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PSL's Philly Community Map and Directory debuts

Philly’s tech community is on the map. Literally. On January 28, Philadelphia Startup Leaders (PSL) and WeWorkInPhilly (WWIP) launched the Philly Community Map and Directory, a GIS-enabled open-source guide to the individuals, companies, coworking spaces, resources, organizations and investors that make up our growing startup economy.  
Based on the WWIP directory created by Linus Graybill and Alex Hillman (cofounder of Indy Hall), the resource is intended to be "used by all, owned by none." Its development brought together a team of disparate techie founders including Hillman, Chris Cera of ArcWeb, Brad Oyler of W3Portals, Mel Baiada of BaseCamp Ventures, Brian Kirk of Technically Philly, Elliot Menschik of Venturef0rth and Bob Moul of appRenaissance.
"A lot of people are interested in finding better ways to interact with the tech community," says Cera. "[The Community Map] is a minimum viable product we did collaboratively to prove that we can all work together even though we have different goals and different stakeholders."
Member listings can include revenue, customers, number of employees and job postings. Cera points out that the project is not solely focused on the commercial aspects of the tech community -- new members can register companies or sign up as people.
Moul, who is president of PSL, expects the map will help entrepreneurs, startups and businesses promote themselves, while also making the local tech economy more attractive to inside and outside investment. The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Select Greater Philadelphia, PHL Convention & Visitors Bureau, University City Science Center and Startup PHL plan to host the resource on their websites.
As of January 28th, 852 people and 328 companies have signed up via WeWorkInPhilly. PSL encourages anyone with a stake in the local tech scene to consider joining.
Source: Chris Cera, Bob Moul, Philly Startup Leaders
Writer: Dana Henry

Goldman Sachs gives $10 million boost to Philly small businesses

Philadelphia may be anchored by "eds and meds," but our small businesses -- web design firms, equipment manufacturers, eateries and shops -- help keep us afloat. According to the Sustainable Business Network's Taking Care of Business 2011 report, of the city's 90,000 businesses, 98 percent report less than 50 employees.

Some of those businesses will soon be getting a boost: Philadelphia was recently chosen for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Business Initiative which will provide up to $10 million in small business loans administered through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC).
PIDC can serve a broader lending market than a traditional bank. According to Anne Nevins, Senior Vice President of Market Development for PIDC, promising businesses are sometimes held back by issues with credit or collateral. They may also be changing direction and appear risky to financial institutions. "We want to serve those businesses that are established and ready for a growth plan but for whatever reason can’t access the capital," says Nevins.
PIDC expects to serve several businesses in the manufacturing and professional service sectors needing $50,000 to $750,000 for new equipment, property, and working capital. They also identify restaurants, retail stores and revenue-earning nonprofits as potential benefactors. Nevins expects many applicants to be referred to PIDC from partner banks.
In total, PIDC expects to underwrite approximately fifty loans averaging $200,000, giving priority to businesses located in low to moderate income neighborhoods or those that employ lower to moderate income residents. Lancaster-based Community First Fund will provide up to $5 million in similar loans to 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. Goldman Sachs is also funding financial and operational education offered by Philadelphia Community College and support services through partner community groups for loan recipients. 
Since launching in Spring 2010, over 1,000 businesses in eleven cities have completed the program. Roughly 70 percent report increased revenues and 50 percent have created new jobs. 

Source: Anne Nevins, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation 
Writer: Dana Henry

Social Studies: Penn's new "lab" fosters social innovation

We've all been there: You pass by a trash-strewn lot or hear an account of school violence and, suddenly, you have an idea. Philadelphians are great at creating opportunity from seemingly hopeless situations. The road to implantation, however, can be littered with naysayers and fundraising bureaucracy. So how do you know your stroke of genius has merit?
The Philadelphia Social Innovations Lab—an outgrowth of the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal (PSIJ)— aims to help instigators test their vision against respective markets before fully committing. This may sound like private sector incubation, and that’s exactly the point. The 15-week program will provide mentorship, strategy development and return on investment modeling—opportunities not generally afforded to nonprofit and government organizations. They launch mid-January and will support up to 40 projects per semester.
With a combined 40 years of experience in social programming, Lab cofounders and PSIJ editors Tine Hansen-Turton and Nick Torres consider public sector innovations critical to a developed society. These services not only build our quality of life, Hansen-Turton explains, they also provide an essential step in workforce development via volunteer positions and help foster a regional culture that’s attractive to outside businesses and talent. "Connecting people and companies to the missions of these organizations makes not only social sense, but can translate into economic outcomes," she says.
Despite the economic setbacks of recent years, social innovations continue to thrive. The Nonprofit Almanac of 2011 acknowledges 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States—they are responsible for as much as five percent of GDP (source: National Center for Charitable Statistics). The Philadelphia region alone has over 15,000 nonprofit organizations employing 242,000 people and furnishing $11 billion in annual wages (Source: Philadelphia Foundation).
It was passionate PSIJ readers that inspired Hansen-Turton and Torres. In three years of quarterly publication, the pair has taken hundreds of phone calls from social innovation enthusiasts seeking input on their ideas. The pair partnered with Penn’s Fels Institute of Government (where they are adjunct faculty), PennDesign and PennPraxis. The first batch of accepted proposals were largely from Penn students, faculty and staff, and focused on health, education, and arts and culture.
In 2010, 26 percent of Americans over age 16 volunteered for a nonprofit (Source: National Center for Charitable Statistics). Locally, a new generation of visionaries—including Young Involved Philly and Philly Stake—prove our will is stronger than ever. "[Social innovation] is the foundation of America and our future," says Hansen-Turton. "We need to support [their leaders] with the tools and techniques that is afforded the private sector."

Source: Tine Hansen-Turton, Philadelphia Social Innovations Lab
Writer: Dana Henry

Retrofit Reverb: Navy Yard's EEB Hub jumpstarts local energy economy

If you're a commercial or multi-family building owner dreaming of an energy efficiency overhaul, now’s your chance. The Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub is offering $150,000 grants to building owners, facility managers, tenants, service providers and engineering firms for integrated energy retrofits—projects addressing whole energy systems, not just individual parts. The Advanced Energy Retrofit Opportunity (AERO) Fund will finance 20 projects early next year, and has extended the deadline for first-round applications to January 30, 2013.

Laurie Actman, deputy director of EEB Hub, calls Philly a "testing bed" for energy innovation: "We want to take examples from the work done here and promote them nationally," she says.

Retrofitting identifiable candidates—nearly half our building stock—could spur the creation of 23,500 jobs and $618 million in spending for the Philadelphia region, according to the Econsult Corporation. These jobs include service providers, equipment providers, architects, engineers and systems vendors.

"We’re trying to stimulate a lot of activity in the [energy retrofit] market," says Actman. "It’s hard to get [industry professionals] to work together at the same time on a design. We’re trying to create demand for that approach so the industry will take a more integrated approach themselves."

Established by the Department of Energy as the nation's largest research and innovations center for the energy economy (and based in the Navy Yard), the Hub plans to repeat the grant program throughout the next five years, investing tens of millions in our local retrofit economy. They aim for a 20 percent regional reduction in energy use by 2020.

"We see [The AREO Fund] as a permanent part of the city and the region," says Actman.

Source: Laurie Actman, EEB Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

Open for Business: Drexel's ExCITe Center launches in University City

It’s not every day a plainclothes professional opera singer performs to the hum of industrial knitting machines. Nonetheless, it was the perfect display of synergy for the opening ceremony of Drexel’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center at the University City Science Center. Held on Wednesday, November 28, the celebration showcased surprising STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) combinations and permutations.

"In academia, it’s hard to collaborate outside your department," says Dr. Youngmoo Kim, director of the ExCITe center and professor of computer engineering at Drexel. "The whole purpose [of ExCITe] is to create multidisciplinary projects at this nexus between technology and the arts. There’s so much synergy there."

The 11,000-square-foot facility features conference rooms, countless desktops, sound equipment and a knit lab, all available to Drexel faculty, staff and students, regional partner institutions and other universities. The space will host hackathons and other tech and arts related events.

Opening demos included an app for understanding live classical music and a digitally-enhanced grand piano. ExCITe also houses and provides seed funds to three startup projects: a Microsoft Kinect therapy game for people with cerebral palsy; a virtual reality opera project made in partnership with the Philadelphia Opera Company; and Sonic City, a Breadboard project incorporating city sounds into musical pieces.

The Shima Seiki Haute Technology Knit Lab houses four top grade fabric machines, a donation from Shima Seiki Manufacturing in Japan worth $1 millon. The facility is unheard of in academia and, according to Kim, rivals Nike’s Design Lab. Each apparatus prints items designed on CAD software; during the grand opening event, the machines produced knit kitchen gloves, custom seamless dresses and three-ply blankets.  

A knit-bot machine prints three-dimensional fabrics complete with electronic sensors. At the opening, a staff member hooked a spiraled piece of fabric into a control system and rolled it across the table remotely. Observers seemed impressed by the novelty, but Kim says knit-bot technology has implications for the future: One day you might be able to change the color and cut of your shirt with the press of a button, and sensors-enhanced fabrics could help individuals monitor health and weight. In addition, skins from these textiles could make plastic robots more resilient, while external sensors could help disaster-relief androids respond immediately to challenging environments.

Kim runs Drexel's Music Entertainment Technology Labratory, home to robots that dance and play music. He conceived of the center nearly two years ago while holding cross-departmental faculty meetings as a solution to academic silos. It wasn’t long before other key local institutions, including the Science Center, the Philadelphia Opera Company and the Franklin Institute, joined the planning.

"We can do great things here with Drexel folks, but there’s great people with ideas at Penn, UArts, Philadelphia University, Temple and Swarthmore," says  Kim. “They’re people that we know. A lot of people throughout the region, not just in academia, helped shape this."

Source: Youngmoo Kim, Drexel ExCITe
Writer: Dana Henry

Founder Factory: It's a great time to start a business in Philadelphia

Now is a great time to start a business in Philly: Philadelphia Startup Leaders has steadily grown to 1,800 members and launched PSL University, The City gained its first seed fund and an Office of New Urban Mechanics, and First Round Capital is taking lead in bringing more VC’s back inside our urban boundaries. The upcoming PSL Founder Factory—at World Café Live on Thursday, Nov. 15—will prime entrepreneurs with true-to-life lessons from exemplary risk takers.

“There are similar challenges that companies at any stage face,” Gloria Bell, event organizer for PSL and founder of Red Stapler Consulting, says. “Each year we have focused on a different aspect of building and running a startup using the collective wisdom of local entrepreneurs.”

Previous Founders Factories helped hopefuls polish their pitches and investor sweet talk.  This year, in response to member surveys and talk-list discussions, PSL broadens the programing, hosting talks from a diverse range of experienced local entrepreneurs—Leadnomics, PTM Solutions and Chariot Solutions, are represented—followed by workshops and small group discussions. Topics cover the essentials including customer development, internal metrics, and company culture.  Josh Kopelman of First Round and Michael Golden, co-founder of GSI Commerce and president and founder of ShopRunner, are the keynote speakers and will share the changing realities of entrepreneurship.  Hint: Kopelman, an accomplished Wharton grad and founder of successful tech ventures including Half.com, recently moved First Round near two of Philly’s thriving universities. It’s a sign of things to come.

 “There has been such tremendous growth in the startup community,” Bell says. “The recognition of business and city government of the contribution of the startup community to the overall economic health of the region has been a strong motivator. The area's entrepreneurs are well-equipped to build strong, sustainable, profitable companies."

Source: Gloria Bell, Philly Starup Leaders
Writer: Dana Henry

Temple-hosted 'incubator' aims to solve Philadelphia region's STEM gap

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, local businesses, community colleges, education professionals and tech advisors met at Temple University for the first Delaware Valley STEM Workforce Development Conference. The ongoing incubator, which addresses issues related to the gap in STEM education and the growing number of tech-sector jobs, launched an “enabling committee” to foster partnerships between businesses and schools in Greater Philadelphia. 

According to Ed Zenzola, conference speaker and principal of Zenzola Group, our education system increasingly requires the expertise and advice of small to large business owners to stay relevant in the digital economy. Nationally, over three million STEM-related jobs are unfilled because employers can’t find qualified workers.

“You could hire an engineer, but you still have to train them,” Zenzola says. “There’s not enough happening in K-12 to build the imagination for students to want to go into STEM fields. Even when we do have students going through STEM curriculum, the curriculum isn’t designed to produce the work ready skills that the employers need.”

The conference, sponsored by Temple’s College of Engineering and the Global Program Partners, included presentations by Tracy Welson-Rossman, Founder of TechGirlz; Craig White,President & CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works, and Albert Frattarola, Director Global Technology, Southco. Many noted the STEM gap is not simply a higher ed issue.
“[STEM qualifications] are particularly critical at the technician level,” Zenzola says. “We just don’t have enough people coming out of high school, community colleges and vocational schools with work ready ]technical skills. People might think [Philadelphia] has a lot of welders—we don’t. Welding is becoming increasingly specialized.”

Zenzola, like many presenters, advocates project-based STEM learning for K12 and looks to the business community for leadership. Dr. Jamie Bracey, an educational psychology professor at Temple and director of Philadelphia's Math Engineering Science Achievement Initiative, has seen the dramatic effect of workshop learning on students and says guidance from the private sector also helps teachers do a better job.
“Educators need direction as to what business project they’re going to need in five years and 10 years so we can align the programs," Bracey says.“I love seeing the corporations that are the end users inside education and the people who are starting businesses having a much stronger voice in the classroom.” 

Source: Ed Zenzola, Jamie Bracey, Delaware Valley STEM Workforce Development Conference
Writer: Dana Henry

Lots to celebrate, including three winning projects, from State Of Young Philly 2012

By all accounts, the fully revamped State of Young Philly 2012 was a breakout success. From the 12 events that sold out at more than 75 attendees apiece, to the closeout dance party where local leaders and dedicated volunteers partook in the Electric Slide, Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) proved it could pull off a civic-advocacy conference that was bigger, livelier and more ambitious than any seen in Philly to date. 

“It’s that whimsical optimism you have when you’re young,” Sophia Hwang, Outreach Coordinator of YIP, says. “But [YIP] is also rooted in doing good work.”

Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims came by Hamilton Hall at University of the Arts for Saturday’s closing ceremony to commend YIP. He encouraged everyone in the audience, which he recognized as Philadelphia’s rising leadership, to run for political office. 

SYOP’s greatest achievement, however, may have been the launch of three projects, winners of the culminating YIP Challenge: It’s My Life in the education track, OKWork!Philly in the economy track and Bike Generator Demonstrator in the sustainability track. All three received $1,000 seed money and YIP will continue to provide them with networking and public relations assistance.

Lawanda Horton Sauter, CEO of Mission Incorporated, will pilot It’s My Life at four area high schools and help students use live theater to safely practice situation related to their sexual health. Sauter was inspired by her young, HIV-positive client and has been researching staggering realities of rising STD rates among youth.

“[The YIP Challenge] really encourages the next generation of social entrepreneurs to do things that impact the community instead of just worrying about the bottom line for their companies,” Sauter says. “[YIP] made this possible by opening it up to so many people regardless of what their ‘connections’ were.”

OKWork!Philly was created by four UPenn recent graduates—David Wengert, Anne Misak, Maurie Smith and Elizabeth Frantz—three of which are currently seeking employment. Their concept harnesses the networking power of LinkedIn to create a more effective web platform for local hiring.

“It benefits Philly to have jobs filled faster,” Misak says. “We want one central place where you can see a job posting, apply directly through the website and then see who in your network is connected to the employer and ask them to write a personalized recommendation. [OKWork!Philly] will save time and money on both the employer side and job seekers side.”

Aaron Roche, a structural engineer who graduated from Drexel, met recent transplant, Becky Schwartz, during SYOP’s Sustainability 101 event. Together they teamed up with Matt Weaver to develop Bike Generator Demonstrator, a design project that powers light bulbs and small electronic appliances using human-power generated from a bicycle.

“One of our goals is to generate interest in energy efficiency,” Roche says. “How can these common appliances be powered in such a simple way?”

According to Hwang, it takes just one voice to start an avalanche of change:  “A single individual came to State of Young Philly last year and said, ‘it was good but not good enough.’ We met with him, had coffee, and this [year’s programming] was what we did. We’re young, we’re nimble, we’re flexible, so if you have an idea, let’s run with it.” Hwang says.

As noted by YIP’s board chair, Claire Robertson-Kraft, Philadelphia now retains twice the local university graduates it did a decade ago and offers an increasing number of “friends of” groups connected to YIP. SYOP 2012 may be a sample of what YIP will show us for years to come.

Source: Sophia Hwang, Rudy Flesher, Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

A different State of Young Philly aims to create tangible outcomes

Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) kicked off its third annual State of Young Philly on Thursday with a standing-room only crowd at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio and full-fledged ambition.

“State of Young Philly, for all intents and purposes, is totally redone from the previous two installments,” says Jason Wolfson, YIP's Programing Committee Chair. “The first two have been very positive in terms of getting people excited, getting people to want to do more, getting people more involved in their community. What we really want to do now is make that tangible.”
Drawing support from over 50 participating change-making organizations, this year’s catalogue offers 12 total events from “key issue” areas: Economy, Education and Sustainability.  

Instead of simply listening and networking, participants are guided by action-oriented questions. Sophie Hwang, YIP's Outreach Coordinator, offers an example from the Education Track: “Not everyone has a computer but most everyone has a mobile device. So how can we use mobile technology to better inform parents?”
Last year’s State Of Young Philly gave birth to the educational nonprofit, Philly Core Leaders. This year’s installment encourages similar results, offering $1,000 in seed money to winners of the YIP Challenge.

“People can get inspired by attending the first couple of events, meet new people, build teams and submit a proposal,” Hwang explains.
It’s passion and drive balanced with fun. One night, City Councilman Bill Green’s office hosts a pitch competition for educational entrepreneurs. The next, DIY experts give how-tos on composting, making all natural cosmetics, and altering refrigerator coils to save energy.
“We’re going to have events for everybody, regardless of how knowledgeable you are in a particular field.”  Wolfson maintains.
When else can you visit the home of an internationally-renound orchestra and leave with your very own homemade deodorant?

Source: Jason Wolfson, Sophie Hwang, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

Ben Franklin Technology Partners' mapping initiative gives state energy economy visibility

For years we’ve been hearing of the “new energy economy,” a vision of a diversified and cooperative energy industry amalgamation promising cleaner air, lower energy bills, and more green jobs. The recent release of Energy Economy Map by Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ statewide network is evidence that it's actually happening.

Using open-source, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the map exhibits over 2,000 Pennsylvania energy companies, research programs, and related resources, largely concentrated in Greater Philadelphia.

“The intent of the map is to drive economic development, collaborative opportunities and partnership across the state," says Jim Gambino, Vice President of Technology Commercialization at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “It gives companies and universities an opportunity to present their projects.”

According to Gambino, sustainable building design and materials, clean energy storage, and smart grid technology are areas of continued market growth. Some of the map’s projects have intriguing titles, including Drexel University’s Human-electric Hybrid for Urban Commuting and Temple’s Multiple Stream Waste-Derived Energy Production.

The Energy Economy Map was piloted at the Navy Yard by BFTP-Southeastern Pennsylvania and funded by the state's  Department of Community and Economic Development and tghe Governor’s office.

It’s not the typical stagnant, end-of-the-year-let’s-evaluate-how-we’re-doing report. The map, created in partnership with Philadelphia-based Azavea, evolves as users update entries on their energy work. 

“It’s really up to the registrant to enter the kind of information they see as important,” Gambino says. “We’re really looking for the users to provide the additions to improve the map.”

Eventually, BFTP-SEP expects the dynamic resource will attract more capital to the region.

“Early on we had determined in our analysis that we had significant energy assets here in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Gambino says. “[Outside companies and investors] will get a sense of the relative strength and vibrancy of both traditional and alternative energy communities in Pennsylvania.”

Source: Jim Gambino, David Cohen, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Dana Henry

Philadelphia region ranks first nationally in arts and culture job creation

Arts and culture has a $3.3 billion impact and accounts for 11 jobs per thousand residents in Greater Philadelphia, ranking the region first in job creation among 182 cities across the country, says a new report from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
Arts, Culture + Economic Prosperity in Greater Philadelphia, released on Monday, follows up on previous reports issued by the Cultural Alliance that measure the vast impact of the region's arts and culture sector. This report's finding are among the most impressive, with the sector contributing 44,000 jobs and $1 billion in income to the region. That includes $169 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

The City of Philadelphia ranked behind only Washington, D.C. and San Francisco inper-capita cultural expenditures in a ranking of major cities, ahead of Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta.
Other highlights include:
-- The sector's $3.3 billion economic impact includes $1.4 billion of direct spending by organizations and audiences and $1.9 billion in indirect expenditures.
-- People working in the arts and culture sector and living in the City of Philadelphia earn a combined $500 million.
-- Cultural tourism accounts for $230 million in direct spending, 39 percent of cultural attendees and 44 percent of total audience spending (cultural visitors spend $45 per excursion versus $24 by locals).
-- Cultural audiences spend $237.8 million on meals before and after events and $84.3 million on overnight lodging.
The report was made possible by the William Penn Foundation, Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, Bank of America and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. It included data gathered from 345 local arts and cultural organizations through the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project.

Source: Karim Olaechea, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Coming round the mountain: Philly Startup Weekend 4.0

Here comes the one of the Philly tech community's favorite events: Startup Weekend Philadelphia. Version 4.0 is back at the Univeristy of the Arts, and is being organized by tech twins Melissa Morris-Ivone and Chris Baglieri, who take the reins from Brad Oyler. "UArts has always been incredibly supportive of Startup Weekend," says Baglieri. "The space encourages collaboration, offers teams plenty of space to work, and is in the center of town, with ample nearby parking, so convenient to all."
Morris-Ivone looks forward to standouts from April's event, which hatched Yagglo, Tubelr and SeedInvest. Those companies, among others, are still moving forward. And taking a cue from the concept of leaving a good thing alone to flourish. Morris-Ivone reports there will not be any dramatic changes. "It's a recipe that works," she says.

Adds Baglieri, "Every Startup Weekend is different in terms of the backgrounds it attracts, that's part of what makes every event unique. 4.0 has reached capacity on non-technical tickets. We're strong on the designer front too. While there's a good showing of developers, that's the area that probably needs the greatest promotion. I met Melissa at Startup Weekend 2.0 and that pairing has made a world of difference for me. As a developer, there's nothing quite like finding a partner in crime designer that you can work with. If there was ever a Startup Weekend in this city where a developer can find their designer match, 4.0 seems to be the best so far."
As far as judges, Baglieri and Morris-Ivone say Chris Fralic  of First Round Capital returns. "We set out to further diversify the judges panel a bit this time around, involving individuals outside the investor community." New faces on the panel are largely conversions from previous Startup Weekend coaches and include Bob Moul and Ted Mann, as well as Morris-Ivone's colleague Apu Gupta, CEO/Co-founder of Curalate.
You can register for Startup Weekend through Eventbrite.

Source: Chris Baglieri, Melissa Morris-Ivone, Startup Weekend Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Pizza Brain's viral dream opens in glorious reality in East Kensington

Walking into Pizza Brain is like walking into a dream. In 19 months from conception to grand opening, the combination museum and slice shop went from an idea in Brian Dwyer's head to multifaceted reality. "We want people to come in and have an otherworldly experience," says Dwyer, who hopes patrons feel grateful and confused, or perhaps the other way around. "You can't walk in and say these guys just phoned it in."
The public grand opening is tonight (Friday, Sept. 7) and at least a thousand people are expected, but earlier this week, we were treated to an intimate press preview. Located in the East Kensington section of Philadelphia on Frankford Avenue, Dwyer insists he doesn't care about the hype. But the New York Times has already been down three times, and there's a dedicated Wikipedia page. Dwyer's pizza collection is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records. "The second we got attention, we knew we had to deliver," says Dwyer.

Both Dwyer and co-founder Mike Carter say that while the neighborhood has a lot on offer, good pizza has been sorely lacking until now. Joe Hunter and Ryan Anderson are also partners. Pizza Brain's toppings range from standard to unusual, and it is a sweet potato, apple and goat cheese variety that is both one of the most unusual combinations and the tastiest. 
Dwyer, by nature an artist, says his collection of pizza memorabilia includes album covers, cartoons, comics, memorabilia and images. "When you look at the photos on the wall, you see America."

The custom built bar is fabricated from old pianos found on Craigslist. In the courtyard of what Dwyer describes as a weird hippie pizza commune, encompassing the pizza shop, Little Baby's Ice Cream and a number of residences, a large mural by Hawk Krall depicts famous Philadelphians like Ben Franklin and Tina Fey enjoying a slice.
Dwyer is a yarn spinner, a larger than life persona bursting with energy. The son of a schoolbus driver and a foreman at an air conditioning plant, he moved to Philadelphia from Syracuse to attend Temple University's film program. 
"There's tremendous freedom in putting your roots down," says Dwyer, who attributes the rapid success of the business in part to Circle of Hope, a community based non-denominational church. Additionally, people have simply shown up to pitch in, out of the blue, driving from as far away as New Orleans.

"A dream is typically up here and it's safe," says Dwyer, pointing to a head of fiery red hair. This dream has gone viral. And it's coming to a mind near you.

Source: Brian Dwyer, Pizza Brain
Writer: Sue Spolan (with help from David Greenberg)

Philly Geek Awards 2012: Girls, tears and robot-on-robot action

Philadelphia loves its geeky girls, as evidenced by the preponderance of female award winners at the 2012 Philadelphia Geek Awards. Geek of the Year went to Tristin Hightower, cofounder of Girl Geek Dinners, and Event of the Year went to Women in Tech Summit.

"Girls, if you are a little bit tech or geek curious, Philly is a good place to be," remarked Hightower. When CloudMine's Brendan McCorkle posted her quote on twitter, Nick Robalik quipped, "Maybe even binary-curious."
Geekadelphia's Eric Smith, co-organizer of the sold-out, black tie event with Tim Quirino, reports that an overflow audience of 500 attended at the Academy of Natural Sciences. "The museum was sold out last year, and was sold out again this year in record time," says Quirino. "It's incredible to see a packed house dressed to the nines just to support the local Geek community."

A sci-fi inspired, LED-enhanced podium glowed in an ever changing rainbow of color and video. The awards themselves, created by NextFab Studio, also glowed. The podium and visuals were created by Klip Collective. Quirino says of the awards, "NextFab took my robot illustration to a whole new level. Robotic lasers cut the form of the robot out of clear, thick, acrylic and etched the details in.  Imagine that. A robot creating a robot!  Then they built the base out of wood, which housed a simple electronic circuit that contained three LED lights that lit up the acrylic robot making it look like a hologram from afar."

"The passionate speeches by some of the winners were really quite moving. Scientist of the Year, Youngmoo Kim from Drexel University, and Geek of the Year, Tristin Hightower, gave particularly lovely speeches," says Smith. Adds Quirino, "Eric doesn't want to admit that he teared up a little bit. It's ok, Eric. I did too."
Kim says, "I was honored to be nominated alongside my Drexel colleague Andy Hicks, who does amazing things with light and mirrors using mathematics. And Paul Ehrlich is a giant in the field of population biology. Hopefully this award highlights the incredible work being done by scientists and researchers throughout the region.
"I met a bunch of people doing very cool things spanning all kinds of 'geek-doms.' I mentioned this during my acceptance speech, but I absolutely believe that within the auditorium, there's the collective intelligence, passion, and experience, in short the 'geekiness,' to address some really tough problems (education, unemployment, digital literacy) and transform Philadelphia. And I look forward to working together with everyone to make that happen. And whoever put together the podium (very cool trapezoidal obelisk with video projections on the surfaces) should receive a special award. That was awesome!"
Accepting the award for Startup of the Year, Curalate's Apu Gupta said, "We have to thank all the 13-year-old girls out there. Because they use Pinterest. Also, Brendan likes them." 
Other winners included Zoe Strauss, for her Foursquare campaign associated with the citywide photography exhibit earlier this year; BlueCadet Interactive won for Web Development Team of the Year; the Viral Project of the Year went to the Opera Company of Philadelphia's Random Acts of Culture, and Hacker of the Year was Georgia Guthrie. A complete list of winners can be found here, and you can see pics of attendees taken by Photobot 3000 here.

How drunk did Smith get at the afterparty that went for hours at National Mechanics? "No comment. Though if anyone found a size 10 shoe (right) at National Mechanics, please email me at geekadelphia@gmail.com." We heard you had a big shoe, Eric.

Source: Eric Smith, Tim Quirino, Youngmoo Kim, Apu Gupta, Tristin Hightower, Phillly Geek Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

Azavea and Temple prof team up to pack digital heat against crime

It's a new chapter in intelligence-led policing. Azavea, in partnership with Temple University's Center for Security and Crime Science, has released ACS Alchemist, a free open source software tool that harnesses census data for the purpose of reducing crime. Funded by the National Institute of Justice and helmed by Jerry Ratcliffe and Ralph Taylor, ACS Alchemist will be used by crime fighters and researchers nationally. 
ACS Alchemist has the power to be of immense value to police commanders in precincts and districts, city planners, as well as locally  to Commissioner Ramsey and team, says Ratcliffe. "Crime is not the best predictor of crime. Where crime was last year will not be where crime is this year." Rather, one must look at where crime was last year with the additional information of demographic changes.
"Normally, there's a census every ten years. In the intervening years, we have no idea what changes are taking place in the population," says Ratcliffe, a former East London police officer turned internationally known researcher. New immigrant groups or a surge in a particular age range can play a major role in crime analysis. Ratcliffe says that there are changes at the Census Bureau which will lead to a rolling collection process and yearly updates, which is a huge leap forward in terms of understanding demographic changes, poverty, unemployment and travel patterns. While the evolution of data collection is a great leap forward, tens of thousands of data points are stored online in a confusing and complex manner. Some researchers just give up, says Ratcliffe, who never meant to become an academic, but a mountaineering accident in his 20s retired him from active duty on the force.
"I've been working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department for nearly 10 years," says Ratcliffe, who has some programming background. He became interested in how changing demographics affect the likelihood of crime, but says the project required programming skills beyond his abilities. Enter Robert Cheetham of Azavea, who himself used to work for the Philadelphia Police as a crime analyst. "Azavea makes the indecipherable actually fathomable," says Ratcliffe.
Cheetham, for his part, says he has been working with the police in one capacity or another for a decade, and gives props to the current leadership. "Ramsey is very much interested in data driven policing. It's the center of what he did in DC, and he brought that set of ideas with him."
Previously, Ratcliffe worked with the Philly PD to create The Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, during which violent crime was reduced by 23% by when teams of officers walked the beat past the city's most crime ridden corners. Incidentally, Ratcliffe says the number one reason for crime is not poverty, lack of education, drugs or poor upbringing. Rather, it's opportunity. 

Source: Jerry Ratcliffe, Temple University, Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan
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