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In a better place: Project Liberty's newest participants get to work

Project Liberty has moved into a much better place, both literally and figuratively. The new media incubator announced its next trio of participants this week. Rumble, StartUP Production and Transout are all startups that have a good reason to be smack in the center of operations at Philly.com, helmed by Interstate General Media.

IGM, formerly known as Philadelphia Media Network, has moved from the iconic white tower at 401 North Broad to the old Strawbridge and Clothier building on Market Street between 8th and 9th. Project Liberty is a collaborative effort by Interstate General Media, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provided $250,000 in overall funding, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Dreamit Ventures (which just announced expansion to Austin) and Drexel University.

Joining Project Liberty is Cory Donovan, who relocated to Philadelphia from Virginia this past winter when his wife moved north. He takes on a newly created 20 hour per week post as Project Manager.

Mark Block, VP of External Relations for IGM, says, "We as a partner and The Knight Foundation agree there was room for improvement." SnipSnap, Cloudmine and ElectNext, which made up the first round of entrepreneurs at the incubator, experienced a number of challenges that have informed changes in the program's location, format and management.

"We addressed issues on a number of fronts," says Block. "The incubator sits in the exact center of the floor, with access to all divisions of the company. It's a fully open space, and an open environment." Block adds that participating Drexel Co-op students are seated between the IT Department and Project Liberty, becoming a liaison. Donovan's day to day presence is in contrast to the initial cycle, where guidance was only intermittently available.

Donovan and Block go way back, having attended Johns Hopkins for business school together a decade ago. "It's important that an institution that includes The Inquirer and philly.com provides resources for up and coming companies," says Donovan. "At the end of the day, our goal is that companies stay here in Philadelphia."

Of Donovan's previous work experience as the Executive Director of the Roanoke - Blacksburg Technology Council, Block says, "Cory's expertise comes into play. He knows the kinds of contacts and resources these companies are going to have to reach out to."

Rumble, whose founder Al Azoulay is from the Middle East, combines social sharing with mobile media.  StartUP Production's Zaahah is a social search engine, developed by James Sisneros, and Transout’s tapCLIQ breaks ground in the fast growing area of mobile advertising.

Source: Mark Block, Cory Donovan, Project Liberty
Writer: Sue Spolan

Free and Open Source Software Convention coming to Philly next month

The creators and supporters of free and open source software have always bucked the current of commercialization. It's events like FOSSCON, the Free and Open Source Software Convention, that allow developers to gather and gain strength in numbers. FOSSCON 2012 takes place Saturday, Aug. 11, at Venturef0rth at 8th and Callowhill. 
Organizers are looking for free software enthusiasts, user group members, coders and users to join them at the grassroots event, aimed at creating a common meeting place for people all over the Northeast US.
 
"We've been doing FOSSCON for 3 years now," says Jonathan Simpson, event coordinator. "The first year was actually in upstate New York, but we moved to Philly.  I live outside Philly myself so it's personally a lot easier running an event an hour away instead of several." Plus, he adds, Philly is a pretty FOSS-friendly city.
 
The event features six general-interest talks, and workshops on topics including development, community building, hackerspace activities, and more. Ubuntu PA and Hive76 will be on hand for demonstrations and workshops. 
The community will have a chance to explore topics from 3D printing to privacy. Keynote is Bradley M. Kuhn, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy.
 
"There are other FOSS events around the world and in the US," says Simpson, who mentions CPOSC in Harrisburg, and SELF, which serves the Southeasterm US. "This is the only one that goes by the FOSSCON name, but there is a longer term plan to spawn others."
 
FOSS tends to put control in the hands of users, says Simpson, and that represents a threat to the control of media companies, as well as to most of corporate America. "FOSS, as well as the culture it encourages, endangers that control." Simpson also cites Linode, which has been a conference sponsor for years, as a great example of a successful services based FOSS company.
 
"The temptation to close the source of software is real, especially in the startup world where competition is really aggressive. FOSS are beneficial in the long run, but those benefits are often ignored to protect short term gains. Reminding computer scientists and entrepreneurs of the benefits of FOSS, and that their latest project is 90% dependent of those FOSS softwares, is important work," says Simpson.
 
Basic admission to FOSSCON is free, but organizers encourage attendees to level up to paid admission of $25 to help keep the event open to as many people as possible.

Source: Jonathan Simpson, FOSSCON
Writer: Sue Spolan

Secret to Monetate's success? Don't talk about Monetate

Fast growing Monetate's Blair Lyon, VP of Marketing, has been getting an increasing number of inquiries on the company's customer acquisition strategy, which does not rely on traditional methods. There's a secret to Monetate's marketing success, and it's all about content.
 
Monetate's content marketing platform represents industry best practices, resulting in a dramatic increase in lead conversions. "Since launching the content program a little less than a year ago, there's been a thousand percent higher lead flow than we had previously," reports Lyon. "In terms of the buzz metrics, which includes brand awareness through things like retweeting and sharing, it's well over 600% higher than before we started the program."
 
Monetate gives away content in exchange for loyalty among B2B customers. "One of the things that drew me to working here was the chance to explore this non-interruptive form of advertising," explains Lyon. "We develop content that answers questions and has a high educational value." Not only does Monetate operate two blogs, but under the Resources tab of its website, it offers video, case studies, white papers and eBooks, all of which fall within the purview of  the marketing team.
 
When Lyon arrived at Monetate after founding his own interactive ad agency TMX, much of the company's blog content referred directly back to Monetate. But no more. "Eighty plus percent doesn't talk about Monetate at all." The conversation is shifted away from Monetate and toward the customer.
 
Lyon sees content as a way to enter the customer's circle of trust. If a CMO, CIO or IT Director finds great information on the Monetate blog, the company will be top of mind when it's time to make purchasing decisions. 
 
"We identify different types of buyers. In our case, there are 8 distinct persona types we want to influence. The next overlay is the sales process," says Lyon, who creates a taxonomy of sales targets. Awareness, research, evaluation and final contracts each have their own sublevels, leading to a total of 8 categories. "We do a lot of A/B testing," says Lyon, whose team will pull articles or change headlines depending on the metrics.
 
There are a total of 11 full time people on Monetate's marketing team, three of whom are tasked specifically with content marketing. "We have a director of content marketing, a managing editor, and a senior editor." Compared to the cost of running ads in the Wall Street Journal, what amounts to easily several hundred thousand dollars in annual salaries pales by comparison, given the results.
 
Lyon points to the way information is packaged, and puts a lot of stock in infographics, which are shared and reposted for months after they're released. 
 
He adds that the various ways to package information work well in combination. "I don't think any single program works in a vacuum." An infographic may go out with a press release, video, webinar, or white paper. "We present a well rounded story with a lot of content elements. We're always thinking about packaging and repurposing as many ways as possible."
 
The Conshohocken-based firm, which provides cloud-based technology for ecommerce marketers, experienced nearly 300% revenue growth in 2011 and continues to expand rapidly. Monetate CEO and founder, David Brussin, was just named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 for the Greater Philadelphia region.

Source: Blair Lyon, Monetate
Writer: Sue Spolan

Next month's Geek Awards will be ladies night

After the Philadelphia Geek Awards organizers finalized the nominees for next month's big bash at the Academy of Natural Sciences, something else had changed besides the categories for the second installment of what organizers have lovingly described as the Daytime Emmys version of the Webbys.
 
"It wasn't until after we finished going through nominations that we realized there were more women this year," says Tim Quirino, cofounder of Geekadelphia, the all-things-geeky blog and community that continues to grow. 
 
Make no mistake, this year's Geek Awards -- already sold out for Aug. 17 (but overflow tickets have just been released) - are indicative of Philadelphia's feminine firepower. No fewer than nine lady nominees dominate the event's 14 categories, which moved away from the "new" theme to include more static categories (like Indie Game Developer of the Year) that will have more staying power. 
 
Most notably, three women are up for Geek of the Year, including Tristin Hightower (Girl Geek Dinners), Gerri Trooskin (Franklin Institute) and Roz Duffy (TEDxPhilly).
 
Last year, only five women were represented individually among all the nominees. While the influx of women in the program might not have been entirely deliberate, it is clearly a product of Geekadelphia opening up the nomination process, receiving upward of 100 pages of nominations from across the region.
 
"Thanks to cool events like the Women in Tech conference and cool organizations like TechGirlz and Girl Develop It, I'm constantly hearing about the interesting things (local women in tech) are up to," says Geekadelphia cofounder Eric Smith. "The increase in nominations reflect them being passionate about making themselves heard."
 
Says Quirino: "There are more women doing things in the Philadelphia tech scene than before."

And next month, one of them will be called Geek of the Year.

Source: Eric Smith, Tim Quirino, Geekadelphia
Writer: Joe Petrucci

DreamIt's new managing director eyes 'high-impact' expansion

Bringing Karen Griffith Gryga on board as Managing Director at Dreamit Ventures last month has a whole lot of strategic advantage. The co-founder of FashInvest and Executive Director at MidAtlantic Investors Group, Gryga provides the five-year plan for Dreamit's growth. DreamIt has cachet in the startup world.

Continuing to grow an international presence, Gryga joins Managing Partner Kerry Rupp overseeing day to day operations. Rather than see the accelerator as discrete cycles, Gryga's vision extends to overall growth down the line. "Kerry and I are joined at the hip these days," says Gryga, who holds a dual Wharton MBA and  Masters in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
 
Gryga is a multitasker. Her background in computer systems dovetails with her interest in fashion and design, and her venture capital chops will facilitate oversight of DreamIt operations in both geographic and fiscal progress. "The idea is an expansion of resources," she says of her dual experience in raising and managing funds. "I started in the industry in the early 90s. The Dreamit model is so compelling. You have very successful entrepreneurs in both the founders and the companies. It's almost harking back to the original days of VC."
 
Gryga cautions that Dreamit's accelerator model is not infinitely scalable. "The power in the model is the intensive hands on process between mentors and entrepreneurs. The focus is on expanding in a way that's high impact, not that's everywhere." 
 
Now in its New York/Israel cycle for summer 2012, Gryga is putting her many talents to use as a mentor for Israeli Dreamit startup Bazaart. "They really had a good tech foundation in terms of proprietary technology. It's very early in the development of their product. We put in a lot of brainstorming into focus, direction and approach. Within a matter of weeks to arriving in the US, they met with the CEO of Free People and the Hearst Media CEO. They're having conversations you would never expect anyone in a pre-beta state to have."
 
Gryga reports that the Dreamit managing team is now sifting through around 400 applications received by the July 6 deadline for Philly's fall 2012 program. Participating companies will be announced in late July or early August and once again will be in residence at the University City Science Center.

Source: Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Sue Spolan

Are Energy Commercialization Institute's investments approaching critical mass?

Sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference in energy efficiency. The Energy Commercialization Institute awards grants to cleantech startups with a proven track record.  Bird droppings on solar panels are a literal barrier to efficiency. Not something you think about, but it makes sense. Shu Yang, PhD., a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and one of five recent ECI grant recipients, earned  to develop a nonstick coating for photovoltaic cells.

ECI also funded Drexel profs Emin Caglan Kumbur, Ph.D and Yury Gogotsi, Ph.D for energy storage technology; Alexander Fridman, Ph.D, leading a Drexel University/Temple University team to create clean energy from biomass, coal and organic wastes; a new electrospinning/electrospraying process for energy fuel cells from Drexel's Yossef Elabd, Ph.D; and a Drexel/Penn initiative to create thin-film solar cells from Andrew Rappe, PhD. Total for the recent round was $500,000.
 
The ECI is funded by the State of Pennsylvania and created by a consortium that includes Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Drexel, Penn and Penn State. 
 
It's a new focus on commercialization, says Tony Green, PhD., Director of the ECI as well as its forbear, the Nanotechnology Institute. "The NTI model led to the ECI model which led to EEB Hub," explains Green. "The difference is that NTI is based on a platform, while the ECI is an application." Rather than focus on nanotech, the ECI mission is not about any specific technology. "The buzz phrase is alternative and clean energy."
 
For the first time, says Green, the ECI is now getting metrics on commercialization, licenses and jobs created through ECI grants. While the state-funded NTI has a 10-year track record, Green and company are about to release a semiannual report that credits ECI with the creation of over 50 jobs in the last two years.
 
"We have already accrued almost 150 intellectual property assets, applications and issued patents," says Green. "We've executed 18 licenses and options. With only 700K project funding, we've created three startups in the last year, and that number is going to grow. Universities are doing a lot better at commercializing technology. ECI projects are not technologies that are basic research. The intellectual property already exists."
 
Green looks to MIT and UCSD as big names in higher ed tech commercialization. "We can do the same thing, but not through a single institution. It's a consortium." The cumulative capabilities are much greater, says Green. The ECI also works with small institutions like Fox Chase Cancer Research Center and Philadelphia University, where there might be one researcher doing groundbreaking work. "We want all boats to rise," adds Green.

Source: Anthony Green, ECI
Writer: Sue Spolan

Social entrepreneurship agency Here's My Chance doubling staff, expanding to Chinatown

How about another new approach to fundraising? One that's exciting and fresh, with cool graphics and appealing content? That's the secret to the success of Here's My Chance, co-founded by David Gloss and Kevin Colahan. It's social entrepreneurship done right, without the guilt.

"Its a strange psychological trick," says Gloss, the CEO. "People pour their hearts and souls into the work they are doing and then feel awkward or unworthy when going out to seek financial support."
 
With a quickly growing team, now headquartered in Old City and expanding to offices in Chinatown, Here's My Chance removes all the negativity and creates a shining path to doing good. "We design custom campaigns for corporate brands and nonprofits that rally people around their cause." says Gloss, who brings a dual purpose background to the endeavor.
 
Prior to HMC, Gloss worked in venture capital and received his MBA from Temple University, but was raised by old school social entrepreneurs. Carelift International, the Philadelphia based medical relief charity, was founded by his parents in the 1970s. 
 
While at a meditation retreat, Gloss says he was struck by the idea that he could do next generation fundraising, rallying massive digital communities using game mechanics, driving people to do good things. That was back in May 2011. Today, HMC has employees in DC, Boston and New York, with the core creative team here in Philly. 
 
HMC is hiring, expecting to expand staff from 8 to 15 in the next year. "We're going on a hunt for graphic designers, developers, creative directors, and project managers," says Gloss. "We are building an agency with a unique philosophy." 

Source: David Gloss, Here's My Chance
Writer: Sue Spolan

Roots of innovation planted with 15 new Philly Fellows

Literacy, health, poverty, and the greening of the city. It's all in a year's work for the newest recruits to Philly Fellows. Now heading into its seventh session, Philly Fellows was founded by two Haverford College grads with a dual mission: to support recent college graduates as well as urban change.
 
Philly Fellows just announced its newest class of 15, to begin a one year program of service to the city July 30 in cultural, educational and social-service organizations including Philadelphia Youth Network, Project HOME, Calcutta House, Fleisher Art Memorial, and The Pennsylvania Health Law Project. Co-founder Tim Ifill reports that Philly Fellows received a total of 123 applications for the 2012 class.
 
Each Fellow receives $12,191 for the year, health insurance,student loan forbearance, a transportation allowance and a $5,350 education award, all through the AmeriCorps*VISTA program. 
 
They're either graduates of local colleges, primarily Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania, or they grew up in the Delaware Valley and attended schools outside the local area.
 
It's a real world Real World. A gentle extension of college life, each participant commits to 40 hour work weeks at a non-profit, sharing co-ed quarters with 4 to 6 others in one of three group houses located in West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, or Northern Liberties.

"About two-thirds of our graduates end up staying in Philly, and a handful are hired by their host agencies," reports Ifill, who counts a total of 102 alums, with 16 more graduating from the 2011 program at the end of this month. Erika Slaymaker, who worked at Project HOME this year, says. "I am staying on next year to continue to implement the projects that I started as a Philly Fellow.  Julia Cooper, who is a part of the incoming group of Philly Fellows, will be joining me to create an Environmental Sustainability Team at Project HOME."
 
The deadline for applications to next year's class is January 2013, and host agency deadline is November 2012.

Source: Tim Ifill, Erika Slaymaker, Philly Fellows
Writer: Sue Spolan

TechCrunch blows through Philly for one-day stand; Monetate still hiring

TechCrunch held its first Philly Mini-Meetup on June 19 at The Field House, across from Reading Terminal Market. Billed as an "evening of networking, fun, and bacchanalian pleasure," the usual Philly tech folks came out to drink enough beer to live up to the party hearty reputation of the city. 
 
About a dozen local companies set up tables, including Interact's Anthony Coombs, who was responsible for getting the national tech media blog to the city; Audrea Parrack handed out black Monetate T-shirts. She reports that the Conshohocken company is still hiring at breakneck speed, and is looking to fill 52 more positions by year's end. The company now employs 103.
 
"We wanted to meet people in Philadelphia under an umbrella of neutrality," explained John Biggs, East Coast Editor of the AOL-owned tech news site that has about 1.6 million RSS subscribers worldwide. Philadelphia, unlike New York and Silicon Valley, does not need a DMZ for tech gatherings, as the community lacks a cutthroat nature, but tourists from TechCrunch can be forgiven.
 
There was no set program, as Biggs was more interested in gathering local intel. When asked if he had met any standouts, he mentioned a startup that's working on RFID technology for supermarket checkout. "It's like EZ Pass for grocery stores." He could not, however, recall the name of the company. Camera in hand, Biggs can also be forgiven for snapping shots of the most attractive females in the crowd.
 
The event drew about 350 people, and did not offer much to the local community other than a chance to strut its stuff in front of the highly regarded news site. And some snacks. And one free beer per person. Philadelphia is the third stop in the TechCrunch national tour; New York and Washington DC were stops one and two. The event moves on to more states across the US including Georgia, Missouri and North Carolina.

Source: John Biggs, TechCrunch, Anthony Coombs, Interact, Audrea Parrack, Monetate
Writer: Sue Spolan

Chasing elusive healthcare innovation: IBX Game Changers Challenge applications due soon

The Independence Blue Cross Game Changers Challenge is now accepting applications, and the window to enter closes on July 10. The idea is to link the muscle and financial power of big health care with the energy of startups in an effort to drive change.
 
"This is a huge opportunity," says Tom Olenzak, who, as a full-time consultant, is helping to run the Game Changers Challenge, which draws on the partnership of IBX, Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, the Department of Public Health of the City of Philadelphia, Venturef0rth, and ?What If! Innovation Partners. 
 
Applicants have until July to submit proposals aimed at improving the overall health and wellness of the Greater Philadelphia region. New companies, applications, technology, products, programs, and services that promote health and wellness are all welcome to enter. The prize is $50,000 for up to three winners, who will be notified by the end of July.
 
"Health care legislation has forced people to think about change," says Olenzak. "We've been stuck in an employer based sales model."

While most individuals consider themselves insured by a particular company, insurers are actually built on a B2B model, selling to employers, not employees. That's why customer service at an insurer can be quite frustrating. It's not a detail most people consider while on hold trying to get information about a claim.
 
Making change in healthcare is daunting, even to a seasoned professional like Olenzak, who's been in healthcare IT for 20 years, and reports that innovation in healthcare has always been the next big market. 
 
Olenzak sees the regulatory process as a barrier to innovation. "There's been a ton of innovation on the care side," but not on the business side, adds Olenzak. "The challenge in health care is that open and transparent transactions are almost unheard of."
 
With an economy that continues to struggle, and cuts in reimbursement, Olenzak says healthcare focused acclerators are on the rise around the country, and points to Blueprint Health in New York, Rock Health in San Francisco, and Chicago Health Tech.
 
Here in Philadelphia, Venturef0rth hosted the first ever Startup Weekend Health at the beginning of this month, and there are plans in the works for a Philadelphia based health care accelerator, details of which cannot yet be disclosed.
 
"Once you start pulling on one thread, you find it's attached to 16 more," says Olenzak of the complicated field of health care innovation. "We're at a stage where we need a larger platform like an insurer or a health system to get involved to make a difference."

Source: Tom Olenzak, IBX Game Changers Challenge
Writer: Sue Spolan

Overheard at Venturef0rth: Million/Million for SnipSnap; CloudMine releases version 1.0

It wasn't up there for long, but the upstart startup CloudMine celebrated the release of version 1.0 by attaching one of its massive company logo banners to the water tower atop the large white building at 8th and Callowhill where it calls home at Venturef0rth. Talk about eyeballs. The water tower got the attention of tens of thousands of Friday commuters. 
 
While none of the CloudMine founders was willing to take credit (or in this case, blame) for the guerilla marketing stunt, CloudMine's presence is hard to miss. With a newly redesigned website, the year old Backend-as-a-Service company has put its beta to bed, according to CEO Brendan McCorkle. But developers were not so fortunate, with Marc Weil reporting that the team worked well into the wee hours to make the launch happen. Developers are now running more than 1,500 apps on the CloudMine platform.
 
Meanwhile, just yards away at Venturef0rth, Ted Mann of SnipSnap announced that he's raised a million dollars in funding for his coupon snapping app, and a million coupons have been entered into the system. Adding to recent Ben Franklin Technology Partners of SE Pennsylvania funding, Mann says Philly's Mentortech Ventures and Michael Rubin contributed to the round.SnipSnap is hiring two in leadership positions, and according to Mann, is engaged in a national search to hire a VP of Marketing and a VP of business Development and Sales.
 
Keya Dannenbaum, founder of ElectNext, and late of Project Liberty Digital Incubator stopped by to check out the space, and reports that the candidate choice engine is now closing in on a round of funding. She also mentioned that co-founder Paul Jungwirth has moved on and is no longer with the startup.

Source: Brendan McCorkle, CloudMine, Ted Mann, SnipSnap, Keya Dannenbaum, ElectNext
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Creative sector jobs, reputation for art growing in Philadelphia

The whole starving artist cliche doesn't fly in Philadelphia. Two releases, one from the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and another from The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Board, point to arts as an area of serious growth, and a powerful financial force in the region.
 
According to the newly released Creative Sector Jobs Report,  new research shows that 48,900 jobs exist in the creative sector, which represents 6.5% of the jobs in Philadelphia.  Creative sector employment grew 6.3% from 2001 to 2011, yielding $5 billion in direct output and $2.7 billion in direct employee earnings.
 
The GPTMC just launched its new With Art Philadelphia campaign, as well as its annual report, titled "The Art of Collaboration." GPTMC CEO Meryl Levitz reports that the city welcomed a record 38 million visitors in 2011, and will likely see a dramatic increase with the lure of the Barnes. The GPTMC also unveiled its impressive new With Art site which allows visitors to curate their own Philadelphia experience by shopping through the city's arts and culture offerings to create an individualized tour.
 
"Culture and the creative sector are a critically important part of our city, and a critical creator of jobs," says Gary Steuer, head of the OACCE. "Creative assets are a core reason people visit Philadelphia."
 
The GPTMC also announced that it has a 75-page spread in the June 2012 US Airways Magazine, highlighting area museums, historical sites, music and public art. "Philly is a city in the throes of artistic revolution," reads one article.
According to the OACCE's Creative Sector report, In 2010 and 2011, research studies ranked Philadelphia 50-70% above the national standard in “creative vitality” using the Creative Vitality Index, a research tool developed by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to measure the creative health of an area.

Source: Gary Steuer, OACCE, Meryl Levitz, GPTMC
Writer: Sue Spolan

Ridaroo partners with PECO/Exelon to offer secure carpooling

Boom: Ridaroo is running with the big boys now. The two-year old company has partnered with PECO/Exelon to launch a secure enterprise-wide ride-sharing program. The bootstrapped startup, which comes out of Drexel's Baiada Institute, has been working on a program to match drivers with riders within a specific organization.
 
Ridaroo will even tell carpoolers if there are discounts and deals along the route.
 
Andy Guy and Aksel Gungor, both former Drexel students, built the firewalled program to stand out from traditional ride boards by building in a new level of trust. Each organization has its own online ride board, separate from all the others, so that employees don't have to take a risk in order to go green on the road.
 
Gungor recalls that as an undergrad at Drexel, there was a bulletin board in the hall where, like at most colleges, people posted notes about rides offered and needed. The Career Services department would manually copy down each post and email it to students.

"I had an internship to which I had to take a bus. I ended up carpooling by default,"says Gungor. "There had to be a better, more efficient way of doing it. Fast forward to Andy and me sitting down and working on it. We set up a private website for different organizations."
 
The beta version, which was open to all college students in Philadelphia, led to the new corporate version. Integrating social media tools, Ridaroo allows PECO employees to log in and create trips limited to PECO staff. Andy Guy created an automatically generated matching system which screens for preferences like distance, time, number of available seats, pick up location, and even smoking or non-smoking.
 
Gungor says companies like PECO can offer the Ridaroo service as an employee benefit, and the bill goes to the employer. "It's a pure sustainability play. We calculate all the emissions and the analytics behind that." Not only do employees save hundreds of dollars per year, but companies can earn LEED points via collected Ridaroo data.
 
Gungor says Ridaroo isn't seeking outside funding at this time; rather, he and Guy are focused on growing with the revenue generated by enterprise solutions. Current partnerships (including another with the law firm Morgan Lewis) will help Ridaroo scale quickly, which will lead to hiring. At that point, the team will look at raising a small round. 
 
And that whole boom thing? "Andy and I always joke around. When something good happens, we say, 'boom,' that just got done."

Source: Aksel Gungor, Ridaroo
Writer: Sue Spolan

Educational strength in numbers: The School Collective connects teachers with good ideas, hiring

There's a lot of talk about technology and education, but most of the time, the conversation is about individual schools implementing technology. In the case of The School Collective, a social entrepreneurship startup based in Philadelphia, technology becomes a way to link and improve all schools at once.
 
Sebastian Stoddart, one of the co-founders, says "We originally came up with the idea at Oxford University. Alyson Goodner and I were both studying for our MBA. The education problem is bigger than just one issue. We identified an element of the education world where we can actually make a difference." 
 
The School Collective joins teachers across schools through a website where educators can share best practices through lesson plans, materials, and instant communication. Currently there are over 1,700 members sharing nearly 21,000 documents and over 36 thousand lesson plans.
 
Stoddart, who remains in the UK but visits town 3 to 4 times a year, says it was Goodner's enthusiasm and energy that drew him into the project. "She's incredibly passionate. It's her one focus and one mission. From my standpoint, it's a real chance to use innovation to improve education. It's an opportunity to reshape an existing model that isn't working."
 
Coming from one of the most venerated learning institutions in the world doesn't hurt. "One thing you get from Oxford is a hands on teaching style," says Stoddard. "You work directly with a tutor, and there are 2 to 3 other people in the room. The difference of that model to Philadelphia education is huge. Oxford is an incredible education, and it gives you a massive desire to give that education as well."
 
Goodner adds, "I am not British. I was born here in Philly, and ended up at Oxford, a place where people gather to talk about global change. Here in Philadelphia we get a fairly bad rap. People say, education reform here in Philly? Good luck with that. But there has been movement. There are amazing people doing reform work in Philly."
 
The School Collective, says Goodner, gathers revenue via a freemium model. Teachers sign up for free or pay $5 per month to access the full functionality of the site. Organizations can also subscribe to the site using a tiered model.
"The School Collective is built to give benefit to every user on the site," says Stoddard, who compares traditional teaching tools that are brought in by the principal, but offer no benefit to the teacher, "From the beginning we wanted this to be something teachers would want to be on."
 
An essential key to The School Collective's success is Goodner and Stoddart's professional development package, their hands on approach to teaching teachers. During a 10-hour workshop, The School Collective shows educators take the time to visit schools in person and explain exactly how to use the tools, resulting in a 98% acceptance rate.
 
With this level of success, expansion is on the agenda, although it would be difficult to replicate an Oxford-educated team. "We are looking to bring on a person full time similar to what I am doing, and a full time developer on Sebastian's side to build a team in Philadelphia," says Goodner, who plans on tapping into former Teach For America participants to find the right fit.
 
Currently, The School Collective serves a diverse roster of Philadelphia schools, including The William Penn Charter School, Stepping Stones, and The School District of Philadelphia. The plan is to expand to include parents and students, and to extend The School Collective's reach to neighboring states. 

Source: Alyson Goodner, Sebastian Stoddart, The School Collective
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philly as a model for social entrepreneurship examined as part of The New Capitalist Junto

Getting paid for paying it forward is the future of social change. Last Wednesday (June 6), Good Company Ventures hosted The New Capitalist Junto.

In the high-rise offices at 1650 Arch, formerly known as The Green Village, around 220 attendees gathered to consider the task of making Philadelphia a center for new capitalism. Based on the book The New Capitalist Manifesto written by Umair Haque, the business philosophy embraces sustainability, non-violence, equity and improving quality of life.
 
"Philadelphia has all of the infrastructure, in institutions, talent and beyond, to be a global leader in social entrepreneurship," says Technically Philly's Christopher Wink, one of the night's top rated speakers. "The intractable legacy problems we have in our big, old, industrial city, mean that this is among the most meaningful places in the world to confront the challenges that we need to solve most -- education inequality, crime, violence, drugs, poverty, joblessness and the like."
 
Joined by Mayor Michael Nutter and 25 local organizations from all corners of business and civic life including Robin Hood Ventures, EEB Hub and NextFab Studio, the goal, says Wink, "is to get a broad coalition and conversation happening around the region being a relevant, sensible and powerful hub for mission-minded ventures."
 
Good Company's Zoe Seltzer says, "It was a nice mix of engaged, yet wanting more.  Venture types curious about the social stuff and social types wanting us to reach further. As long as we have this diverse group talking, we've made a good start."

The idea of the Junto originated in Philadelphia in 1727, and was defined as a club for mutual improvement. P'unk Avenue, one of the evening's participants, has hosted a monthly junto for about 2 years.

Source: Christopher Wink, Zoe Seltzer, The New Capitalist Junto
Writer: Sue Spolan
 
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