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Small But Mighty Arts announces its first roster of micro-grant recipients

If you're involved in Philadelphia's creative community and ever find yourself struggling to afford art supplies or finance your next project, you need to know about Small But Mighty Arts

SBMA is a relatively new arts-funding organization that officially launched in 2012 thanks to $60,000 from the Knight Arts Challenge. (Disclosure: Flying Kite's publisher, Michelle Freeman, sits on SBMA's Board of Advisors.) It offers modest cash grants to local independent artists.

Founder Erica Hawthorne, a vocalist and spoken-word artist who goes by the stage name RhapsodE, relocated from Minneapolis to Philadelphia "purposely to be a part of the creative scene here." According to her, many creative types -- especially those with day jobs -- aren't in the position to compete for big-money grants. 

"When you're a creative person, you can easily [spend] upwards of $200 a month on your art form, just caring for it and pursing it," she says. "That's a [major] added expense." 

Just last week, five local artists in four separate disciplines were announced as SBMA's first official micro-grant recipients. Three of them -- a filmmaker, a tap dancer and a video documentarian -- received $500 each. The founder of a small theater company was awarded $450 and a second filmmaker was granted $300.  

The artists already have plans for their micro-grants. Michael Durkin of The Renegade Company, for instance, plans to pay his actors and rent studio time for theater rehearsals. Tatiana Bacchus, who's making a feature film, will be using her cut for archival photo and video licensing, and to pay for a research assistant. 

"As resourceful artists, [we're] used to doing a lot with a little," says Pamela Hetherington of Philly Tap Teaser. Like Durkin, she'll be paying collaborators and renting theater space with her grant. "It feels amazing to have an organization like SBMA support the work that I've done over the last six years. I'm still very surprised that I won!"

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Erica Hawthorne, Small But Mighty Arts



With R-Health, Philly gets its very first direct primary care provider

No insurance required: Direct primary care provider R-Health recently hung its shingle at 15th and Walnut Streets in Center City.

In some ways, direct primary care is simply a revived version of the old-school family doctor. It's a practice that provides basic, affordable primary care directly to consumers without the bureaucratic red-tape or expense of health insurance companies. In fact, DPC providers don't accept insurance at all. Instead customers either pay a monthly membership fee or pay cash for each visit. 

"Employers and individuals are really looking for innovative solutions when it comes to health care right now," says R-Health founder Mason Reiner. "The costs continue to rise. Quality and convenience is sort of suspect, at best. I think it's really a ripe time for health care innovation."  

R-Health offers a $79 monthly membership plan for individuals; there's no co-pay or deductible to speak of. (Participants often pair this coverage with a health savings account or high-deductible insurance plan, in case of emergency or major complications.) By doing away with the time-intensive paperwork required by insurance companies, doctors are able to spend as much as 30 to 60 minutes with each patient. R-Health physicians also make themselves available by phone, email and teleconference. 

The company currently has just seven employees -- four on the clinical team and three at the corporate level -- but R-Health's goal is to become the leading provider of direct primary care in the Mid-Atlantic region.

"We really believe that the key to improving health-care quality while also reducing costs is to put the physician-patient relationship back at the forefront of primary care," says Reiner.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Mason Reiner, R-Health




On the Ground Redux: Mantua named one of Obama's "Promise Zones"

West Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood -- site of Flying Kite's first On the Ground location -- was recently designated one of five federally-nominated "Promise Zones." The announcement was greeted with some confusion. What exactly does it mean to be a Promise Zone community? Is there money involved? 

According to Farah Jimenez, president and CEO of the Mantua-based People's Emergency Center, a Promise Zone is "at its core, purely a designation." To be more specific, it's something like a federal stamp of prioritization -- a Promise Zone neighborhood gets to "jump the line," so to speak, when it applies for federal funding.

There are other elements to the program: President Obama is encouraging Congress to fund the Zones with a series of tax credits, for instance, that could spur private investment. And, thanks to a reduction in bureaucratic red tape, there's now an incentive for groups like the Pennsylvania Finance Housing Agency and HUD to approve projects in Promise Zone communities. 

"Instead of waiting in line, which is often the tradition around these funding sources, we're more likely to get it fast-tracked," explains Jimenez. "There are more opportunities to get more affordable housing built in our communities." 

So while the Promise Zone designation doesn't come with a proverbial pot of gold, it could provide advantages. The PEC recently filed its third application for low-income housing tax credits with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

"Our hope is that with the Promise Zone designation, this third submission will be a charm," says Jimenez, "and we'll be awarded the allocation funding we're seeking." 

The Center is also looking at a number of possible new initiatives, including a local interpretation of the Harlem Children's Zone, an education nonprofit profiled in the celebrated documentary Waiting for "Superman." 

As far as PEC is concerned, Mantua's run as a Promise Zone region "is not going to be just chasing money," says Jimenez. "It's got to [involve] opportunities that will help us achieve the outcomes that we want for our community."

Source: Farah Jimenez, People's Emergency Center
Writer: Dan Eldridge


With FastFWD, the City of Philadelphia enters the social entrepreneurship game

When the City of Philadelphia entered Michael Bloomberg's 2013 Mayors Challenge last year, winning one of the contest's four $1 million prizes probably seemed a little far-fetched. And yet when the 305 cities that initially applied to the competition -- intended "to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life" -- were whittled down to 20, and then just five, Philadelphia found itself among the victorious. (Chicago, Houston and Santa Monica were also awarded $1 million each; Providence, R.I., took home the $5 million grand prize.)

This all happened roughly 18 months ago. In the interim, the recently-formed Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) has been busy working with the Wharton School's Social Impact Initiative to pound out the kinks in the winning idea, which is being referred to as FastFWD

The program is a partnership between the city's public sector and 10 different social entrepreneurs from the private sector. The two spheres will work side-by-side in an effort to solve some of the city's public safety issues, including recidivism and violent crime. The Mayor's Office has agreed to share its city data with the chosen entrepreneurs, who in turn will spend 12 weeks in an accelerator program managed by Good Company Group.

The application period recently ended. Toward the end of May, the resulting business ideas will be primed and ready to hatch -- or at least, that's the idea.

According to MONUM Co-Director Story Bellows, easing up the procurement process and lessening the pain of dealing with the city's notorious red tape is one of the program's three main objectives.

"One of things we like about [the] public safety [initiative]," she says, "is that it's sort of exposing a market in which entrepreneurs have been underrepresented." 

The city is currently exploring revenue models that would allow FastFWD to continue after its initial $1 million is extinguished. According to Bellows, a second round is already in the works. Health-care, education and youth programs are some of the potential themes, and applications for that consortium will be available to social entrepreneurs sometime this summer. 

The initial accelerator program -- taking place at Impact Hub in Kensington -- will officially kick off with an open-to-the-public event sometime near end of February. Stay tuned.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Story Bellows, Philadelphia Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) 


A Philly company pioneers the latest home 3-D technology

If you're the type of person who keeps a close eye on the gadget-obsessed consumer technology industry -- or if you're simply someone who feels the need to own a tricked-out television -- then there's a decent chance you've recently heard the name Stream TV Networks.

The latest trend in ultra high-definition technology, 4K, is being touted as the next big thing. But just a few years back it was 3DTV being trumpeted by every industry analyst with a magazine column. That prediction, as we now know, never came to pass. Why? The recession certainly didn't help, nor did the functionality issues surrounding those goofy 3D glasses: At upwards of $200 a pair, they were pricey. And they offered no cross-platform functionality -- only Sony's 3D glasses, for example, would work with a Sony 3DTV. To put it plainly, the technology had tons of promise, but too many roadblocks.    

Enter Stream TV Networks, a small Philadelphia-based tech firm. They've been popping up in the national press, thanks to an impressive showing at the 2014 International CES, a massive consumer electronics convention. It was there that Stream TV showed off its most promising new innovation: a fully consumer-adjustable 3D technology that doesn’t require glasses. 

Known as Ultra-D -- the technical term is "autostereo" -- this feature should be available on 4KTV sets sometime this summer. Ultra-D also has the capacity to work on tablets, video game consoles, even Skype. If your device has an HDMI connection, simply plug it into your Ultra-D-enabled TV, and gasp in astonishment as everything from YouTube documentaries to your live chat with grandma pops out of the screen in three surprisingly lifelike and super high-definition dimensions. 

"In the simplest terms, Ultra-D allows any content to be converted in real time into 3D without-glasses,” says Leo Riley, Stream TV's VP of Sales. “It doesn't matter what source it is. It can be internet-based, like YouTube or Netflix. It can be an iPad, an Android tablet, a set-top box, a Blu-ray player, a [Sony PlayStation] -- it doesn't matter." 

Stream TV found its footing back in 2009, after CEO Mathu Rajan purchased a small Silicon Valley-based company that had been dabbling in 3D technology. During an overseas trip, Rajan met four former Phillips technologists who were all looking for work. (Phillips had recently disbanded its own glasses-free 3D division "after dumping almost a billion dollars into it," explains Riley.) Rajan brought all four of them onboard, putting them to work at Stream TV's R&D lab SeeCubic in the Netherlands. 

Almost every member of Stream TV's Center City-based executive team is a native of the Greater Philadelphia area. And while doing more hiring locally isn’t in the immediate future, the company continues to innovate. Recently, they were was one of six Philadelphia firms to win a Marcum Innovator of the Year award, which honors "the contribution of innovation to the Philadelphia area economy." 

Perhaps most promising for the future of the company is the fact that their technology can be imbedded or integrated into anything from a mobile phone to an entire digital city wall system. 

"We have a reach into a lot of different areas of the consumer electronics channel," says Riley. "Basically, anything that has a display, we have a play."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Leo Riley, Stream TV Networks


Career Wardrobe tackles the modern first impression: social media

When Career Wardrobe, a small, grass-roots organization that helps unemployed women transition back into the workforce, launched in 1995, the internet was still a relatively new tool in job seeking. Career Wardrobe originally focused mostly on readying women for the corporate world by equipping them with professional attire, coaching them for interviews, providing resume tips and empowering them to embrace new careers. 

Over the next 18 years, Career Wardrobe grew and adapted along with the economy, serving more than 75,000 women and opening a satellite location and resale store. Now, the organization prepares to debut its most important innovation yet: Work It!, a workshop that will help attendees cultivate the modern version of a first impression -- their social media presence.

Caitlin Day, program manager at Career Wardrobe, said that as the organization researched job trends and spoke to employers, it became evident that developing an appealing online identity had become an integral part of job seeking.

"We began to see just how important having a professional social media presence is to gaining employment," she says. "With 78 percent of employers hiring through social media in 2013, up from 58 percent in 2010, it is more important now than ever that Career Wardrobe's clients have [internet] access and a good understanding of how to leverage social media for their job search."

On Monday, January 27, Work It! will bring together up to 30 participants to receive a professional outfit and makeover, one-on-one networking instruction, a professional headshot and assistance in creating or updating a LinkedIn profile. 

Susan Tabor-Kleiman will be the LinkedIn guru for the event. According to Day, she brings "a vast amount of knowledge and experience" in writing and communicating, and has appeared on MSNBC's Your Business to speak about how to maximize your LinkedIn presence. Volunteers from Comcast will also be present to work one-on-one with attendees.  

Work It! is open to any woman looking to build her networking skills and develop a personal social media brand. Women actively seeking employment are encouraged to apply by January 10 at CareerWardrobe.org/WorkIt.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Caitlin Day, Career Wardrobe


Need to charge your phone? A local company has your back

There are few things worse than watching the battery on your smart phone slowly drain towards zero at the worst possible moment. Fortunately, an innovative local company is hoping to lend a hand.

One of the many vendors debuting products at the recent GreenBuild International Expo was Plymouth Meeting-based CarrierClass Green Infrastructure (CCGI), founded by Jim Innes and Ian Jones in 2008. CCGI designs, sells and installs solar electric, solar thermal and custom off-grid solar power products for commercial and residential customers. 

CCGI's latest solar-powered product addresses a mounting problem for those of us who rely heavily on our mobile devices -- their tedency to lose power at inopportune times. 

Though other public mobile device charging stations are already available, CCGI’s ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations offer the distinct advantage of using green energy to repower devices. In addition to the sustainable advantages offered by their use of solar energy, ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations provide unique security advantages over other charging stations. As a fully off-grid system, ConnecTables continue to provide power during extended electric outages and natural disasters.

ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations are available for commercial and residential use in café, picnic and deck table forms, designed to accommodate a range of table design aesthetics, surface materials and site designs. They are ideal for universities, city parks, outdoor malls, sports complexes, mixed-use developments and theme parks. 

Qualifying organizations may be eligible for low-interest financing of the tables through Pennsylvania's Sustainable Energy Fund, founded during electric deregulation proceedings to promote, research and invest in clean and renewable energy technologies. 

ConnecTables also qualify for the 30 percent federal business energy investment tax credit offered to businesses that install solar; and colleges may use designated green funds to purchase tables.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Paige Wolf, Certified B Corp.

West Philly's Fresh Food Hub, a mobile farmers' market, now serving communities city-wide

America's obesity epidemic is often attributed to a lack of available and affordable unprocessed foods, especially for lower income and urban populations. The mobile farmers' market Fresh Food Hub offers a simple antidote while also supporting the local food system and economy.

Founder Ryan Kuck and his wife's personal gardening project in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia grew into a community garden on Preston Avenue, aptly named Preston's Paradise. Kuck used a pushcart to distribute fresh produce from Preston's Paradise, eventually partnering with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington, to expand. When Flying Kite last covered the company, Kuck had purchased a bread truck and was operating it as a mobile store four days a week.

Now, the company is positioning to grow again.

"Our pilot has been pretty successful and we'd like to extend it to other neighborhoods," says Kuck. "If we really want to take this idea to its full potential, we need to invest."

Kuck launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $9,773 to branch geographically, support more local farmers, extend hours, hire more staff and upgrade the truck.

The community responded -- the Fresh Food Hub campaign exceeded its goal, raising $10,500 even before its funding period was complete.

One community that Kuck is particularly dedicated to serving is Philadelphia's older adults. In addition to food stamps, the truck also accepts produce vouchers from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). Kuck is currently working with PCA to identify additional senior centers in North and South Philly to add to the truck's route. 

Kuck's reaction to the community's support for the Fresh Food Hub is as simple as the food he grows and sells.

"People just are happier when they eat well," he says.

The Fresh Food Hub's Spring operations will begin on April 30; like them on Facebook for updates about the truck's route.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Ryan Kuck, Fresh Food Hub

Inventing the Future: Science Center's Port community expands

Two new biotechnology companies have moved to the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator. They join the 45 other life science, healthcare IT, and emerging technologies startups currently working there. 

Targeted Therapeutic Solutions and Innolign Biomedical both launched as part of the University of Pennsylvania's UPstart Program, which develops Penn's intellectual property by helping faculty form new companies. The initiative provides participants with access to business planning, advice and support resources through collaborative relationships with entities such as the Science Center.

Targeted Therapeutic Solutions is currently developing a unique agent to reduce the incidence of stroke and bleeding for patients at risk for pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and certain types of heart attacks. Innolign Biomedical is utilizing its microfabrication technologies and tissue engineering to develop assessment platforms for the pharmaceutical industry and biomaterials to promote therapeutic tissue regeneration.

"These two new companies complement the diverse composition of the Science Center's Port incubator," says Christopher J. Laing, MRCVS, Ph.D., the Science Center’s vice president of Science and Technology. "The UPstart Program is creating an exciting pipeline of startups in biotech and emerging technologies. We are delighted to provide an ecosystem that will allow these companies to continue to grow." 

Both startups will use laboratory and office space at the Science Center for product research and development. They have each received Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Laing points out that with 198 hospitals and six major medical schools in the region, Philadelphia is the largest market for healthcare in the country -- which makes it a great city for startups in the field. 

"Greater Philadelphia is also home to 15 leading life science companies, and 78 have headquarters in the region," he says. "That is very important for health companies looking to establish relationships with industry."

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Christopher J. Laing, University City Science Center

Inventing the Future: Creative Café @ Replica, first-ever print shop/cafe opens in University City

Believe it or not, until December 2, there was no one-stop shop for caffeine and creatives—no Kinko’s/Starbucks joint venture. Keith Leaphart, the CEO who reimagined the graphic design firm Replica Creative at a time when many thought print was a dying business, saw this as an obvious opportunity. 

"I’m proud that Philadelphia is the birthplace of this concept,” says Leaphart. "The Creative Café @ Replica allows us to do what we love to do best, and that is provide great services, while meeting and greeting people. And what better way to do that than over coffee?”

The Creative Café @ Replica prints marketing materials, wedding invitations and custom wall graphics while serving up comfort food from DiBruno Brothers and coffee from Counter Culture. Leaphart hopes that the cafe/lounge/print shop hybrid will be more than the sum of its parts; its location at University City Science Center should be a huge asset.

"So much is happening in University City," he says. "The creative economy is truly thriving; and University City is one of the best places to be, to foster and grow original concepts. When we found this space in the Science Center, it was love at first sight…I was excited at the opportunity to launch the concept in the heart of the innovation zone."

Though two different groups of employees were hired to staff Creative Café (graphic designers and baristas), Leaphart looked for the same basic qualities when hiring

"Across the board, we like intelligent, energetic, creative types who understand that our corporate philosophy is ‘Grow or Go!’" he explains. 

The Creative Cafe @ Replica is located at 3711 Market Street; to learn more, visit replicacreative.com and follow @designprintcafe on Twitter. 

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Keith Leaphart, Creative Café @ Replica 

Local startup RJMetrics continues to thrive, and hire

When Flying Kite last covered Center City software analysis firm RJMetrics in May 2013, the company had launched a new product and almost doubled its staff. Since then, not much has changed — the company is still growing and innovating.

One of RJMetric’s most buzzed-about discoveries occurred when the company turned its analysis on itself. CEO Robert J. Moore wrote a candid blog post about internationalization after Tweets alerted him to the fact that the company’s new logo was could be misconstrued as, um, underwear (Y-fronts to be exact). Moore interpreted the reactions, parsed the data and made tweaks to the design.

"The Y-fronts post is a great example of opportunism in marketing," says Moore. "We could have quietly changed the logo and the total universe of people who noticed anything would be small enough to count on one hand. Instead, we publicized the story and were able to drive a month's worth of traffic to our website in a day."

This astute handling of online data is precisely what as fueled RJMetrics’ exponential growth. Launched in Camden in 2009, the company moved to Center City in 2012 in order to expand. Since May, the staff has grown from from 26 to 42 employees.

Moore calls the move to Philadelphia an "exciting and rewarding experience," and credits local leaders for their commitment to promoting entrepreneurship, including Philly Startup Leaders, their landlord at the Philadelphia Building, and Mayor Nutter's administration. 

Now, the company is looking to expand again. According to Moore, the ideal RJ Metrics employee is ambitious and intrinsically motivated, which ensures the company's success while creating an honest and impactful work environment. 

"We are here to win, and we look for people who are looking for the same in their lives," he adds.

RJ Metrics is now seeking a data analyst, account manager, operations engineer, senior software engineer, UX designer and junior developer. To learn more about open positions, visit: http://rjmetrics.com/jobs.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Matt Monihan, RJ Metrics

Hacking for good gets a prominent showcase

To the general public, the term "hacking" might still invoke isolated rogues in dark rooms. However, in Philadelphia’s thriving coding community, hacking for good has become so common that Technical.ly Philly is hosting an event to showcase the best projects that have come out of hackathons in the past year. On December 6, they will present the Civic Hacks of 2013 Demo Night.

"Civic hacking is the act of using simple technical solutions to address or better understand bigger social problems," says Corinne Warnshuis, events coordinator at Technical.ly Philly. "I think people are becoming more familiar with the concept, but I do think there may still be some negative associations with the term ‘hacking’ in the broader population. To those people, I would say come out to the demo night or a hackathon to learn more about the process."

The demo night will feature five of the most interesting online tools created at hackathons such as Random Hacks of Kindness, Day of Civic Hacking and Code for Philly meetups. Presenters include Mjumbe Poe from Councilmatic and myPhillyRising; Kathryn Killebrew of OpenTripPlanner; Ben Garvey from Bulldog Budget; and Amy Laura Cahn from Grounded in Philly

Warnshuis is particularly excited to hear from Councilmatic, which aims to get regular citizens more involved with the city's legislative process. She beleives that all civically-minded citizens can help create apps to better understand the city.

"You don't have to be a developer to participate,” she says. “Some great projects are the result of ideas from those with deeper understanding of some specific social or civic issue. I think there's a place for everyone at hackathons, and the Civic Hacks Demo Night is a great entry point to find out more about them."

Civic Hacks of 2013 Demo Night will take place 6:30 - 8 p.m. December 6 at O3 World, 1339 Frankford Ave., Suite 3.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Corinne Warnshuis, Technical.ly Philly

Inventing the Future: Fostering a Canadian invasion in healthcare IT

When considering international business opportunities, investors often overlook our neighbors to the North. However, the economic development spurred by Canadian companies is quite significant. 

Vince Finn, trade commissioner of Life Sciences & Health IT at the Consulate General of Canada, estimates that bilateral trade between Canada and the U.S. nets more than $24 billion annually and contributes to 300,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

In November, at the fifth annual eHealth Innovation Summit at the University City Science Center, eleven emerging Canadian healthcare IT companies demonstrated their technologies. These startups are part of a "market immersion" program launched by the Science Center and the Canadian Consulate General; it has been dubbed the Canadian Technology Accelerator at the Science Center (CTA for Health IT). 

The CTA for Health IT offers a communal co-working space at the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator, as well as access to programming, resources and support from the local network. Participating startups aim to build their relationships with hospitals, insurers, clinics and physicians in the city. 

The program launched in May 2013. The second group of startups took up residency at the Science Center in September 2013. Companies from both classes presented at the summit: Infonaut offers real-time clinical information about hospital infection prevention and control; Pulseinfo Frame offers database-driven informatics for disease management and clinical workflow improvement; Sensory Tech develops telemedicine solutions for in-home hospice care services; and HandyMetrics Corporation commercializes hand hygiene methods. 

Some of the participating demonstrators, including Memotext and Pulseinfo Frame, have plans to stay in Philadelphia after the immersion program is complete.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center

Hidden City's Nathaniel Popkin delves into the sordid history of Philly's art world in debut novel

Prolific storyteller Nathaniel Popkin has written about the city of Philadelphia in multiple mediums -- as a journalist at City Paper, an architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the author of two non-fiction books, founder and co-editor of Hidden City Daily, and script writer for the documentary film series Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. Now Popkin is publishing his first work of fiction, Lion and Leopard, a historical novel set in the Philadelphian art scene in the early 19th century.

Lion and Leopard explores the developing rift between Philadelphia's established art community, led by Charles Wilson Peale, and proponents of the new Romantic and naturalistic styles. German artist John Lewis Krimmel paints subversive urban city scenes and clashes with Peale prior to his mysterious untimely death.

Popkin decided to focus his novel on the life and death of John Lewis Krimmel after seeing Krimmel's work in historian Gary Nash's book First City

"I commiserated with his project, as I've done a good deal of street photography," says Popkin. "Then I saw he died tragically, at 32, drowning in a mill pond in Germantown. I was intrigued. It was a mystery. It seemed apocryphal -- his death coincided with the end of nature and the beginning of the mass exploitation of the natural world with industrialization. It seemed like hidden history that I could explore through fiction."

Popkin did not hesitate to re-imagine the lives of iconic Philadelphians, such as Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts founder Peale. Rather, he found that by interpreting the "reality" of history, he was able to bring characters to life in a way that would resonate with modern readers.

Despite Popkin's prolificacy and reputation, his idea for a historical novel set in Philadelphia was not immediately well-received by publishers. Then he met Nic Esposito of The Head and The Hand, a startup press based in Fishtown. 

"I wanted a publisher who would help me get the book right, produce it and sell it in a mindful, intentional way, and that's what they have done," explains Popkin. “They're a Philly press. I happen to believe that we need more Philly presses with national vision to publish literature if we're going to become a good book city. 2013 was a tremendous start for the press."

"No one looks askance when a New York publisher publishes a novel written by a New Yorker that's set in New York," he continues. “No one wonders if that isn't a bit provincial. Philadelphia -- or any particular place well-conceived in fiction -- is enticing to publishers looking for something new. We have plenty of delicious material."

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Nathaniel Popkin

Inventing the Future: Local startup Ycenter offers immersive international learning experiences

Speaking at IgniteGood's Ignition Philly event last week, Dhairya Pujara demonstrated his mastery of the organization's narrative workshop, which helps participants develop storytelling skills and become better advocates. Pujara's story was clear and concise, and his connection with the audience was authentic.

It is that ability to reach people, and the value Pujara places on his experiences doing so, that prompted him to found Ycenter, a startup non-formal learning center offering international experiences.

Born and raised in India, Pujara came to the United States in 2010 to pursue a M.S. in biomedical engineering at Drexel University. After graduating, he traveled to Mozambique to work in a rural healthcare system for five months. There, Pujara realized how ill-prepared he was to use his engineering skills to solve real world problems. 

"My communication skills were challenged in this Portuguese-speaking war-torn country," says Pujara. "My first few weeks were very shocking and challenging. To collaborate with members in the rural community, I realized the need to understand and be a part of this culture. It didn't matter where I came from, my educational background or my intentions, until I set aside my ego and immersed myself in this new community." 

Pujara's experience taught him the importance of "rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty." After returning to Philadelphia from his time in Mozambique, Pujara developed the concept for Ycenter. 

"Traditional study abroad programs offered by universities are very academic in nature and very formal," he explains. "And then there are volunteer programs, which are not structured for attaining concrete learning objectives. Ycenter's non-formal learning program helps students supplement their formal field of studies and work on community impact projects internationally." 

Drexel Product Design Professor Mike Glaser and Dean of the School of Biomedical Engineering Banu Onaral helped give Pujara direction; Philly VIP connected him with pro-bono legal services from Dechert LLP. Students from Drexel, Temple and LaSalle have expressed interest in applying for the program.

Ycenter's biggest challenge has been raising capital, but Pujara is confident -- he plans to launch the startup's first immersive learning experience in March 2014.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Dhairya Pujara, Ycenter

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