| Follow Us:

Innovation + Job News

575 Articles | Page: | Show All

Inventing the Future: Azavea 'Summer of Maps' program brings GIS power to local organizations

Every day, city agencies from the Streets Department to the Office of Housing and Community Development collect data that details the current state of Philadelphia. Thanks to Azavea, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts located in Callowhill, several civic-minded nonprofit groups can now "see" that information.

The company just wrapped up their Summer of Maps Fellowship, a stipend program that placed graduate-level GIS students with urban advocacy organizations. Recipients of the pro-bono services included The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, The Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and The Greater Philadelphia Coalition against Hunger.  

During the program, Tyler Dahlberg, who studies GIS for Development and Environment at Clark University, created web maps for the Bicycle Coalition that made use of raw data from the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Department of Transportation and the coalition's independent research. The resulting map illustrates where people ride, where accidents happen and how the risk of bike theft varies (according to time of week and the time of year).

"It's an advocacy tool for them," says Dahlberg. "They can continue with the data and do their own research as well."
The Bicycle Coalition hopes the new tool will help them lobby City Council and the Department of Transportation to protect cyclists in Philadelphia.
Dahlberg also worked with the Coalition Against Hunger to locate potential food stamp recipients, pinpointing subgroups including children, the elderly, disabled people and immigrants. The tool will help the organization maximize their budget by targeting their marketing and volunteer outreach at neighborhoods dense with potential clients.
"It really expands the toolset that nonprofits have available for their decision making process," explains Dahlberg. "These nonprofits have a lot of data, but it's hard to analyze it. Being able to see the data visualized on a map really opens up new avenues."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
Source: Tyler Dahlberg, Azavea
Writer: Dana Henry

Discover PHL helps launch PHLMade, a campaign to market locally-made products

Philadelphia might still be "the workshop of the world" -- only instead of manufacturing wool suits and steam engine parts, the city is producing up-cycled handbags, artisanal cheeses and smartphone apps.

PHLMade, an effort spearheaded by Discover PHL, wants to celebrate those products. They are currently offering a newsletter and plan to launch an online magazine and branding campaign around all the stuff made in Philly.
PHLMade has three main goals: To market Philadelphia as a "city of makers"; to appeal to outside and emerging companies who might want to make products here; and to help locavores and tourists buy products that are locally-made. Over the next year, PHLMade will create an original logo for products made in Philly and expects to hold conventions and pop-up shops for local wares.  
“It’s really to connect the marketing piece with the business piece and help to support the products that are coming out of Philadelphia," says Daniel Cohn, Founder of PHLMade and VP of marketing and communications at Discover PHL. “We’re really discovering stories in the city."
The online magazine -- featuring original content in addition to aggregated stories from local media outlets -- will focus exclusively on makers. It’s being developed by Brandon Davis, a native of Olney who publishes the national entrepreneurship magazine American Dreaming.
"Everyone in America is talking about American-made products and the importance of buying local," says Cohn. "PHLMade gives us additional opportunities to showcase Philadelphia as a city of innovation and of people who are still making things after all these years."
PHL-Made is looking to hear from makers, maker-enthusiasts and interested sponsors. They are launching a Kickstarter campaign this month to support the upcoming magazine launch.
Source: Daniel Cohn, Discover PHL
Writer: Dana Henry

Public Workshop completing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project

The Public Workshop is finishing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project. In the coming years, this play structure, located in Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, is expected to engage hundreds of thousands of local users.

The concept was selected by Delaware Valley Green Building Council. This November, they are hosting the international GreenBuild Expo in partnership with the City of Philadelphia. Previous legacy projects in other cities have largely focused on urban agriculture.

Alex Gilliam, founder of Public Workshop, announced plans for the project back in March. Since then, the organization's "Building Heroes" -- young adult and teenage project leaders -- have created an "adventure playground" using salvaged wood and fallen trees.

"We got excited about the potential of leaving a lasting project at Smith playground, but also engaging youth," says Fern Gookin, director of sustainability at Revolution Recovery and chair of the Legacy Project Committee.

The group's work transforms the natural landscape through designated play areas -- "The Jungle" has bendable beams that can be woven into caves, tunnels and huts; "The Forest" offers reclaimed materials for building temporary structures; and "The Whirlpool" is a shifting deck wrapped around a large tree, begging the user to look up at the canopy.

During the design-build process, the Public Workshop engaged local community groups and citywide organizations, including Urban Blazers and Mural Arts. Final workdays and upcoming Legacy Project events are open to the public.

"During the GreenBuild Expo, the spotlight on a national and international level will be on Philadelphia," says Gookin. "The Legacy Project will live on after the conference packs up and moves away."

Source: Fern Gookin, Legacy Project Comittee; Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Shepherding international talent to Philadelphia

There are only 23 business incubators in the world recognized by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) for their ability to relocate and serve international startups. Philly has one of them.

Since its inception in 2006, the University City Science Center Port Business Incubator's Global Soft Landing Program has helped companies from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world put roots down the region. NBIA recently acknowledged the program's continued achievements by renewing their Soft Landings International Incubator Designation.

The program engages international companies with educational, investment and networking opportunities. They also work one-on-one to help newbies maximize their transition to the U.S. market.

"We offer these companies concierge-type services, connecting them to representatives of the markets they're interested in," explains Christopher Laing, VP of science and technology at the Science Center.

Recently, the Port Incubator partnered with the Canadian Consulate to establish a branch of the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Philadelphia. So far, the accelerator has brought six Health IT startups to the area; they are preparing to bring six more in the fall. Other imports include Adaptimmune and the Beijing Genomics Institute.

To connect to international startups, the Science Center partners with international trade organizations as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Select Greater Philadelphia. Companies are often attracted to Philadelphia's education and life science ecosystems, and the central location between New York and Washington, D.C.

"We can offer international companies the same access to those networks that we offer domestic companies," says Jeanne Mell, VP of marketing and communications for the Science Center.

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

Source: Jeanne Mell, Christopher Laing, University City Science Center
Writer:  Dana Henry

Co-Ed Supply, a new company from Wharton grad, provides care packages to students

College students experiencing their first taste of freedom are a ripe market for emerging brands -- promoters scout campuses to hand out samples and parents purchase care packages to aid the transition. Co-Ed Supply, a company that launched at the end of July, combines these interests in curated shipped boxes targeted at students.
"We're really trying to reinvent the care package," says Marissa Hu, CEO and founder of Co-Ed Supply and a Wharton MBA. "We can create something of quality for all parties involved."
The packages -- which come in different size and gender options -- contain healthy snacks, personal care items and entertainment such as games, new music and exclusive passes to events. Co-Ed also makes sure each box is timely. September's edition, for example, explores the theme of new experiences and making friends.
Encouraging students to share is part of Co-Ed's mission -- the packages are delivered in a bright orange box to announce their arrival. It's an effective method of spreading merchandise throughout campuses.
"We're making this a two-way street," says Hu. "It's a way to discover new products or brands."
Hu founded Co-Ed Supply with Andy Fortson while pursuing her MBA at Wharton. The company is currently in Cincinnati completing an incubator program at the Brandery; that organization provided their initial financing. They plan to return to Philly soon and hire in the coming months.

Source: Marissa Hu, Co-Ed Supply
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Autism Expressed brings digital literacy to special needs students

Technology often advances at a dizzying pace. Special-needs students, and other vulnerable and underserved populations, can be left behind.
Michele McKeone, founder of Autism Expressed, is changing that reality for individuals who struggle with autism. Her company's flagship product, which launched publically in late July, breaks digital literacy into granular bits, making it easier for people with learning challenges.
"We live in a technology-driven society and economy," she says. "These are the life skills that they will need to pursue their independence."
While working as a special-needs teacher, McKeone developed a method for teaching students with autism practical internet skills. Sure, they knew how to look up YouTube videos and play video games, but McKeone taught them to create LinkedIn profiles and communicate virtually. After gaining significant interest from parents and fellow educators, she recreated her instructions digitally.
With Autism Expressed, users work through four levels of instruction (instead of individual lessons) and progress into fluency. The process plays out like a game and a badge is awarded for each level a student masters.
Once they "graduate," the student has a portfolio of projects that demonstrate their abilities to potential employers. Along the way, their performance is tracked, allowing educators and parents to generate progress reports.
"As a teacher, I'm charged with getting my students ready for what happens after high school," says McKeone. "A big part of that is planning your transition and really having data."
Autism Expressed has already gained clients throughout the northeast corridor. The company is a graduate of the Corzo Center's Creative Incubator and recently won the Educational Services of America Award, a $20,000 prize from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
Source: Michele McKeone, Autism Expressed
Writer: Dana Henry

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
575 Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts