets," explains BIO Director of Partnering Sougato Das.

Das calls Partnering "biotech-pharma speed-dating," and this year, it’s happening thanks to BIO’s new propriety software system, One-on-One Partnering, developed by BIO and INOVA.

The BIO convention will be packed with CEOs and other executives from biotech companies all over the world, working to advance everything from medicine and human health to industrial, environmental and agricultural technology, as well as biomanufacturing, genomics, nanotechnology and more. Picture an area the size of a football field, outfitted with hundreds of cubicles for face-to-face meetings. 

That's where the One-on-One platform comes in. Companies or institutions that want to pitch their promising biotech advances can use the software to connect with companies looking to invest in and/or develop and market their innovations. The system allows participants to enter their companies' details, their individual conference schedules, and invitations to the people they need to meet. The software automates the rest, generating a schedule for everyone that maximizes the crucial face-to-face time that powers the modern industry.

During the June conference, organizers estimate that over 29,000 meetings will take place among the 6,000 or so attendees who will participate on the Partnering platform. That means over 1,100 different meetings per hour at the conference’s peak times.  

Why are these meetings important? According to Das, to understand that you have to understand how the biotech and biopharmaceutical industries have changed since the 1950s and 60s. Back then, the massive companies of today like Merck and Pfizer were getting started, employing tens of thousands of in-house scientists and researchers who developed relatively simple drugs with mass-market applications.

Today, what Das dubs the "low-hanging fruit" of new drug development is gone and researchers are working on more complicated molecules, compounds and drugs for more targeted consumer audiences. Instead of discovering and developing new drugs or other biotech innovations in-house, throngs of scientists, researchers, academics, investors and businesses participate in a much broader-based search for the next big breakthrough. But that takes meetings -- lots of meetings.

"There’s more variety out there," says Das. "All they have to do is meet with these people who have these new biotechnology innovations out there and say, show me what you got -- let’s see if it’s a fit for my company."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sougato Das, Biotechnology Industry Organization

Penn's ThirdEye uses technology to help the visually impaired navigate the world

Being chosen to present at this year's Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals was a surprise to at least one of the eight teams participating in the April 30 event: The founders of ThirdEye are not even Wharton students (yet) -- they’re freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania. But their technology, an app joined with a wearable Google Glass-type device, has major potential for helping those with visual impairments live more independent lives.
 
ThirdEye co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Rajat Bhageria (author of What High School Didn’t Teach Me) isn’t wasting any time in the quest to build world-changing technology. He teamed up with Ben Sandler (ThirdEye founding head engineer and a computer and cognitive science major), Philippines native David Ongchoco (founding head marketer and media maven), and founding engineer Joe Cappadona (an "athlete, musician, and computer programmer") to develop the technology and business plan almost as soon as they arrived at Penn.
 
"I want to leave a dent in the universe by creating things that people want," explains Bhageria, a Cincinnati native and computer science engineering major. "We believe in empowering visually impaired individuals."

There are a lot of people who could use their technology -- there are about 300 million visually impaired people in the world; they generate over $41 billion in spending on assistive technologies annually.
 
The ThirdEye glasses and app work by verbally identifying common objects for wearers who can pick them up, but can’t see them. For example, its camera and voice can tell blind people what denomination of money they’re handed or what kind of pill bottle or household item they’re holding. (Check out the ThirdEye website for a video demo.)

Other uses include identifying street signs and even being able to read books, menus and newspapers. Bhageria says future updates could incorporate facial recognition software, language translation for travelers, and recognition of individual medications and foods.

They’re already partnering with the National Federation of the Blind to bring the product to market.

Though the young men aren’t enrolled in grad school yet, "we have been leveraging every opportunity at Wharton we can get our hands on," enthuses Bhageria. The team talks to professors weekly, joined Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program startup incubator, participates in Wharton events and competitions, and takes Wharton classes.
 
All that learning and networking -- and the intense time put into current competition -- is already paying off. The company began building their product last September and are already in beta testing with visually impaired individuals. They’re heading for a clinical study this summer with up to 20 participants, with a national beta launch in view for later in the year.
 
As for the April 30 pitch-fest itself, initially the team "had no expectation of doing well considering that most of the participants -- MBA students -- have years of industry experience over us," says Bhageria, but their confidence has been growing.
 
"Now we’re not just in it for the experience," he insists. "We’re in it to win it."

There’s $128,500 in cash and in-kind awards at stake, including the $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize. That would be a great boost to the team as they head into clinical trials, and "could be fundamental in opening doors for insurance to cover our product."
 
The Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals featuring 20-minute presentations from the "Great Eight" finalists is happening 1 - 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30 at the Wharton School.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rajat Bhageria, Third Eye

Eleven Southeast PA companies share $1.9 million in new funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wash Cycle Laundry forges a new path for socially conscious investing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Athena companies are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promising healthcare research gets funding from University City Science Center

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

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

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

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

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

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
 

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

 

Startup PHL keeps local investments flowing with new Angel Fund

On November 12 at Philadelphia's Innovation Lab, PIDCFirst Round Capital and the City of Philadelphia announced the launch of the Startup PHL Angel Fund.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger, who spoke at the event, said that many people have asked him whether investments like this are a risk the City should be taking.

"The answer is simple," he said, speaking to a large crowd of local startup leaders, packed with aspiring millennial entrepreneurs. To continue transforming Philadelphia into a notable draw for the country’s best ideas, "we cannot afford to do nothing."

Two years ago, the City of Philadelphia, PIDC and First Round Capital teamed up to launch the Startup PHL Seed Fund, and at this event, leaders announced the Seed Fund’s latest investment: $400,000 for Velano Vascular, a medical device company based in Philadelphia and San Francisco, that has pioneered a way to draw blood without needles.

Startup PHL has many other facets, including its Call For Ideas grant program and Startup PHL Funds, the latter of which has given a combined $1 million in seed or angel investments to six companies over the past year.

Mayor Michael Nutter, First Round Capital founder Josh Kopelman and PIDC president John Grady were all on hand to help announce the latest addition to the Startup PHL initiative: the Startup PHL Angel Fund, which will dole out investments of $25,000 to $100,000 dollars to "very early-stage companies."

The inaugural Angel Fund recipients briefly took the microphone. Jason Rappaport's Squareknot is a new app that applies the principle of Google Maps -- where users can see and compare different travel routes -- to the creation of crowd-sourced step-by-step guides for other tasks.

Locating in Philly was "a very deliberate bet" that it was right atmosphere for his startup, said Rappaport, who also considered Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston.

This year's other Angel Fund recipients are Tesorio, a service that helps companies self-finance their daily operations, and VeryApt, a new app that combines user reviews with "big data analytics" to streamline and personalize the apartment-hunting process.

"If we’re going to ask the private sector to do something, 99 times out of a 100, the public sector’s going to have to jump in too," said Mayor Nutter. "If you're an entrepreneur, Philadelphia is the place for you…and we want you right here."

The evening also included an announcement from the Commerce Department -- the third round of Startup PHL’s Call for Ideas grants is now open; over $200,000 has already been invested in ten different initiatives and organizations.

Greenberger urged attendees to apply with their most robust ideas. The deadline for applications is Friday, January 2, 2015.

 Writer: Alaina Mabaso

Philly's newest collaborative workspace now accepting applications

The independent workforce in Philadelphia certainly isn't hurting for shared workspaces. In fact, during the TEDxPhiladelphia conference in late-March, a speaker shared a PowerPoint slide featuring the logos of roughly a dozen local co-working spots, a number of which have opened over the last two years.
 
Now the University City Science Center and Drexel University have announced the launch of the city's latest flexible workspace, known as the Innovation Center @3401. In order to differentiate themselves, they've crafted a specific mission.

"We don't think of the Innovation Center strictly as a co-working space," explains the Science Center's Christopher Liang. "It was designed very purposely to house a mix of residents."
 
The Center was also designed to fill a gap in the University City incubation and startup spectrum. The Science Center's Quorum, for instance, is a social gathering place for local entrepreneurs, while its Port incubator is home to offices and labs.
 
"We've been talking for some time about how we can broaden our offerings to include companies that maybe don't need wet labs," says Liang. "So, the Innovation Center is related to a desire to be more inclusive of the entrepreneurial community -- particularly the tech companies that are starting to become so important to the city."
 
The Center is currently accepting applications from potential residents, which will include a mix of investors, entrepreneurs, startups and stand-alone professionals.

"We're less concerned about the structural format of the residents," adds Liang. "[We're] more concerned with their ability to fit within the general theme of [being] tech and digital creatives."
 
The Innovation Center @3401 plans to open its doors in early June.
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Christopher Liang, University City Science Center


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