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Inventing the Future: EEB Hub offers guidance in wake of new Energy Benchmarking Law

Imagine knowing how much energy a apartment consumed before you signed the lease. Thanks to the recent enactment of the Building Energy Benchmarking Law -- an energy-use disclosure act -- and the expertise of the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub, the environmental performance of buildings will soon be public information.

People who own buildings with over 50,000 square feet of space are now required to report property stats, including annual energy and water use, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's online Portfolio Manager. (The deadline for compliance is October 31, 2013). With help from EEB Hub, those numbers will be analyzed to determine a building's energy efficiency rating. By publishing the results in an open, searchable database, the city hopes to spark a ripple of efficiency improvements.

Energy benchmarking is a new strategy but it's already changing cities across the country. In New York, for example, buildings reduced consumption by 18 to 31 percent after the first year of implementation.

"You can't manage what you don't measure," says Laurie Actman, deputy director of the EEB Hub. "This provides a measurement tool. Hopefully, there will be tenants who seek out more efficient buildings and that will drive more owners to invest in energy efficiency."

Starting August 14, EEB Hub will offer five monthly sessions on the benchmarking process, explaining strategies and resources for increasing building performance. The series compliments a two day "re-tuning" seminar – scheduled for September 23 through a partnership between EEB Hub, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Philadelphia and the EPA -- that teaches building operators to reduce energy costs through ongoing refinements.

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

Source: Laurie Actman, Energy Efficiency in Buildings Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

BrickSimple among the first development shops building apps for Google Glass -- and they're hiring

Google Glass is coming to market this winter, ushering in an era in which users augment reality by strapping the internet to their faces. Not quite, says Det Ansinn, founder and president of Doylestown-based BrickSimple. The company is busy creating apps for users who truly need to keep their hands free.
 
With BrickSimple's Glass apps, critical care doctors can save invaluable time by virtually accessing medical records while they treat the patient. Construction crews can receive instructions from remote managers while they build. Drivers can anticipate directions without looking down at a GPS screen. The company has even developed GlassBattle, the first game made for Google's new platform.
 
"There are a lot of things that you do that don’t work well while holding a smartphone or tablet," says Ansinn. "We realized we could build a whole new class of apps."
 
The company's ambition is no surprise. In 2002, BrickSimple launched Foundation Suite, one of the first successful app development platforms. In 2008, they were among the first to release products for Apple's app store. This year, they were among the few companies in the world invited to Google Glass Foundry, a top-secret hackathon that first unveiled Glass to developers. Soon after, Google provided BrickSimple with pre-released devices.
 
Since its 2001 inception, the company has been developing apps for a slate of industries, from entertainment to finance. They currently employ 25 people, and plan to hire two more developers this month.
 
With six glass apps ready for release and six more in development, BrickSimple has been spending a lot of their time investigating new needs for a world not yet realized. DrivingGlass for example, will allow drivers to monitor performance and fuel economy as they drive -- and their eyes will never leave the road.

"I'm very excited where mainstream wearable computing will take us in the industry," says Ansinn.
 
Source: Det Ansinn, BrickSimple
Writer: Dana Henry

Local company PeopleLinx gains $3.2 million in investment capital

LinkedIn might have been created for talent-matching, but Center City-based PeopleLinx is turning the networking site into a marketing goldmine. Their flagship software, Social Business Optimization (SBO), helps companies build bigger brands through employee profiles.

PeopleLinx realized that a company's personel -- and their social media presence -- can function as free advertising. Marketing departments use their product to help employees curate a LinkedIn profile that represents the brand and connects effectively with clients, ultimately generating more sales leads. SBO software is just over a year old, but it's already luring big name brands such as Prudential, Audi and Experian.

"Everything an employee does online is a reflection of that employee's professional life and ultimately the company they work for," says Micheal Idinopulos, chief marketing officer for PeopleLinx. "We're giving companies and marketing departments the tools to enable employees to do good for the company while doing good for themselves."

PeopleLinx, which was founded by former LinkedIn employees Nathan Egan and Patrick Baynes, recently closed their first round of funding with $3.2 million in investment capital from Osage Venture Partners, Greycroft Partners and MissionOG. Their monthly revenues tripled in May, and then again in June. The team has grown to 30 employees and is hiring for positions in sales and marketing, product development and software engineering.

On the heels of this impressive growth, PeopleLinx has also been getting more involved with the local tech scene. They hold regular "fireside chats," inviting startup leaders from throughout the region to share their wisdom with the staff. They are also organizing an upcoming hackathon, tentatively scheduled for September.

Source: Micheal Idinopulos, PeopleLinx
Writer: Dana Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Philly Food Co-op preps for annual garden tour, is hiring

They're popping up all over the neighborhood -- little stickers proclaiming "We Support South Philly Food Co-op." 

The infant co-op is prepping for a big year. After an aggressive membership push earlier this spring, the ever-so-secretive real estate committee is scouting sites (they could tell you, but they'd have to kill you) and the organization continues to raise funds.

Next on the docket is the Third Annual South Philly Garden Tour on September 7 -- a chance to take a peak into the area's hidden backyard oases. As any resident could tell you, this neighborhood is filled with secret spaces, spotted through fences and from adjacent rooftops, decked out by dedicated gardeners and DIY designers.

Due to growing turn-out and participation, this year they're narrowing the geographic area, showcasing home gardens from Washington Avenue to Snyder Avenue, 11th to 17th Street. Consider it an inside look at the South Broad Street corridor. (Click here for details on how to participate.)
 
In another sign of their rapid growth, the Co-op is currently hiring a Capital Campaign Coordinator; it's a part-time contracted position in charge of fostering the organization's $500,000 capital campaign.

Source: Carolyn Huckabay, South Philly Food Co-op
Writer: Lee Stabert

Artisan expands thanks to their innovative app-centric platforms

Old City's Artisan is changing the way companies connect to mobile customers. The company -- creators of Artisan Optimize and Mobile Experience Management (MEM), a combined self-publishing and analytics platform for app-builders -- is releasing new features that turn app design into a science. 
 
Through Optimize, businesses can perform "advanced targeting," a practice that used to be exclusive to websites. When testing out new design changes, this option allows clients to curate their audience according to demographics and location. Additionally, they can use "confidence scoring" to track when these tests have grown large enough to yield trustworthy results.
 
"We want to give users the ability to really understand what's happening on their app," says CEO Bob Moul. "Small changes can really make a big difference in click-through rates."
 
The response to this new information has been dramatic. One Optimize client improved their app's click-through rate by 50 percent simply by changing the location of a button. Another discovered that using red instead of green increased their app's engagement by 30 percent.
 
"Part of this is taking the guess work out," says Moul. "It's not always about what aesthetically looks right."
 
Of course, higher click-through rates mean more revenue -- over 40 of the top 100 retail sites are experimenting with Optimize and MEM. In its first quarter since releasing Optimize, Artisan (formerly known as AppRenaissance) has hired 10 new employees -- rounding out a team of 25 -- and expects to add up to 15 more within two years. They have also received a total of $7 million from FirstMark Capital and angel investors.
 
Source: Bob Moul, Artisan
Writer: Dana Henry

Amid unprecedented growth, DuckDuckGo, the 'anonymous' search engine, releases mobile app

DuckDuckGo isn't as ubiquitous as Google, but it's getting there. Just weeks after the National Security Agency (NSA) scandal made headlines, traffic to this alternate search engine has skyrocketed from 1.8 million to 3 million searches per day.

DuckDuckGo launched in 2008 in response to mounting concerns over online search privacy. The engine uses the old-fashioned ad-based revenue model -- meaning they don’t track Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or use cookies to record search histories.
 
Amid the spike, the Paoli-based company released their first mobile search app, available on iOS and Android. Unlike its desktop counterpart, searches field a user's questions and deliver relevant content from trusted sources instead of a list of links. The product also displays the day's top-shared "stories" -- which includes articles, videos, images and infographics -- by aggregating content-sharing sites like Reddit and Popcore.
 
"We wanted to make something that addressed the flaws of mobile search," says Gabe Weinberg, founder and CEO. "You're on the go, you want the answers."
  
Weiner attributes the company's growth to their open-source user community -- they provide source recommendations, new team members and even customer acquisition. Because the company rarely advertises, recommendations from their users are largely responsible for redirecting those additional 1.2 million daily searches to DuckDuckGo.
 
Source: Gabe Weinberg, DuckDuckGo
Writer: Dana Henry

Greenphire, a company offering clinical trials payment solutions, expands

On the path from breakthrough to cure, clinical trials present a conundrum: When one is successful, the next one gets bigger, more expensive and ultimately more challenging.  
 
Greenphirea company that first won big name pharmaceutical clients by helping automate payrolls for clinical trials, is continuing to mitigate that problem. The King of Prussia-based company is partnering with international corporations IMS Health and Oracle Health Sciences to bring payment management solutions to the rest of the workflow process.
 
"We're working towards developing a whole system," explains Shana Jalbert, director of marketing. "It's part of a broader strategy to meet the entire financial [picture] of clinical trials so clients can focus on the trials themselves."
 
The expansion couldn’t have come at a better time. Clinical trials are increasingly global and one trial can have hundreds of sites. Those in charge of operations must negotiate multiple currencies, taxation policies and regulatory compliances at a cost of up to $125 per payment. Additionally, the Sunshine Act now requires trials to track and report every expenditure.
 
Greenphire's software, eClinicalGPS (Global Payment Solutions), executes and records complex payments. When added to IMS-Health's budgeting services, the product provides a platform for spending analysis. If a certain number of MRIs are needed, for example, IMS-Health can set the cost expectation and Greenphire will deliver the reality. eClinicalGPS is also expected to round out Oracle Health Science's remote data capturing services -- used to track real-time costs -- by automating necessary payments.
 
"We're making that connection between the different phases of clinical trials, from planning one to actually running one," says Jalbert. "Clients have access to all the analytics, so they can actually see how it's going."
 
In their sixth year, Greenphire has acquired over 300 clients, including several top 20 pharma companies. The company has grown its revenue by 300 percent in the past three years; they recently opened an office in London and are actively seeking Python developers for their Philly team.

Source: Shana Jalbert, Greenphire
Writer: Dana Henry

Greenstreet Coffee Roasters open cafe in Center City

For Greenstreet Coffee Roasters, the ascent has been rapid. Two and a half years ago, the local company set up their first roaster in a commercial kitchen on Temple's Campus. Now their product is sold at Metropolitan Bakery, Whole Foods and Mariposa Food Co-op, and served at dozens of local coffee shops including Rocket Cat Café. Last month, Greenstreet opened their first café in Center City.
 
"After doing wholesale, we started to look at what's next," says Chris Molieri, who cofounded Greenstreet with his brother Tom. "It's great to have the final consumer get a cup of coffee directly from our hands."
 
Instead of purchasing from a distributor or middle man, Greenstreet researches and selects small independent farms in South America, Africa and other parts of the world. Customers can learn more about these growers through the company's blog.
 
"We want to highlight the impact of buying from a specific farm in Colombia, for example, and then celebrate it as local coffee roasted here in Philadelphia," explains Molieri.
 
Those relationships allow Greenstreet to assess flavor and seasonality with the source, which is particularly useful when a farmer experiments with new plants or processing. The brothers have even purchased a micro-plot on a farm in Southern Colombia.
 
"We're trying to work directly with farmers to focus on quality," says Molieri. "We're trying to develop direct relationships, to channel our energy towards sourcing coffee that we think tastes awesome."
 
Source: Chris Molieri, Green Street Coffee
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Drexel students grow Dragon Fund to $1 million

It's a big year for Drexel University's LeBow College of Business. The school is gaining a brand new twelve-story 177,500-square-foot building, launching an innovative student investment program and fostering the Dragon Fund, now one of the largest student-managed investment portfolios in the country.
 
The Fund -- which launched during the 2007 to 2008 school year with $250,000 from Drexel's Office of Endowment -- is managed by about 20 students enrolled in advanced finance classes. The group changes each academic quarter. Over the past five years, these student-analysts have earned over $200,000 in returns, despite the recession.
 
With additional contributions from the University, the fund now controls a record $1 million.
 
"It's very difficult to get experience in investment," says Daniel Dorn, associate professor of finance at LeBow. "Industries look for people with experience already. We wanted the students to get exposure."
 
To make the most of their gains, Lebow held ArchiTECH, a competition that paired students with faculty to develop best-uses for the new building. The winning team -- which included Dorn, Ed Nelling, a professor of finance, and David Hunt, a senior finance major-- created a program where student-analysts teleconference with investors from New York, Orlando and further abroad. They can also post their investments online for review by the broader finance community.

"We thought of ways to intensify this experience with industry," says Dorn. "We wanted to extend the classroom."

Such innovations are examples of "reverse mentoring," a new approach wherein students advise academics. "The Office of Endowment considers the Dragon Fund to be one of their investment managers," says Dorn. "It's the students who pitched their services to the university."
 
Source: Daniel Dorn, LeBow College of Business
Writer: Dana Henry

Common Market's Philly Good Food Lab supports local entrepreneurs

In the journey from farm to table, the role of the processor -- the baker, the fermenter, the cheesemaker -- is often overlooked. Common Market is in a unique position to change that. The regional foods distributor recently bought a 70,000-square-foot industrial building in North Philly, and they're using it to launch Philly Good Food Lab, a partnership program that helps food entrepreneurs scale up their operations.
 
The new building boasts 6,000 square feet of cooler storage, vast warehouse space and several offices. Lab partners can rent any of these resources. In addition, tenants (as well as off-site food entrepreneurs) can access the organization's comprehensive transport system, which covers an area bound by Lancaster, Baltimore and mid-New Jersey.
 
This month, Mycopolitan Company, local mushroom cultivators, became the Food Lab's first partners.

"There’s definitely some great kitchen incubators in the area for people who are just starting out," says Leah Pillsbury, director of development at Common Market. "We're looking for the next level and ready to increase their production."
 
Before purchasing their new building, Common Market was operating from a 3,000-square-foot incubator space at Share Foods inc. The move is a testament to their rapid growth -- this year, they’ve gone from 13 to 16 employees and created $2 million in local foods sales -- and their evolving role in the regional food economy.
 
"We want to help the local foods infrastructure," says Pillsbury. "Part of that means helping other local foods companies to develop products that can reach the market."
 
Common Market is currently hiring a procurement manager and a customer outreach manager.
 
Source: Leah Pillsbury, Common Market
Writer: Dana Henry

Coleman Technologies creates revolutionary seed counter

Seeds, chemical drops, pharmaceutical drugs, nuts and bolts -- much of the world's economy relies on tiny objects. Thanks to the Ball-Coleman Seed Counter, created by Newtown-based Coleman Technologies, keeping track of those pieces just got a lot easier.
 
Coleman Technologies specializes in hardware and software for vision systems -- camera-enabled machines that rapidly translate visual images into data. It's a key resource for quality control. Because the camera has a single viewpoint, the typical vision system can only "see" objects that pass by in a flat or two-dimensional stream (think conveyer belt).  

The Ball-Coleman, however, bounces the camera's viewpoint off a mirror angled at 90 degrees. This allows the machine to capture and compare different sides of the same image, and to count objects in a thick or three-dimensional stream. With a Ball-Coleman, a long flat Marigold seed, for example, can't hide behind another. While the typical seed counter averages 100 seeds per second, the Ball-Coleman can recognize up to 2,000 objects per second.  
 
"Seed counters look at the seeds straight on," explains Paul Falkenstein, vice president of Automated Inspection Systems. "We're looking at seeds dropping in two directions instead of one, and can count in much higher volume."
  
Coleman Technologies spent four years developing the machine in partnership with Chicago-based Ball Horticultural, a company that now owns exclusive sales and distribution rights to the product. Coleman is currently investigating additional partnerships and wants to apply their technology to a range of industries. With the enhanced machine, the mining industry, for example, wouldn't have to sift through their findings -- in addition to counting, the Ball-Coleman can also identify different types of objects or materials.
 
The company has grown from two to eight employees in the past four years. They are hiring LabView Developers with software engineering experience.
 
"There's a lot of possibilities out there," says Falkenstein. "We already have one partner who loves it."
 
Source: Paul Falkenstein, Coleman Technologies
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Breadboard announces public art residency program, seeks applicants

Breadboard currently seeks applicants for its first Art Along the Avenue of Technology (AAAT) Artist
Residency
program. The selected artist will collaborate with the University City Science Center and the surrounding West Philly community to create tech-based public art projects for the campus' Market Street corridor.
 
The program is part of Percent for Arts, a Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) initiative wherein building developers set aside funds for public art projects. Percent for Arts began in 1959 and has funded 400 projects, mostly large outdoor sculptures (including the clothespin at 15th and Market Streets). David Clayton, Breadboard's program manager, says AAAT will depart from that convention.
 
"With the traditional public art process, the artist really could be anywhere when they design the work," says Clayton. "A big part of the [AAAT] program is that the artist will really be here, working in the community and developing their work as an open process."
 
According to Clayton, AAAT projects -- funded through the recent construction of 3701 and 3711 Market Street -- could take a variety of forms, including video projections, electronic music installations, performance art, interactive sculpture or educational workshops. The Science Center will partner with PRA's Fine Arts Committee on the selection process.
 
With over $160,000 in funding set aside, Breadboard welcomes applications from candidates both in and outside the Philadelphia region. They are releasing a Request For Qualifications and don’t expect artists to submit proposals.
 
"We don't have a defined outcome in mind," explains Clayton. "We're putting the ball in their court in terms of creativity."
 
Source: David Clayton, Breadboard; Jeanne Mell, the University City Science Center
Writer: Dana Henry

Smak Parlor launches its 'fashion truck,' a retail experience on wheels

For most businesses, "finding your customer base" means tracking them online. Smak Parlour, an eclectic women's fashion store in Old City, has an alternative method: They're putting their next shop on wheels.
 
The 18-foot "fashion truck" -- a concept that started in Los Angeles -- resembles a high-end brick-and-mortar operation. The space has French doors, hardwood floors, eight-foot ceilings, dressing rooms and air conditioning. Cofounders (and Drexel alums) Abby Kessler and Katie Lubieski recently secured a coveted vending spot at 40th and Locust Streets.
 
"It's a great way to expand and strategically sell your product," says Lubieski. "You go to where your customers are."
 
The boutique -- which specializes in merchandise by independent designers sold below $100 -- will stock the truck with top-sellers from their established location. Because it costs less to run than a storefront, the mobile shop will feature reduced prices.
 
In eight years, Smak Parlour has evolved from a locally produced clothing line to a full-fledged retailer (they still produce their branded garments locally). In 2008, they began expanding their inventory and reduced the price point to accommodate the unstable economy. The strategy has helped annual sales grow by 30 percent over the past two years.
 
The partners have already showcased their collection at the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., and the Holiday Pop-Up in King of Prussia. To track the fashion truck, customers can use Twitter and Facebook.
 
"The possibilities are endless," says Kessler. "I picture a fleet of fashion trucks all over the country."
 
Source: Abby Kessler and Katie Lubieski, Smak Parlor
Writer: Dana Henry

Jarvus Innovations grows Slate, online portal for high schools, into separate company

Sometimes a product is so compelling that it's worthy of its own brand. Take Slate, an online portal for high schools, for example. The platform, which centralizes data and digital tools, was created by Northern Liberties-based software company Jarvus Innovations and has garnered more demand than the company can keep up with. As a result, Jarvus is developing Slate into a separate company, with the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and the Sustainability Workshop as clients.

Slate was created by Chris Alfano, Jarvus’s CTO and SLA's Director of IT. The product has been developed through partnership with SLA for three years. The students, teachers and administrators at SLA had been using multiple networks including Google Apps, Moodle and SchoolNet -- and had separate accounts for each. Jarvus links those networks into a single database which users access through their Google account.

"Schools usually have four or five different systems that they use," says John Fazio, CEO of Jarvus. "Slate offers central access to connect different systems."

The program streamlines communication for both students and staff. In the past, when a teacher tried out a new digital grading book, for example, those numbers had to be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. With Slate, administrators can access information as the teacher adds it, regardless of what app the teacher uses. Likewise, teachers can maintain a history of their lesson content as they experiment with new digital programs.   

"There's this flood of education technology tools," says Fazio. "Trying out new tools has a big adoption factor. Slate acts as that underlying dashboard system because we have their data centralized."

Jarvus recently enrolled Slate in Good Company Ventures. They are hiring developers and senior software engineers, and will consider adding product managers with development backgrounds.

Source: John Fazio, Jarvus
Writer: Dana Henry
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