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SOCIAL INNOVATIONS: PolicyMap makes good data to help make good decisions

Editor's note: This is presented as part of a partnership with the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.

"
PolicyMap. Good Data. Good Decisions." That tagline captures both the purpose of PolicyMap and what drives the team behind this innovative new tool. Everyone -- from funders to the general public -- is placing increasing pressure on public and nonprofit sector programs to make data-driven decisions. Good data, however, can be costly and time-consuming to gather, not to mention difficult to analyze and interpret.

Data-mapping software has emerged as a critical tool for helping everyone from large government agencies to small nonprofits analyze and present place-based data more effectively. Until recently, however, mapping data required significant expertise and software investment.

Enter PolicyMap. Launched in 2007 with seed funding from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), a Philadelphia-based organization committed to community investment, PolicyMap offers datasets combined with powerful mapping technology, without expensive software or training. Through PolicyMap, users have access to customizable data and tools that can help them map their own data. PolicyMap aims to provide and present information in ways that help users make better and timelier decisions.

PolicyMap is a revolutionary tool, making mapped data and mapping functions available via the web to a variety of public policy and program stakeholders, from large government agencies to small grassroots organizations that would not otherwise have access to such usable data. PolicyMap makes information accessible and easy to understand, offers a one-stop shop for multiple sources of data, and allows users to generate and customize data maps.

As a result, people and organizations are equipped to make better-informed decisions about investments and programming, and improve tracking and communication about impact. Examples include:

- Wachovia Regional Foundation used PolicyMap to coordinate with other public, private and nonprofit investors by identifying underinvested areas.

- Neighborworks has combined its own neighborhood, block-by-block survey results with PolicyMap’s market data in order to examine patterns and identify particularly successful or blighted blocks.

- The Brookings Institution has used PolicyMap to develop a widget that allows users to view the locations of, and generate reports about, communities in 10 different metropolitan areas with limited access to supermarkets.

In addition to the innovative nature of PolicyMap from a product perspective, PolicyMap also serves as an example of innovation at the organizational level through its internal culture. The team makes the exploration of new applications, features, data sources and partners a priority. The team is lean, and, as a result, agile. Every staff member is critical to the organization and empowered to take ownership for the areas for which s/he is responsible.

Read the full article here.

PHILADELPHIA SOCIAL INNOVATIONS JOURNAL is the first online publication to bring a public focus to social innovators and their nonprofit organizations, foundations and social sector businesses in Greater Philadelphia Area, to recognize success and encourage others around the country to strive for similar results.

Conshohocken's OpenDesks reaches 1,000 worldwide workspaces as it chases investment

Need a hangout in Honolulu? A desk in Des Moines? Conshohocken-based OpenDesks can get it for you. The startup just announced that it offers 1,000 temporary work spaces worldwide. Options for rentals range from a desk in a coworking space, to a private office, to meeting rooms. Chris DiFonzo, co-founder and CEO of OpenDesks, cites a recent statistic that coworking is up 88% and now accounts for over 1,300 spaces internationally, according to Deskmag.
 
DiFonzo, who originally created the OpenDesks concept after leaving his previous job in 2010, relaunched in June 2011 with partner Keith Dallara. "It's been a direct uphill climb," says DiFonzo. "We went from less than 100 spaces to over a thousand." 
 
To appeal to investors, OpenDesks recently registered as a C corporation. Revenue, says DiFonzo, comes from making a margin on the space. OpenDesks has access to offerings from international space providers Regus and Alliance Business Center Network, as well as regional provider American Executive Centers. "What we are working toward is delivering OpenDesks as Software as a Service," says DiFonzo. "A company would pay a fee, and the entire team would have easy access to flexible workspace anywhere in the world."
 
DiFonzo cites the example of client Readyforce, a California-based startup in First Round Capital's portfolio. The company needs offices all over the country for a month at a time to conduct remote interviews. "We've been able not only to get them locations that offer great service and are owner operated, but we've saved them 20 to 30% off list prices."

DiFonzo says it would be a lot of work for them to line up offices themselves. In contrast, space seekers on OpenDesks get real time confirmation with a well designed, easy to use interface.
 
The company's main competitors are LiquidSpace and LooseCubes, but DiFonzo says both of those companies' offerings are concentrated around headquarters on the west coast and New York City, respectively.
 
The OpenDesks website averages 300 to 500 searches a day, according to DiFonzo, and since June, has made close to 400 reservations worldwide. The app is also available as on both iPhone and Android platforms.

Source: Chris DiFonzo, OpenDesks
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Wilco, Temple partner to bridge North Philly's digital divide

North Philadelphia is getting a digital makeover, thanks to a new initiative between Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc. and Temple University. "What we're trying to do is create a new urban ecosystem for digital entrepreneurship in North Philadelphia," says Brigitte Daniel, Executive VP of Wilco. 
 
Daniel, who just returned from an Eisenhower Fellowship-funded tour of some very impoverished areas of the world, sees mobile apps as the most effective way to bridge the digital divide.

"In Southeast Asia, people went right from landline phones to mobile phones, leapfrogging over fiber optics and wired technology and going right to wireless networks," she explains. "In the US, the majority of our apps are for gaming and entertainment. In the last two years, we've developed more social service and government apps. Very shortly, we're going to see in low income populations that the mobile phone and tablet will be the pre-eminent way for everyone to access broadband information and content."
 
Daniel says the new partnership with Temple, launched in the beginning of 2012 with the Urban Apps & Maps Studio and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, will target Philadelphia Housing Authority residents.

"We are calling this a public-private-people partnership because it is a collaborative effort between an educational institution and a private company that puts North Philadelphia communities, including residents, right at the center of the development process," says Daniel. "This is an area that has not experienced the same renaissance as West Philadelphia. It's an interesting opportunity to have more impact on the surrounding community than any other school in Philadelphia."
 
Daniel cites not only the digital divide, but the cultural divide between Temple students and low income residents, who live side by side. "There's been some tension between the community and the school." The initiative both encourages students to solve nearby urban problems and offers training to PHA residents. The project could have implications on a national scale.
 
Daniel credits Temple Vice Provost for Research and Business Development Tony Lowman with helping to get the new initiative off the ground, and offering an opportunity not only to develop apps for PHA residents, but with their help as well. Lowman, previously at Drexel, was the leading academic partner in the Freedom Rings Sustainable Broadband Adoption Partnership. Drexel provided 5,000 laptops to PHA residents as part of the Freedom Rings Partnership.
 
Daniel says, "If we implement this well and get the community engaged, it will be inviting, not intimidating." Some of the ideas for apps to build include streamlining the way PHA residents can find social services, and get easier access to health care and educational materials. Daniel expects measurable results in two to three years.

Source: Brigitte Daniel, Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc.
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Drexel engineers music, 3D technology innovations with separate Philly institutions

Drexel University looks at the entire region as an extension of its campus. Ideas flow like steam beneath Philadelphia's streets. Two professors in different departments are heading multidisciplinary teams that merge new technology with Philadelphia traditions. 
 
In collaboration with the Academy of Natural Sciences, the plan to print 3D dinosaurs has already gained national attention. In the area of music technology, Professor Youngmoo Kim is developing the first app to do real time annotation of Philadelphia Orchestra performances. The Drexel-generated iOS orchestra app will be the first of its kind in the world.
 
Paleontologist Ken Lacovara is in the process of reanimating dinosaurs. Before you jump to the obvious Jurassic Park conclusion, there are a lot of steps in between. Lacovara, a paleontologist, has teamed up with Dr. James Tangorra in Drexel's College of Engineering to scan and print out 3D dinosaur bones. 
 
Also on board is Drexel Mechanical Engineering prof Sorin Siegler, whose focus is biomechanics. "We don’t really know exactly how dinosaurs moved," says Lacovara, who wonders how a creature weighing 60 to 80 tons could move and trot. Not to mention lay an egg. 
 
With a birth canal opening at two and a half stories in the air, and an egg the size of a volleyball, Lacovara wonders how the massive dino would withstand the stress of squatting and getting up. With the help of his colleagues, creating 3D models and working out the biomechanics will answer literally tons of questions.
 
Over in Drexel's METLab, whch stands for Music, Entertainment and Technology, Youngmoo Kim takes a break from a robotics demonstration to talk about his collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra. It started a few years ago, when Kim made his students sit through a classical concert. "Those without classical training said, yeah, that was nice, but I didn't get it," recalls Kim. It was around the same time the iPhone came out, so he and students undertook a project to create an app that would tell listeners about the performance in real time. 
 
It was such a hit that Kim and students applied for and won the Knight Arts Challenge. While Kim cannot be specific about the date of the public rollout, he says it will be within the year. Perhaps the launch will coincide with the orchestra's 2012-2013 season opener this fall, but Kim remains mum.
 
Kim also says that not every concert will have an accompanying app, so concertgoers who find smartphone use distasteful can choose performances without the tech overlay.
 
"There used to be a brouhaha over supertitles at the opera," says Kim, who has dual training in music and engineering. "Ten to twenty years later no one cares. If you go to an opera now and there are no subtitles, something seems wrong. Likewise, 10 to 20 years from now, no one will care if someone uses a phone at the symphony."

Source: Ken Lacovara, Youngmoo Kim, Drexel University
Writer: Sue Spolan

Vascular Magnetics' $7M Series A round shows impact of Science Center's QED program, company's team

Fresh off a $7 million round of Series A financing, Richard Woodward says without hesitation that the company he co-founded, Vascular Magnetics, would not exist without the first-of-its-kind QED Proof of Concept Funding Program at the University City Science Center.

A veteran executive from the biotech sector with extensive startup and early stage experience, Woodward was semi-retired and consulting in 2009 when he learned about the QED program, which assesses white papers on promising technologies and links the best with a business advisor and the possibility of funding. In the case of Vascular Magnetics, Woodward was paired with Dr. Robert J. Levy of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and they were awarded $200,000 by the QED program in 2010.  The result was CHOP’s first spin-out company, focused on developing its proprietary, magnetically targeted drug delivery system for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

“I was joking with my wife that this would have been a whole lot easier when I was 40,” Woodward says. “She said that when I was 40, I wouldn’t have had any idea what to do.”

In one respect, Woodward has come full circle with CHOP. His daughter had a medical condition that incapacitated her for her a couple years and a physician from CHOP helped contain the ailment, allowing Woodward’s daughter to pursue a career working for another children’s hospital.

“Dr. Levy, I have so much respect for that man,” says Woodward, the COO, of the company’s founding scientist. “He’s brilliant and a very prolific inventor, with something on the order of 31 issued patents. He probably has another 30 in various stages of the application process.

“It’s fairly rare to find an academic like that.”

The entire Series A round was funded by Wayne-based Devon Park Bioventures, whose general partners Christopher Moller and Marc Ostro will join the Vascular Magnetics board and rounds out a compelling case study of the potential of Greater Philadelphia's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Funds will allow the company to complete clinical trials, which are expected to begin in 2014. While the company will stay “aggressively virtual,” according to Woodward, there’s a good chance it will hire up to two more individuals. Also, the company is planning on maintaining workspace in the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator.

PAD effects about 30 million in Europe and North America, including 10 million in the U.S. Vascular Magnetics’ system aims to provide a more durable and effective treatment than angioplasty, grafts and drug eluting stents. It does this by combining biodegradeable, magnetic drug-loaded particles, a magnetic targeting catheter and an external device for creating a uniform magnetic field.

Woodward says some of Levy’s team at CHOP will be involved as consultants.

“These are some of the people that have developed the whole system. It’s important to have them around.”

Writer: Joe Petrucci
Source: Richard Woodward, Vascular Magnetics

Photos courtesy of Vascular Magnetics
Richard Woodward
Dr. Robert Levy

Women own IgnitePhilly9, Philadelphia Orchard Project wins $1,000

Like some kind of sustainable Vaudeville act, a giant check made out to The Philadelphia Orchard Project danced past Paul Kimport, co-owner of Johnny Brenda's, where Ignite Philly 9 was underway last Thursday. The Ignite 6 winner received $1,000 for its urban fruit tree initiative.
 
There are a few truly key vantage points with good sight lines to the stage at JB's, and Kimport stood at one of the best, with a view of the entire area. To the right, bathed in the blue light of a photo booth, speaker Yasmine Mustafa practiced her talk about bringing GirlDevelopIt to Philadelphia. Straight ahead, past the attentive bartenders, Jessica Moore was onstage talking about her startup, Philadelphia Cow Share.
 
This was one of the best Ignite Phillys we've done," says co-organizer Dana Vachon. "The speakers were diverse. The crowd was diverse. It was awesome! It's always exciting to see a couple hundred people get so excited about the good things in our city."

Co-organizer Geoff DiMasi adds, "I am really proud of the diversity of speakers. Some cities make Ignite into a tech and start-up event while ours is a celebration of the city."
 
Perhaps the most mind blowing moment came at the top of the program. Keya Dannenbaum, founder of ElectNext, opened IgnitePhilly not with a talk about politics or civics, as expected. In five minutes, with very simply illustrated slides, Dannenbaum brought the house to tears with a story about a bridge, a note, and a great love.
 
"I was pretty nervous since it was so personal, and I knew the expectation would be something different because, one, I'm always talking about ElectNext and two, because I felt that it would be more typical of an Ignite event to speak to a specific accomplishment directly relatable to Philadelphia," says Dannenbaum, who had absolutely no idea what the response would be. She'd only ever told the story once before, at her wedding. "I ultimately decided to tell it because I just really, really love that story." She intentionally left out all mention of ElectNext, which continues to grow from its headquarters at PMN's Project Liberty.
 
It was a night that went to the women. Pam Selle's speech, entitled Go the Fuck Home, was about finding a balance between work and life, and received dozens of twitter and real life accolades. Mustafa, who turns 30 this week, won for Best Overall presentation. Sisters Emaleigh and Aine Doley talked about their grassroots neighborhood renewal work in Germantown. Diana Lind of The Next American City asked us to consider blowing up Interstate 95, for real. 
 
Some pretty sharp guys also took the stage, like the Bicycle Coalition's Alex Doty, up and coming stand up comic Doogie Horner, the brilliant Dave Martorana, Tim Bennett of Bennett Compost, as well as Jeff Friedman and the Code for America fellows, who are in residence here this month. 
 
While  DiMasi could not get over the fact that he's already organized nine Ignites (when he can still recall creating the first) the packed room begged for Ignite 10. Says Vachon, "So far, we do not have a date for Ignite 10, probably sometime in the late spring."

As far as rumors of moving to a larger venue? Not true. "We love the venue and while we would love to accommodate more people, we think the impact of an intimate sold out event is perfect for now," replies DiMasi.

Source: Keya Dannenbaum, ElectNext, Dana Vachon, Ignite Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

SOCIAL INNOVATIONS JOURNAL: Lee Nunery, Seth Williams among those focused on community impact

Editor's note: This is presented as part of a partnership with the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.

Next week, the Winter 2012 edition of the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal (PSIJ), titled "Innovations in Community Impact," will launch on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, second floor (19 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia).  You can read the Winter edition then by going to the PSIJ websiteThe event is open to the public, but requires an RSVP by emailing here.  The forum runs from 8:30 a.m.-12 noon, and will showcase two panels discussing health, education, criminal justice, child welfare innovative solutions to impact Philadelphia communities.  Some of the voices you will hear or read include:
  • Dan Hilferty and Independence Blue Cross’s newly created Social Impact Foundation that serves as a model for Corporate Social Responsibility and Responsible social investing;
  • Kenny Gamble and Adur Rahim Islam, a successful real estate developer in South Philadelphia who took the unusual step of getting into the business of education, seeking to address at a holistic level the social ills that plagued local neighborhoods by focusing on schools as a way to redevelop a sense of pride and ownership within communities;
  • Anne Marie Ambrose and the Department of Human Services’ program, Improving Outcomes for Children, which aims to improve service delivery and outcomes for children in care by engaging community partners, streamlining case management and vigilantly tracking outcomes indicators to measure the initiative’s success;
  • District Attorney Seth Williams’ commitment to The Choice is Yours (TCY), an alternative-to-incarceration program to increase public safety and reduce recidivism rates by diverting first-time, non-violent felony drug offenders away from prison and into the labor market through positive job training and support;
  • Ann Karlen and Fair Food’s strategy to strengthen the Philadelphia regional food system by increasing the demand for a humane, sustainable, local agriculture system; and
  • Dr. Lee Nunery and the School District’s efforts to create alternative education settings that ensure all students can succeed in schools and their partnership with colleges to create direct college access and completion pipelines.
Philadelphia Social Innovation Journal publishes "Nominate an Innovator" articles which are public nominations of social innovations.  The Winter issue will highlight PolicyMap, demonstrating how programs can make "data-driven" decisions using a dynamic web-based tool, Naveguemos con Salud, a program providing breast health education and treatment assistance for Latinas, and Sunday Suppers, a novel intervention focused on educating low-income residents of the Norris Square neighborhood about the importance of taking time for nutritious family meals.

The Winter edition will highlight one of PSIJ columnists who explores the notion that problem-solving requires a different level of thought than our current thinking, which actually creates programs; the growing relevance of nonprofit collaboration; and the need for nonprofits to think strategically about partnerships as a way to grow revenue.

PSIJ 2012 Editions: In the Spring you will read about innovations in Arts and Culture, followed by innovations in Philanthropy and Responsible Investing in late Summer/early Fall.  Late Fall you will read about innovations in Collaborations, Affiliations, Partnerships and Mergers.

Increased partnership with foundations and universities: We welcome Independence Blue Cross Foundation and the Patricia Kind Foundation to our advisory board, which is composed of Independence Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Scattergood Foundation, St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, Green Tree Community Health Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Wells Fargo, Inglis Foundation, Barra Foundation, and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, the Wharton School, and Sage Communications.

PSIJ is guided by an advisory board of regional foundations, the University of Pennsylvania, and thought leaders that include: Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Patricia Kind Foundation, Independence Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Scattergood Foundation, St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, Green Tree Community Health Foundation, Wells Fargo, Inglis Foundation, Barra Foundation, and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, School of Social Policy and Practice,  and the Wharton School; and Sage Communications.

NICHOLAS TORRES and TINE HANSEN-TURTON are co-founders of Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal. Send feedback here.

Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal is the first online publication to bring a public focus to social innovators and their nonprofit organizations, foundations and social sector businesses in Greater Philadelphia Area, to recognize success and encourage others around the country to strive for similar results.



TEDxPHILLY CATCH-UP: Jen Pahlka and the Code for America crew see great things for tech in city

This is the first installment of an ongoing series that catches up with last November’s TEDxPhilly speakers.

For more videos of last year's TEDxPhilly talks, visit the event's YouTube channel.

 


Jennifer Pahlka has made cities her life work. She considers herself a product of American cities, from New York, where she grew up, to Oakland and San Francisco more recently, and now Philadelphia, where she’s visited close to a dozen times in the last year or so. She refered to Philly as a “city of love” in her TEDxPhilly talk last November at Temple University.

As founder and executive director of Code for America, she helps match web professionals with cities to create efficiency and promote accessibility among municipal offices by sorting databases, building apps, and freeing up data. Philadelphia is one of only two programs to be a part of CfA for two consecutive years, and this year’s edition recently welcomed CfA fellows Alex Yule, Elizabeth Hunt, and Michelle Lee.

Flying Kite talked to Pahlka and the three new fellows to catch up on their work in Philly and how CfA has grown into a game-changing experience for cities across the country.

Flying Kite (FK): How has your project in Philadelphia advanced since TEDxPhilly?
Jennifer Pahlka (JP): The big news is that our 2012 fellows just started their work in Philadelphia on Monday (Jan. 30). Michelle Lee, Alex Yule, and Liz Hunt are the new team, and they are accomplished, talented, and passionate about making the City of Philadelphia work better for all its residents. They're starting five weeks of meeting with everyone they can and figuring out how they can make a bit impact there this year.

Part of their work will be carrying on Change by Us in Philly, which currently hosts 418 ideas and 50 active projects, in which citizens are helping to make their neighborhoods better.

FK: Any changes to report? New partners, funding, accolades or other growth?
JP: At the end of last year, Code for America received a $1.5M grant from Google to start two new programs, including what we call the CfA Brigade, which will help civic developers and others anywhere in the country to stand up civic apps for their communities, and a start up accelerator for civic businesses.  We're hoping to have a big Philly presence when we get it up and running.

FK: What is one thing you've learned since TEDxPhilly about cities or Philadelphia?
JP: Sixty percent of the world will be living in cities by 2020!

FK: What's the next milestone for your work and why is it important?
JP: Our call for applications for our 2013 cities program closes on April 1. We hope that more and more cities around the country want to be a part of this movement, so that more cities can work openly, efficiently, and be deeply engaged with their citizens.

FK: What are your specific tasks while in Philadelphia?
Elizabeth Hunt (EH): As part of our year-long fellowship with Code for America, we’re spending 5 weeks in discovery mode in Philadelphia: understanding how the city serves its citizens, what Philadelphians want and need from their city, and how technology might help make local government more open, efficient, and engaging.

Alex Yule (AY): To that end, we’re meeting with citizens, officials across city government, as well as members of the tech and civic communities. We are also searching for champions – strong local partners who can help us build solutions, and maintain them once we’re gone. We want the tools and solutions we build to live on!

FK: What do you think of Philly's potential as a tech hub/leader?
Michelle Lee (ML): At Code for America, our past successes can be attributed to great partners at every level of city government and community. They help us make sure any technology we build is relevant to the real, existing, and complex urban challenges that cities face today.

Similarly, Drexel University’s ExCITE (Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies) program is bridging technology with the arts. Philadelphia is an established national leader in healthcare and education, and has recently won major awards for sustainability and the arts. There’s a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of our sustainability, education, and especially our healthcare strengths in the same way.

FK: What are Philly's most pressing tech challenges?
AY: It seems to me that Philadelphia’s most pressing challenge is that people outside Philadelphia don’t seem to know there’s a vibrant tech scene here. So it may be difficult for companies here to attract more tech talent.

FK: What has impressed you about technology in Philadelphia?
ML: You could argue that the relative scarcity of technology investment capital here so far has actually had a silver lining. Philadelphia’s tech community has created sustainable businesses, very much in touch with their users and customers. I don’t believe you’d see a dot-com bust here.

AY: Philly has a strong core of companies who live in Philly because they truly love and believe in their city. Some other cities are full of companies who are there because “they’re supposed to be.” You get a very clear sense of that traveling around the city and chatting with people -- there are no opportunists or fair-weather friends here. People are in it for the long haul, they’re dedicated to building this city up as an even greater place to live and work.

Is there a difference between your initial perception of the city and the way you feel after being here for a bit?
AY: I’d heard about Azavea’s great mapping work while I was still back in school -- but I had no idea the scene was so vibrant! The city really is a bit of a hidden gem.

EH: I’m from San Francisco. I’d never really thought about it as a place with a tech scene. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned there are thriving tech, civic, and arts communities. Some of the initiatives we’ve learned about -- the Urban Apps and Maps program at Temple and the new ExCITE program at Drexel for example -- are strong indicators that Philadelphia is a city on the verge of becoming an exciting hub of opportunity, whether you’re a tech person, an artist, or civic leader. Now is the time to move to Philly!

SUE SPOLAN is Innovation & Jobs News editor for Flying Kite. Send feedback here.

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor for Flying Kite. Send feedback here.

Photo
From left, Liz Hunt, Alex Yule, Michelle Lee, Mayor Michael Nutter, Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation Jeff Friedman, and Director Of Communications And Strategic Partnerships Desiree Peterkin Bell,



Nutter to Philly Startup Leaders: Entrepreneurs want to come to this city, we need to make it easier

Below is text of a letter sent last week from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to Philly Startup Leaders regarding his address to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and his commitment to making the city more attractive for entrepreneurs (published with permission from Philly Startup Leaders)

Philly Startup Leaders community:
During my address to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce this week, I emphasized that one of the best things to happen in Philly over the last decade has been the growth of organizations that bring big thinkers together like Philly Startup Leaders. This active, entrepreneurial community inspires creativity, new ideas and new thinking in Philadelphia. Our city’s future success is dependent on the strategic use of our talent, and it is the companies like yours in the innovation sector that will create jobs for Philadelphians in the decades to come.

We have a whole community of organizations that are creating a network of entrepreneurs who are based in Philadelphia and have connections around the world. If we are to become Philadelphia, an international city, we will need to rely on companies big and small, new and established to help spread the Philadelphia story around the world. I know that entrepreneurs want to come to this city and we need to make it easier to start their businesses right here.

Through my second term, my Commerce Department and I will stress the importance of making Philadelphia a more dynamic city for startups. I recognize the value fo these companies – and of organizations like Philly Startup Leaders, which brings these entrepreneurs together – to Philadelphia’s success in the new economy. The City is here to help.

Thank you for choosing Philadelphia for your home and business. I know we can do big things, and it is through imagination, ambition and resilience that together, we will lead Philadelphia to success in the new economy.

Sincerely,
Michael A. Nutter
Mayor


For Philly Startup Leaders' response, go here.
For more on starting a business in Philadelphia, go here.

Live in 3, 2, 1: Countdown to PhillyCAM grand opening tomorrow

"There's nothing like going live," says Deborah Rudman, Programming Director for Philadelphia Community Access Media (PhillyCAM), which celebrates the grand opening of official headquarters this Wednesday.
 
Mayor Michael Nutter will be in attendance for the big reveal at 699 Ranstead Street in downtown Philadelphia. The fight for public access began 27 years ago, and the formal creation of PhillyCAM finally happened in 2009. The mayor will provide the countdown to live programming, a first for the public access channel. Gretjen Clausing, Executive Director, says "It is a moment that I have pictured since 1997 when I started working on the fight to get public access.  Just thinking of the countdown before we start sending out a live signal just gives me goosebumps."
 
Of the brightly colored HQ, Clausing says, " It's fantastic. Flexible. Welcoming. And it still has that new car smell. We  are only just beginning to understand the possibilities of the space and all the equipment that we have installed." 
 
The organization began life in temporary quarters at the Painted Bride Art Center, and while concurrently building membership and programming, PhillyCAM found a permanent home. With the assistance of Metcalfe Architecture and Design, a former photographer's studio has been transformed into a multilevel suite of studios, a media lab, community space, classrooms and offices. An Express Studio faces directly onto 7th street.
 
Rudman describes the new space simply as "fabulous, even better real than imagined," with people stopping by on lunch break to use the commons, or dropping in to use the media lab before going to see a movie at the nearby Ritz Theater.
 
Rudman looks forward to new studio production classes, more programs produced by PhillyCAM members, regular live shows,and connections between people who might not have met otherwise.
 
The grand opening takes place at 2 pm tomorrow, followed in the evening by a reception at 6 that will lead up to a live show, produced right in the midst of the party, at 7, featuring interviews with staff, some pre-produced drop-ins and perhaps a few unexpected moments. The public is welcome to both the 2 pm and 6 pm events..

Source: Gretjen Clausing, Deborah Rudman, PhillyCAM
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

Leadership Philadelphia's drive to stay current starts with connections

How does a 50 plus year old organization stay current with the latest trends? That's the challenge for Leadership Philadelphia, which has been around since the late 1950s.

Liz Dow, President and CEO, says the key is connecting the old guard with up and coming business leaders in Philadelphia. In 2012, Dow is bringing people like Geoff DiMasi of Indy Hall and P'unk Avenue and Michelle Freeman of YIP (and Flying Kite) into the fold, with plans for both to come speak at Leadership Philadelphia's Sunday Breakfast Club.
 
"It's our mission to mobilize and connect professionals," says Dow, with offerings like the Core Program and the Executive Program, which aim to train and provide networking for Philly's business community. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Leadership Philadelphia launched the Connector Project, with the stated mission to  identify under-the-radar leaders, study them in order to teach others to connect, and celebrate their success.

At the end of 2011, Leadership Philadelphia announced the nomination of 76 creative connectors, which Dow terms "a funky wonderful group of entrepreneurial arts people who are trusted members of the community." 
 
There's also the Pay It Forward program, in which participants are given money to hand to someone else and then report back. The stories are now pouring in.

Fairmount Park Art Association's Executive Director Penny Balkin Bach writes that she "matched the $50 and sent it to Creative Connector Stanford Thompson at Play On, Philly to buy 100 reeds for the kids playing wind instruments." Irene Hannan, a Senior Vice President at Citizens Bank, donated the money to a single mom she found through Project HOME to use for her children’s Christmas gifts.

Leadership Philadelphia also launched This I Believe, which formed the basis for a national radio series produced out of WHYY and airing on NPR's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Sunday.
 
Recruiting for Leadership Philadelphia's Core Program begins in March 2012, The Executive Program, now underway, concludes in June.

Source: Liz Dow, Leadership Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Disaster plan: Philly startup Near-Miss Management is a guaranteed hit

It would be incredibly useful to predict disasters before they happen. That's the goal of Near-Miss Management, a new company co-founded by Ulku Oktem and Ankur Pariyani, who met at the University of Pennsylvania, where Oktem taught and Pariyani received his PhD. 
 
Suppose the BP Gulf oil spill could have been prevented. Or the disaster in Bhopal. Oktem and Pariyani have created the remarkable, patent pending, Dynamic Risk Predictor Suite, comprised of three software programs and four add-ons that are able to predict major problems before they happen, saving billions of dollars annually.
 
"It's an area I started to work on more than 10 years ago," recalls Oktem, who is a senior research fellow at the Wharton School in the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. "We started out focusing on personal near misses." For example, if a worker slips, but doesn't fall down, that's considered a near miss and an indicator of future problems. 
 
Oktem says the science of close calls has been gaining momentum. It was her work with the chemical industry that sparked an interest in practical applications of a problem that was previously in the realm of academic theory. "Near misses are a leading indicator of accidents," says Oktem. If you look back at unfolding events in the aftermath, adds Pariyani, there will always be several near misses leading up to any major accident.
 
The software suite Near-Miss Management has developed is designed initially to address issues in the chemical industry, and will easily apply to a wide range of businesses, including airlines, pharmaceuticals, energy, defense, finance and insurance.
 
"We expect that once our software is running in a few plants, it will catch on very fast," says Oktem, who cites an annual loss of about $10 billion in the chemical industry due to accidents and unexpected shutdowns. "People who are responsible for risk management of chemical plants are a close knit group. The key is getting the first few companies, and we expect to do that this year."
 
The bootstrapped Near-Miss Management, based in Center City, includes three on the management team and five programmers. Near-Miss Management will demonstrate its software tomorrow at the upcoming Philly Tech Meetup at the Quorum of the University City Science Center.

Source: Ulku Oktem, Ankur Pariyani, Near-Miss Management
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

Social innovation the focus of separate competitions for women, Jewish entrepreneurs

A 2010 Edelman goodpurpose study found that 86 percent of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society's interests as on business interests. This thinking is at the root of social entrepreneurship, an increasingly used model employed by both non- and for-profit entrepreneurs to build successful and sustainable businesses.

Two local groups are looking to nurture those ideas through separate programs.

The Women for Social Innovation, a giving circle of Women's Way, is taking applications for its Turning Point Prize, a $15,000 annual award given the last three years to an emerging female social entrepreneur living or studying in Greater Philadelphia and who is developing a non-profit venture. Last year's winner, Tracie Gilbert, developed a 10-month community education initiative to help women gain tools necessary to help their pre-teen and teen daughters make healthy and empowered decisions about sexual health.

"The prize winner gains important help in navigating the challenges of establishing a new venture," says Nancy Moses, WSI founder. "It's a win-win, since our members are also enriched by the experience of helping an emerging social entrepreneur."

The application deadline for this year's competition is 5 p.m. on Dec. 28. Information on eligibility, selection criteria and application guidelines available here.

Applications have already closed for another program, the Tribe 12 Social Entrepreneur Fellowship – a group of 22-40 year-old Jewish difference-makers looking to plant the seeds of innovation in Philadelphia. However, the group is always looking to engage potential fellows.

Last year's fellows include Todd Baylson, the manager of planning and policy at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, who aimed to green the land occupied by Jewish religious institutions, and School District of Philadelphia special education teacher Sara Landman, who worked to utilize retired Jewish educators to increase the literacy skills of urban students and their parents. The next group of fellows take over in January.

"The Tribe 12 Social Entrepreneur Fellowship enables innovators on the cutting edge of creativity to work together to launch socially-minded ventures that change the world," Ben Wachstein, Project Director of Tribe 12. "Our Fellows are informal educators and community organizers, nonprofit managers and environmental activists, programmers and artists, biotech visionaries and Israel advocates."

Source: Rachel Dukeman
Writer: Joe Petrucci


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