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Catchafire, pro-bono matchmaker, expands to Philadelphia

Another national organization focused on furthering social good is launching a Philadelphia outpost. New York City-based Catchafire will announce its Founding Member Class at an official local launch on November 13. 

A for-profit social mission business and certified B Corporation, Catchafire empowers existing nonprofits and social enterprises to achieve their goals. Catchafire does this by connecting talented individuals who want to volunteer their services with organizations in need of pro-bono work.

Over the last six months, Catchafire has partnered with a small group of nonprofit leaders and organizations in the city, including the Children's Crisis Treatment Center, the Center for Literacy and Philadelphia FIGHT. Locals helped the group understand the city's volunteer and nonprofit landscape, culture and challenges.

"We have been impressed by the passion and professionalism of our current partners and the strength of the Philadelphia nonprofit community in general," says Adrienne Schmoeker, a corportate accounts lead at Catchafire. "We were eager to build on this early success by investing in Philadelphia in order to serve more organizations and volunteers across the region."

Catchafire asked community leaders to nominate two or three nonprofits or social enterprises. Nominees were interviewed and the Philadelphia Founding Member Class was selected.

Catchafire will celebrate its local launch at the headquarters of one of those 28 Founding Members -- Impact Hub Philly. They're also new to the city, having recently taken over the former 3rd Ward space in South Kensington. (Flying Kite publisher Michelle Freeman works out of Impact Hub.)

"They also share our values in building a strong, efficient and effective social good community," says Schmoeker. "Catchafire provides resources for nonprofit organizations to connect with talent, and Impact Hub Philly's physical and digital spaces allow leaders to dialogue with one another and to collaborate for the greater good."

Several founding members are already launching projects with volunteer professionals; these include a business plan writing project at the Center for Literacy; a Culture Coaching project at Philadelphia FIGHT; a brand messaging project with Tech Impact; a fundraising plan project with the Philadelphia Center for Arts & Technology (PCAT); and a print materials redesign at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

Catchafire plans to engage others in the Philadelphia nonprofit community over the next few months.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Adrienne Schmoeker, Catchafire

Local education initiative Fresh Palates to Palettes puts the 'art' in culinary arts

Featured on both Rachael Ray and WHYY-TV's Friday Arts program, the innovative program Fresh Palates to Palettes is back for a second round at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (SLA). The multifaceted four-month curriculum exposes SLA's students to some of Philadelphia's best culture and cuisine as part of a collaborative effort to fight arts funding cuts in schools.

The program's parent organization, Fresh Artists, is an award-winning local nonprofit that empowers children to create art in exchange for art supply donations to their schools. Fresh Palates to Palettes is a pilot project of the Fresh Artists Greenhouse Program, an incubator of entrepreneurial ideas, networking support and development acumen for art teachers.

Students in Fresh Palates to Palettes are connected with local restaurants, chefs and artists. This year's participants include Lacroix, Bistrot La Minette, Pub & Kitchen, and Vernick Food & Drink. SLA's art teacher, Deva Watson, or "Chef" to her students, leads the classroom implementation of the program.

Watson has spent many years working in local kitchens, and she carries over lessons learned in the hospitality industry to her classroom. Her mantra emphasizes working "hard, clean and with efficiency." 
 
Watson began the program by teaching her students about still life art. At each restaurant, students will be served the chef's signature dish, then sketch the meal. Acclaimed food photographers, including Flying Kite's Michael Persico, will then style the sketches. 
 
Fresh Palates to Palettes will culminate in the spring with several high profile exhibitions: a public pop-up of the entire project at Metropolitan Gallery 250; and a private reception for the chefs and project donors at Avance, hosted by Chef Justin Bogle. Each participating chef will highlight "Le Choix du Chef" (Chef's Choice). On March 20, those four selected artists will be honored with a special cooking lesson courtesy of South Philadelphia Taproom chef Scott Schroeder, hosted by COOK
 
Barbara Chandler Allen, founder and president of Fresh Artists, believes the previous run of the project showed its ability to break down barriers for students while introducing them to potential creative careers and honing additional skills.

"In our second year, Fresh Palates to Palettes, like a fine wine, continues to improve with age," says Allen. "Last year's pilot project has blossomed into a richer, deeper educational experience for the children and the generous culinary community supporting them. Our kids are learning there are real exciting jobs in the creative economy if you are passionately engaged in learning and connecting. Fresh Artists is committed to opening doors for city kids -- changing their scripts and raising the bar so high that they will aim to sail over it."

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Barbara Chandler Allen, Fresh Artists

Good news on Philadelphia venture capital front

After a number of rough years, 2012 saw an increase in the number of venture capital deals and dollars flowing to Philadelphia region technology companies. And 2013 is looking good.
 
A new report  released by Ernst & Young,  Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP)  and the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT),  reports that 2012 was the best year since 2008 for investment in the region, bucking the national trend of declining deals and dollars.
 
"And early results from 2013 appear to be on track to meet or exceed the five-year average annual investment amount of $750 million," the report says.
 
The report finds that 2012 investment in the region was $698 million: $580 million in 59 deals came from venture capital firms, $59 million in 64 deals from angel investors, $51 million in 11 deals from corporate/strategic investors and $7 million in 57 deals from seed funds and accelerators.
 
The numbers reinforce Philly's strength in the life sciences, which accounted for 41% of all funded companies since 2008. But the report also finds a significant uptick in the software and information technology sectors, accounting for 33% of all companies funded, which it attributes to a surge in investment activity for enterprise software companies starting last year.
 
"The results … are a further impetus for entrepreneurs to choose the Greater Philadelphia region to launch and grow their enterprises," says RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP's CEO.
 
Source: Jaron Rhodes, BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Kensington Community Food Co-op holds '60 by 60' membership drive

After five years of planning and building membership, the Kensington Community Food Co-Op (KCFC) is ready to sign a lease. Their current campaign, 60 in 60, aims to bring 60 additional members to KCFC in 60 days, and to secure enough funding to ensure holding costs. If these goals are met, KCFC will open a location in 19125 early next year.
 
"It's going to provide healthy, quality food to the community," says Lena Helen, president of KCFC. "No grocery store in the area is committed to doing that completely."
 
To assist the membership drive, KCFC is holding two meet-and-greets this month: the first was held November 4 at Pizza Brain and Little Baby’s Ice Cream and the second will be November 21 at Adorn Boutique. The co-op also holds bi-weekly marketplaces at Circle of Hope church on Frankford Ave. The evening marketplaces give new and prospective members the opportunity to ask questions about healthy foods.

KCFC plans to increase educational activities once the permanent location has been established. Due to the density of low income residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, the co-op expects to offer food access programs such as "Food for All," a neighborhood fund for subsidized memberships. 
 
KCFC is supported by local organizations including the East Kensington Neighborhood Association and the Norris Square Neighborhood Project. The New Kensington Community Development Corporation helped the co-op raise initial funds and conduct a feasibility study. KCFC has also held marketplaces at Greensgrow Farms and staffs a booth at Greensgrow events.
 
Source: Lena Helen, Kensington Community Food Co-op
Writer: Dana Henry

Azavea becomes leader in 'predictive policing' with HunchLab

Predictive policing, an emerging statistical science, incorporates multiple streams of data to help law enforcement determine where and when crime will happen. The methodology has been gaining interest from police departments throughout the country. Azavea, GIS experts based in Callowhill, are at the forefront of this movement with their platform HunchLab.

Previously, many police departments used crime statistic to pinpoint "hotspots" that need to be patrolled more frequently. HunchLab improves that practice by layering in other influencing factors such as weather and time of day, week or year, and mapping the likely outcome.

"All these different data types go into changing the probability of an event happening," says Jeremy Heffner, project manager and business development associate for HunchLab. "The system automatically figures out the best location to put resources based on all that knowledge."

Azavea developed HunchLab after helping research teams at Temple and Rutgers Universities develop statistical modeling solutions for crime forecasting. HunchLab 2.0 also allows police chiefs to prioritize crimes of high social impact, such as violent crimes.

As many departments continue to face budget cuts, HunchLab -- currently in use in Philly, Ohio and Washington State -- helps generate economically effective policing strategies. One department, for example, used the system to track an uptick in auto break-ins. Then they used HunchLab to determine when and where to effectively place a "bate" car.

"This helps police departments take the limited resources that they have and use them more effectively," says Heffner. "If you put resources in the right place at the right time you are more likely to interrupt crime as well as prevent future incidents."

Source: Jeremy Heffner, Azavea
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Invisible Sentinel enters expansion phase, is hiring for various positions

A year after receiving their first certification from the Association of Analytical Communities International (AOAC), Invisible Sentinel -- the "garage" biotech startup -- is growing fast. They’re pulling in enough revenue to break-even on initial investment (over $7 million) by 2014. The company is graduating from the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator and will remain on the Science Center campus.
 
Invisible Sentinel makes disposable, rapid diagnostic tools that test for food contaminants such as Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter. Veriflow, the company's patented technology, cuts down on both time and human error, making testing easier, cheaper and more reliable. Invisible Sentinel has a broad client base -- so far their products have been popular among dairy farms, peanut butter factories, meat manufacturers and third party labs that use their technology to conduct outsourced testing for large processors.
 
"Everybody who makes and produces food is our customer base," says Ben Pascal, cofounder and CBO. "It's really countrywide."
 
That means the company has a lot of work to do. They're currently outfitting and staffing an in-house manufacturing center complete with a robotics system. Open positions include manufacturing technician, quality director, production manager, financial and accounting services, sales and scientist. They will continue to raise capital for this phase.
 
"It's all expansion capital," says Pascal. "A lot of the risk associated with research and development is gone. Our challenge now is scaling to be able to meet demand."
 
Invisible Sentinel -- currently an 18-person team -- will remain in Philly thanks to low-interest government financing and flexible accommodations from the Science Center. They've received FDA approval on two products and expect approval for two more in the near future. The company recently released a video demonstrating how their devices work.
 
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Dana Henry

State of Young Philly 2013 offers new opportunities for young activists

Narcissistic. Apathetic. Cynical. State of Young Philly (SOYP), the annual, week-long activist celebration from Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP), rails against the unfortunate descriptors often associated with generation Y. This year, events run from Friday, October 25 through Saturday, November 2.
 
"There are a lot of articles out there stereotyping young people as the 'me' generation," says Mike Kaiser, Events Chair for YIP. “When you come out to YIP events, it's a totally different picture. We're trying to challenge that [perception]."
 
The week focuses on civic skill-building. Highlights include an opening night reception and civic engagement fair featuring Campus Philly, Groundswell, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Need in Deed, Impact HUB Philly, the People's Emergency Center, and many others; Navigate Philly, a series of short presentations by local leaders on topics such as politics, media and education; Sustainability Night, an instructional event on recycling, composting and waste disposal; Get a Job, featuring advice from human resource professionals; and a "Welcome to Philly" happy hour featuring a "minimalist" Halloween costume contest.
 
Then, on November 2, YIP will host their first civic engagement un-conference. Participants will be encouraged to share ideas and best-practices.
 
"We know there are people out there making progress and positive change in Philly," says Kaiser. "This is a chance to bring everyone together to share that knowledge. We're trying to accelerate ideas and connections."
 
Last January, YIP's new board launched a quarterly "Learn, Grow, Do" series. It introduces Philly activists to fundamentals such as first-time home buying, networking and park cleaning. SOYP will give existing members the chance to reflect on their progress and engage new potential members.
 
"It really reaffirms that what we're doing matters," says Kaiser. "For new people it’s, 'Here’s something simple you can do to join this movement.'"
 
Source: Mike Kaiser, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

TicketLeap finds success in an irregular market, releases Mobile Box Office app

Chances are the Flyers will sell out their upcoming 82-game season by simply offering up seats through Comcast Tix. Meanwhile, smaller homegrown events and festivals such as the Philly Beer Week, The Fringe Festival or the Morris Arboretum's Salsa Dance Night might have a harder time. For those niche event planners, there's Center City-based TicketLeap.

Instead of choosing between specific event marketplaces (theatre, sports, concerts), TicketLeap serves businesses and organizations that use events to drive business or raise awareness. That focus has helped grow the 10-year-old company's gross ticket sales from $34 million in 2011 to $52 million in 2012.

"It's not the traditional way of dividing the events market," says Tim Raybould, President and COO. "But it's a pretty large portion of the existing events market base."

TicketLeap's platform is decidedly DIY. Users build their own events page, which can be shared across the web and on mobile devices. They can also use the tool to build their social media presence, create email blasts and track customer analytics.

In August 2013, the company released the Mobile Box Office for iOS. The app is designed for flexible ticket-taking -- it allows the taker to scan-in attendees using mobile barcodes, look up specific attendees, or adjust the attendee list.  

"You don't have to have a full box office with ticket takers at the window," says Raybould. "You can just take your phone out of your pocket."

TicketLeap's existing customers --- which hail from across the country, Canada and part of Europe -- have been quick to add the new app. In the past year, the company has grown from 21 to 27 employees and expects to add software developers in the near future.
 
Source: Tim Raybould, TicketLeap
Writer: Dana Henry

Nuix helps companies mine unstructured information; they're releasing new software

Imagine gathering all your emails, Facebook posts, tweets, blog posts, documents -- anything you’ve ever added to the internet -- in one place. The stack would be pretty high, right?

Now multiply that by every employee in a Fortune 500 company. That’s exactly what companies do when managing legal disputes. Nuix, an Australian company with a user-experience branch in Jenkintown, allows companies to sift through the glut of "unstructured information" -- including e-communications and other documents -- and pinpoint useable evidence.

The Jenkintown office has helped build Nuix Director, a new product that streamlines the workflow for investigations. The office currently has 25 employees and is hiring user-experience designers and developers.

During a legal investigation, collected documents are pared down by external legal services before landing on an attorney's desk. That process creates potential for miscommunication and human error. Nuix Director allows users to create a template to standardize the process and minimize mistakes.

"Organizations have big piles of unstructured information," says Stephen Stewart, Nuix's global CTO. "You can push a button and be confident that all steps happen the same way every time. You feed data in the front and it out comes a nice, reviewable, organized set of documents."

Of course, it's not just legal disputes that are drowning in documentation. Nuix Jenkintown is currently developing user-experience software to serve other Nuix markets, including criminal investigation and internal business operations. Their products are used in over 35 countries and revenue has consistently grown over the last five years.

"There's no lack of requirements or opportunities," says Stewart. "Every organization is creating new information every day, and we’re innovating every day at a hurried pace."

Source: Stephen Stewart, Nuix
Writer: Dana Henry

Recycled Artists in Residency, a program for innovators in creative reuse, officially launches

After spending two years as a pilot creative reuse project, Recycled Artist In Residency (RAIR) is officially launching. The program provides local artists with 1,000 square feet of studio space, private offices, welding and woodworking equipment, and a daily supply of tens of thousands of tons of post-consumer construction materials. The organization is currently accepting applications from individuals and collaborative groups.
 
RAIR was founded by Fern Gookin while she was a grad student in Philadelphia University's Masters of Sustainable Design program. She hoped to bring attention to sustainability issues through art and design. Gookin partnered with Billy Dufall, a local artist whose reuse projects include racing "toilet tricycles" and furniture made from building insulation. 
 
The program is hosted by Revolution Recovery, a construction waste recycling plant located in the Northeast; they donate the space and raw supplies. The time spent in the pilot stage gave RAIR the chance to fine tune the partnership and develop safety protocols.
 
"It's nontraditional to have artists working in a very busy operational facility," says Gookin. "We have to be aware that we're guests in the house."
 
RAIR has two tracks: the Standard Track is a one-to-four month residency, while the Biggie-Shorty asks the artist to build a "big project" in one to two weeks and then return the materials to the recycling stream. Artists document their process online.  
 
"It gives the artists the ability to experiment and work with materials at a different scale than they might be used to," explains Gookin. "It's less about making a piece of work that can be crated and shipped -- it's letting the creativity be the focus."
 
In its first year, RAIR will accept anywhere from three to eight local artists. They encourage artists and designers who are interested in reuse to apply regardless of discipline.
 
Source: Fern Gookin, Recycled Artist In Residency
Writer: Dana Henry

CauseHub, social sharing site for local organizations, gains international attention

There are countless local organizations around the world working on issues such as hunger, environmental protection, human rights and other imperative challenges. CauseHub.com, a social platform founded by Pennsbury High School student Ashvika Dhir, helps small-scale change-makers discuss common goals and share best practices.

Back in March, Dhir was the first high school student to present at IgnitePhilly. Since then, she has crowdsourced $4000 through LuckyAnt, added over 10 partner non-government organizations (NGOs) to the site and become one of the youngest innovators (and one of only fifty in the United States) to win this year's Global Startup Youth Scholarship.

Dhir developed the concept for CauseHub while volunteering at Mother Teresa, an orphanage in India.

"I realized these small ideas in India had no way of contacting people across the world," she says. "With Causehub, people can share in one specific location all having to do with causes."

To help these organizations publicize their work, CauseHup offers NGOs, collectives and individuals their own networking page. The site draws content from contributors in Columbia, Kenya, India and Philadelphia.

"I wanted the user to be in charge," says Dhir. "There are other blogs that talk about content and inform people, but I wanted to create a space where people could honestly discuss any cause they’re interested in."

Dhir continues to grow CauseHub's user base by tapping family members in India, drawing on international contacts and using word of mouth. She hopes the site will develop into a media outlet for charities, helping individuals find local opportunities for volunteering and educational events.

Source: Ashvika Dihr, CauseHub
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Graphene Frontiers gears up to produce 'super-material'

Thanks to a $745,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and help from an undisclosed partner, Graphene Frontiers is gearing up to produce graphene. This "super material" -- only one atom thick—is ten times stronger than diamonds and the best known conductor of electricity. In the next 18 to 24 months, Graphene Frontiers, which works out of the University City Science Center’s Port Business Incubator, expects to become one of the world first producers.
 
In order to handle the massive manufacturing startup costs, Graphene Frontiers is working with a local corporation. The partners have developed a new type of diagnostic tool -- called a field effect transistor (FET) biosensor -- that use graphene to improve how disease is detected.
 
"We've been so focused on making graphene and proving that it was possible to make it high quality," says CEO Mike Patterson. "We're not going to build a $100 million dollar facility and crank out sheets of graphene. We had to find the right application."
 
Current diagnostic devices rely on silicon wafers. The wafer contains targets for disease indicators including antibodies, antigens and other foreign chemicals. A patient's fluid sample (usually blood or urine) is applied to the microchip and disease markers bind to the targets. To confirm a diagnosis, however, doctors run multiple tests for various indicators. It’s time consuming and costly.
 
Ultra-thin graphene channels give the FET biosensor superior sensitivity. The device can test for several indicators at once and provide an instantaneous diagnosis.
 
Recently, Graphene Frontiers hired two material scientists. The FET biosensors will be created for biochemistry research departments and pharmaceutical developers. In five years, if the new device receives FDA approval, doctors and health practitioners will become the next market. One day, label-free bio-sensors could even be used at home for self-diagnosis.
 
"We can do so much with graphene," says Patterson. "The real question is what are we going to do?"
 
The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Mike Patterson, Graphene Frontiers
Writer: Dana Henry

The Mural and the Mint releases second sound installation, this time for Race Street Pier

With construction of the FringeArts Lab well underway, the Race Street Pier is set to become Philly’s next creative hotspot. To draw attention to its revival, The Mural and the Mint’s Michael Kiley chose the site for his second sound installation.
 
Animina: A Race Street Pier Sound Walk -- created in partnership with South Philly web development company P'Unk Ave -- is a GPS-enabled musical piece; users can download the app via iTunes starting October 1. 

Kiley used a similar process with his first installation, Empty Air: A Rittenhouse Square Sound Walk. He began with an unaltered sound recording of the Race Street Pier, then layered in originally composed music. Unlike RIttenhouse Square with its concentric layout of walkways, the Race Street Peir is linear. Kiley had to adapt the musical installation -- which changes according to location instead of time -- to fit the structure.
 
"I couldn't just leave people at the end of the pier," he says. "I tried to write something that would work forwards as well as backwards."
 
While creating Empty Air, Kiley became familiar with how the app's technology affects sound; he created Animina with those subtleties in mind. The piece aims to embody the theme of "lost relationships and healing," and contains music and lyrics inspired by new activity along the river.
 
"I wanted to personify what the city is doing," says Kiley. "Philadelphia is where it is because of the Delaware River. We deserve a preeminent waterfront."
 
The project was created in partnership with FringeArts and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, and is sponsored by grants from Pew Cultural Center for Arts & Heritage and the Painted Bride Art Center through the Wyncote Foundation.
 
Source: Michael Kiley, Mural and the Mint
Writer: Dana Henry

New York City entrepreneur brings Local 215 food truck to Philadelphia

One of the advantages of operating a mobile food business is the ability to follow the market -- literally. That wisdom guided Alexander Buckner, founder of the Local 215 food truck and catering service, to Philadelphia.
 
Local 215 prepares their cuisine at Greensgrow's kitchen space and sources almost exclusively from family farms within 100 miles. The truck debuted last August at the The Food Trust's Night Market in Mt. Airy and re-launched this past spring after a winter hiatus.
 
Ironically, Local 215 was conceived while Buckner was living in New York City. The culinary entrepreneur had watched the popularity of food trucks spread from Los Angeles up the west coast. By 2011, high-concept street food had made its way east and was gaining traction in New York City -- unfortunately, the city's moratorium on vending licenses made starting a business prohibitively expensive.
 
Around that time, Buckner visited Philly and was impressed by the low startup costs and high density of young professionals and university students.
 
"It looked like Philadelphia was going to be next in line," says Buckner. "It has all the ingredients for a good food truck city."
 
Local 215 focuses on simple, "technique-driven" preparations. The menu features delicacies such as housemade Merguez lamb sausage in duck-fat gravy, braised duck, and fresh corn, slow roasted with shallots and topped with mascarpone cheese. 
 
"It's a balancing act to run a food truck or catering business that's all local," explains Buckner. "We actually do get almost everything from right here in Philly."
 
Local 215 truck stops at locations in University City, Callowhill and near the The Mann Center. Find them by checking their Twitter feed.
 
Source: Alexander Buchner, Local215
Writer: Dana Henry

Cloudamize hopes to tap $40 billion cloud computing market, is hiring

In the next five years, the market for cloud computing -- the virtual network that maintains web activity -- will reach $40 billion.
 
Cloudamize, a Center City-based company currently partnered with MissionOG, is poised take advantage of that growth. They offer a management tool that helps clients maximize their web performance while minimizing associated costs. The company recently closed its seed round of fundraising with $1.2 million in investment; they are seeking developers and sales associates. 
 
Think of the cloud as a utility with various servers -- or information centers -- communicating to one another. In general, the more complex a web application (and the more traffic it gets), the more it taxes the cloud. That burden can cost companies a lot of money. Most cloud servers are virtual. They exist through specialized software that connects to a larger physical server. This means they can be scaled to fit the required load. Yet, understanding which servers need to be scaled and how can be complicated and costly.
 
"Getting on the cloud is very easy," says Khushboo Shah, founder and CEO of Cloudamize. "But once we get there, we realize we are not getting all the benefits."
 
Cloudamize acts as a smart meter for the cloud. They evaluate how the activity of a web application gets distributed between servers and how that distribution can be improved. The platform then recommends direct actions to increase efficiency. If a client anticipates modifications to their site or changes in web traffic, they can also use Cloudamaize to plan the best possible distribution strategy.
 
"The cloud is supposed to be elastic," explains Shah. "Increase infrastructure when you have peak traffic and dial it down when you don't need it. It's essentially marrying the cost and performance together."
 
Source: Khushboo Shah, Cloudamize
Writer: Dana Henry
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