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SeedInvest rides rise of crowdsourced equity funding

"There's no question," says Ryan Feit, founder of SeedInvest, "entrepreneurs are a job creation engine." SeedInvest, which won third place at Philly Startup Weekend 3.0, is perfectly timed to rise from newly enacted legislation that changes 80 year old securities laws. Feit graduates from Wharton with an MBA in just a few weeks, but is already on a fast track to becoming a major player in finance.

SeedInvest was born when President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law on April 5, allowing individuals to make equity investments in startups. Taking crowdfunding a step further than Kickstarter, the JOBS act allows anyone to gain an equity stake in an entrepreneurial effort. "It opens up investment to the 99%," says Feit, who sees SeedInvest as an evolution from microfinancing and investing clubs.

Feit, who worked on Wall Street before entering Wharton, caught wind of the JOBS Act movement around nine months ago, and began working closely with Startup Exemption founder Sherwood Neiss, who garnered bipartisan support in congress.

SeedInvest puts a cap on individual efforts, so that those with under $100,000 net worth, or who make under $100,000 salary can invest 5% or $2,000, whichever is lesser. Over $100,000, a 10% annual investment, up to $100,000 per year, is the max.

Since Startup Weekend, Feit has been very busy. "I've had a lot of people who reached out from the Philadelphia community who are interested in investing." Feit is now in the process of seeking a seed round of funding in an undisclosed amount. The business is still in pre-launch, and interested investors can sign up for more information at the website.

"I am hoping to have a leadership role to help think through issues with later stage financing," says Feit. "This new business model of crowdfunding has not happened before. If you are a later stage investor, this is something you will find challenging to invest in. There are creative ways for companies to raise seed funding that will not preclude fundraising down the line. There is a solution."

Source: Ryan Feit, SeedInvest
Writer: Sue Spolan

Makin' it rain: Inside the best Philly Startup Weekend ever

Returning to the University of the Arts, site of the first Philly Startup Weekend, PHLSW 3.0 was the most impressive yet, yielding a creative crop of disruptive tech startups. Winner Yagglo, from Shawn Hickman, Michael Kolb and Harland Pond, offers a new web browser for the iPad, a much needed graphic interface that even a toddler could master. Second place went to CreditCardio, led by the charismatic Anittah Patrick, and third place was awarded to SeedInvest, founded by well-connected Wharton MBA candidate Ryan Feit.

Pitching at Philly Startup Weekend offers its own thrill. While over 50 lined up from the diverse pool of 132 attendees which included three teens, plenty of women, and a wide range of ages and ethnicities, only 18 made it past the initial round on Friday night.

Several teams concentrating on finance stood out early on. CreditCardio's pithy mission to promote fiscal fitness made it a sure contender. "Fear is the main reason people are afraid of the word finance," says Patrick, who's an educator with years of work experience in the credit card industry. "CreditCardio offers fun graphics, accessible language, a quick quiz and tutorials."

SeedInvest, which rides the wave of the recent JOBS Act signed into law by President Obama on April 5, takes equity startup investing into crowdfunding territory following changes in 80 year old securities laws. Feit, who left his job on Wall Street to attend Wharton, says, "Nine months ago, I caught wind of this movement. I've been working with Sherwood Neiss, who achieved bipartisan support in Congress for the JOBS Act."

Perhaps the most thrilling new business to come out of the weekend was StagFund, a bachelor party funding and planning site. Making it rain, the hopeful startup included PHLSW organizer Brad Oyler and repeat participant Ted Mann of SnipSnap, whose Eff the PPA won PHLSW 2.0. The team is looking for $100,000 in funding, preferably in singles.

Ted Miller's Zazzberry, a startup that proposes a permanent version of the Startup Weekend ethos, had the most polished look and feel of all the teams. Transportation and travel inspired many: Truxi, Special Places, Art Avenue, Carcierge, Offtrack Online, Family Time (created by the father-son team of Michael Raber and his offspring) and Itinerate all cater to a world on the go.

On a related note, AppRenaissance announced today that it has acquired Michael Raber's UXFLIP, The Fall 2011 DreamIt grad will join Bob Moul's company, merging his product with AppRen's Unifeed.

Chris Barrett's Tubelr, a social video viewing site, was a crowd pleaser with great original video in the final presentation. QRag and Roshamgo gave the weekend game. One2Many proposed goods in trade for volunteer services. Do a good deed and receive an iPod for your efforts.

PHLSW 3.0 judges were VCs Gil Beyda and Austin Neudecker from Genacast Ventures, First Round Capital's Chris Fralic, Wayne Kimmel of Artists and Instigators, and Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger.

Startup Weekend mentors were legion, with a total of 38 sponsors and coaches including Stephen Gill of Leadnomics, who was on the winning LaunchRock team of PHLSW 1.0; CloudMine's Marc Weil, Brendan McCorkle and Derek Mansen kept a constant presence. Rumor has it that the recent DreamIt grads are set to announce an oversubscribed seed round. Lokalty's Balu Chandrasekaran and Philip Tribe provided meals and advice. Attorneys Lenny Kravetz and Geoffrey Weber circulated. Chuck Sacco, president of Mobile Monday Mid-Atlantic, stopped by. Elmer Thomas of SendGrid came from San Francisco to sponsor and provide funding for the afterparty at Fado.

Bob Moul, PSL leader and AppRenaissance president, was on hand all weekend. Chris DiFonzo of OpenDesks, Yasmine Mustafa of NetLine, serial entrepreneur Bob Solomon, Kevin Jackson of Dell Boomi, Elliot Menschik of VentureF0rth, and SeedPhilly's Brad Denenberg and Yuriy Porytko (who also helped organize the event) were all circulating throughout the 54 hour marathon. Tom Nagle, Alli Blum, Melissa Morris Ivone and Chris Baglieri rounded out the management team.

But don't get too comfortable, Philly entrepreneurs. Startup Weekend Health is just around the corner, literally, at VentureF0rth June 1-3.

Source: Ryan Feit, Annita Patrick, Brad Oyler, Philly Startup Weekend
Writer: Sue Spolan

Old City mobile developer AppRenaissance announces $1.5M seed round, hiring at least four

It's that million dollar smile. Bob Moul, Chairman and CEO of AppRenaissance, announced today that the year-old company has raised a $1.5 million seed round of investment led by FirstMark Capital, with contributions from Moul and other Philadelphia angel investors.

AppRenaissance, a rapidly expanding mobile developer located in Old City, expects to take in a million dollars in revenue in its first year, which wraps up midyear. "I would expect to at least double or triple that the second year," says Moul. "We’ll be focusing on major brands in 2012 and have a senior sales exec coming on board to drive that."

Additionally, says Moul, AppRenaissance will use the funding to hire a project manager, some developers, and some architects, as well as to improve its core product Unifeed, a patent-pending mobile middleware platform. "We have both floors at 309 Cherry, so plenty of room to expand," says Moul, who made a successful exit from Boomi when it was acquired by Dell, and was also recently appointed President of Philly Startup Leaders.

Moul, who previously stated that there is a need to close the gap in entrepreneurial funding, says that this seed round "is the stage between friends and family and an A round where an early stage VC would invest.  However, it is on the larger size and has a VC participating." FirstMark Capital was also an investor in Boomi.

AppRenaissance customers include TicketFly, BizEquity, AllFanz, R5 Productions, the newly launched geo-social startup Interact, and high-risk insurer Pennsylvania Surplus Lines Association.

Source: Bob Moul, AppRenaissance
Writer: Sue Spolan

Romancing the data: Plehn Analytics seeks investment for its government-sourced financial reports

Talk about harmony in data. Plehn Analytics is the first company of its kind to produce financial reports with information sourced directly from a range of government agencies including IRS tax returns. The data remains confidential.

Jose Plehn-Dujowich, co-founder of Plehn Analytics, comes from an academic background, and is still a professor at Temple's Fox School of Business
"I have a long history of doing academic research and consulting," says Plehn-Dujowich. "There's great value in a lot of the data collected by the federal government, but there is very little in digestible format." With every agency collecting data in its own way, it was a challenge to be able to make sense out of all the data.
Plehn-Dujowich won first place at the 2011 Be Your Own Boss competition at Fox; the fledgling company was the recipient of a cash prize, software and services from which Plehn Analytics continues to benefit.  It was out of that competition that Plehn-Dujowich met co-founders Dr. Ivan Ruzic, who now serves as President & CEO; and Kevin Sheetz, Plehn's Managing Director of Banking.
This is Plehn-Dujowich's last semester at Temple. He is leaving his tenure-track position to focus full time on the company, which recently received a $150,000 grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA and also received $220,000 from a combination of angel investors and company management.
Sheetz says that the proprietary software is in beta test mode with three accounting and auditing companies, and in the next month or two will enter full force into the marketplace. "One of the main areas of focus for Plehn is benchmarking, understanding client performance in relation to its peer group," says Sheetz. "Our data allows you to get very granular, comparing your company to those of comparable size in the marketplace."
Plehn, with a total of 30 full and part time employees, has just begun its next investment found, seeking to raise $500,000.

Source: Jose Plehn-Dujowich, Kevin Sheetz, Plehn Analytics
Writer: Sue Spolan

Baiada Center expands to Baiada Institute, offers family wisdom at recent summit

The Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship announced today that it is expanding to become the Baiada Institute, a University-level institute within Drexel University. The Baiada Institute will pursue more seed capital, micro-grants, and Small Business Innovation Research grants. 

Previously, Baiada functioned within the LeBow College of Business. 

The parents of Mel, Mark, Mike and Matt Baiada must have been some kind of magic. The four siblings have found business success in very different fields. On March 8, the Baiada Center, named after the family patriarch, hosted The Brothers Baiada: 4 Faces of Entrepreneurship.
Mark Baiada founded Bayada Nurses, and has grown a home health care operation to more than 200 offices in 20 states. He was awarded Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year, which commended his tenet to think big, work hard, and show love.
Mike Baiada was one of Drexel's earliest students to receive dual business and engineering degrees. Mike's ATH Group fundamentally alters the air traffic control process, aiming to greatly increase timeliness and profitability. Mike, also a commercial airline pilot for United, says the secret to success is to determine process first, and then create minimal technology to make ideas a reality.
SolidSurface Designs is Matt Baiada's business. "When I was in grammar school, we had to walk two miles to get home. We would pass a lumber yard every day," recalls Matt. "There was a contractor there who had a whole lot of cash and was always peeling off bills. That was pretty impressive." Matt began by fixing up the Baiada family home, then founded a carpentry and cabinetmaking business that became SolidSurface, a 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility with 25 employees.
Mel, the youngest of the brothers, went into information technology. He sold his company Bluestone to Hewlett Packard in 2001 for over $350 million. His advice: passion is useless if there is no need for your product or service in the marketplace -- save your passion for long term sustainability. Mel is now managing partner at BaseCamp Ventures and President of Basecamp Business
The early morning event, part of the Eye of the Entrepreneur series, drew a crowd of about 150.

Today's announcement was made possible by a $500,000 donation from the Barbara and Charles Close Foundation, $250,00 from Mel and Mark Baiada and $200,00 from Dick Hayne of Urban Outfitters, also a Drexel trustee. A behavioral laboratory planned for the new 12-story LeBow College of Business facility will foster experiential learning in sales and negotiations.

Source: Matt Baiada, Mark Baiada, Mel Baiada, Mike Baiada, Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Sue Spolan

New Philly Startup Leaders president: 'We are way closer to cracking the code than people think'

Bob Moul, the new head of Philly Startup Leaders, joked that he was ambushed into accepting the position. Termed "a recovering corporate guy" by interviewer Greg Bernabeo of Saul Ewing at last Thursday's PACT Expert Series Event with Philly Startup Leaders, Moul entered the startup world initially as a way to give back.

Moul, who literally began his career in the mailroom of EDS in 1981, advanced through the ranks, and got hired by SCT, which was purchased by Sungard for $650 million. Moul then moved to the far smaller Boomi. He went from managing 1200 people at SCT to 15 people at Boomi, but describes it as one of the happiest times of his life because he could wear so many hats. 
Success followed Moul, who sold the Software as a Service integration provider Boomi to Dell in 2010. "After I sold Boomi, I finally had an opportunity to lift my head up," says Moul. "I was a little disappointed in what I saw. This region has so much potential, with so many raw ingredients. We have world class universities. It's a great city to work and live in. We have great entrepreneurs. I asked myself why it's not all coalescing."
Moul, who now serves as CEO of appRenaissance in addition to his PSL post, cited the Delaware Valley's checkered stats: "Our region is No. 3 in terms of innovation capacity, No. 4 in R&D expenditures, but dead last of the top 15 metro areas in terms of business creation and entrepreneurial activities." 
Starting a year ago, Moul says he approached anyone who would have a conversation with him about the gap. A hundred meetings later with entrepreneurs, angels, VCs, and institutions, Moul reports an almost unanimous feeling that so much more could be done. "We are way closer to cracking the code than people think," says Moul. 
In particular, Moul would like to see a bridge between friends and family funding and VC funding. Retooling the culture will increase the willingness of successful businesspeople to give back through mentoring and advising. "Try to lead by example, or pay it forward. The more you put out, the more you get in return," says Moul.

"Innovation is a messy thing. It's not a linear process. We need a culture where it's OK to take risks, and at the same time OK to fail. As entrepreneurs, we should get more efficient about how we do that by testing quickly and failing quickly, not eating up a ton of capital in proof of concept."

In response to one audience member, Moul advised the entrepreneur to validate first and code second.
Moul is encouraged by the proliferation of coworking spaces and incubators sprouting up in the area. "Entrepreneurs come together and atoms start bouncing off each other. New initiatives are created. There's support when mentors hang around."

Moul recommends a forum where businesses pitch problems to entrepreneurs, rather than the traditional format where entrepreneurs pitch to business.
Moul is already hard at work shaping the future of PSL, and just announced the creation of the PSL leadership team. Danielle Cohn will helm Public Relations; Brian Glick will be in charge of the new PSL Circles Program, designed to cluster like minded startups; and a new PSL University will be led by Bob Moore of RJMetrics. Tracey Wellson-Rossman will head PSL's new partnership program, and Tim Raybould, CFO of Ticketleap, joins as PSL treasurer.

Source: Bob Moul, PSL
Writer: Sue Spolan

TicketLeap CFO Raybould aims to fill in the blanks for entrepreneurs with Capography

There is no better feeling in the world. When you're a startup and those first investments start coming in, it's a heady combination of validation and responsibility. Suddenly, there's money to spend. But that good feeling deflates fast in the face of a blank Excel spreadsheet, and terms to make your head spin.
Capography, launched last week, simplifies and standardizes the process of keeping track of all that money. Founder Tim Raybould, who is also CFO of TicketLeap, hopes that Capography becomes the standard resource for startups and entrepreneurs to maintain and share cap tables. The cloud-based product has national and possibly international reach.
Capography, which is a separate business from TicketLeap, is available for a $199 annual fee, and includes three compelling features: instead of the blank slate of Excel, Capography provides a wizard, which guides the user through a series of questions. Next is a feature Raybould calls The Thinking Cap. "It's a widget at the bottom of the page," says Raybould. Open it up to get details on any term you don't understand. "It's more than just a definition. It cuts through the noise." There might be opinions from prominent figures in the industry, or examples of the term in action. 
The third feature is the waterfall report. It shows startups exactly how profits would be distributed among investors. "The report dwindles it all down to one number: how much I get if I sell the company for X," says Raybould. "There are complicated terms that dictate who gets paid what first. Usually, founders don't get access to the waterfall until they are ready to sell the company. Capography's waterfall report allows you to model it out anytime."
Raybould developed Capography during nights and weekends, and plans to remain in his position as TicketLeap's CFO, where he maintains records on the company's $7 million in investments.

Just days after Capography was launched at the February 2012 Philly Tech Meetup, Philadelphia based DocDep announced the launch of SmartCap, which seems to be a direct competitor to Capography, but is aimed at VCs as well as venture backed companies, with a more complex pricing structure with some services for free and a tiered pricing structure for advanced offerings.

Source: Tim Raybould, Capography
Writer: Sue Spolan

Got entrepreneurial pain? Wharton provides soothing relief at upcoming conference

There are a couple of phrases that accompany just about every entrepreneurial gathering, and "pain point" is a biggie. On February 17, The Wharton School will host the all day conference, Turning Pain Points into Opportunity. Miriam Raisner, conference VP and a Wharton MBA candidate herself, says the gathering is meant to broaden the idea of entrepreneurship. 
It's not all about the app. While most people these days equate start ups with high tech, Raisner says brick and mortar is still an avenue for entrepreneurs, and she cites recent efforts in the world of fashion (like Kembrel, created by Wharton students), as well as in health and wellness. Each of those topics will have its own panel of experts at the conference, and Veeral Rathod, co-founder and president of men's apparel company J. Hilburn will be one of the keynote speakers.
Raisner is also excited by a panel that teaches people to monetize their expertise, either as a speaker, a consultant, or by creating a business. "It's really helpful for people to have a frame of reference as to how different types of businesses grow," says Raisner, who says participants in the conference's shark tank will get critical feedback from venture capitalists, and possibly even get funding. There's also a startup fair, with fifty companies signed up so far.
Raisner expects around 400 attendees to the 16th annual conference which will be held in Center City at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, with reduced rates for members of the Entrepreneurship Club, students and Penn alumni.

Source: Miriam Raisner, Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania
Writer: Sue Spolan

SeedPhilly aims to connect startups with investors: "Don't find us, we'll find you"

Brad Denenberg knows how to generate buzz, and the local entrepreneur has been cultivating a high level of interest for months before SeedPhilly officially opens at 1650 Arch St. in Center City.

Part tech incubator, part shared workspace, and part online resource, Denenberg sees SeedPhilly at its most basic level as a place for entrepreneurs to connect with investors. 
Back in August of 2011, Denenberg met with me at the newly opened Milkboy Philly to talk about SeedPhilly, but more important, to talk about how I was not allowed to write about it yet. In the middle of our conversation, the entire place started to rumble, and then slowly undulate. Some kind of mover and shaker. Philadelphia's great earthquake of 2011 rolled straight through that first meeting.
Now, finally, the story can be told. In the process of meeting dozens of area entrepreneurs, investors and members of the press, Denenberg managed to make an indelible impression and create a hunger for the moment when the story was allowed to go public.
Denenberg, working with Yuriy Porytko, who is doing community outreach, has taken over space vacated by the defunct law firm Wolf Block, and is now in the process of outfitting the expanse with room for up to 50 people, half in an open area, and half in window offices flanking the bullpen.
SeedPhilly, which has applied for non-profit status, differentiates itself from other incubators and co-working spaces because, says Denenberg, the companies will be curated. "I co-founded Philly Startup Leaders," says Denenberg of the local group that runs a very popular listserv. "The same questions were being asked over and over."

It was the need for a central database of local information that planted the seed for the SeedPhilly database, which is one of the three components of Denenberg's plan, along with the coworking space and a plan to bring investors and entrepreneurs together. 
"Entrepreneurs were saying, find them an investor, and investors were saying, find them an entrepreneur," recalls Denenberg, who feels that while there is no shortage of either startups or seed money in the Delaware Valley, until now, there's been no centralized spot for meeting up.
Denenberg, using personal funds to outfit and run the SeedPhilly office, will soon be bringing on participants, who will be expected to remain for no more than 18 months. SeedPhilly will not take an equity share; rather, it will generate revenue by charging a monthly fee of $325 per desk and $700-1,200 per office, which can fit up to four people.
SeedPhilly plans to hold regular classes, the first of which is a four week Microsoft Windows Phone development course. And he plans to schedule a steady stream of investors who will give talks, take meetings, or just drop in for a casual cup of coffee and a chat.
As far as the application process? Denenberg replies, "Don't find us. We'll find you."

Source: Brad Denenberg, SeedPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

DreamIt startup accelerator in Israel to be first-of-its-kind hybrid program

It is now time to look toward the land of milk and honey for the latest in tech. "Israel is famous for its technology innovation, though many companies have difficulty expanding into the US and global markets," says Mitchell Golner, Managing Partner of DreamIt Israel, the latest expansion of the Philadelphia based startup accelerator. After adding a New York City program in 2011, DreamIt Ventures goes global in 2012.

On January 17, applications opened up for Israeli entrepreneurs. Noelle McHugh, DreamIt's office manager, says companies have already started applying, and DreamIt expects to choose five Israeli startups to accompany 10 US-based entrepreneurs this summer in Manhattan.

Golner, who has been living in Israel, says DreamIt has been interested in developing a program in the Israel market for a while. "We are focused on helping Israeli startups expand in the US and in global markets. We will consider a wide array of companies that can fit the lean startup model. Most are in the Internet and mobile space and include B2B an  B2C businesses." According to Golner, the new program is a hybrid and the first of its kind in Israel. DreamIt Israel will be based in the environs of Tel Aviv. A specific location has not yet been announced.

Companies will spend one month in Israel and then travel to the US to spend three months in New York. "After the NYC program, when the companies return to Israel, they are offered a workspace for up to 2 months," adds Golner. "The curriculum, coaching, community, and other fundamental aspects of the DreamIt program are consistent across the Israeli program and the NYC program, with specific curriculum elements for the Israeli startups in the first month."

The deadline to apply to the program is early March. The Israel program begins April 15, and participants start the New York segment on May 14, returning home in mid August.  There will be two demo days for the overseas participants: one in New York and one back home. The Israel program wraps up in October.

Source: Mitchell Golner, Noelle McHugh, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Sue Spolan

Conshohocken's PackLate doubling staff, making global moves

You can PackLate if you want to. Steve Barsh, CEO of the Conshohocken based vacation rental company, reports explosive growth in recent months following a deal with Travel Holdings Inc., and its better known subsidiary Tourico Holidays, a worldwide distributor of vacation property rentals via massive travel sites. "If you go on the American Airlines website and book a vacation home, it’s a PackLate property," explains Barsh, as one example.  While PackLate's involvement  on these larger sites is unbranded, according to Barsh, PackLate still reaps the benefits, receiving a commission for each rental.

After raising $1 million in seed funding from colleagues in the VC world, PackLate is poised to double staff this year. With six employees now, Barsh is actively seeking developers to expand the business. He is also looking for office space in Center City, and has a very specific picture in his head: a century old, well-varnished hardwood floors, lots of light and exposed brick. PackLate, reports Barsh, is also about to enter a series A round of fundraising.

The company started for fairly personal reasons. Barsh, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who was a partner in DreamIt Ventures, owns vacation rental properties in Park City, Utah. While trying to rent the properties through popular sites like VRBO, he and his wife realized that there was a lot lacking, like real time functionality. Typically, a renter locates an owner's listing, inquires via email or phone, sends a check and waits for confirmation. The whole process from discovery to confirmation can take days.

By contrast, PackLate provides instant payment and instant confirmation. The other big difference bedsides timeliness, says Barsh, is that PackLate works solely with property managers, not individual owners, and that’s how it is able to offer real time booking capability. It’s a different psychographic from AirBnB customers, says Barsh. PackLate started as a B to C company, and Barsh describes the recent partnership with Travel Holdings as a 90 degree pivot, repositioning as a B to B company and solving a distribution problem. It is still possible, additionally, for individuals to book properties on the site directly.

The great majority of PackLate bookings are inbound US travelers, with Florida at the top of the itinerary. He notes that Orlando is the number 2 travel destination in the world, bested only by Paris. Vacation homes are hot right now, says Barsh. People the world over crave an authentic travel experience, as opposed to a hotel stay.

If you are interested in joining the PackLate team, the top job requirement is a positive attitude, says Barsh, who offers unlimited vacation time and lots of travel for interested developers.

Source: Steve Barsh, PackLate
Writer: Sue Spolan

Center City business intelligence firm RJMetrics raises a quick $1.2M

Center City based RJMetrics just closed on a $1.2 million round of financing from a syndicate that includes both local and national players. "Now I can go back to actively running the business," says CEO Robert J Moore, who recalls that the fast growing business intelligence company made a decision around the end of the third quarter of last year to go to market and see what potential deals might look like.

"We found a deal that made economic sense and we moved extremely quickly," says Moore. "Honestly, from the moment we decided we definitely wanted to raise money, it took less than a week to get all the commitments."
Moore and co-founder Jake Stein, who is COO, met while both were working for Insight Venture Partners, which gave the pair an edge during the fundraising process. "It's very common in these negotiations for entrepreneurs to be confused or intimidated by the legal aspects of raising capital," says Moore. "When one of these deals takes place, there are literally dozens and dozens of small terms, and they can go over the heads of people raising money."
The inspiration for RJMetrics also came while Moore was at Insight. "Part of my job was due diligence on new investments. A lot was driven by data analysis, which I was doing by hand in Excel and MS Access. I was doing that analysis dozens of times, and common themes emerged. As a programmer, I realized I could replace myself with a program."
The productized version of Moore's program is available to businesses for a low monthly subscription fee, and RJMetrics considers venture firms a lead generation channel. The company now has 60 customers, up from 20 in the beginning of 2011, and has grown from 4 to 12 employees in the same time period. The cash influx, which is already in the bank, will go to marketing and continued expansion.

Source: Robert Moore, RJMetrics
Writer: Sue Spolan

Science Center opens Bullpen coworking space, funds three QED projects

The University City Science Center does not slow down for the holidays. In the last week, it has announced a a new coworking space for emerging startup companies and a new round of funding for its QED Proof of Concept program.

The new coworking space, dubbed the Bullpen, is located inside the Science Center's Port Business Incubator (3711 Market St.)  and already has its first "pitcher" in Belgium-based Biologistics Consulting. The Bullpen offers relief from expensive office space in the form of desks, phone, and high-speed Wi-Fi, plus a convenient location in the heart of University City.

In addition, says Science Center President and CEO Stephen Tang, "Bullpen residents have access to the same services and programs offered to all the residents of our Port Business Incubator."

Biologistics Consulting, which is a participant in the Science Center's Global Soft Landing Program, isn't the only Belgian company at the Port Business Incubator. Arlenda Inc., which facilitates risk-based decision making for pharmaceutical- and  vaccine-makers, has moved into office space at the incubator, working closely with local universities, CHOP and Merck, to name a few.

On Monday, three first-time recipients of $200,000 each were announced for the Science Center's QED program, which aims to facilitate commercial investment in early stage and high-potential life science technologies.

Funding went to Philadelphia University for a new biocidal textile technology to address the high-incidence of hospital acquired infections.

Thomas Jefferson University won funding for the first clinically reliable test for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the primary form of pancreatic cancer.

Also, Lehigh University in Bethlehem received funding for a portable medical oxygen concentrator for patients with lung disease.

Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center
Writer: Joe Petrucci

PhilaDev's Musemaka hopes to spawn frictionless startups with $5,000 contest

If you've got an idea for a frictionless startup, then you have a shot at winning $5,000, no strings attached.

Philadev Ventures, the startup accelerator, has just launched Musemaka.com. A maximum of 200 entrants vie for one slot, paying a $100 entry fee. The winner gets a $5,000 budget to create a company. "We hold a challenge open until it has 200 entrants or for a period of three months, whichever comes first," says Philadev co-founder Chris Myers. "During a three-month period, we could fill one challenge or five. Whatever the number, winners are announced 30 days after a particular challenge closes."

Phil Ives, who co-founded Philadev with Myers, defines a frictionless startup as any business idea that costs little or nothing to start. Take the example of a blog. "If you are the writer, and you act as editor, it costs no money to start," says Ives. "Another example is a startup that begins with the design of a physical widget which can be outsourced to China, and requires a three to four thousand dollar initial investment to start selling products."

Philadev has been in business for one year, and Ives says of the six initial companies under its wings, two are about to launch publicly, although he cannot divulge details just yet.

"We have a couple of startups in our accelerator that would be better for this," says Ives of the inspiration for Musemaka. "For us as Philadev, if they don't raise venture or sell their idea, we can never see revenue."

Philadev will not take equity from Musemaka companies, but Ives is open to a future equity relationship. "It's a way for us to discover new startups," he says.

Ives is greatly influenced by the work of Tim Ferriss, whose bestselling book outlines the concept of the Four Hour Work Week. Ferriss defines a muse as an idea that can be tested for under $500, automated within 4 weeks and maintained within a maximum of one hour per week.

"The rolling nature of the application process is important because it helps to address the startup discovery problem I identify on the site regarding Y Combinator.," says Myers. "That's the most extreme example, but it is really difficult to imagine  how any venture group that employs business judgment to evaluate submissions is capable of handling 520,000 submissions a year, as Y Combinator does.

"The result is probably lots of good startups left out of the running. Their application numbers to class size gives startups something along the order of a 1 in 5,000 chance," adds Myers, who also indicates that an applicant has a better chance of getting into Harvard than Y Combinator. 

Says Ives: "This contest addresses a big piece missing from existing small business development organizations. Those places seem really good at helping people open up a physical retail space, but they haven't really cracked the nut on software as a service."

Money, he adds, is never the reason a business doesn't get built. And a big part of the Musemaka package is sage advice from Philadev, including when to call in the high priced lawyers, and when to start small and build.

Ives and Myers have just begun the process of getting the word out about Musemaka, and expect applications to start rolling in within the next month or so.

Source: Phil Ives, Chris Myers, Musemaka
Writer: Sue Spolan

Welcome to the Novotorium: The suburban tech incubator funded by astrology and hookup lines

On a brisk fall night in Langhorne, Occupy Novotorium was going down. A publicity stunt that drew local police, three tents were set up at the entrance to Bucks County's newest tech incubator, compete with drum circle.

Novotorium, a concierge-level tech incubator, opened its doors last week to show off a full service facility aimed at mid-level startups that want to grow bigger. At no cost to participants, and with no contract up front, Novotorium offers a three month residency that includes brand new skylit offices, a fully outfitted fitness room, a data center and spacious kitchen. Currently, the space, located above Voice Systems Engineering (VSE) Inc., has room for 10 people, with lots of room for expansion.

"Novotorium seeks entrepreneurs who are at least beyond proof of concept and have some sort of product launched, and  looking to grow and become profitable," says Mike Krupit, Novotorium's General Manager. "Most incubators focus on seed stage startups, making entrepreneurs venture-fundable, and plan for an exit. Our structure is not fixed like that of many incubators. We develop a program specific to the strengths and challenges, needs, and goals of the company."

The incubator is funded by Baron Innovation Group, the venture arm of Gary Baron, Founder/CEO of VSE and Vector180, also housed in the same building. That means Novotorium gets its funding in part from the profits of VSE's many websites, which include 1-800-gaylive.com, astrosource.com, and psychicsource.com. Vector180's website describes itself as "hospitality solutions for WiFi and surveillance."

"Our goal is to have two companies start in December. If we find our assumptions to be correct, the plan for 2012 would be an additional 12 companies," says Krupit, who is the former CIO of VSE.

Following the three month period, startups are free to go, and if they stay on, negotiate a contract that includes an equity share by Novotorium that will be determined on a per company basis, according to Maria Collins, Novotorium's Creative Director.

"Since we have only started taking applications this past week, it may be difficult to generalize the types of businesses that are applying," adds Krupit. "We have seen interest from information technologies, online services, offline services that are enabled by technologies, including one in the education space, and even an online radio company."

Source: Mike Krupit, Maria Collins, Novotorium
Writer: Sue Spolan
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