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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

How our startup community got a $3 million seed fund from the City of Philadelphia

In the fall of 2011, leadership from Philly Startup Leaders and Ben Franklin Technology Partners began meeting with  Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies, and officials from Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and The Mayors Office. Despite seemingly different agendas, the group collaborated around a shared interest: How do we keep promising companies in Philadelphia?
A year later, this working group drafted a Request For Proposal now known as Startup PHL. No one doubted the increased momentum of the past five years--Philly has a growing number of talented risk-takers, coworking spaces, incubators and organizations supporting entrepreneurship. New businesses, particularly tech businesses, are successfully launching.
"This isn't about the city stepping in to fix something that's broken," Bob Moul, head of Philly Startup Leaders and CEO of AppReniassance says. "Here's a sector that's been really self-sufficient and grassroots. The city would like to see that be consistent and happen on a regular basis."
Unfortunately, many of these promising startups continue to leave for New York and other cities where they can secure investment.
"The lack of early seed stage capital has had a definite impact on the region," Moul says. "If we're not careful, Philly's going to become known as a great catalyst but a net exporter of great opportunities."
At the Mayor's request, the group began a due diligence process using NYC Seed as an example. The City is currently accepting bids on Startup PHL from venture capitalists and expects to announce the fund's manager mid-December.
Integral to the $3 million seed fund, Startup PHL's challenge fund is a public request for structural recommendations to encourage continued startup growth. Areas of interest include collaboration between supporting organizations, integration of universities and emerging business, and connection between suburban early stage companies and urban startups. Moul advocates subsidized space to foster entrepreneurship.

In 2008, NYC Seed was New York City's first venture fund. Now they have over 20. Starting with the same amount of money, NYC Seed was picked up by University City-based First Round Capital, which added $19 million. Moul believes Philly can grow $15-$20 million.

"If we can pick the winning companies and keep them in Philadelphia, the net impact in three to five years is going to be significant, Moul says.
According to Moul, Startup PHL ultimatly began with the Mayor's growing recognition of the startup community.
"In the last year we've really turned a corner," Moul says. "All these [startup] organizations were running their own missions, and doing their own plans. What I've seen in the past year or two is a willingness to gather around a table, collaborate and leverage our combined resources. The city saw that."

Source: Bob Moul, Philly Startup Leaders
Writer: Dana Henry

University City Science Center recieves Venture Impact Award from Early Stage East

University City Science Center received the Sal Buccieri Memorial Venture Impact Award during the 15th annual Early Stage East, venture capital conference, on Thursday (Oct. 4). Previously, this award, which honors individuals and organizations that help early stage companies flourish in Philadelphia, was largely given to venture capitalists.

“[The University City Science Center] has created a true center of innovation,” David Freschman, Founder of ESE, says.  “It offers counsel, resources, facility and thought-leadership which has been the impetus for the launch and growth of many companies in our region that currently employ thousands of employees.”

“This award is especially meaningful as we embark on our 50th anniversary year,” Stephen Tang, President & CEO of UCSC, says of the acceptance.  “I did not have the honor of knowing Sal Buccieri, but from what I've heard about him, he exemplified the pay-it-forward mentality we need to nurture a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.”

During the conference, 25 technology startups from Club Pitch presented to venture capitalists and angle investors. Freschman says many participating companies gain their first-round investment from contacts made at ESE. Innovation Capital Advisors, where Freschman serves as Managing Principal, invests up to 70 percent of their capital in companies that participated in Club Pitch. Among the 16 presenters from the Philadelphia region, Freschman cites Snip Snap, Localty, People Linx and Cloud Confidence as companies to look out for.

“Philadelphia is very much a city driven by ‘substantive’ enterprise,” Freschman says. “These are businesses that will grow because of customer acquisition and sales growth versus publicity and marketing presence. Maybe they aren’t as sexy as what you read in INC magazine, but [Philly companies] are really productive.”

Freschman believes the greater Philadelphia public, however, needs to look beyond banking and insurance to find the real success story of our local enterprise community.

“We need to really praise and recognize these emerging companies” he says.

Source: David Freschman, Early Stage East
Writer: Dana Henry

Super stealth: Perceptual Newtorks scores $1M in seed round funding without the details, hiring

He's not going to talk about specific products. Cheyenne Ehrlich, CEO of Northern Liberties based Perceptual Networks, says, "We have not really gotten into much public detail about what we are doing."
Nonetheless, whatever he and partner Jim Young are planning is sufficient to have garnered $1 million in a seed funding round from some of tech's biggest players. At least 20 players, including First Round Capital, founders of YouTube, PayPal, Rackspace, Bebo, and Demand Media have put chips on the table.

But Ehrlich remains mum on specifics. "Jim has a track record of building products that consumers love. People fundamentally get excited by people who make products that people love." Ehrich is referring to Young's product hotornot.com, which skyrocketed in a matter of months from launch to being one a top 25 web property.
Perceptual Networks, says Ehrlich, is in the process of building a suite of products intended to connect people to one another for work, for love, and for community. That's all Ehrich is willing to divulge at this time to everyone but investors. "Apple is an example of a company that builds great products that people love. That's what the focus should be on," says Ehrlich.
Ehrlich was scouting cities for some time, considering New York, the San Francisco bay area, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and ultimately chose Philly for its combination of great educational institutions, regional access to capital, easy access to New York City, lower cost of living and better quality of life, with great restaurants and culture and the growing tech community as added benefits.
With five on staff, Ehrlich says Perceptual is aggressively hiring right now, particularly in engineering to create products that will live on iOS, Android and the web, with possible expansion to other platforms in the future.

Source: Cheyenne Ehrlich, Perceptual Networks
Writer: Sue Spolan

DreamIt's Fall 2012 startup class will get more social

Tech incubator Dreamit Ventures has announced its Fall 2012 Philadelphia lineup. Moving three blocks up the street to 3701 Market Street but still at the University City Science Center, Managing Partner Karen Griffith Gryga says Dreamit will be leveraging its proximity to the Science Center's Quorum.

"There is a great deal of programming planned for this class," says Gryga. "In addition to the one-on-one mentoring that we establish for the companies based on their particular needs and the frequent meetings with the DreamIt partners, we have speakers from leading VC firms, leading industry players and operational experts as well as workshops on technologies and operational components. We have investor office hours with ventures capitalists from across the country as well as angel investors."

Gryga places a high value on accelerator participants' interactions with each other,and reports that Dreamit will hold more regular social events to add some fun to the mix.
Speaking of fun, this year, recipes and bridesmaids dresses are the focus of two companies. "The entrepreneurial team is the critical decision area and less so the idea because we know that with the right team we can always refine or reformulate a market/customer centric solution.  Over the years, we have had many consumer facing opportunities and, in fact, had both Bazaart and TopShelf in the New York program this summer and KeepRecipes the New York summer before."
As in years past, the Dreamit teams come to Philadelphia from locations worldwide. Five of the companies are part of the DreamIt Access program, a dedicated effort to launch 15 minority-led startups over the next 12 months. Comcast Ventures is an investor in the DreamIt Access program.  Here's a detailed listing of this year's companies.
The 14 startups in the program are:
Altair Prep, Philadelphia:  Performance-based homework platform that analyzes learning trends and customize curricula
Applique, New York, NY:  Drag-and-drop ease for building iPhone and iPad Apps
Betterific, Washington, DC:  Crowdsourcing platform aims to improve products and brands by allowing consumers to submit ideas and suggestions
brandREP.me, Los Angeles, CA:  Crowdsources brand marketing campaigns to student
Brideside, Chicago, IL:  Oline boutique for bridesmaids dresses.
CallGrader, Denver, CO:  Marketing analytics and rich data for phone calls
Charlie, Chicago, IL:  Mobile app provides vital contact information whenever you need it
CloudConfidence, Philadelphia:  Platform for analytics-driven cloud monitoring and management
FlagTap, San Francisco, CA:  On-site rewards that are easy to manage
mor.sl, Washington, DC:  Recipe recommendation platform that personalizes based on tastes, cooking skill and allergies
Peeractive, Sydney, Australia:  Social commerce technology with real-time analytics 
The Whoot, New York, NY:  Short-term social planning
Tripkno, New York, NY:  Travel guide incorporates social and e-commerce to help people find things to do
Zenkars, Philadelphia:  Online used car retailer

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

Ambler's LeadiD attracts $1.7M investment by Genacast Ventures, hiring

There is a little known layer that exists between your computer and the company you are visiting on the web. LeadiD exists within that layer, unknown to most but sitting in a lucrative niche.
Based in Ambler, the B2B lead certification company recently closed $1.7 million in funding led by Genacast Ventures.
Ross Shanken, who founded the company and presides as CEO over 11 employees, has developed a way to weed out bad leads online. LeadiD makes its money operating as a go-between for companies looking to sell products or services and their potential customers. "We don't generate leads and we don't buy leads," explains Shanken, who says LeadiD is changing the industry with its patent pending lead certification system. 
Let's say you are doing research on finding a lawyer. You fill out a form on a LeadiD participating website, and a unique 36 character identifier is assigned to that online event. The equivalent of a car's VIN, the ID lives with the lead. 
By contrast, lead buyers are used to dealing with so-called black hat lead generators, who may be selling a lead generated by typing in a name and address from the white pages, or a lead that doesn't have true consumer intent behind the action. These unreliable bits of information are not going to create sales.
Shanken, while employed at TARGUSinfo, says he saw an opportunity in the lead space. "A bank might buy a mortgage lead for $50, call that lead, and find out it's not the person listed. It's a bad lead. There were operational inefficiencies. We started scoring data using demographic information, with a model that showed how likely a person was going to buy a certain product. It became clear that Targus did a good job of cleaning up the data, but had no purview into the intent of the customer."
Since its inception in January 2011, LeadiD has made a name for itself in the industry as an independent neutral third party, says Shanken. LeadiD and its clients are able to know definitely where data is from and where it traveled to prior to the ultimate recipient of the data.,"It's an authentic lead with an authentic consumer. Insurance carriers, schools, automotive companies, law offices, and more are buying data that has a Lead ID and in real time can run a kind of Carfax report."
Shanken reports that there are now over 600,000 Lead IDs created every day, and emphasizes the concept of trust in the transaction. LeadiD's revenue is largely generated through subscription fees based on expected volume, although it's also possible to pay per LeadiD audit.
Now, Shanken says five of the nation's top 10 for-profit schools are clients, and that number will rise to eight of the top 10 in the next three months. There's similar growth in the auto insurance and legal industries. LeadiD will use the Genacast funds to expand the business through hiring and marketing.

Source: Ross Shanken, LeadID
Writer: Sue Spolan

Growth by shrinkage: DocDep moving to Logan Circle, expanding offerings

Farid Naib founded Document Depository Corporation to solve a problem in his own business, and gambled that the organization of documents was a pain point for many venture capital and private equity companies. With the disappearance of physical file cabinets, DocDep, as it's better known, steps in to provide organized storage of business paperwork.
"When I sold my company to a publicly traded French firm, we were doing due diligence. We needed tax returns from Singapore from 4 or 5 years ago. We were running a pretty global operation," says Farid of his previous company FNX Limited. "We moved offices several times. Some things got misplaced; some things were in Japanese. We took a million dollar valuation hit because corporate governance didn't appear to be in place. GL TRADE, the company that acquired FNX, required a $3.5M warrant escrow. They held onto it for 3 years. For a little bit of software we could have avoided that pain."

The escrow was subsequently returned, but Naib saw a clear need.
The company, founded in 2009, is moving to new quarters at 2 Logan Circle in Center City, but rather than expanding physical space, it's contracting a bit, even as it grows in other ways. It is a fitting move for DocDep, which is all about efficiency and shrinking a business footprint to manageable size with two main revenue-generating products: Radar, for document management, and Sonar, specifically aimed at investment management for VC and PE companies and increasingly relevant in light of reforms brought about by the Dodd-Frank Act.
In 2010, DocDep received $100,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, and in 2011 raised a seed round led by Robin Hood Ventures.
"The DocDep plan for growth, now and in the future, is to continue expanding sales by consistently adding functionality and developing our products," says Naib, who is busy at work planning the company's next release to follow SmartCap, the free online cap table tool released in February of this year. "It will be a variation of the products we already offer; we will be developing an app that will cater to the High Net Worth Individual.  Just the like our apps we are currently offering, it will assist in the organization and management of critical information.  This High Net Worth Individual app will focus on managing personal investments and real estate, and organizing important information such as wills, trusts, and financials. "

Naib is also spending less time at DocDep HQ since he became an operating partner at LLR Partners, a growth private equity firm based at the Cira Center. He says has no plans at this point to sell DocDep. 

Source: Farid Naib, DocDep
Writer: Sue Spolan

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

Need funding? Challenge a billionaire to a chess match for $1M in Series A funding like this guy did

How to get the attention of a billionaire? Challenge him to a game of chess. AJ Steigman came up with the idea to play a high stakes chess match with Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, venture capitalist, and top ranked player. 
Steigman, who recently relocated his company Soletron to Philadelphia, is looking to win a million dollars in series A funding if he can checkmate Thiel.
"Peter and I have very similar backgrounds in chess," says Steigman, who is ranked 2,274 internationally and 2,283 in the US, compared to Thiel, who ranks 2,199 internationally and 2,287 in the US. "In today's economic climate, a lot of people don't have the resources to go after their dreams. This match would signal something to the market, and to entrepreneurs, that unconventional tactics pay off."
Steigman, a chess prodigy who's been getting media coverage for his game since age 5, is no stranger to the big leagues. After co-founding Soletron in 2010 with Shane Robinson, he has already created strategic partnerships with top names: Bruce Chizen, former CEO of Adobe and Oracle board member; AND1's Tom Austin; Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes; and VCs John Friedman, founder of Easton Capital, and Bob Rice from Tangent Capital. Soletron's legal counsel is Baer Crossey, located here in Philadelphia.

Steigman describes Soletron as Etsy for street wear, and Spotify for retail. "Soletron is a social networking e-commerce platform in lifestyle retail verticals." Holding no inventory of its own, Soletron provides a platform for up and coming designers in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Philly.
The social aspect of Soletron is blowing up, with enormous growth, from 1,000 followers in February to 82,000 today. The company blog boasts 5,000 articles, and Steigman says a patent-pending social networking technology is the driving force moving forward.
Steigman is currently participating in a summer internship program at Wharton, and plans to make Philadelphia his permanent home, after living in over seven cities in the past year. "I really want to relocate and centralize," says the South Florida native.
The chess match concept appeals to an international audience, and is beginning to get worldwide press. Steigman awaits Thiel's response. "I don't know any sport or activity where someone has challenged someone else for an investment."

Source: AJ Steigman, Soletron
Writer: Sue Spolan

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

Uber riding steady in Philly, eyes growth here and beyond

Being a baller is not gender specific. Uber, the new black car service in Philadelphia, is a heck of a guy magnet (it works wonders on chicks, too). Launched here last month, Uber takes taxicabs to task, providing concierge level service for just a few dollars more. Most rides within Center City cost the $15 minimum. And it's hella sexy to pick up your date in a chauffeur driven limo. 
Uber just announced tiered service here, following the lead of New York and San Francisco, two other Uber-serviced cities. If you want a standard town car, it's $15, and a swanky SUV goes for $25. In the first weeks of the service, it was the luck of the draw. Sometimes a celebrity style whip showed up, and other times it was the sedan. Now it's possible to choose.
Uber relies on a smartphone app, available for Android and iOS. Launch Uber to get a map of currently available drivers, click to order, and you'll be set for pickup. Along the way, you receive SMS updates about the location of your driver. You can set pickup for another location. One customer, according to Adria Hou, Philadelphia General Manager for Uber, sets his Uber pickup from 30th Street Station while on the Amtrak coming down from New York. Credit card information is already stored, so no cash changes hands.
Hou says Uber marketing relies solely on word of mouth, and that week over week growth here is in line with total company growth. Based in San Francisco, with a total of 60 employees and $44.5 million in venture funding, Uber provides on demand car service in 13 cities internationally, with plans to expand next to Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. Expansion in Washington, D.C., however, has proved dicey.
The main challenge is growing the customer base, says Hou. "Our core users are the tech community." From there, word spreads. Once you experience an Uber ride, it's a challenge to go back to the standard taxi experience. While the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is in charge of the city's taxicab medallion service, may grumble, Hou says Uber is in compliance with the rules. "It's about places where it's hard to get a cab," says Hou. Locations like Fishtown and South Philly are pain points where Uber works most efficiently.
The lean three person Philadelphia team is headquartered at SeedPhilly at 1650 Arch, and will grow over time, says Hou. Uber currently operates between 50 to 100 cars, working in partnership with a variety of already existing limo services here in the city.

Source: Adria Hou, Uber
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

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

SnipSnap's hot streak continues, among six funded in latest Ben Franklin Technology Partners round

Thirty thousand downloads can't be wrong. SnipSnap was one of six companies to receive a combined $675,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, announced on Monday.
SnipSnap, which won Switch Philly during Philly Tech Week last month, received $50,000 toward technology that allows users to more effectively organize coupons.
Also receiving funding were:
Zonoff Inc. of Malvern pulled in $200,000 for its suite of home energy automation hardware and software products, the Diplomat Home Control Platform. Znoff is a spinoff of another Ben Franklin portfolio company, BuLogics.
GroupAppz Inc. of Fort Washington earned $150,000 for its development of mobile and web-based apps that improve group-oriented activity like business collaboration and member engagement.
PeopleLinx of Philadelphia also earned $150,000 for its business software that shapes and directs employees' use of social media tools.
Cross X Platform of Audobon received $100,000 for its shared services solution that includes cloud-based collaborative sales and recruiting engines, efficient back-office support, leadership and capital to increase speed and operational agility.
Syandus of Exton took in $25,000 for its digital medical education programs that use learning simulations to help doctors better learn to diagnose and manage diseases. Ben Franklin previously invested $150,000 in the company.
Source: Jaron Rhodes, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Joe Petrucci
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