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Welcome to N3rd Street: Officially rebranding the city's tech hub

Thanks to the efforts of Indy Hall's Alex Hillman and the local tech firm Jarvus Innovations, the expanse of North 3rd Street between Market and Girard is celebrating a transformational moment. As a nod to the growing number of tech operations and innovative companies located in the area, the stretch has been officially dubbed N3rd ("Nerd") Street.
 
According to Hillman, during a casual conversation some three or four years ago, Jarvus founders John Fazio and Chris Alfano pointed out that the corridor's street signs -- which are written as "N. 3rd St." -- could very easily be interpreted as "N3rd St."
 
"We all sort of slapped ourselves on the forehead for not having realized it earlier," recalls Hillman. And while the phrase was initially nothing more than an inside joke, "before we knew it," he adds, "it was being used in circles outside of our own."
 
Both the city's Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid and Mayor Michael Nutter have referenced N3rd Street during discussions on the city's tech community. The group is careful to point out in its N3RD St. Manifesto that the street's renaming applies not only to "technology nerds," but also to the entrepreneurs and creatives from any number of fields who are doing important work in the area.   
 
"The long-term, large-scale vision for N3rd Street is for us to create a community that makes the area better to work and live in," says Danny Harvith, the Jarvus employee responsible for the majority of the project's outreach work. "And that attracts great people doing great things."
 
A N3rd Street BBQ will take place at Liberty Lands Park on April 11 (2 p.m. - 6 p.m.), with an official naming ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Alex Hillman, Indy Hall; Danny Harvith, Jarvus Innovations



TEDxPhilly announces live webcast and series of post-event 'adventures'

Here's a bit of good news for those who missed out on tickets to this year's sold out TEDxPhiladelphia event, which will be held at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 28: You can still experience the entire show, and without paying a dime.
 
A live video webcast of the event -- specifically the individual speaker talks -- will be "available to anyone with an internet connection," according to a blog post on the TEDxPhiladelphia website. (Full disclosure: Flying Kite publisher Michelle Freeman is involved with TEDx Philly's event production.) And while the live stream address hadn't officially been released at the time of writing (past TEDx live streams are archived here), four separate webcast parties, all of them free, have been announced.
 
Likeminded fans of "big ideas worth spreading," as the TED organization refers to its mission, will be gathering throughout the day to watch the event live. Register here to reserve your space at one of the venues, which include Impact Hub Philly and the Philadelphia Center for Architecture.
 
According to co-organizer Emaleigh Doley, the development of additional programming beyond the annual conference is a major goal of the local TEDx team. Post-conference events expanding on the 2014 theme, "The New Workshop of the World," will run March 26 through 30. Eventually, local TEDx organizers hope to offer programming year-round.  
 
Referred to as "adventures," the post-conference events are intended to "unpack the larger conversation we hope to have at the conference," but in the form of talks, walks and tours for smaller groups. More information about the programs, which range in price from free to $10, can be found here

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Emaleigh Doley, TEDxPhiladelphia

Workshop PHL, a lo-fi maker space, comes to Fishtown

Fishtown will soon be home to a new hands-on arts-and-crafts school known as Workshop PHL.
 
Its founder, Delaware County native Kelly Malone, describes Workshop as a lo-fi, DIY interpretation of a maker facility. It will be a place where affordable classes are treated as laid-back social affairs, and where local creatives will teach everything from simple sewing and cocktail-making to photography and jewelry-making.     
 
According to Malone, the mostly one-night courses offered at Workshop will include "all the popular ones," such as beer brewing and screenprinting. A number of more eclectic offerings are also in the works, including a three-and-a-half-hour "Sewing for Dudes" class and a two-hour course on building tiny glass jar terrariums.
 
The Workshop concept was actually born in Malone's former home of San Francisco, where she opened Workshop SF with fellow maker David Knight in late 2009. Last December, Malone returned to Philly to care for her parents.

"I needed a job and I didn't want to go get a normal one," she says. "So, I decided to open another location here."
 
A decidedly low level of commitment and a co-ed environment are both big parts of the Workshop ethos. According to Malone, throughout her childhood "everybody in my family made stuff, but no one really did it together. The men were in the garage or out in the shed, and the women were in the sewing room."
 
Workshop PHL is currently holding a two-week preview (through March 15) and will open officially on April 1.

"You can just go in and have a good time," explains Malone, "and see if you like it before you really dive in."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Source: Kelly Malone, Workshop PHL

 

Ajungo turns web surfers into brick-and-mortar customers

Thanks to the advent of the OpenID standard, which allows Internet users' online identities to be verified by a third party, logging into sites like Spotify or Instagram with a Facebook account has become commonplace.

In Philadelphia, a marketing firm known as Ajungo -- the name is derived from a Latin word meaning "to connect" -- is going a few steps further, trying to turn those logins into brick-and-mortar customers for clients. The company layers a simple advertisement for an enticing offer over a client's homepage: the website of a neighborhood pub might offer a free burger or drink, for instance. If a web user is willing to login with his Facebook credentials, the offer is his for the taking.
 
That same user's social data will later be crunched -- a process that leads to even more offers, but only for goods and services the Facebook profile indicates the user has a genuine interest in.       
 
"What we've done is put email marketing on steroids, basically," says Ajungo's Mike Wham.
 
While it took Ajungo's IT team almost two years to build out the company's technology, they've only been actively selling the service since last June. Around 120 clients have already signed on, including Tony Luke's and Ladder Fifteen in Philadelphia.
 
Wham concedes that "there are [companies] doing elements of what we're doing," pointing to Gigya and Constant Contact as competitors of a sort. "We've combined certain things that are sort of semi-traditional," he says, "but with a much more exciting and useful way to look at email marketing."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Mike Wham, Ajungo



Replica Creative uses social media to set up coffee dates with local innovators

The Center City design-and-print firm Replica Creative has been in the brainstorming business for some 34 years now. But it wasn't until Replica opened the doors of its now three-month-old University City location, Creative Cafe at Replica (which also houses a coffee shop), that Brand Manager Keith Leaphart stumbled upon an idea that might prove to be Replica's most impressive yet.
 
Leaphart calls it the #DreamCup Campaign.

"Our locations are all about bringing people together," he says. "So, when we opened the second location with a cafe in it, I was sitting there and thinking: Who would people want to have their dream cup with?"
 
Leaphart started by sharing his plan with friends and fellow employees: What did they think about the idea of knocking back a latte with their favorite local thought leader or entrepreneur? The response was overwhelmingly positive -- people wanted to pick the brains of Comcast EVP David Cohen or Philadelphia Style Publisher John Colabelli -- and the #DreamCup campaign was officially launched.
 
To enter, potential coffee klatchers share the name of their would-be #DreamCup date in a Vine video or a tweet sent to @designprintcafe. Once a month, a winner is chosen. Of course, the object of a DreamCupper's affection has to agree to the meeting, which also includes a $25 Replica gift card for the winner.  
 
The campaign's first recipient, City Fit Girls founder Kiera Smalls, happens to be an entrepreneur herself. She shared a cup with Mayor Nutter's Communications Director, Desiree Peterkin Bell.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Keith Leaphart, Replica Creative 



Passyunk Square Civic reaches out to the local Hispanic community through ESL classes

South Philly's Chris DiCapua is a Spanish teacher by trade and a board member at the Passyunk Square Civic Association (PSCA). With a Nicaraguan partner and a passion for the city's Hispanic community, he's also proven to be an important cross-cultural connector. 

"A lot of times, as is really common with most immigrant groups, I feel like the [South Philly Latino] population tends to stick together," says DiCapua. "There's very little contact outside of their own community."

In an effort to breach that cultural divide, DiCapua has used his PSCA affiliation to institute a number of Hispanic outreach endeavors. He started by introducing himself to business owners in the Italian Market and he raised the funds necessary to translate the PSCA's newsletter into Spanish. Last fall, DiCapua and PSCA kicked off a trial-run of low-cost ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for local Spanish speakers.  
  
The second installment of the English classes, which are entirely volunteer-taught, is currently nearing the end of its five-week run. For interested students who aren't able to attend in person, the volunteer teachers also host a weekly ESL class online on the local Philatinos Radio station.
 
The details for the next five-week ESL session aren't set in stone, but DiCapua insists tat "we're definitely planning to continue in the very near future. And hopefully, we're going to do it as long as there's interest."  
 
For information about future classes, email christopher.dicapua@gmail.com or call 267-467-4307.

Writer: Dan Eldrige
Source: Chris DiCapua, Passyunk Square Civic Association

PowerCorpsPHL is improving parklands, enhancing watersheds and changing lives

Thanks in part to $200 million in funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that funds AmeriCorps, Philadelphia is home to an innovative new initiative. PowerCorpsPHL is helping to improve local parklands and watersheds while also acting as a violence prevention strategy for young adults aged 18 to 26.
 
The program got its start when Philadelphia was awarded a $636,000 grant -- one of just six nationwide -- from the CNCS program known as the Governor & Mayor Initiative. Matching funds brought the program's annual budget to $2.1 million.
 
PowerCorpsPHL's goal is multipronged, but at its core is an effort to engage young people. According to Julia Hillengas of the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, the program was developed as way to integrate low-income and underserved young people back into the community, while also providing them with the sort of technical training and job experiences that could lead to skilled employment at the end of each the program's six-month run.
 
Two city agencies are currently partnering with the program; one PowerCorps crew is managing stormwater with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), while the remaining four crews plant trees and revitalize public land with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR).

After serving for six months, the approximately 50 AmeriCorps crew members -- who are funneled into the program from agencies that assist youths who've had legal trouble, or who've recently come out of the city's foster system as adults -- receive three months of job placement support.
 
According to the PWD's Christine Knapp, the program could provide a recruiting funnel for the large number of skilled positions the city will soon need to fill as baby boomers retire en masse. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Julia Hillengas, Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service 




Drexel aims to solve real-world problems at second annual hackathon

Drexel University is hosting its second annual Philly Codefest hackathon this weekend (February 22-23). The event is a nonstop coding marathon that will run throughout the night on Saturday, ending at 1 p.m. Sunday.
 
When the various programmers and hacking teams gather at Drexel's URBN Center this Friday evening for a pre-Codefest meet-up, they'll learn about the event's purpose and its ultimate goal, which involves transforming various open-source datasets into online tools -- websites, apps, prototypes -- that offer actual solutions to real-world problems.          
 
When the Codefest hosted its first event last April, it focused solely on potential health care solutions. But as the event's co-organizer, Abhiroop Das, explains, "If you want to affect large-scale open datasets in health care specifically, there are issues like privacy [to consider]." As a result, most of the applications that came out of the first hackathon revolved around personal health.
 
This time around, "we want to give everyone an opportunity," says Das. "We want to highlight all the talent here in Philadelphia. It'll be more of a traditional hackathon."
 
Along with health and patient care, datasets provided to the coders will range from cyber security and data science to government and civic solutions. The Codefest's 20-person advisory board, which includes the city's Chief Data Officer Mark Headd and University City Science Center CEO Steve Tang, will judge the programmers' results and award prizes. Das says he's expecting well over 100 coders, including both students and professionals.
 
"[Hopefully], we'll see a good amount of projects stay alive beyond the hackathon, and go on to become, to some degree, a success," adds Das.      

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Abhiroop Das, Philly Codefest



The Navy Yard's EEB Hub welcomes its newest international tenant

At the end of January, the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia welcomed its latest tenant -- the Sydney, Australia-based energy efficiency firm Ecosave, Inc.
 
Ecosave's U.S. headquarters took up residency at Navy Yard's Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), a uniquely specialized space that was funded three years ago by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); they hope to significantly transform the energy efficiency market for existing commercial buildings. EEB Hub is the only such U.S. government campus-within-a-campus of its kind in the country.
 
According to Ecosave CEO Marcelo Rouco, his firm had already decided that the Northeast Corridor would be its American base when it eventually entered the U.S. market.

"Because in the Northeast, you have the highest cost of energy," he explains. Ecosave makes its money by helping large commercial buildings use significantly less energy and water; it also offers an ongoing energy-monitoring service to holders of commercial real estate.
 
"[But] we weren't even thinking about Philadelphia," explains Rouco, until an office in Sydney with connections to the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) brought the city to their attention. This was two years ago, and in the time since, Rouco and his team expanded their search for the company's first North American office to Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York.
 
In the end, Rouco says, the existence of the Navy Yard's EEB Hub was a major factor in Ecosave's decision to choose Philadelphia.

"We liked the idea of being part of [a community that] in the future could be the equivalent of a Silicon Valley for green buildings," he says. "An area where we could meet with new technologies and best practices that are being developed, and deploy them early, before they hit the market."  
 
According to a press release distributed by Governor Tom Corbett's office, Ecosave's new Navy Yard headquarters will create 125 new jobs for Pennsylvanians.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Marcelo Rouco, Ecosave



Local startup offers yoga enthusiasts an affordable way to sample the city's studios

A Philadelphia couple's online innovation, PHLyoga, is an idea so brilliantly simple -- so forehead-slappingly obvious -- that the biggest surprise might be that something similar doesn't already exist. 

The brainchild of Kate Bogart and her husband Matt Joyce, PHLyoga offers one service and one product to the downward dog crowd. The first is an event-listings calendar, updated every weekend, cataloging the latest class schedules of nearly two-dozen local yoga studios. 

Then there is the startup's Master Pass -- it offers either five or 10 drop-in yoga classes at five different studios for the very reasonable price of $70 or $130, respectively. That's not a bad deal considering that drop-in classes at each of PHLyoga's partner studios are $15 to $20 per visit.        

According to Bogart, it was her recent relocation to Philly -- she earned a master's degree in International Relations at Columbia University last May -- that led to the idea. 

"It occurred to me that it would be great to jump around and get a sense of which studio I'd [ultimately] like to go to," she says. "But it's expensive to take drop-in classes every time." 

What Bogart really wanted, she says, was a drop-in pass that multiple studios would accept. 

"We're really excited to have [the Master Pass] be something that people new to the city can use to get [acquainted] with yoga [here]," she explains. She also thinks the pass is an ideal solution "for people who'd love to make [yoga] a habit, and who would like to try different styles, and figure out what works for them."
 
As PHLyoga grows, the couple hopes to partner with more studios for its Master Pass clients. According to Joyce, who built the website's first iteration in a mere two weeks, a mobile app may prove to be the young company's next logical step. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kate Bogart and Matt Joyce, PHL Yoga


Impact Hub, a socially-conscious co-working space, opens in Olde Kensington

Philadelphia's co-working scene has matured considerably over the past half-decade. Back in 2006, the Old City-based Indy Hall was literally the only non-corporate option available to self-employed creatives wanting to share their work days with like-minded professionals. 

But this Thursday, February 13, the local outpost of a worldwide, socially-conscious network known as Impact Hub will be celebrating the grand opening of its Olde Kensington office, known as Impact Hub Philly. (Flying Kite's publisher, Michelle Freeman, is a founding member.) They have taken over the beautiful former 3rd Ward space at 4th and Thompson.

Self-described as "part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community center...for companies that seek social or environmental change," Impact Hub was conceived in 2005 after a group of London-based activists grew tired of gathering in cafés and members' living rooms. They rented a space, and decided to expand their circle with others who were also trying to build a better world. 

"That was [essentially] 'Hub Beta,' or 'Hub 1.0,'" says Jeff Shiau, who relocated from Northern California, where he worked with both the Berkeley and San Francisco Hubs, to launch the organization's Philly headquarters. Today, 55 Impact Hub communities are active worldwide, with locations as far afield as Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Athens and Bucharest.

Here in Philadelphia, the change-making members include youth-empowerment groups, a socially-minded law firm, an eco-friendly energy company and a philanthropic organization, among a slew of others.

According to Shiau, who prefers to think of his role in the Hub community as that of a "Sherpa, or a guide who's in service to others," the overarching plan is "to truly stir the community" -- especially the South Kensington community the Philly Hub calls home. 

Tickets for Thursday's launch party have all been snapped up, but you can still join the wait list on Impact Hub's website.  

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jeff Shiau, Impact Hub Philly


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) 

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