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Inventing the Future: Fifth annual RAIN conference fosters entrepreneurship in the region

The fifth annual Regional Affinity Incubation Network (RAIN) Conference, held June 24 at the University City Science Center Quorum, kicked off with a simple request. Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital asked the audience -- which featured entrepreneurs, investors and thinkers from across the region -- to forget about task forces and meetings. Instead, he wanted every attendant to show one local college student a piece of Philly.

"It's about engaging young bright minds," said Kimmel. "That's the amazing opportunity."

RAIN is a network of research parks and business incubators, including the Science Center, Select Greater Philadelphia, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Delaware Emerging Technology Center and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The conference launched in 2009 with the goal of fostering support for entrepreneurship in the tri-state area. It has grown from 40 to 100 attendees, including many local entrepreneurs.

This year's event, dubbed "Supporting Startups: Capital, Community and Collaboration," featured two panel discussions. The first delved into first-round funding and crowdfunding; the second looked more broadly at startup resources such as StartUp PHL and other local support organizations.

"Every startup needs funding, funding and funding," said Jeanne Mell, VP of marketing and communications at the Science Center. "But the options that are available are changing rapidly, especially in light of crowdfunding."

At several points, speakers identified a growing number of coworking spaces, incubators and networking channels that are changing the face of Greater Philadelphia.

"These formal organizations have been joined by coworking spaces and other spaces of cohabitation for startups," explained Thomas Morr, president and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia. "It's very exciting."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Wayne Kimmel, SeventySix Capital Jeanne Mell, VP of Marketing and Communications at the Science Center, Thomas Morr, President and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

Campus Philly's Opportunity Fair plugs students into the regional economy

The Campus Philly Opportunity Fair, taking place June 20 at Penn's Houston Hall, isn't just about jobs. In addition to featuring over 40 of the region's largest and fastest growing companies -- including Bentley Systems, Monetate, Artisan and Urban Engineers -- the event will host local civic organizations and a series of workshops aimed at helping recent grads. The big picture goal: keeping students in Philadelphia.

The fair is free to anyone who graduated from college in the past five years. To develop a diverse roster, Campus Philly partnered with the City of Philadelphia and 29 local universities.

The idea for the fair was first conceived in 2008. At the height of the recession, they wanted to help graduates find local employment. The event has since evolved to meet the demands of a changing job market.

"Students often come to us not knowing where to start," says Ashlie Thornbury, director of career programs for Campus Philly. "They want to know who to talk to and how to get plugged-in."

Organizations like Generocity, Young Involved Philadelphia, the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and the Citizen's Planning Institute will encourage new grads to get involved with local issues. Workshops cover topics such as managing social media identity and developing career paths through volunteering. There will also be representatives from local graduate programs.

In the past five years, Philadelphia has experienced a population bump after fifty years of decline. Much of this incoming population has been under 30.  

"The Opportunity Fair a great way to showcase all that our region has to offer a recent graduate," says Thornbury. "Philadelphia has become a destination." 
 
Source: Ashlie Thornbury, Campus Philly
Writer: Dana Henry

Philly's third Vendy Awards reward mobile culinary innovation

For the culinary entrepreneur, Philly is a great testing ground. In addition to our thriving BYO culture, the city supports a growing army of food trucks. To celebrate, the New York City-based Street Vendor Project will host the third annual Philly Vendy Awards at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown on Saturday, June 8.   

While metal boxes carting cheesesteaks, fruit salad and breakfast sandwiches are nothing new, the new generation of Philly concessions are creating portable versions of national food trends -- Korean tacos, anyone? The Vendy Award finalists, selected thanks to thousands of public nominations, pay homage to the growing diversity.

"Vendors are giving us more options," says Helena Tubis, event coordinator for the Street Vendor Project. "They're creating a location-based experience. There's a fun factor that's just a little different than your traditional dining experiences."

The event will showcase six sweet trucks (offering frozen yogurt, baked goods and, of course, cupcakes) and 11 savory trucks (including Asian fusion, build-your-own mac and cheese and vegan delicacies). Attendees are given unlimited samples and will vote to decide the People's Choice award, Best Dessert and Messiest Food. There's also a judges' award determined by a panel of experts, including Paul Kimport, cofounder of Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap, and Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Bros. Ticket proceeds benefit The Food Trust.

Street Vendor Project has held the Vendy Awards in their home city for nine years. They brought the event to Philly because the local scene was booming: Over 15 trucks serve Love Park daily and The Food Trust has organized several packed Night Markets.

"There's just a huge influx in Philadelphia," says Tubis. "A tremendous amount of new vendors are doing unique offerings."

Source: Helena Tubis, the Street Vendor Project
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Random Hacks of Kindness winner creates afterschool program wiki

As Philadelphia prepares to close dozens of schools, afterschool enrichment -- a lifeline to arts, athletics and academics -- is also in peril. That’s why Chris Alfano, CTO of JarvUs and brigade leader of Code for Philly, and Faye Anderson, founder of Tracking Change, are building a wiki-based platform that identifies available programs. The team's project, What’s Going On?, won Philly’s fifth Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK) this past weekend at Drexel’s ExCiTe Center.

This year's RHOK joined forces with hackathons around the globe under the umbrella of National Day of Civic Hacking. The event was organized by Technically Philly through partnerships with AzaveaCode for America, Drexel and the City of Philadelphia. There were five final projects and over 20 participants.

When the Alfano and Anderson first investigated the afterschool issue, they noticed that the data is often incomplete or outdated. Some programs, like the Free Library's Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program, are burried in individual branch sites. For families with limited internet access and know-how, the lack of an accurate, central resource is a major barrier.

"They need to find things in the community and there's no directory," says Alfano. "Someone who's researching is going to have to be making phone calls and checking up on everything they find."

Instead of creating a static app, which relies on a developer for updates, What’s Going On? is a search engine built on public wiki pages. Users and program directors can submit program pages or update existing ones, creating a more comprehensive repository.

The winning app was first conceived during February’s Tech Camp, which addressed challenges in public education. According to Brian Kirk, co-founder of Technically Philly, relationships between hackers and hackathons have become increasingly common in the civic engagement space. For example, Sheltr, the second place finisher at RHOK, was first created during a hackathon several years ago. The team that worked on it during this recent event was a completely new group.

"There's a community that has an understanding of the data ecosystem and what's being built," says Kirk. "Without any big leadership change, we've seen it coalesce and get pushed further down the road."

Source: Faye Anderson, Chris Alfano, What’s Going On?; Brian Kirk, Technically Philly
Writer: Dana Henry 

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Philly hosts second GameLoop, an "unconference" for the gaming industry

For Philly's burgeoning community of indie game makers and enthusiasts, GameLoop is a chance to swap ideas, learn techniques and make new contacts in a growing industry. Philly's second incarnation of this event takes place at University of the Arts' Terra Hall on Saturday, May 18.

Dubbed an "unconference," GameLoop has no set agenda. Participants propose and decide on talks and roundtables at the beginning of the day during an open floor discussion.

"[The local gaming community] has brought together programmers, artists, musicians, designers, modelers -- you name it," says organizer Ray Merkler. "A rapidly growing indie game scene needs events like this to share ideas and create new relationships."

GameLoop originated in Boston in 2008. Merkler brought the concept to Philly in 2011, after meeting founder Scott Macmillan at the PAX East gaming show in Boston. Philly's first GameLoop drew 80 people, including leaders from Boston, New York and Baltimore. Topics covered included 2-D and 3-D design, prototyping, and business models, but Merkler says GameLoop isn't just about development or the industry. For example, someone looking to build a new narrative into a classic game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, is welcome to share.

"You can attract new talent into your city, or you can take the talent you already have and let it interact in new ways," says Merkler. "GameLoop tries to do the latter."

Source: Ray Merkler, GameLoop Philly
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: A public call for 'Innovators Walk of Fame' nominees

The University City Science Center is now seeking nominations for their Innovators Walk of Fame. The inaugural members will be revealed during the organization's 50th anniversary celebration in October. In preparation, the Science Center is asking Greater Philadelphia to recommend regional candidates who have made an impact in science, technology, engineering, art or math (STEAM). There is also a category for innovative companies.
 
"We're not doing this prescriptively," says Stephen Tang, president and CEO of the Science Center. "We want to hear from the community."
 
Final selections will be made by a committee comprised of Science Center affiliates and members of the regional innovation and entrepreneurial communities. By opening in conjunction with Philly Tech Week and the Science Festival, the call for nominations is expected to draw on the city's growing enthusiasm for discovery and invention.
 
Not yet officially decided, the location of the walk -- think the musical stars on Avenue of the Arts -- will likely be on the Science Center's campus. The monument aims to draw public attention (particularly from local K-12 students) to these individuals and their accomplishments.

With leaders like Buckminster Fuller, biotech pioneer Hubert Schoemaker and radar technologist Britton Chance, Philadelphia has a powerful history to pull from. Tang is looking forward to nominations that reach beyond traditional science hubs.
 
"Innovation is kind of an ethereal concept," he says. "I think we will surprise people because they'll recognize that we've had geniuses in our midst for some time." 
 
Nominations can be submitted here through June 15.

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
 
Source: Stephen Tang, The University City Science Center
Writer: Dana Henry

The GreenLight Fund, a growing network of best-practice nonprofits, launches in Philadelphia

When the GreenLight Fund, a Boston-based nonprofit network for children and families, decided it was time to expand, they searched nationally for the right city. After a year of research and many lengthy visits, they chose Philadelphia.
 
The fund has launched with $2.3 million dedicated to establishing two nonprofits -- Single Stop USA and Year Up -- in the region.
 
"A lot of it came down to where there was receptivity, where were folks excited about the model -- Philadelphia rose to the top of that process," says Matt Joyce, executive director of the GreenLight Fund Philadelphia. (Joyce works out of The Exchange, a coworking space for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors recently profiled in Flying Kite).
 
To effect change on a local level, GreenLight works with community leadership to identify needs, then searches nationally for best-practice programs they can import. In Philadelphia, they met with members of city government, the Philadelphia Youth Network, the Philadelphia Education Fund, and the Community College of Philadelphia. From these discussions, college persistence and workforce development were identified as central issues for local youth.
 
The program is partially funded through the Social Innovation Fund, a federal program. Additional funding was provided by the William Penn Foundation, the Barra Foundation and the Bank of America Foundation.
 
GreenLight has operated in Boston since 2004, where they’ve established seven programs -- all are still operating and some have become independently sustainable.
 
"We were looking for an appetite for innovation and new ideas," says Joyce. "Among the folks we talked to, there was a lot of interest in trying to get some of the best ideas from around the country launched in Philadelphia."
 
Source: Matt Joyce, The Green Light Fund
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Philly Tech Breakfast builds bridges in the local tech community

Even when it’s not Philly Tech Week, the region has an ever-growing schedule of hackathons and startup events. Despite the crowded landscape, Philly Tech Breakfast has already racked up over 200 members -- including local notables from Philly Startup Leaders, Technically Philly and Drexel's ExCITe Center -- and they haven't even held their first meetup yet.
 
The group will meet every third Thursday in Mitchell Auditorium at Drexel’s Bossone Research Enterprise Center. The morning will feature three-to-six presentations from local tech innovators. According to Enterprise Law Associates' Gary Smith, a founding sponsor, Tech Breakfast is "technology agnostic," meaning that folks working on any tech-driven enterprise -- be it a videogame platform or a medical diagnostic device -- are welcome to participate.
 
"We wanted focus more on the fact that the companies are early-stage and in technology than on the fact that they're in a particular vertical," explains Smith.
 
By joining the greater Tech Breakfast network -- a listserv boasting thousands of members from Baltimore, Washington D.C., Columbia, Md., and Northern Virginia -- Philly can engage a broader community. A venture capitalist from Northern Virginia, for example, is more likely to build relationships and invest in a Philly software company if they belong to the same community.
 
"We’ll become part of a larger flow of information," says Smith. "There's a lot of talk about that, but not a lot of practical facilitation of that."
 
Current sponsors include Namsa, a medical product consultancy, Outlook.com, Technically Philly and Bizelo, an inventory management company for e-commerce. The event was organized by Bizelo founder Ron Schmelzer.
 
While these breakfasts are free to the general public, they are tailored to tech startup members and supporters. Meetings start April 25 with presentations from AxisPhilly, SnipSnap and Acclaim, among others. 

Source: Gary Smith, Enterprise Law Associates 
Writer: Dana Henry

Philadelphia Science Festival offers over 100 interactive events

Mummies, baseball and hallucinogens -- these are just a few of the marvels explored in the third annual Philadelphia Science Festival, created by the Franklin Institute. Running April 18 through 28, the festival offers over 100 events throughout the city.

Over the past two years, the Festival has engaged over 120,000 people, including 30,000 students. The hallmark of the fest is promoting "citizen scientists" and all events are interactive. Here are a couple of our picks:

For fans of local fare, Yards is offering Beer Chemistry: Perfect Pairings, a chemistry lesson with a brewmaster’s twist -- and carefully selected food and beer pairings. Elsewhere, Chef Max Hansen of Max Hansen Catering will illustrate the science behind farm-to-table with a four-course meal during The Sustainable Table: A Dinner Experience.

Sustainability seekers should also check out Sweet and Savory: Hives and Honey, a bee expo led by local beekeepers; Urban Farming at Bartram’s Garden, an exploration of agricultural science; and Naturepalooza!, an outdoor Earth Day celebration hosted by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Those still awaiting the zombie uprising can watch local taxidermist extraordinaire Beth Beverly -- her accessories fashioned from road kill earned her a spot on AMC’s Immortalized -- demonstrate how to bring the dead back to life with Skinned, Stuffed and Mounted: Taxidermy Exposed. They can also help solve a mystery pandemic at Murder at the Mütter: Outbreak! and learn how to compile forensic evidence while listening to live music from Cornbread Five during Nerd Night: CSI.

Arts and culture lovers will appreciate a multi-media presentation from the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts [PIFA] on Icarus at the Edge of Time, based on the children's physics book of the same name. Breadboard will also open a Cellular/Molecular Exhibit showcasing local bio- and chem-inspired art. Meanwhile, the Science of Jazz will demonstrate sound waves at work using live scores.

And be sure to save room for the Science Carnival, the Science Festival's signature event featuring live science demos outside on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

For more on the festival -- and to check out a full calendar of events -- visit PhilaScienceFestival.org.

Inventing the Future: PIDC gives $500,000 boost to life science technology

Last Tuesday, local university research in healthcare technology got a big boost. As a third component in the StartUp PHL portfolio, the University City Science Center's QED Proof-of-Concept program -- which invests exclusively in medical research from Greater Philadelphia’s academic sector -- was awarded a $500,000 loan from Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PICD) Penn Venture Fund program.
 
QED -- the abbreviated Latin phrase Quod Erat Demonstrandum (proven as demonstrated) -- provides grant money and private sector guidance to help promising studies establish early stage proof-of-concept for commercial application, a cumbersome phase of the research-to-product process. Since 2009, the program has awarded $600,000 annually, divided into $200,000 grants for life science projects and $100,000 grants for research in digital healthcare, a growing field where life science meets information technology. 

According to Stephen Tang, President and CEO of the Science Center, university settings are ideal spaces for developing broad-scope medical science, thanks to their insulation from commercial interests. A diagnostic company, for example, might build a device to detect Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, a university has the freedom to research the molecular identity of the disease which can inform a range of diagnostics and treatments.
 
"The theory on innovation is you have to have very divergent thinking before you have convergent thinking," says Tang. "It's that very divergent thinking that [the Science Center] is trying to tap into and help to converge on commercial opportunities."
  
Past QED participants -- representing 22 regional institutions including Penn, Drexel and the Wistar Institute -- have gone on to launch promising companies. Vascular Magnetics, producers of a drug delivery apparatus created by Dr. Robert Levy, a professor of pediatric cardiology from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and his QED business advisor Richard Woodward, recently raised $7 million in their first round of financing. UE LifeSciences Inc., a medical device company that commercialized research in breast cancer detection by  Dr. Wan Shih of Drexel's School of Biomedical Engineering, eventually received a $878,422 grant from the Pennsylvania Department Of Health's Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program.
 
While the "Eds and Meds" capital has long been hailed for life science achievements, Tang sees digital healthcare as the next frontier. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, massive amounts of medical records have to be digitized. Furthermore, the bourgeoning field of Genomics -- the science of transcribing an individual's genome to detect genetic disease -- will require terabyte-sized data transfer and manipulation. 
 
Accordingly, the 2012 QED program made awards to mobile healthcare apps developed at Rutgers University. The $500,000 PICD loan -- which is repaid via licensing royalties and revenue from successful projects -- will expand QED within city limits, boosting Philly's role in the health IT industry. 
 
"[Philadelphia] has one of the largest concentrations of healthcare facilities, hospitals and doctors, as well as academic research," says Tang. "We're betting big that that domain will distinguish Philadelphia from other metropolitan areas in the world."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Stephen Tang, University City Science Center
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Navy Yard welcomes Quorum for energy entrepreneurs

The Navy Yard is fast becoming a national nexus for energy advancements. In addition to the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub, the formerly derelict warehouse district has gained Viridity Energy, Oxicool, Pace Controls and the Mark Group in recent years.
 
Now the University City Science Center is bringing Quorum programming (Flying Kite, February 19, 2013) to the Navy Yard from March 14 through January 312014. Per EEB Hub’s request, "Satellite" Quorum will focus on Philly's growing clean energy and energy retrofit sectors.
 
"Flagship Quorum really is a broad program open to entrepreneurs in any part of tech-based innovation," explains Jeanne Mell, the Science Center's Vice President of Marketing Communications. "We're taking the principals we learned with flagship and applying them to a much more targeted sector."
 
At Satellite Quorum, "Coffee and Capital," a gateway to the tech investment community, becomes "Coffee and Counsel," in which a selected leader in energy enterprise fields questions from a small audience of entrepreneurs. The Science Center is also developing programming that addresses sector specific issues such as strategies for approaching building managers. Additionally, the series provides ongoing networking, a key component to startup acceleration.
 
As the first member of  Satellite Quorum's Strategic Partner Alliance,  Clean Tech Open, a national incubator, will help promote programming.  According to Laurie Actman of EEB Hub, the recent passage of Philadelphia's Commercial Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure Act, will give the retrofit sector even more of a boost, increasing the need for industry-specific programming.
 
The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Jeanne Mell, Kristen Fitch, The University City Science Center; Laurie Actman, EEB Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

Innovative private-public partnership earns $1 million in Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge

Last summer, while launching the city's Office of New Urban Mechanics [ONUM], Story Bellows and Jeff Friedman met with Philadelphia’s top social impact organizations. This process led to the idea of private-public collaboration with Good Company Group [GCG], a local incubator for environmental and social entrepreneurship.

The resulting concept, the Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership [PSEP], provides opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to tackle traditional public sector problems such as storm water management, gun violence and education. This past Wednesday, the group's proposal was one of five (out of 300) awarded $1 million in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge.
 
Two-to-three times per year, a PSEP advisory board will help the mayor’s office identify a key issue -- and the associated costs -- and provide a framework for startup proposals. During each session, ten applicants will access incubation services, data and information from related city departments, and coaching from public sector industry experts.  
 
"It's looking at problems that [city] government has, that drain a lot of resources, and reframing them as market opportunities," says Zoe Selzer, executive director at GCG. "It's not targeting one specific challenge -- it's creating a system that can target a lot of different challenges." 
 
PSEP partners include GCV, ONUM, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology. The application to the Mayor's Challenge was overseen by Maari Porter, Chief Grants Officer for Philadelphia. According to Selzer, PSEP’s inclusion of non-government leadership was unique among Bloomberg finalists.
 
To refine the concept, the partners worked on government procurement strategies and established the need for pilot contracts (in lieu of grants) to support social startups. They encourage applications from Greater Philadelphia and across the country.
 
"It's a huge validation of the work we’ve been doing," says Selzer. "We really believe this is our opportunity to position Philadelphia as a national hub for social enterprise and as a place where [social] entrepreneurs grow and test their ideas and then spread those ideas around the country and around the world."

Source: Zoe Selzer, Good Company Group; Story Bellows, Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics
Writer: Dana Henry

Ignite Philly 11 provides lively showcase for city's top thinkers

Most know Christine Knapp as a sustainability ambassador via her outreach roles with Penn Future, the Next Great City Intiative, the Passyunk Square Civic Association and, most recently, the Philadelphia Water Department. But during Ignite Philly 11 (held last Thursday at Johnny Brenda's), Knapp gained a new title: karaoke master.

After sharing best practices from her 15 years of experience, Knapp inspired Indy Hall's Alex Hillman and Flying Kite’s Michelle Freeman to join her onstage for a rendition of Journey's "Don’t Stop Believing."
 
Such is the spirit of Ignite Philly, where local leaders put their titles aside to share their passions. Spoken word artist Erica Hawthorne gave a lively pitch for Small But Mighty Arts Grant, her mission to recover the 72 percent of art in Philly that’s gone "missing" due to lack of funding. Brett Hart of the Wooden Boat Factory explained how wood and the Delaware River are transforming the youth of his native Frankford ("This wood is like my life -- it's hard, but I’m trying to shape it into something," a student once told him). Hive76’s Jordan Miller, a Penn scientist, demonstrated how he generates living vascular structures via 3-D printing -- in sugar.
 
Ignite 11 also reflected Philly’s burgeoning love for open data. Mark Headd, the city's chief data officer, opened the evening by making a compelling analogy between Athenian Democracy and urban open data usage, warning that many Philadelphians still can't participate due to the digital divide (a problem he’s addressing with GetYourToga.org). Dave Zega and Jake Wells of ElectNext revealed their method for using data to verify the claims of politicians. Ben Garvey showed Ignite how data can be made visual -- and more digestible. And Stephanie Alarcon, Amy Gutherie and Georgia Gutherie of the Hacktory shared "Hacking the Gender Gap," a database that tracks causal experiences leading to the gender disparity in tech.
 
Other notable speakers included Amanda Feifer-O'Brien, the force behind a local movement to save beneficial micro-organisms via fermentation; Drew Beecher, president of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and leader of a national tree-planting campaign; and Ashvika Dhir, the Pennsbury High School Senior behind CauseHub.com, a meta-blog for teenage change-makers. 
 
Ignite 11 was hosted by P'unk Ave's Geoff DiMasi, Indy Hall's Adam Teterus and Breadboard's David Clayton. They also awarded Girl Develop It Philly -- presenters at Ignite 10 -- $1000 to provide tech class scholarships for 50 local women.
 
Source: Ignite Philly 11
Writer: Dana Henry

Wind power provider Clean Currents opens Philly office, hiring sales reps

When Clean Currents, a wind power company based in Silver Spring, Md., opened a third office at 15th and Walnut Streets, they wanted Philadelphia to know. Last week, they showcased a 20-foot model wind turbine in Rittenhouse Square, Love Park, Manyunk and at the Wachovia Center in South Philly.
 
The "See The Power" campaign incorporated social media contests to build buzz around the availability of locally sourced wind power. According to Gary Skulnik, the company's president and chairman of the board, selling this energy is only the first step.

The company -- which has a second office in Baltimore -- also publishes a bi-weekly newsletter on environmental issues and policy, holds sustainability webinars, campaigns for energy efficiency legislation, gives presentations on environmental issues at local grade schools and holds "green neighborhood challenges" with prizes such as rain barrels and compost bins.
 
"We really view ourselves as a front door to sustainability," says Skulnik. "Once people and businesses sign up with us, we like to help them take additional steps. I think they appreciate an approach that pushes the envelope a little."
 
In two years, Clean Currents has racked up thousands of customers including businesses, schools and embassies. They have over 12,000 e-newsletter subscribers. From 2011 to 2012, their revenues grew 400 percent. They are currently hiring sales reps to round out their five-person Philly office.
 
According to Skulnik, Clean Currents chose their new locale because of an environmentally conscious consumer-base -- he credits the Sustainable Business Network and the Delaware Valley Green Building Council for helping drive the movement. In an era of mass information, sustainability requires more than individual action.
 
"The only way we are going to solve [climate change] is by creating a ground swell of support for solutions," he says. "It’s really vital that we create this sense of community."

Source: Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents
Writer: Dana Henry

Nvigor connects local students to the dynamic world of startups

One of the hidden advantages of going to college in Philadelphia is accessibility to the local startup community. Practically every other week there’s a startup weekend, hackathon or Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) event.  
 
When Dias Gotama, an International Information Systems major at Drexel, started attending these events he was surprised to find there weren’t many other students. 

"An entrepreneurship ecosystem is growing really fast in Philadelphia," says Gotma. "A lot of events that happen aren’t well targeted to students -- they’re either really expensive or organizations don’t know how to reach students on a granular level."

Nvigor -- a student organization he cofounded with fellow Drexel student Abhiroop Das and Pulak Mittal, a Penn student -- hopes to change that.

Students who sign up with Nvigor receive a list of events culled from the PSL listserv and Philly Startup Digest. Nvigor also helps organize student scholarships for pricey events such as Lean Startup Machine and Startup Weekend Health.
 
The group is working with the City's Office of New Urban Mechanics on a curriculum for students interested in civic-minded startups. In addition, they’re planning a Student Startup Conference for the upcoming Philly Tech Week.
 
Nvigor recently received sponsorship from Smart IMS -- they will pay for the group's membership at Culture Works, an organization that provides management resources and operational support. Eventually, Nvigor hopes to help students get part-time jobs or apprenticeships at emerging companies. They also plan to expand their services to suburban schools.
 
"If students come to these events, and they like them, word will spread about Philadelphia’s startup community," says Gotama. 

Source: Dias Gotama, Abhiroop Das and Pulak Mittal, Nvigor
Writer: Dana Henry
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