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Bartram's Garden hosts first annual 'orchard to table' dinner

By now, we've all had a taste of farm to table, but how about orchard to table?

The Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) -- with help from hosting Bartram’s Garden (near our summer On the Ground home in Kingsessing) -- is launching its first annual Orchard to Table Dinner for 50 lucky guests.

"This is the first year we’ve planned something like this and we’re really excited," says POP second-year intern Alyssa Schimmel, who specializes in promoting POP fundraising collaborations with businesses and other organizations.

The dinner will take place at Bartram's Garden in Southwest Philadelphia, 5 - 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13; the cost is $60 per person. The evening will kick off with a tour of the orchard at Bartram’s led by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth, followed by a happy hour featuring beverage Yards Brewing Co., Crime & Punishment Brewing Co., and Kuran Cider.

Main courses will be provided by local farm-to-table caterer Seedling and Sage, with dishes including pecan chicken with wilted arugula salad, or a vegetable creation made with produce from Philly Foodworks. Mycopolitan Mushrooms will serve up specially foraged hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, Brine Street Pickelry is bringing the pickles, Metropolitan Bakery has the bread covered, and the coffee is courtesy of ReAnimator Coffee. The meal will be served family-style from platters at joint tables. Artisans, local food and horticulture vendors, and live music will also be on hand throughout the night.

"We’re really focusing on our native fruiting trees," explains Shimmel. "What plants do we use in orchard spaces? And how can we familiarize them to a larger audience?"

That means local apples, pears and figs.

It’s all about "bringing people together for food that’s grown in local farms, and using that to highlight the power food has in our community," she adds.

Proceeds from the dinner will support more community orchards. Each year, POP works on five to 10 newly planted groves across the city with help from volunteers. Dollars from the new fundraiser will help pay for the plants and planting, enable education with the help of on-site POP liaisons, and go towards upkeep.

POP currently manages 54 community orchards comprised of 1028 fruit trees and those numbers are growing every year. After the September 13 dinner, supporters can check out the group’s sixth annual Philadelphia Orchard Week (October 8-16) featuring harvest festivals and other events across the city. Volunteers are also needed for fall planting season, running late September through mid-November.

"This dinner is going to be a great showcase of a lot of wonderful work being done in the community, both by the Orchard Project and all of our partners," says Schimmel. "We feel very fortunate to be in partnership with all those who are working on making local food more accessible."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Alyssa Schimmel, the Philadelphia Orchard Project

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

'Animal Farm to Table' lets Fringe Fest goers get their hands dirty

Philadelphia Fringe Festival goers who want an unusual, interactive experience should head to The Renegade Company’s Animal Farm to Table, hosted by North Philly's Urban Creators. The show will involve discussion, walking around the farm harvesting vegetables, a communal meal and a roving performance inspired by the George Orwell novel Animal Farm. In other words, it’s not your typical theater experience.

"This is a piece that’s very active for an audience member," explains Renegade Artistic Director Mike Durkin. "You’re going to get your hands dirty and you’re going have bugs fly across your face."

Durkin says his interest in topics like access to healthy food started with his work at the Nicetown branch of the Free Library. Students who came for after-school programs didn’t have many food options besides the snacks for sale at corner stores.

"I began to get more and more interested in access," he recalls. "How we can obtain food? What impacts our food sources?" This year, it seemed like a good idea to integrate those themes of "seeking a food utopia, creating a food revolution" into another long-term goal: adapting Animal Farm into a Renegade show.

In recent years, Durkin’s Fringe work has included Damned Dirty Apes!, performed at FDR Park, and Bathtub Moby-Dick, performed in a South Philly rowhome.

Durkin approached Urban Creators about a Renegade partnership at the start of 2016. The theater company had looked at several area farms as possible collaborators, but ended up choosing the grassroots nonprofit at 2315 N. 11th Street. The organization has a strong relationship with local youngsters and a community-driven mission of economic development, support for social entrepreneurship, and transforming neglected spaces.

The experience will last about 70 minutes, not including an optional "open sharing" discussion circle for all ticket-holders happening an hour before the show. It’s a "ground to the plate" experience, beginning with showgoers finding and harvesting veggies on the farm; Chef Brion Scheffler (the man behind the Philly blog Food Junkets) will prepare a simple meal incorporating the audience members' finds.

The Renegade Company’s Animal Farm to Table, presented as part of the 2016 Philly Fringe Festival (check out our Flying Kite round-up of the fest here), is coming to Urban Creators for nine performances from September 8-18. All shows begin at 6:30 p.m.; come for an hour-long onsite pre-show discussion. Tickets are $20; discounts available for theater industry folks, teachers, students and seniors; pay-what-you-can admission is open to residents of the North Philly community.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Mike Durkin

EXTRA: Community dollars support big transitions at Bartram's Garden

This summer, Flying Kite's On the Ground program took an in-depth look at Bartram’s Garden, a historic horticultural gem on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Now there’s a chance for all Philadelphians to make a big difference for the site.

Gearing up to be more accessible than ever to city-dwellers with the completion of the Bartram’s Mile trail, the 45-acre national historic landmark recently reopened the renovated original Bartram House for public tours, as well as the Ann Bartram Carr Garden. Another burgeoning program is the four-acre Community Farm and Food Resource Center, a formerly a disused baseball field and tennis court. (Here’s an in-depth look at the amazing work blooming at the farm.)

This summer, the nonprofit launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $30,000 for the farm.

"What we’re doing is raising funds for stipends for the students, the farm co-directors' salaries, and all of the supplies that are needed," explains Bartram’s Assistant Director Stephanie Phillips.

Currently, the campaign has raised almost $7,000. If they can hit $10,000 by September 30, a large donor will match those funds with another $10,000.

"It means a lot to us," says Phillips of donors who give even a few dollars (the campaign currently has attracted supporters donating as little as $5 or up to $200). "The support goes a long way, because this is a very lean program that has a pretty huge impact."

The accumulation of those small donations signals the huge community investment in programs at Bartram’s and locals’ desire to keeping them running.

"We see this Go Fund Me campaign as a way to get our feet under us while we do more longterm strategic fundraising," adds Phillips. That can take the form of government grants, but those dollars move slowly and Bartram’s is already "looking to get outside of our borders."

For example, giving garden boxes to residents of nearby Wheeler Street, and helping them learn how to garden for themselves at home outside of Bartram’s fields and greenhouses.

Anyone who wants to pitch in to support Bartram’s workers, programming and supplies can donate to the historic site’s campaign through September 30, 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Stephanie Phillips, Bartram’s Garden


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Greenworks strives towards a more sustainable Philadelphia

Greenworks, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the City of Philadelphia, was launched in 2009. Now it's time to update and streamline the program's policies and goals, making them more accessible and actionable to the public.

On August 9, the Office of Sustainability held an open house at the Innovation Lab on the top floor of the Municipal Services Building. Office of Sustainability Director Christine Knapp spoke about "updating the framework" of Greenworks. After years of developing new policies and integrating them into the machine of local government, Greenworks is turning outward. The updated plan, as developed with continued public feedback, will be "more people-focused," said Knapp.

Rolled out under Knapp’s predecessor Katherine Gajewski, Greenworks is under the umbrella of the national Urban Sustainability Directors Network. Other participating cities include Seattle, Boston, New York City and Chicago. Those cities are also beginning to gather feedback and study changes to their inaugural sustainability programs, as well as share best practices.

The public wants "to see us go deeper at the neighborhood level," say Knapp, to emphasize the viability of sustainable practices on every block in everyday life. Supporters also are hoping for a greater sense of urgency to the sustainability plan, which could go beyond short term goals and emphasize the longterm global impact of taking action on problems like climate change. People also see the opportunity to improve access to the program so no neighborhoods, regardless of socio-economic status, are left out of sustainability programs.        

The original Greenworks concept, with its long list of complicated goals, proved confusing to the public. Through community meetings, expert roundtables, an online survey and social media outreach, the plan is being streamlined into eight "longterm visions."

These include: All Philadelphians use clean energy that they can afford; all Philadelphians have sustainable access to safe and affordable transportation; and all Philadelphians benefit from parks, trees, stormwater management and waterways.

These and the other five vision statements will continue to evolve as they incorporate feedback from the well-attended open house. After a brief presentation and Q&A, the crowd was able to move around the room and brainstorm ideas on Post-it notes, placing them on boards dedicated to topics like waste, transportation, sustainable business and education, energy, and food and water, with space for suggestions on the individual, neighborhood and institutional level.

Knapp estimated that an updated Greenworks plan will launch in late October 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Christine Knapp, the Office of Sustainability 

Meetings at the 12th Police District are fertile ground for community connections

By 6:05 p.m. on a hot July night in Southwest Philly, the line to get into the 12th Police District building at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue stretched out the door. It was time for another monthly community meeting in Kingsessing (our current On the Ground home).

Led by community outreach specialist Officer Arnold Mitchell in partnership with the Southwest CDC and other supporters, these popular meetings take place on the second Wednesday of every month. They draw a wide cross-section of local residents for informational sharing, dialogue on local issues, a friendly meal and raffle prizes.

The District's July meeting featured speakers from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, including Refuge Manager Lamar Gore. He talked about the Refuge’s goal of educating, engaging with, and connecting to Southwest Philadelphians, who may not realize that this world-class piece of nature -- preserved near the Philadelphia airport as "America’s First Urban Refuge" -- is accessible by SEPTA bus and regional rail.

Gore explained that the "education" portion of the John Heinz mission has involved a lot of work in local schools, getting kids acquainted with this resource in their backyard. The engagement part includes a growing roster of activities available at the Refuge including kayaking (other Heinz speakers solicited programming ideas from attendees and expressed interest in brainstorming with block captains). "Connecting" has many components, from developing new avenues of communication between the Refuge and the community,to  overcoming language barriers for people who might want to visit, to identifying transportation barriers that might keep folks from traveling to the Refuge.

Gore also detailed a Heinz Refuge plan to transform one of Kingsessing's vacant lots (location TBD) into an educational community green space in partnership with Audubon Pennsylvania. (You can read more about the project in our On the Ground coverage here.)

Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) West Philadelphia Outreach Specialist Daniel Schupsky helmed the second half of the meeting, focusing the Green City, Clean Waters program, which will bring improvements in green stormwater infrastructure to the area over the next few years.

He explained the cheaper and more beautifying option of "green" versus "gray" stormwater management projects to mitigate polluting overflow from the overburdened combined sewer system still used in many parts of the city. Schupsky explained that a gray system of pipes and holding tanks for extra water could cost the city up to $10 billion, while green efforts like rain gardens, green roofs, stormwater planters, tree trenches breezeways and more will cost about $2 billion, and be worth the temporary inconvenience of construction.

"This is what we want for the future," he said. "This is what we want for our neighborhood. The conversation starts with meetings like this."

One attendee who lives near 80th and Lindbergh Boulevard declined to share her name with Flying Kite, but said she’s been attending the meetings because it’s good to learn how other people are tackling local issues: "You want to know what’s going on in your community, not just on your block," she said.

The next 12th District Community Meeting is on Wednesday, August 10 at 7 p.m. at the District headquarters at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: 12th Police District Community Meeting speakers

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

MilkCrate for Communities helps companies and institutions reward sustainable living

About a year and a half ago, local startup MilkCrate began an incubator residency through Project Liberty. This came after a potent mix of bartering, bootstrapping and crowdfunding helped to launch the sustainable-living app. Now the company is ready to add a major new level to their platform that goes beyond individual users.
 
The free MilkCrate app officially launched in early 2015 as a resource for people who want an easy way to connect to socially and environmentally conscious businesses and services. It has since expanded beyond Philly to Denver, Boston and Asheville. Co-founder and CEO Morgan Berman, who earned a master’s degree in sustainable design from Philadelphia University, was pleased to see traction from the original concept, but the team quickly realized that more was on the table.
 
"We actually took a pretty radical approach to both our business model and our product," she says of the revamp, launching this month.
 
MilkCrate for Communities isn’t replacing the original free app -- it’s an add-on service that companies, universities and other enterprises will be able to purchase and extend as a perk to their employees, students or residents. It will also let buyers quantify and collect data on real-life social- and eco-conscious practices within their organizations, which can be harnessed both for external branding and marketing as well as internal messaging, all while encouraging sustainable living.
 
The company realizes that app platforms aimed at boosting sustainable practices at large institutions or companies already exist, but MilkCrate has a major edge because they already have a comprehensive localized directory and calendar within their existing product.  
 
Berman says MilkCrate for Communities is a premium, private "game-ified" social experience that clients can tailor for their users. Members of participating groups can download the free app and, unlike in the public version, log in and begin earning points for things like checking into a farm-to-table restaurant or fair-trade coffee shop, signing up for a composting service or CSA, or volunteering.
 
Participating companies and schools can use MilkCrate to tabulate the eco-friendly and socially conscious steps users make, and incentivize them with quarterly or semester-based rewards.
 
The first official buyer of the MilkCrate for Communities platform is Berman’s own alma mater, Philadelphia University, which will launch the experience for students and faculty this summer. Other clients are already in the pipeline, including the co-working provider Benjamin’s Desk, home to MilkCrate’s offices. Berman says a customized pilot product for Comcast is also in the works.
 
"We are looking for more corporate and academic clients that want to be part of the big launch this summer,"she adds. Anyone who wants to bring a demo of MilkCrate for Communities to their campus or office can get in touch.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate 

Primal Supply Meats brings sustainably-raised, nose-to-tail products to the masses

Even for farm-to-table chefs who are invested in serving humanely and sustainably sourced meat, connecting to the right supplier is difficult.
 
"It’s just a really broken chain," explains former Kensington Quarters (KQ) head butcher Heather Marold Thomason. Many chefs and home cooks want to minimize waste and know exactly where their meat comes from, "but it’s not easy for anybody to use whole animals."
 
Enter Thomason's new company Primal Supply Meats.
 
Over the last year, the idea for the startup evolved as she got to know her customers at KQ’s retail meat counter. Word was spreading around the city about the quality of the locally sourced meat for sale at this Frankford Avenue retail/restaurant hybrid.
 
"More and more people were approaching us," she recalls. "We had a really awesome relationship with people in the Fishtown area who were our everyday customers." She also began to notice shoppers coming from other parts of town -- from South Philly to Mt. Airy -- saying they wished KQ delivered or had other locations. "I also had a lot of chefs approaching me, saying, 'How are you getting this meat? Can you help me?'"
 
She realized there were farm-to-table chefs all over the city who aren’t able to take a whole animal into their kitchen, but didn't want pre-cut frozen meat either.
 
Primal Supply Meats, while not a retail counter like KQ’s, bridges that gap, acting as a liaison between farmers and chefs. The entire butchered animal is used, but shared among as many as three or four different clients asking for different cuts.
  
"I think that our customers have actually been receptive to what we’re doing and their responsibility as customers," says Thomason. With a fresh, whole-animal model at the KQ counter, part of her job was guiding customers to what was available that would also suit their tastes and needs. "Our customers were super-receptive to that."
 
That’s part of why she has high hopes for the CSA-like subscription model Primal will launch in a few weeks (those interested can visit the website). Individuals or families will be able to purchase meat packages on a rolling month-to-month basis, and have confidence in knowing where their meat is coming from.
 
While she hopes Primal will eventually gain its own space, it’s currently operating in West Philly via a partnership with the new FDA-certified facility 1732 Meats. For trucking and cold storage, Primal is partnering with North Philly’s Common Market.
 
This summer, things are still getting off the ground -- Thomason is visiting farmers one-on-one, learning both sides of the business.

"We’re working on getting all the infrastructure in place, making sure our supply chain works and our production processes are solid," she says. "[That way] we can make sure we’re ready to meet demand as it comes."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Heather Marold Thomason, Primal Supply Meats

Strawberry Mansion celebrates first Schuylkill River Arts Day

The Strawberry Mansion area (our recent On the Ground home) has plenty of artists, but there’s rarely an opportunity for them to come together on their home turf, says INVISIBLE RIVER spokesperson Sylvana Joseph. The Schuylkill River Arts Day (SRAD) on July 16 is going to change that.
 
Founded in 2009 by Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich, INVISIBLE RIVER has been "celebrating our local rivers through live public performances and river advocacy." A mix of art, programming and interactive outdoor offerings serve the mission of engaging the public with both the Schuylkill and the Delaware.
 
For the last few years, Vidich has created one of Philly’s most eye-popping interdisciplinary performance events: an aerial dance suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with audience members watching on shore or from boats on the river below. Beck Epoch, this year’s incarnation of the show (an "aerial exploration of swinging, swimming, swiveling and suspension from above the Schuylkill River") is coming up on Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16. Audience members will be able to watch for free from the eastern shore near the bridge, or they can buy a ticket to watch by boat on the river itself (everyone should arrive by 6:15 p.m.).
 
SRAD will kick off at 10 a.m. at Mander Recreation Center with an interactive drum and dance procession led by the Strawberry Mansion-based group Positive Movement and the African Diaspora Artist Collective. The group will take Boxers’ Trail from the rec center to Kelly Drive, where the arts fest will take over until 2 p.m. Other performers include Kulu Mele, Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers Co, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and many more. (Here’s the full line-up of participating artists.) There will be visual arts, crafts, and even fishing and boating lessons. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic and stay for the day.   
 
"We’re really focused on getting the Strawberry Mansion area and the people in that area to come, to use the Schuylkill River [and] learn about the river," says Joseph. "All of us that live in the Philadelphia live right in proximity to all of these great things, but we never use them. There are many musicians and dancers and artists of all stripes that live in that area but leave the area to perform -- it’s great to have this opportunity to have people from the area perform in the area."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sylvana Joseph, INVISIBLE RIVER

 
Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

What's next for the Philadelphia School District?

Last Tuesday, the latest Exchange PHL Breakfast Series drew a crowd of over forty people for a special conversation on the future of the School District of Philadelphia.

Hosted by the nonprofit-centric co-working space, these morning meetups bring a dynamic group to the Friends Center on Cheery Street. On June 21, attendees represented a wide range of organizations eager to hear Fund for the School District of Philadelphia President and CEO Donna Frisby-Greenwood discuss "Engaging with the School District of Philadelphia.”

Those organizations included People’s Emergency Center, Philly Fellows, Women of Tomorrow, the Fleischer Art Memorial, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, the William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services, and many more.

Frisby-Greenwood provided a snapshot of the District and its challenges: It serves a total of 135,000 children (not including the 50,000 students who attend charter schools), 39 percent of whom live below the poverty line. It encompasses 149 elementary schools, and 69 middle and high schools. During the 2014-2015 school year, PSSA performance at District schools reached a proficient or advanced level in 37 percent of schools for science, 32 percent for English, and just 17 percent for math.

So what is the District doing to better harness resources for its students?

The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is a reactivation of the former Philadelphia Children First Fund. Upon assuming his role as superintendent, Dr. William Hite "wanted a more robust fund," explained Frisby-Greenwood. Under its new name, this arm of the School District went from being a passive "fiscal agent" for dollars already arriving at the School District to a much more active development force as well as a way to "identify and coordinate partnerships on behalf of the District."

One major funding goal supports the District’s ongoing efforts to make sure every child is reading at grade level by fourth grade. (Last year, we took a closer look at this initiative for teacher coaching and new classroom libraries, funded in part by grants from the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.)

Other initiatives on deck include the continued roll-out of sustainability and recycling goals within the School District’s GreenFutures program (here’s our piece from earlier this year), and a push to get automatic electric defibrillators into every elementary school, which, unlike middle and high schools, often lack the life-saving devices.

The organization also aims to create a database of Philadelphia School District alumni; develop a comprehensive listing and map of private, nonprofit, and corporate partners for individual city schools; and improve outreach to garner more school partners, especially in schools which currently lack this community investment.

"I’ll remind everyone we’re just a year in as a team," said Frisby-Greenwood of the revamped Fund and its staff -- she envisions good things ahead for the District.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Donna Frisby-Greenwood, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia 

Flying Kite is the media partner for the Exchange PHL's Breakfast Series.

Empowered CDC expands community-driven change in Southwest Philly

Regina Young never set out to found a community development corporation. A New Haven, Conn., native who now lives and works in Southwest Philadelphia, she had a career in teaching and social work before going back to school for her masters in community development.

She says her inspiration for the CDC simply came from living in the neighborhood and interacting with friends and family there. In 2014, she launched Empowered Community Development Corporation out of Meyers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, not far from Flying Kite’s new On the Ground digs.  

Southwest CDC has been operating in the neighborhood for decades, but Young still saw a need for her group.

"The geographic area of Southwest is so large," she says. "It’s just pretty evident that one organization cannot possibly effectively handle all of the community in this particular area."

Young sees Empowered CDC as part of a local matrix that will see success in cooperation.

"This has to be a collaborative approach," she explains. "There’s not anything that can be done that’s sustainable if we’re an island. We have to deal with other organizations; we have to really get the community reinvested in beautifying and building and transforming the Southwest area."

Currently, Empowered holds some programs out of Myers, but because of needed building repairs there, the organization has moved its offices temporarily to nearby Tilden Middle School.

Their health and wellness program is the one Young is most excited about: A recent community garden initiative in a former vacant lot has spurred beautification, education, healthy food access, safe space for seniors and youth, and community cohesion. Empowered obtained a lease for three lots on the 2000 block of Cecil Street, and in the course of a year, formed a community garden club and installed benches and garden beds for flowers, fruits and veggies. This summer, the CDC is launching new educational programs around the garden for youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

"I charged the community with really leading the design of what this parcel of land looks like," says Young.

And the transformation there is spreading.

"It started with the garden," she explains, but now locals are saying, "if we can do this with a parcel of land, what can we do with our own block?" It’s lead to new painting, more street cleaning, a movement to get planters installed, and "really being a more cohesive block. That’s what Empowered is all about."

The organization is still new, but Young has high hopes for building and utilizing the skills of community members.

"Our biggest asset as an organization, being very new, is simply human capital: understanding how relationships matter, how communities have a voice," she says. "That’s what really propels us as an organization."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Regina Young, Empowered CDC


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Knight Cities Challenge funds the development of 20 new Philly cooperatives

"There are many different expressions of cooperation and mutual aid in Philadelphia, among very diverse groups of people," explains Caitlin Quigley of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). Now, thanks to a $146,000 award from the national Knight Cities Challenge (check out our peek at the four Philly winners here), the organization hopes to expand interest in co-ops citywide.

PACA’s Knight-funded 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses initiative aims to gather learning groups of six to 12 people from a variety of Philly neighborhoods. The organization will help guide the book clubs through a tailored process to master the building blocks of building a cooperatively-run business of any type, based on the community’s interests and needs.

So what exactly is a "co-op"?

A cooperative grocery store (like Philly’s Weavers Way or Mariposa), for example, "is a business you own with your neighbors," explains Quigley. "You make decisions about the products that are on the shelves, how the co-op should treat its workers; how the co-op should decide how to be in the community.”

The latter includes things like representation at events, education and outreach, and making donations.

"You and your fellow co-owners can decide how you want that business to serve you," she adds.

And while grocery stores might be the most prominent local example, PACA is a consortium of all kinds of co-ops across many industries. These range from banks to housing to community gardens, green space, or land trusts, or child-care or artist co-ops.

The 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses project, operating on a year-long grant cycle from April 2016 to April 2017, will continue outreach this summer, with the goal of organizing project participants by September. Each group will meet twice a month for six months, with guidance from PACA staffers and volunteers, and a comprehensive curriculum of suggested learning materials, from books and comics to field trips and podcasts.

Author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, whose book Collective Courage is a major inspiration for the project, is collaborating with PACA on the study guide.

In March of next year, participating groups will convene at a large event that will include cooperative business pitches. Beyond that, PACA hopes to support interested groups in more intensive business planning, such as drafting articles of incorporation and writing bylaws.

"Not all of the groups that do the book clubs are going to necessarily decide to move onto this phase," says Quigley, but that’s ok. "Even if it doesn’t happen right now…They have a new set of tools and perspectives that they can bring to anything they do in their communities from then on." Ultimately, it’s about building "a strong movement around a just and inclusive economy, with all of these different sectors of cooperatives and their members."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Caitlin Quigley, Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

KIND Institute preps for a summer of arts and community in Point Breeze

The KIND Institute -- a young arts and community center in Point Breeze -- isn’t just providing an outlet for arts education when cash-poor schools cut programs, but putting a new lens on arts education itself.

"There’s a lot of misinformation about arts education and its value in society today," says Min Kim, who manages the KIND Institute’s blog and helps out with the nonprofit’s operations. "It’s called a dead end; there’s no way to make money off of it."

But in reality, he insists, there are a lot of strong careers to be had in "the living arts." Towards that end, KIND offers classes targeting kids ages five to twelve (though the model is inclusive) in pursuits ranging from watercolor, sculpture, and graphic design to computer-building, languages, and music. New sessions will kick off this summer.

KIND co-founders Maria Pandolfi (an award-winning educator who’s been teaching art in the School District of Philadelphia for 22 years) and Ronald Kustrup (an internationally exhibiting artist) spearhead the program, which formally launched in August 2013 and now occupies a building at 1242 Point Breeze Avenue. This summer, locals will be able to meet them and learn more about KIND’s professional studios, gallery and classroom spaces: the co-founders will open the doors every weekday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. July 5 through August 26.

Funding for the space and programs is a currently a mix of donations, grants, space rentals, ticketed events and commissions on resident artists' sales through the gallery. KIND holds monthly exhibitions and music performances with themes like women’s empowerment, sustainable living and compassion for animals.

Coming soon is a re-launch of the KIND website, integrating a platform for resident artists’ work and the organization’s blog, which will continue to feature artist profiles.

"Our focus here is the local community and helping local artists showcase their work," says Kim. "When you buy the art it becomes more than just a piece to hang on your wall -- you get a real story of the person who crafted it."

So why Point Breeze?

"We see it as representational of a lot of neighborhoods in Philadelphia right now," he explains. "It’s changing, there’s a lot of growth, and there are a lot of people who are scared of changes that are coming to Point Breeze. [The KIND mission is] to make people understand that we are a community regardless of how the community is shifting, and really just make sure we’re keeping people unified."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Min Kim, KIND Institute 

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful litter convenings continue to draw a crowd

Late last year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) launched a series of what Executive Director Michelle Feldman calls "Litter Convenings." They offer a platform for city agencies and residents to come together to tackle the problems of trash and littering in integrated and transparent ways.

The first session took place in October 2015; consortium members included the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). There was a follow-up session in January, and on May 11, KPB organized a panel discussion featuring leaders from the Streets Department’s Philly SWEEP, the City’s Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP), the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) and Philly 311.

Attendees represented groups and agencies such as the Office of Sustainability, the Village of Arts and Humanities, the Friends of Pennypack Park, the Commerce Department, South of South Neighborhood Association, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), LISC, the North 22nd Street Business Association, and Councilman William Greenlee’s office. Feldman framed the discussion as a chance to be "proactive rather than reactive" to issues of illegal dumping and trash in Philly.

The lively conversation on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building included an update on the City’s growing success in removing unlicensed clothing donation bins, which often become a magnet for illegal dumping. These bins can gain permits for placement on commercially zoned private property, but not on public right-of-ways like sidewalks and street corners, where they routinely reside. After a call to 311, L&I may note and tag the offending bins, but it’s the Streets Department that performs the removal.

Participants also discussed efforts to make Philly 311 -- the city’s non-emergency reporting line for civic issues like graffiti, overgrown vacant lots, illegal dumping and litter -- more accessible to the public through a mobile application and better integration of services with agencies who handle 311 tips.

Misunderstandings can arise when Philly 311 reports a case as closed when the issue has not visibly been resolved. This is because the agency can’t report publicly on outcomes like fines, and other agencies (from PWD to the Streets Department) open their own case file on the issue once they receive it, separate from the Philly 311 report.

Updates from CLIP included graffiti removal efforts and a community service program that employs non-violent ex-offenders on city cleanups. PMBC reported on its active work with up to 800 block captains from across the city. The organization provides supplies for cleanups and sponsors clean block contests with prizes ranging from $300 to $1,000 dollars to be used for further beautification of the block.

In KPB news, applications for the organization’s 2016 microgrants are due on May 27; they include two $,1500 grants and two $1,000 grants (guidelines available here). And on June 22, KPB will team with Young Involved Philadelphia for a Cleaning + Greening 101 panel at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening speakers

UPenn's BioCellection may hold the key to plastics pollution worldwide

As high school seniors in their hometown of Vancouver, Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao had some big questions -- and answers -- for a planet that produces enough plastic every year to circle itself in Saran wrap four times over.

Yao recently graduated from the University of Toronto and Wang is finishing her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Biology. Together they founded BioCellection. Now their team (which also includes Alexander Simafranca, Eric Friedman and Daniel Chapman) is the first undergraduate team ever to take the $30,000 grand prize at Wharton’s annual Business Plan Competition. And that's only the beginning: They also took home the Wharton Social Impact Prize, the Gloekner Undergraduate Award, the Michelson People’s Choice Award and the Committee Award for Most "Wow Factor." No other single team has ever taken five prizes in the competition.

Wang and Yao began studying riverside soil samples back in high school. They wanted to find out what the ecosystem itself might be doing to survive pollution from plastics. Traditional plastic products are made from fossil fuels, which come from carbon. Humans run on carbon, too -- our source is glucose.

"Could there be bacteria that have evolved with plastic chemicals as their carbon source?" Wang recalls wondering. "The answer is yes…Nature is very much evolving to recover itself. There is a solution in this biology, it just needs to be tapped into. Potentially this could be a large-scale commercial technology used to clean our drinking water."

Wang and Yao focused on how bacteria could be harnessed to break down potentially carcinogenic components of some plastics (like phthalates) that aren’t otherwise biodegradable. Their work won them the 2012 National Commercialization Award at Canada’s Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge and led to a popular 2013 TED talk.

In the labs at Penn, that work grew into BioCellection.

"Instead of tackling derivatives or additives in plastic, we’re [now] tackling the polymer of the plastic itself," explains Wang. "What if we can take this really big problem of the polymer, and try to solve it on a modular basis?"

BioCellection developed a way to engineer bacteria that produce an enzyme which, when combined with problem plastics in a proprietary portable chemical process, can convert that plastic into water and carbon dioxide. This patent-pending technology is still about two years away from the field, but its future application in plastic remediation at landfills, industrial sites, oceans and beaches could be tremendous, with annual revenue projected to reach $100 million by 2020.

A little further down the road in their business model, BioCellection hopes to launch a centralized processing plant that will use this enzyme to convert discarded plastics into a bio-surfactant necessary for textile manufacturing. With the help of collaborator Parley for the Oceans -- which is helping BioCellection connect to brands like Adidas that want to incorporate recycled plastic into their products -- the company hopes to sell this "upcycled" surfactant at $300/kg. It’s an estimated $42 billion market.

The issue of used plastics is a global problem: Because current recycling methods don’t generate enough revenue, over 90 percent of our cast-off plastics (even those going for recycling) end up in landfills, or incinerated, which compounds pollution. 

According to the company, "We can’t expect to change consumer habits overnight or integrate new materials immediately. It’s time to tackle the plastic pollution that currently exists, and that we’re continuing to produce, to save marine wildlife, keep the planet’s food chain intact, and protect human health."

Besides the $54,000 in total prize money from Wharton, BioCellection has earned $90,000 in grants and $240,000 in investment. The company is relocating to the San Jose BioCube in June 2016 for further development.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Miranda Wang, BioCellection 

Weckerly's Ice Cream to open its first retail location in Fishtown


Philly ice cream connoisseurs have something to look forward to. Currently, if you want some top-rated Weckerly’s Ice Cream, you have to buy it by the pint (or sandwich) at a local cafe, food retailer or farmers' market, but now the company is gearing up to open its very own brick-and-mortar location on a bustling stretch of Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

Fronted by husband-and-wife team Jen and Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s launched in late 2012 in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood. In 2014, the micro-creamery moved to Port Richmond’s Globe Dye Works.

"At that time, we really did want to open a retail shop eventually in West Philadelphia," says Andy. But the search proved difficult, so they broadened the hunt. With some help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation, they discovered a 350-square-foot shop at 9 West Girard Avenue, and knew it was the perfect place (they’ll still make their ice cream at Globe Dye Works).

"We definitely wanted a neighborhood," says Andy. "We wanted to be amongst families and homeowners, and people who engage in activities in their neighborhood."

Jen is an experienced pastry chef (her maiden name, Weckerle, inspired the company's moniker). A former bicycle mechanic, Andy eventually left his job to focus on the business full-time.

"[Jen] is the reason we make ice cream and have an ice cream company," he insists. "She’s the heartbeat of everything."

The company is known for unusual flavors such as buckwheat sour cherry and lemon verbena black raspberry, but "we do embrace the classics," he adds. "There’s a place for a vanilla ice cream made with grass-fed milk and cream and good-quality vanilla bean…that tastes like ice cream would have tasted 50 years ago."

Weckerly’s more adventurous combinations are inspired by the company’s mission to source seasonal ingredients from local farms. This is partly why the Satinskys need to grow their business with a retail location, rather than increasing wholesale production. With their own shop, they can stick with their model and showcase small batches of exclusive flavors -- perhaps only five gallons at a time.  

"There are aspects to the way we operate that don’t lend themselves well to a rapidly growing wholesale business," explains Andy, noting the difficulty of scaling up while still working exclusively with local farms.

The new Girard Avenue shop will be open year-round seven days a week, offering a selection of signature ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped cups and cones, with six rotating ice cream flavors and two sorbets.

They couple isn't sure of an opening date yet, but hope to launch by late summer or early fall. Fans can follow along for the latest @Weckerlys on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s 

Green City Works expands employment opportunities in University City


So how will University City District (UCD) transform $300,000 into sustainable, career-launching jobs in a traditionally tough business? Last week, we spoke with Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) leaders Hoa Pham and Jennie Sparandara about the Win Win Challenge grant UCD received this winter, following a $50,000 planning grant award in 2015.

The grant-winning Green City Works (GCW) program grew out of the organization’s existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), which has been connecting long-time unemployed West Philadelphians with job opportunities at major local institutional partners for over five years.

"We were looking at partnerships that would allow us to broaden our demographic base," explains Sheila Ireland, vice president of workforce innovations at UCD, noting that WPSI cohorts tend to skew toward African-American women ages 25 to 35, with jobs in healthcare or educational institutions.  

The idea for GCW was born when Valley Crest landscaping approached UCD about recruiting landscaping technicians from the West Philly area. For an organization already managing up to $400,000 of work in green spaces within its district (think The Porch at 30th Street), a jobs program geared toward landscaping seemed like a natural fit, as well as an opportunity to broaden its programs into a male-dominated industry.

When Sparandara approached UCD about applying for the planning grant, "We said, 'Here is the opportunity for us to not just work on greenspace projects…[but] to do a social venture as well," recalls Ireland. The program targets applicants struggling with challenges such as longterm unemployment or re-entry from the criminal justice system, and helps them build transferrable job skills. "We used that Win Win Challenge planning grant period to prove a couple things: Could we build this program? Could we take on fee-for-service contracts? How would we incorporate?”

The experiment was successful, even in an industry as difficult as landscaping. Though wages in the field are slightly higher than standard minimum wage, the hours can go from dawn to dusk six days a week in the growing season, with workers laid off in the winter. In other words, not a ton of stability. And with many companies recruiting workers on H2B visas, local job-seekers often don't look at the industry for entry level positions.

"Can we change the way the industry looks at workers?" asks Ireland. At GCW, that means peer mentoring and support, a livable wage ($13 an hour to start, versus an industry average of $9), work hours from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and pay regardless of rainy days that delay the work.

That $300,000 in seed money from JOIN has allowed GCW to hire general manager Brian English and bring in its latest cohort: 12 workers who began a 26-week program on March 28. Those who finish the program stand an excellent chance of joining the GCW staff.

Ireland says the program is important because it honors a range of skills -- GCW’s staffers are people who are happy outdoors and who love community beautification.

"When you activate people’s talents, you really speak to what they should be doing in their lives," she enthuses. "And you can change people’s lives by doing that."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sheila Ireland, University City District 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.

 

Win Win: $300,000 for a new jobs program at University City District


Many who want to work face challenges such as poverty, long-time unemployment, or transitioning to life outside the criminal justice system. They may not be ready for the traditional workforce, but they’re adults with the capacity to build skills given the right mentorship. Enter a new landscaping program from University City District (UCD), which just received a $300,000 two-year seed grant.
 
The Green City Works employment initiative -- which earned a $50,000 planning grant last year -- is now officially launching with support from the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a program of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. JOIN awarded the nascent program (an extension of the existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative) that planning grant in January 2015; 24 regional organizations competed for four awards.

The grant program was dubbed the Win-Win Challenge because it aimed to build a win-win scenario for workers and employers. The local nonprofit community was invited to "come to us with new ideas around partnership…that seek to address actual business needs," explains JOIN Executive Director Jennie Sparandara. But at the same time, they wanted to help those who most need a leg up in the workforce.

JOIN assessed the four grantees one year later, determining who was ready to translate their plans into action. Green City Works, a nonprofit landscaping venture, was the clearly prepared for the next step.

"UCD is really recognizing that not everybody…is ready for work with a big employer," says Sparandara of the program’s appeal to JOIN. "[They] need a safe space to learn on the job, with practical skill-building and workplace coaching designed to help participants progress in their careers beyond Green City Works. With UCD, the hope is to connect them with these big institutional employers in the Philadelphia area."

"From JOIN’s perspective, we’re interested in learning how these positions can serve as an entrée into the trade,” adds JOIN Program Manager Hoa Pham.

According to Sparandara, UCD was able to demonstrate and articulate "a very clear vision for how they wanted to use funding to build out this program…They are open to and interested in learning and growing along with us as funders.This fits very well with JOIN’s mission as seed-funders and a learning community.

The project will formally launch on March 22, with JOIN dollars beginning to flow this month.

In the future, we’ll take a look at how Green City Works grew from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and the program’s specific goals over the next two years.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Jennie Sparandara and Hoa Pham, JOIN 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.

 

GreenFutures takes shape at Philly schools


Last week, we spoke with Megan Garner about the School District of Philadelphia's new five-year "GreenFutures" Sustainability Plan which includes a big boost for recycling in all of the city's schools. Modeled on the City's six-year Greenworks Philadelphia initiative, the program is broken up into several focus areas.

Greenworks includes categories such as energy, environment, engagement and equity, and the District admired the model. Their Office of Environmental Management and Services sought out input from a partnering Consumption Waste Committee which featured representatives from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, Recyclebank and other school districts (including New York City and suburban Philly-area districts) which have had success with their own green initiatives.

According to Garner, the District chose five focus areas for its own GreenFutures plan: Sustainability; Consumption and Waste; Energy and Efficiencies; School Greenscapes; and Healthy Schools, Healthy Living.

Francine Locke, Director of the District’s Office of Environmental Management and Services, is spearheading the project with help from internal and external partners. She has a master’s degree in environmental health, and experience as an industrial hygienist; Garner studied geology and worked in environmental consulting.

"Prior to this [plan], we were helping with indoor environmental quality inspections," explains Garner. That included projects like the clean-up of oil or chemical spills.

They weren’t educators, but after focusing on the operations side at the District, they began to reach out to curriculum departments about incorporating sustainability initiatives into the life of the schools. Possible future educational options include a special science course, or an environmental or energy-savers club.

Building GreenFutures involved extensive outreach. Within the District, that meant connecting with departments as diverse as educational technology, transportation, food services and facilities management. Outside the schools, it meant creating relationships with local government, public and private industry leaders, nearby school districts, and institutions of higher learning.

Garner says that the initiative's five focus areas cover about sixty individual actions. For example, helping all schools -- not just ones with large yards – incorporate educational green spaces, and officially cataloging the green spaces and gardens that do exist.

"The goal is that 100 percent of [Philadelphia] schools will recycle," says Garner of the plan's major five-year push. Through recycling, the District hopes to "increase its aggregate waste diversion from landfills by ten percent over five years."

Does that sound low?

Maybe, but according to Garner, "we’re hoping to blow it out of the water. Every student will have access to a vision for consumption and waste. Every student will have access to a school that incorporates waste reduction practices and diverts waste from landfills."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Megan Garner, School District of Philadelphia

A new citywide plan for school district recycling gets off the ground


"You wouldn’t think it’s that hard, because pretty much everyone recycles at home, right? So what is the big problem at school?” asks Megan Garner, Sustainability Program Manager at the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Environmental Management and Services. They're rolling out the ambitious five-year city-wide "GreenFutures" program, bringing a full recycling program to each of the District’s 218 schools.
 
Recycling does exist in City schools, but it’s limited -- they are all able to recycle cardboard. Forty-two schools also have a dumpster for co-mingled recyclables and a vendor to haul them, but at the remaining schools, all other recyclables (including cans and bottles) currently go right into the trash.
 
A longtime in-house contractor with the School District through Keating Environmental Management, Garner has been working closely on the District’s sustainability plan (launching this spring) with her supervisor Francine Locke, director of the Office of Environmental Management and Services.
 
"We would like to expand the program, but we’re having trouble getting participation at the schools," says Garner. Many principals and staffers face pressing issues that make it tough to prioritize recycling.
 
But according to some studies, about ninety percent of the average classroom’s waste is recyclable. So is this as simple as just putting recycling bins in Philly classrooms?
 
No, Garner insists, if they don't bring kids on board with the initiatives, "we would be missing a large educational piece with our students…We’re not in the waste business; we’re in the education business."
 
That means not just relying on District staff -- teachers and building engineers -- or outside vendors to make District-wide recycling a reality. It’s getting the kids in on the ground floor.
 
Garner hopes students and staff can eventually see that recycling isn’t a "stand-alone" proposition and build understanding of the "embodied energy" that our trash represents: the use of raw materials and depletion of natural resources, and energy spent shipping, processing and packing. There are also plenty of cross-curricular, interdisciplinary links, like the impact recycling has on our drinking water, air quality and climate.
 
Widespread recycling also makes economic sense. Trash disposal currently costs a set fee per pick-up -- and an additional fee by weight when it reaches the landfill. Recycling shrinks the volume of landfill trash, lessening the number of trash pick-ups needed and reducing landfill fees.
 
"So even if you’re not in it for the social or environmental aspects, financially it makes sense," explains Garner. "To be successful, it really needs to have the students involved...people don’t generally say no to student ideas. So if it’s student-driven and student-led, with the support of teachers and staff, it has a much better chance for success."
 
And it’s about preparing for Philly’s future, too. According to Garner, today’s students are "the decision-makers, the policy-makers, the leaders, the critical thinkers, the innovators of tomorrow."
 
Stay tuned for a closer look at the District’s plan to boost sustainability in our schools.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Megan Garner, School District of Philadelphia

 

Engaging Philly business owners on the issue of litter

Last week, we took a look at the ways the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and other members of the new Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) city-wide anti-litter coalition are tackling illegal dumping in Philly. Another important conversation revolved around encouraging business owners to be more active in combatting litter.

Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of CDCs, Michelle Kim, a program officer at LISC Philadelphia, Director Alex Balloon of the Taucony CDC, Akeem Dixon of the People's Emergency Center and the Enterprise Center, and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Sharp participated in this discussion.

Participants noted possible best practices as well as existing challenges.

"There’s no cross-city litter program in the city," explained Sharp. "It’s incredibly siloed."

"We should not be afraid to say the City should be paying more money for these things," McConnell suggested.

Another theme was encouraging SEPTA to take a greater role in combatting litter by ensuring properly maintained receptacles at transit stops. Dixon expressed concern about plans for new surface transit shelters that don’t also include a nearby place to put refuse. Trashcans should be better aligned with transit routes, the group agreed.

"It’s not about cleaning. It’s about engagement," Kim said of reaching out to business owners who can help combat problems of trash block by block.

Or as Dixon put it, "The best app in the world is called talking to each other."

Participants pointed to the success of ensuring SWEEPs officers aren’t just enforcers, but a friendly face and resource in the streets.

Suggestions for helping businesses included amnesty from fines for any owner who calls 311 to report excess trash outside their building. Currently, many owners and managers may not make the call for fear they’ll be punished for the mess. Sometimes, participants pointed out, trash outside one business may not have come from that business at all, but been illegally dumped there or blown by the wind.

Attendees also said that Streets Department staffers could come to more neighborhood meetings, and that there could be higher-profile awards or incentives for business owners who consistently maintain a tidy street and sidewalk.

Balloon also pointed to an existing City ordinance that needs better enforcement: Take-out restaurants are required to have an external trashcan onsite, but many don’t follow the rule, resulting in piles of Styrofoam cast-offs nearby.

KPB leader Michelle Feldman, chatting with Flying Kite after the meeting, said January’s gathering drew just as many participants as the initial one in October 2015, though this time -- based on surveys following the previous meeting -- the discussion was more targeted and specific. She hopes a unified city plan will emerge from the coalition; the next litter convening will be held sometime in April.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening members 

Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground works to get its due

Historic Fair Hill (HFH), a landmark burial ground on Germantown Avenue, houses the remains of some of America’s most prominent abolitionists and women’s rights advocates. After decades of neglect, the rejuvenated site is planning another year of programming growth under new executive director Jean Warrington.

A Philly native and current Chestnut Hill resident, Warrington got involved with the project over a decade ago. In 2004, the HFH board hired her as its part-time program director and as of January 1, 2016, she took on the role of the organization’s executive director.

The HFH site dates all the way back to the early 18th century. It was started by George Fox himself, founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the land’s original owner. According to HFH, his will asked that the space be used "for a meeting house, a burying ground, and a garden and grounds" for kids to play and learn.

The site’s adjoining Quaker meeting house at Germantown Avenue and Cambria Street was sporadically active from 1703 all the way until 1967, when shrinking attendance led the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to sell the property. Maintenance of the grounds -- the site of the graves of American luminaries such as Lucretia Mott and Robert Purvis -- deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, "it was the biggest open-air crack cocaine market in the city," says Warrington of the five-acre site. In the 1990s, a dedicated cross-cultural neighborhood coalition slowly reclaimed the site as a safe green space. Outreach to local Quaker leader Margaret Hope Bacon (a Mott biographer) resulted in renewed attention and eventually a nonprofit that raised funds to buy back the grounds in 1993.

"What we’re doing is using a historic site…to carry forward the values of the people buried there. We’re using the past to serve the present," explains Warrington of HFH’s current work, which hearkens back to Fox’s will by focusing on urban gardening -- both on and off-site -- and a reading program at the neighboring Julia de Burgos School.

There are currently 20 HFH "reading buddies" who volunteer in the classroom there and work to restore the school library that was closed down (along with many others across the city) in 2010. A large local Hispanic immigrant community means this kind of support is crucial: Many local kids have parents who don’t speak English, so bridging the English-speaking literary gap is important.

"The kids are so lovely," says Warrington. "They are respectful, eager, curious, bright. They’ve got to have a library. They’ve got to have books. They’ve got to have people who can read with them."

In her new role as executive director, she wants to increase the number of reading buddies to 50 and expand the site’s existing gardening programs. Working outside "increases the peace," she argues. It correlates with better performance at school and is "just a good thing in this society that is so wired and pushy and loud and unjust."

Also on the horizon is increasing the site’s visibility with an improved website, better social media presence and monthly events. That includes an upcoming Women’s History Month tour on March 12 honoring the graves of leaders of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right’s convention.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jean Warrington, Historic Fair Hill

 

Your chance to join Philly's biggest anti-littering coalition

Anti-litter efforts are nothing new, but Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) Executive Director Michelle Feldman is hoping to take them to the next level in 2016 by convening the city’s most comprehensive forum on littering to date.
 
KPB is involved in the community outreach and educational aspects of neighborhood greening, sustainability and beautification, working with motivated local groups through micro-grants, workshops and classes.
 
Last October, Feldman helped organize the initial session of a new consortium: KPB is partnering with the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). 
 
"Heads of neighborhood-based organizations have meetings together all the time," explains Feldman, but they’ve never focused specifically on issues of litter. The long-term coalition aims to share resources, challenges and best practices while also looking to the future for a concrete joint project spearheaded by KPB.
 
"I want to form an advisory committee of folks who are on the ground in different neighborhoods around the city," she says. "I want to hear, what are the challenges in [for example] West Philly versus North Philly…and what are the ways that Keep Philadelphia Beautiful at a city-wide level can help to address those challenges."
 
The first meetings -- they aren’t branded yet, but Feldman is calling them "litter convenings" -- are already getting a big response. The October session at the Municipal Services Building (MSB) drew about thirty people. An invitation to the next meeting on Wednesday, January 20 (10 a.m. - 12 p.m. in MSB’s 16th floor Innovation Lab) quickly garnered a raft of RSVPs.
 
The January 20 agenda includes small group work on best practices in youth and business owner engagement, preventing illegal dumping, and examining existing data/metrics on the issue. All attendees will have the chance to see and comment on the top concepts from each breakout group.
 
"It’s going to dovetail nicely with a new administration and their focus on littering," enthuses Feldman.
 
Community stakeholders interesting in attending should RSVP to michelle@keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful 

 

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
 
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
 
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
 
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
  
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

On the Ground: Callowhill's W/N W/N shakes up the restaurant model

If I were running this business, what would I do differently? It’s a question most restaurant, café or bar staffers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers. Last year, a group of Philly entrepreneurs came together to answer it for themselves.

In summer 2014, six Philadelphians began to take a serious look at developing a cooperatively owned and operated bar and restaurant. One has since left the venture, but five service industry veterans remain to run Spring Garden Street's W/N W/N Coffee Bar: Will Darwall, Michael Dunican, Max Kochinke, Alden Towler and Tony Montagnaro.

The crew soft-launched the location at 931 Spring Garden in December of last year, and held a grand opening in late January 2015. Since then, the five coworker/owners have been experimenting with their model in a democratic government-by-consensus process (they have three additional employees who are not partners in the business).

Chatting with Flying Kite about their first year in business, Darwall says the ownership model is based more on "sweat equity" than the capital brought to the venture (that capital was treated as third-party loans, and does not entitle the owner-investor to a greater share of the profits). Each of the five owners works multiple shifts each week cooking, serving, bartending, busing tables or performing maintenance.

"What worker/ownership gives us is equal legal ownership over the company, which means a right to participate in decision-making and a right to accrue profits from the business," he explains. "The way that we pay out those profits is proportional to how much work we all do, counting the hours up.

"We thought that coming together and working as a cooperative, we’d be able to create a structure where we could support each other…and use our collective creative energy and potential to come up with good solutions to the problems we faced, rather than feeling frustrated about things that we thought could go better."

W/N W/N's menu features local, sustainably sourced foods, with a focus on canning, preserving and pickling. (Ed: Flying Kite recently held a meeting there and the food was phenomenal.)

The innovative business model extends to the customers: patrons can buy membership shares. They run $25, and each time the member buys something, 25 percent of their bill is deducted from that pre-paid fee – meaning that W/N W/N members infuse the business with $25 up front, and then receive that money back as they pay only 75 percent of the purchase price on any given item.

Darwall estimates that about 10 percent of the café’s customers have bought into the membership model, and that’s fine for now -- as the founders tinker with their business plan and assess what worked and what didn’t in their first year, they’ll continue to explore what kind of cooperative model might thrive going forward.

W/N W/N will be scaling back its food menu beginning in January, though food service will still be on offer. It currently opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closing at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2 a.m. The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Will Darwall, W/N W/N Coffee Bar

How will extending SEPTA rail to King of Prussia benefit Norristown?

Earlier this month, we took a look at a new report on the projected impact of SEPTA's proposed expansion of the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia, the first direct rail service to this sprawling retail and business center. The "Connecting KOP" analysis -- a collaboration between SEPTA, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the non-profit Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions, Inc. -- was about a year in the making.

The Economy League's Nick Frontino marvels over KOP's history: It was a quiet residential and farming community as recently as the 1970s. But an industrial park turned business complex and the famous Mall, a destination for shoppers throughout the region, turned the area into "the largest economic center in Greater Philadelphia," explains Frontino. "[But] it’s really limited in its infrastructure capacity, particularly its transportation capacity."

A look at the impact of direct rail to KOP isn't complete without acknowledging the potential effect on Norristown across the Schuylkill River.

"Norristown could stand to benefit from this investment as well," says Frontino. Despite being a city with "a great downtown core" and "great housing stock," many residents find quality local jobs just out of reach. Though KOP’s commercial powerhouse is just a few miles away from Norristown as the crow flies, "a lot of its residents have a hard time accessing economic opportunities today."

Those without a car who rely on current transit services often have to set aside up to 45 minutes each way for the commute. But an extended rail line could cut that trip down to as little as 15 minutes. This would really open up the door to economic opportunity in Norristown, as well as spurring increased demand in the residential market.

Practical next steps for the extension proposal, still in its draft environment impact statement phase, include SEPTA’s work with the Federal Transit Administration and local stakeholders. Each new draft of the statement will identify a tighter and tighter number of possible routes for the new rail. That number will drop from 40 prospective routes to 15, and then to five, and then a top locally preferred route, which will be the focus of a final environmental impact statement. Next come the engineering and design, contracts and construction -- the new rail likely wouldn’t be operational until at least 2023.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nick Frontino, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

New analysis of projected rail line to King of Prussia is big news for the whole region

Imagine shaving over thirty minutes off of the commute between Center City and King of Prussia (KOP), the region’s greatest economic center outside the city limits.

That dream will take a while to become a reality, but a new "Connecting KOP" study released in early December -- through a partnership between the non-profit Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions, Inc. -- has some noteworthy numbers. The analysis has been in the works for about a year, with the help of SEPTA and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. 

Economy League Managing Director of Strategy and Operations Nick Frontino calls King of Prussia an "edge city," meaning that people who work or shop there outnumber the people who live there. About 20,000 people call the area home, while about 50,000 work there and 25 million visit the KOP Mall annually. It’s a natural hub of economic activity at the convergence of four major highways: the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Schuylkill Expressway, Route 202 and Route 422.

"I think you’re beginning to see the evolution of a lot of these types of automobile-centric, very suburban business and commercial centers into more mixed-use, denser, more accessible communities," says Frontino.

SEPTA’s proposed extension of its existing Norristown High Speed Line to KOP is probably at least eight years away due to rigorous federal processes for new transit initiatives, but the fresh analysis nevertheless offers some exciting news for the region.

Simplifying and expediting the commute to KOP from areas like Center City, Upper Darby and Norristown – both in terms of easier transit access and less congested roadways – will have significant outcomes for the whole region. According to the Economy League, direct rail transit could result in 17,000 to 29,0000 new jobs in KOP over the next 20 years, alongside up to eight million square feet of new development. The trip from Upper Darby could be reduced by at least ten minutes, while the commuting distance from Norristown could be cut by over 20 minutes. Add in that extra half hour taken off the commute from Center City, and that could mean up to 2.1 million hours per year saved by local drivers due to the reduced roadway congestion alone.

The study also projects that improved KOP access by rail could generate up to $1.3 billion in economic activity in the greater five-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, Frontino hopes this analysis of the project -- which is still in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement phase -- will alter the conversation about transit in the region which often "focuses on the price tag, and not as much on what the associated benefits might be…On a national level, money allocated towards transit is talked about as spending, while money allocated towards highways is talked about as investment."

He wants a new perspective on how improved non-automotive transit can benefit a state and city’s bottom line. And what about the projected effect of the rail line on Norristown just across the river? Stay tuned for a look in our next issue.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nick Frontino, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

Wharton study finds that socially conscious investing can also be profitable

Do people investing money in companies geared for social or environmental good have to give up the prospect of market-rate returns in exchange for working towards a better world?

No. At least according to the first systematic academic research to address the young but extremely broad field of "impact investing," the Wharton Social Impact Initiative's (WSII) new report, "Great Expectations: Mission Preservation and Financial Performance in Impact Investments." In some arenas, socially or environmentally conscious investors can see their returns hit market-rate performance.

"It’s difficult to talk about the report because there is so much nuance in it," explains co-author Harry Douglas, a full-time impact investing associate at WSII, who continues to follow the data of this growing field. However, he hopes that the findings will be accessible enough to spread the message that, contrary to longtime perceptions, impact investing doesn’t "necessitate a concessionary return."

What does that mean?

Investors who choose to put their private equity dollars into companies with missions like micro-finance, healthcare in low-income regions, education technology or green energy don’t have to accept smaller returns than folks who put their money into more traditional profit-driven avenues.

The study tracked the performance of 53 impact investing private equity funds that represent 557 individual investments, and debunks the widespread assumption that lower investment returns are inevitable when investing in socially focused funds.

How do we define impact investing? According to the Global Impact Investing Network, the receiving company’s intentionality of impact (meaning their bedrock commitment to the good outcomes they espouse), the measurable impact the company makes, and the expectation of a financial return.

So since impact investing is such a broad field, with many investors valuing a specific social interest over maximized profits, how did WSII identify a stable of funds to follow? WSII asked participating fund managers to self-identify in one of three categories: those seeking to simply preserve the capital invested, those seeking below-market-rate returns, and those pursuing market-rate returns.

"Our report doesn’t make any type of value judgements about what’s appropriate there, because there’s important work to be done in each of those three segments of the financial expectation," says Douglas. But this study focused only on the latter group of investors: those whose fund managers were seeking market-rate returns.

They did this because they wanted to get the best understanding possible of what the industry’s going to look like over the next couple of years, given the typical five-to-seven-year life cycle of a private equity investment. Funds launched around 2010 are nearing the time that fund managers will exit the companies involved. So there are the questions of whether those investments will prove profitable, whether the companies' missions continue after the exit, or if fund managers seeking higher returns abandon the ideals when mission protections aren’t built into the language of exit agreements.

"We focus on this market-rate seeking segment because we felt the tension would be greatest in this group," explains Douglas. "They would be trying to balance these competitive market-rate returns with preserving portfolio company mission."

This research is just the beginning.

"We’re really hoping to grow this sample size, so we can make more definitive statements about the industry," adds Douglas. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Harry Douglas, Wharton Social Impact Initiative 

Kensington Quarters celebrates one year; owners bringing new dining spot to Point Breeze

A year after launching Frankford Avenue's Kensington Quarters -- a restaurant with its own on-site butcher shop sourcing whole, sustainably and humanely raised animals -- owner Michael Pasquarello has been pleasantly surprised. (Here’s the Flying Kite look at KQ’s opening.)

"What’s been really awesome is the butcher shop has performed better than we expected," he says of the front corner of the space.

Pasquarello worried that his goal of reviving an old-fashioned butcher’s counter in the age of the supermarket would be tough, but a dedicated customer base has materialized. Thanks to that success, KQ offers a growing roster of locally sourced retail products including pickles, produce, dairy, cheese, salts and olive oil. With help from butcher Heather Marold Thomason, Pasquarello plans to expand this part of the business over the next year, "so people can come through and put their meals together."

He also hopes to better utilize the upper floor, which already hosts a range of cooking and butchering classes and events. KQ Executive Chef Damon Menapace plans on more collaborations with top local chefs, including one in November with George Sabatino.

The demonstration space has already hosted Rob Marzinsky, executive chef of 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group's latest venture Buckminster’s, a "neo-bistro" slated to open in November in Point Breeze. The resto group -- owned and run by Pasquarello and his wife Jeniphur -- also operates Café Lift (their first restaurant, opened in 2003), Prohibition Taproom and Bufad

Buckminster's -- which will boast design elements that honor local science legend Buckminster Fuller of geodesic dome fame -- aims to capitalize on a dining style that’s especially popular in Paris right now, with young chefs giving their own spin on small plates of casual bistro food. But according to Pasquarello, Buckminster’s menu isn’t defined by French cuisine. It will focus on locally sourced goods, with a seasonal menu changing every couple of days and complementing the beverages on offer. Plates ($2-$21) will join eight beers and six wines, along with specialty cocktails.

Pasquarello hopes that Buckminster’s (coming to 1200 S. 21st Street) will open sometime in November offering dinner seven nights a week, with brunch and lunch hours to follow as the restaurant finds its feet.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group

On the Ground: One city block yields almost 6,000 pounds of produce

When Flying Kite moved into our new On the Ground digs in Parkside, we didn’t know how close we were to Neighborhood Foods Farm, one of the city’s most productive urban farms.
 
Operating under the umbrella of Philly’s Urban Tree Connection (UTC) and its Neighborhood Foods program, the site at 53rd and Wyalusing is the size of one city block, or about three-quarters of an acre.
 
Rachel deVitry, agricultural director at UTC, has overseen the farm since spring 2014, but it got started around 2010, when local block captains approached UTC founder and executive director Skip Wiener about the space.
 
"It used to be a parking lot with a factory across the street," recalls deVitry. "Ownership of the lot just lapsed and it became a chop shop," and a hub for drugs and prostitution. The block captains invited Wiener to take a look, and plans for the farm got underway, beginning with a major clean-out of the accumulated garbage. Then came the break-up of the cement that covered most of the site, and the application of thick layers of leaf mulch and mushroom soil.
 
These days, the farm yields rotation crops such as lettuces, arugula, kale, collards and chard, along with radishes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and heirloom tomatoes.

Neighborhood Foods also operates three other urban farms in the neighborhood -- one adjacent to the First African Presbyterian Church at 4159 West Girard, another next to Ward AME Church at 43rd and Aspen, and a new four-acre site on Merion Avenue near Girard.
 
Though not the largest, the 53rd Street farm is the most productive site -- so far this season they've harvested 5,850 pounds of produce.
 
Some of that goes to neighbors who volunteer a few hours per week in exchange for fresh vegetables, and some goes to the Saturday Neighborhood Foods Farm farmers' market, which runs on the site from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. May through November. (The market also features produce like fruit and potatoes purchased from other local growers.)
 
The farm operates with the help of two full-time and two part-time staffers, as well as neighborhood volunteers and young apprentices hired after successful runs in after-school programs.
 
The farm stays open in the winter months thanks to "high tunnels," unheated structures that keep plants such as cold-friendly kale, collards and lettuce from freezing.

"We did grow through most of the winter last year," says deVitry. "And [we] hope to grow through the whole of the winter this year."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rachel DeVitry, Urban Tree Connection 



Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

The Center for Architecture unveils Kahn Coffee -- designed by you?

This year, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture's DesignPhiladelphia event (October 8 - 16) will feature a small but energizing twist: a contest to create branding for a new coffee blend open to designers of all stripes. The buzzy brew will be available exclusively through the Center and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Philadelphia, courtesy of a new partnership with Philly Fair Trade Roasters.

DesignPhiladelphia attracts over 150 partners each year for public programming on 21st-century design, technology and collaboration in the business world.  

AIA and Center for Architecture Executive Director Rebecca Johnson says the beverage brainstorm came about as the Center worked on some renovations in advance of the AIA Convention in May 2016, which will bring 25,000 architects to our city. The team started thinking of fun ways to improve the space -- a place to grab a local pick-me-up made a lot of sense.

"There’s always meetings here, so we want to have a sense of a hub of activity for the design community," explains Johnson. "Coffee just kept coming up. For the Convention, I thought that would be a really fun thing."

The name Kahn came up due to the Center’s annual Louis Kahn lecture.

"Do people know the significance of Louis Kahn to the entire world?" asks Johnson. "He’s a huge influencer. And he’s a Philadelphia architect."

And then the idea went a step further: Bring the local creative community in on the process. Running during DesignPhiladelphia, the contest is open to everybody: architects, artists, laypeople. The finished branding doesn’t necessarily have to feature Kahn -- if participating designers have another idea of someone to feature, they should go for it.

The deadline for entries is September 30, and the concepts will be on display at the Center during DesignPhiladelphia. The public can vote on their favorite. (For formatting guidelines and other instructions, click here.) Everyone who votes will get a free sample cup of the new coffee.

Beyond simply offering a new amenity for the many people who use the Center, the organizers hope to get the community even more engaged with the interdisciplinary space that also houses the Community Design Collaborative. Johnson hopes Kahn Coffee (or whatever the brand turns out to be) and the contest will be one more way to spark the kind of conversations AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture aim to foster.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rebecca Johnson, the Center for Architecture and AIA Philadelphia

Mt. Airy's Make Art, Grow Food connects kids and elders thanks to a new grant program

This summer's news about the impending loss of their lease didn’t deter Mt. Airy Art Garage leaders and supporters from celebrating the September 9 dedication of their new Make Art, Grow Food mural and garden. The project has transformed MAAG's backyard from a blank wall and a tangle of weeds to a vibrant art piece and rows of fresh vegetables.
 
The project was made possible by a grant of about $5,000 from the East Mt. Airy Neighbors Association (EMAN) Community Fund, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation. It’s EMAN’s first year giving these grants, and Executive Director Elayne Bender says Make Art, Grow Food was a natural fit for their mission.
 
The mural was developed via a months-long collaboration between a specialized class of autistic sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the nearby Henry H. Houston School, the elderly day residents of Homelink, Inc. (an adult center and MAAG neighbor), and MAAG member artists and educators. According to Bender, this inter-generational aspect in particular appealed to EMAN.
 
Illinois native Daisy Juarez, a painter and MAAG member, spearheaded the mural portion of the project. The participating kids and elders drew their own designs for the wall, and Juarez worked them all into one piece. The design was projected and traced onto primed paper pieces. The students and adults then painted in segments on tables inside MAAG; these paper segments were then mounted and sealed on the wall.
 
"It’s the first time we did a project here with this many people," explained MAAG co-founder Arleen Olshan at the dedication, which was attended by the kids, the elders, Bender and representatives of other supporting groups such as Valley Green Bank, Primex and Mt. Airy Animal Hospital.
  
For the garden portion of the project, a local Home Depot donated plants and gear, including tables and hoses. MAAG volunteers are helping to maintain the space.
 
The proud kids (along with a few parents) and elders got their first look at the finished mural on the wall at the dedication. Wherever MAAG lands, Slodki promises that the mural will follow, with a large photograph of it converted into a giclée print.
 
Bender says the project was a particularly emotional one for her: She cried upon seeing the finished mural in August. 

"It’s joy on a wall," she enthuses.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elayne Bender, East Mt. Airy Neighbors

Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company

 

New dollars for WINS send Philly's science-loving girls across the world

Since 1982, The Academy of Natural Science's Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program has been making science exciting and accessible to Philly’s high-school girls. Now, Academy Vice President of Education Jacquie Genovesi is excited to announce that the program has finally been recognized with a national award.

Flying Kite recently took a look at WINS' exchange program, which welcomed youth from Mongolia to Philadelphia, and then organized a reciprocal trip for Philly WINS girls to Asia to study ecology and the impact of climate change on different sides of the world.

In August, the WINS E-STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math through "projects involving real environmental problems") received a $50,000 Innovative Education Award, given through a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

Genovesi, who traveled to the UL headquarters in Chicago in early August to receive the Academy’s second-place award and network with other honorees, says the contest drew almost 150 applications from 40 states and three Canadian provinces.

The new dollars will boost the WINS program by opening up paid internships and field experience for WINS girls.

"We actually just put out a call to all of our scientists, saying, 'Ok, what kind of fun projects do you have coming up in the next  year?'" says Genovesi. Internships could last a summer or -- depending on where they’re located and cooperation from the student’s school -- up to eight months, in the lab and in the field.

"They could be almost anywhere," she adds. The Academy has scientists working in the Greater Philadelphia area, but there are also researchers stationed in Brazil, Vietnam, Jamaica and Mongolia.

"Not only is it about STEM and about young women, but it’s about supporting the entire person," muses Genovesi. The WINS program stands out among other STEM programs, which often recruit kids who are acing their classes, love science and are already college-bound. WINS instead focuses on "in-between" students who may be interested in science, but don’t know what they’re going to do with their lives and aren’t at the top of the class. Many come from low-income households. "We give them that extra boost to say, you know what, anybody can do science…And not only can you do science, but you can stay in school, you can go to college, and you can really succeed in life."

“We can’t afford to throw away any creative youth," she adds, especially the girls, who are "so underrepresented" in these fields.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jacquie Genovesi, The Academy of Natural Sciences

An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative

A major merger supports big plans in Fairmount Park

Big news keeps coming out of Fairmount Park: On April 21, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, the two nonprofits that support the city's park system, formally announced their merger.

The Conservancy, founded as the Fairmount Park Foundation in 1997, began primarily as a fundraising agent for the park, but in the last few years, the organization has partnered with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to branch into many aspects of planning, project management and outreach. It’s now also helming the recently-announced Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

The Trust, a public/private venture launched in 1992, focuses on professional preservation services to nonprofits and City agencies, managing historic buildings, public art and "cultural landscapes."

The new combined organization -- boasting the name Fairmount Park Conservancy -- isn’t shedding any jobs on either side; it will employ a combined staff of 16 and have an annual operating budget of about $2 million. Former Conservancy Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell will continue in that role while former Trust Executive Director Lucy Strackhouse has transitioned into the title of senior director of preservation and project management. 

Bringing the two groups together was a long process.

"We started talking about merging in 2007," recalls Strackhouse. A lot of meetings took place, but "then 2008 happened," and city-wide financial pressures caused by the recession led the organizations to table the talks until 2010.

But once the discussion was back on track -- with the help of pro bono legal services from Pepper Hamilton -- the boards reached a memorandum of understanding in mid-2014, with official notice of the merger reaching both offices at the end of the year.

While the January merger was no secret, the delay of a formal public announcement until late April had to do with getting the new organization’s branding and website up to speed.

"What we’re really going to be looking at is not just preserving these resources for history’s sake, but really thinking about how the historic properties are activated in new ways," says Lovell. "What you’ll see from our combined entities are some really exciting announcements about historic properties reimagined."

Between PennPraxis' plan The New Fairmount Park, the Civic Commons, and other initiatives, "City government can’t manage on their own," says Lovell of the Conservancy’s increasingly important role in Fairmount Park stewardship.

These plans encompass the natural, historical and cultural assets of the park, she adds, "reinforcing the fact that the merger is a really positive thing for both organizations, but ultimately for the park."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Kathryn Ott Lovell and Lucy Strackhouse, the Fairmount Park Conservancy

A North Philly grant leaves no excuse for litter

Earlier this year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) announced a new micro-grant program to help local community organizations boost safety, walkability and commerce through resident-led clean-up programs. The first round of grantees included the North 5th Street Revitalization Project, which received $1000. The dollars are already going a long way on a range of initiatives.

The North 5th Street Revitalization Project has been operating since 2008 with funding from the Commerce Department. While their umbrella organization is the Korean Community Development Services Center, they have their own branding and offices.

The initiative's service area covers about a mile and a half of the Olney neighborhood: It runs from Roosevelt Boulevard to Spencer Street, and then a block on each side of N. 5th Street. The organization runs a sidewalk cleaning program (including two staffers who work five days a week to keep litter off the streets), removes "bandit signs," logs and repairs dozens of 311 issues each month and leads neighborhood cleanups, like April 11's city-wide Philly Spring Cleanup Day, which drew about sixty neighbors to volunteer.

The Project also focuses on public safety, holding twice-yearly meetings with police representatives and local merchants to discuss issues of crime and security, and helping participating businesses install security cameras through a dedicated city program. And it provides a wide range of business assistance, from helping locals get business permits or apply for eligible grant programs, to facilitating a business association and offering financing help.

"We have 340 active businesses on North 5th Street," says Program Director Philip Green. Most of them are small "mom and pop" stores, and many are "immigrant-owned and operated, so it’s really hard for them to obtain traditional bank loans."

Finally, the Project promotes the corridor in general through events such as open mic nights, community clean-ups and seasonal programming.

The KPB dollars funded a fun DIY photo-shoot for Philly Spring Cleanup Day volunteers, which the organization will share throughout the coming year, keeping the spirit of the clean-up alive and reminding people that maintaining the neighborhood is a year-round activity.

Leftover dollars will go to projects such as revamping the Project’s existing brochure on responsible homeownership and neighborhood maintenance, and translating it into multiple languages for Olney’s diverse community. Green also hopes the money will help buy more "Keep 5th Clean" tee-shirts -- like the ones teen clean-up crew captains wore on April 11 -- as well as decals for neighborhood recycling bins.

"Community clean-ups aren’t really about the trash ending up in a trash bag and going away to the dump," explains Green. "It’s really about the message that community residents cleaning up sends to other people."

Teenagers working in festive matching shirts are particularly motivating, he hopes.

"People will see that and realize that they have absolutely no excuse to litter, and no excuse not to take pride in their neighborhood."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Philip Green, North 5th Street Revitalization Project

 

New GSK dollars at the Food Trust will boost youth health and wellness citywide

A $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant to a Philadelphia collective led by The Food Trust will allow the local food and health access leader to significantly expand its existing HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) program to reach 50,000 kids over the next three years.

The dollars, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation, are going to boost programs at nine partner organizations citywide, with a special focus on North Philadelphia. The new collective’s work will be known as Get HYPE Philly!
HYPE has already been working with local kids in about 100 different schools over the last several years, explains Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann.

"It’s going to build on this existing program," she says. "And at the same time we’re going to be working with all these other groups," who will also be expanding their own work. 

The Get HYPE collective includes Guild House West’s Greener Partners, East Park Revitalization Alliance’s Common Market, The Village of Arts and Humanities, and the Garden Education Program of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Also partnering under the Food Trust umbrella are the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (and branch-based teen mentoring program), The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, The Philadelphia Youth Network, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Equal Measure, which will help evaluate the Get HYPE programming’s impact throughout the grant’s three-year span.

Some of these organizations will focus on urban farming, nutrition, literacy through food-based activities, and exercise; others will build on different aspects of overall health such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"This is really going to strengthen the networking between all of our agencies," insists Lehmann. "It’s going to have this awesome ripple effect throughout the city."

Lehmann is particularly excited about the new youth advisory board the grant will create, which will consist of about fifteen to twenty teens from around the city. They will be able to direct mini-grants of up to $2,000 (or a total of $70,000 per year for the life of the program) to student-led initiatives focused on things such as exercise, urban agriculture and healthy food donations.

"It’s not just window-dressing. They’re going to have some work to do," Lehmann says of the students who will be involved (their selection process is still TBD).

The grant’s allowance for evaluating the programs is also important, she insists, "to be able to tell the story, and look at how this is impacting kids in Philly, and help us adjust as needed."

And she hopes Get HYPE Philly! will continue far beyond the initial three-year roll-out.

“From day one, all the collective partners and the Food Trust will be thinking about how to sustain this beyond the grant," she says. "We see this as a long-term project."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust

 

Students from Philadelphia and Mongolia come together on climate change

The Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences has been going strong for 32 years, and now a special grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Museums Connect program is allowing a team of 15 Philly public high school girls to collaborate with 15 girls from Mongolia on a globe-spanning project.

For the last several months, the teens have been using online courses, Facebook and Skype to study climate change and its cultural impact. Then last week, four girls from the Mongolian side of the project, administered through the National Museum of Mongolia’s ROOTS program, had a whirlwind visit to Philadelphia. This July, five public high school girls from Philadelphia will reciprocate with their own two-week trip to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

The climate change focus of the youth program is three-pronged, explains WINS manager Betsy Payne: "One is water, one is food, one is the cultural repercussions."

Currently, there are 60 girls in the WINS program citywide, but the Museums Connect dollars (administered by the American Alliance of Museums) allowed for just fifteen Mongolian girls and fifteen Philly girls. WINS sophomores and juniors were invited to apply for the program, and were selected based on a range of criteria.

"Even though it’s a one-year program, we’re hoping it has repercussions where they might be able to do more in the near future," says Payne of the age group she decided to target and applicants' dedication to the program’s offerings. The Academy was also "looking for the girls who hadn’t had other opportunities of major travel." 

The lucky travelers are George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science sophomore Faatimat Sylla; junior Geré Johnson from the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School of Philadelphia; Harleen Gonzalez, a sophomore at Central High School; Academy at Palumbo sophomore Linda Gutierrez, and Philadelphia High School for Girls junior Ti’anna Cooper.

The project’s capstone, for both teams of girls, will be a final display based on what they’ve learned in their year of cross-continental collaboration. The form it will take will be up to the students, as long as it deals with climate change and cultural exchange: a short play, a museum activity, a presentation of specimens or something else the young women devise.  

The Mongolian students' U.S. trip was packed with classroom visits and science as well as some historic sight-seeing in Old City, cheesesteaks on South Street, a Lancaster farm visit, a tour of Washington, D.C. that included the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and even some good old-fashioned retail therapy at the King of Prussia Mall.

By early fall, the two intercontinental teams will develop lessons and presentations about climate change that will be incorporated into the public programming at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the National Museum of Mongolia.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Betsy Payne, The Academy of Natural Sciences

 

Rad Dish is Temple's new sustainable student food co-op

Temple University junior Lauren Troop started out as an environmental studies major, but when she became part of a bold new food co-op business plan with her fellow students, she found the perfect convergence of her interests, and switched to studying entrepreneurship.

The concept for Rad Dish, which opened on February 5 in a former Sodexo café space in Ritter Hall, grew out of a student research project completed a few years ago. The idea failed to move forward once the original thinkers graduated.

But then founding Rad Dish co-op members got hold of the idea, and began working in fall 2013 to make the space a reality. The group met under the auspices and mentorship of Temple’s Office of Sustainability, with participation from campus organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Temple Community Garden and Net Impact, the university’s sustainable business club.

The team started meeting once a week with help from a three-credit independent study course that allowed them to devote the necessary number of hours to getting the co-op café off the ground. Meetings with West Philly’s Mariposa food co-op, as well as other student groups, including one from the University of Maryland, helped them clarify their vision.

"Our mission was really to provide affordable locally and ethically sourced fresh food to our Temple community," explains Troop, a Lancaster native. "We do that by sourcing everything within 150 miles."

Items like tea and coffee and certain spices, which the co-op can’t get locally, are sourced through a major organic and fair-trade supplier. 

Rad Dish opened its doors with the help of one year of free rent from Temple and $30,000 in seed money from the Office of Sustainability to help cover the first round of inventory and salaries for workers.

The space is a café now, but Rad Dish organizers hope to expand into more of a grocery model as they gain experience and more local, seasonal produce becomes available. In the meantime, the space already has its own appealing vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows and art on the walls.

The community has already started to embrace the idea. Someone donated a bike-powered blender, and then a record-payer.

"People have just started to bring in random stuff that made it a unique space to hang out in," says Troop.

Prospects for the co-op’s future are good, she adds: a large crop of sophomores are just now stepping into leadership roles, replacing graduating founders.

"My favorite part about the project is how we’ve incorporated so many fields of study and so many people with different majors," insists Troops. "There are people from our business school, arts school, communications, engineering, and people who just love food."

Rad Dish is now open from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Ritter Hall, on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and 13th Street.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source, Lauren Troop, Rad Dish

Wash Cycle Laundry forges a new path for socially conscious investing

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia startup Wash Cycle Laundry (WCL) closed on a major new loan from the Distinguished Social Ventures Foundation (DSVF) which may help the company create hundreds of new jobs and nab new contracts on the way to major expansion.

According to founder and CEO Gabriel Mandujano, the $450,000 loan isn’t just important for what it will help WCL achieve, but also in the new model it will help forge for foundations who want to invest in mission-based businesses.

WCL, now operating in Austin and Washington, D.C., as well as Philly, was founded here in 2010. The company provides laundry and linen rental services for institutions, businesses and residents, with environmentally-friendly high-efficiency machines and powerful bike trailers for hauling. The company also focuses on hiring its employees from vulnerable populations such as formerly incarcerated people and longtime welfare recipients. The company currently employs almost 50 people, with a retention rate topping 80 percent in workers' first six months.

"What [this] capital allows us to do is come to the table as a ready partner," explains Mandujano. When WCL negotiates with potential clients like a hospital system or university, whether or not the company has the capacity to handle the contract in terms of staffing and inventory has always been a big question. "What this investment has allowed us to do is…go out and close more of these institutional contracts."

The terms of the loan are unique, and give WCL a powerful incentive to expand its socially conscious mission. The current interest rate on the loan is 5 percent, but WCL has five years to reduce that interest rate drastically.

"We’re talking about the net number of jobs that we create," says Mandujano of the loan’s "five-year time clock" from its January 21 closing date. If WCL can create 200 jobs with the help of the new capital, interest on the loan will drop to three percent, and if it can create 500 new jobs within five years, the interest rate will go down to just one percent.

"I’m really excited that this financing aligns our financial interests with our mission interests," he enthuses. "If we’re better at achieving our mission, we’re also financially rewarded for that."

And for both WCL and DSVF, a bigger goal is creating a model that will work for other "purpose-driven businesses" and the foundations who might be interested in similar "impact investing," but do not know how to select the right company, set the right goals, and hammer out the paperwork.

According to Mandujano, "we wanted to create an instrument that that we thought could be copied both by other foundations that want to invest in Wash Cycle, but also just by foundations interested in this type of investing in general."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Gabriel Mandujano, Wash Cycle Laundry

 

An award-winning team at Penn works to make fracking safer

Last week, we took a look at how the graphene technology developed at the University of Pennsylvania is shaping the global marketplace, and now, a pair of Penn students has won the annual Y-Prize contest for applying this rapidly-growing field to the problems of fracking.

Winners Ashwin Amurthur and Teddy Guenin are both fourth-year students of dual-degree programs at Penn Engineering and the Wharton School. Guenin, a Lancaster native, is doing his undergrad work in bioengineering, marketing and management, with a master’s in mechanical engineering on deck after that, and Amurthur, from Princeton Junction, N.J., is majoring in bioengineering and finance.

This year, the Y-Prize contest invited students to develop a new application for existing Penn nanotechnology, and drew a record 19 entries. Four finalists presented their concepts to a panel of judges on January 28, and Guenin and Amurthur nabbed the $5,000 first prize. The funds aren't the only reward: they also receive the framework for a non-exclusive license to the Penn technology, an important first step in commercializing their proposal.

Guenin says the controversy of natural gas drilling's environmental effects loomed large as he grew up in central Pennsylvania. Together, the young men have applied Penn’s graphene field-effect transistor (GFET) technology to the detection of benzene in groundwater.

Currently, drilling companies who suspect leaks in the underground casings of their equipment -- and local governments and consumers worried about water contamination -- don’t have a reliable way to confirm and pinpoint those leaks. Groundwater can be tested for levels of various chemical ions and compounds like chlorides, but since these can occur naturally in some water samples regardless of the side-effects of fracking, the tests don’t offer conclusive answers.

"The oil companies want to know for sure, do we have a leak or not?" Amurthur explains.

The Y-Prize team’s answer is GFETs for detecting benzene, a carcinogenic compound used in fracking fluid that usually does not occur in groundwater naturally.

If the team can develop their benzene GFETs and bring them to market, "you could more conclusively say that you do have a leak," Amurthur continues. It’s vital information for municipalities, drilling companies and consumers alike, and could ensure more rapid and accurate repair of leaking casings, enhanced safety, increased profits and a protected environment.

Though there’s a lot of work yet to be done to bring this concept to market, Guenin is excited about the opportunities for networking and the support the Y-Prize win will bring.

"It’s awesome that we were able to get this," he says. "And we’re really really excited to move forward with it."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Ashwin Amurthur and Teddy Guenin, GFET-Frack Technologies

 

A KIZ tax credit helps Philly's Graphene Frontiers pioneer 21st-century diagnostics

Imagine conducting an instantly accurate test for Lyme disease or Syphilis -- or potentially hundreds of other illnesses -- right in your doctor’s office with a single drop of blood. Mike Patterson, a Wharton MBA alum and CEO of the University City Science Center-based Graphene Frontiers, says it’ll happen within a few years.

The company was founded by Dr. Charlie Johnson, Dr. Zhengtang Luo and Patterson in 2010 out of the University of Pennsylvania’s UPstart program. Recently recognized as one of 18 Pennsylvania Companies to Watch in 2015, Graphene Frontiers just landed their first Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) state tax credit.

But what is graphene, and why do we need it?

Put on your science hats.

Researchers at the University of Manchester first isolated this material in 2004, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

"Graphene is simply a single atomic layer of carbon," explains Patterson.

If you’re feeling fancy, call it an allotrope of carbon, like graphite or a diamond. It’s incredibly strong: proportionally 100 times stronger than steel, yet flexible, transparent, and the best conductor of heat and electricity mankind has ever discovered. It has myriad applications, from solar cells to touch screens to desalinization. 

Take your pencil’s core. Imagine cutting it so thin you have a slice of graphite only one atom thick. Bingo: graphene.
But it’s not so easy.

Graphene manufacturers don’t shave carbon down. Instead, they use a carbon-containing gas like methane and a process called chemical vapor deposition to build the graphene literally atom by atom.

What Dr. Luo discovered and patented in a physics lab at Penn was a way to do this at normal atmospheric pressure, instead of in an expensive, unwieldy vacuum chamber, like everyone else has been doing until now.

With the help of a two-step National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant totaling almost $900,000, Graphene Frontiers entered the global market.

Forget little strips of graphene. The company is pioneering a way to grow it in massive rolls on copper foil, and then remove it from that copper with hydrolysis (an electric current that separates the hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolyte/water solution) rather than using what Patterson calls "a really nasty bath of chemicals" to dissolve the copper and collect the graphene.  

"We can just bubble off the graphene and re-use the copper," he says. "[It's] very important for cost and environmental concerns."

Right now the company is focused on graphene in biosensor applications, and hopes to partner with a major diagnostics firm. Patterson says the future of point-of-care diagnostics will be the graphene field-effect transistor (GFET). In short, a strip of graphene ten microns wide (one-tenth the width of a human hair, for us mortals). A specific antibody attached to it will, with the help of an electric current, be able to instantly detect bacteria or proteins in a tiny blood sample (instead of testing multiple vials of blood for an immune response).  

In other words, no lab technicians with pipettes and goggles.

So what will Graphene Frontiers do with the new tax credit? It’s not just about physics and chemistry. The money will help the company hire a new production engineer and lab technician to produce more GFET applications and tests.

"It’s all about the people," insists Patterson.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source. Mike Patterson, Graphene Frontiers

 

Microgrants will launch community anti-litter initiatives in 2015

Last week, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) released a new RFP for community nonprofits looking to nab seed funds for their anti-litter initiatives.

"You can have all the ideas in the world but not secure the funds to do it," explains Michelle Feldman, the organization's director. "At Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, we're not the only ones with good ideas."

The new program consists of three microgrants: two of $1,000 and one of $500. A former CDC employee herself, Feldman knows how far even a small amount of money can go for a community group trying to get a new idea off the ground.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful "believes that communities know their challenges and opportunities best," says the RFP of working through grantees on litter abatement. "We want to provide community-based organizations with the resources to help solve neighborhood beautification concerns, and the space to experiment and test new ideas."

Successful applicants will need to demonstrate measurable, collaborative, sustainable and scalable impact, says Feldman (she expects at least ten to 15 applicants for the inaugural round). The organization will consider brand-new proposals or expansions of existing programs that meet the criteria.

Empirical data proves that tackling litter can have a direct impact on factors like the growth of small businesses, property values, crime, and perception of the neighborhood both inside and outside the community. According to Feldman, a good example of community innovation on the issue is the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation's $1-A-Day program -- participating businesses each contribute $365 a year toward daily litter clean-up.

It turned into "a great way to help fund the daily cleaning and involve the community, and give them ownership over the cleaning effort," she explains.

The hope is that this year’s participants will be help model best practices, inspiring and informing other groups in the future.

Proposals are due on March 1; the winners will be selected by March 15. The project cycle will run through December 15, 2015.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

Could city-wide composting become a reality in Philadelphia?

According to a report from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia spends over $6 million per year transporting and dumping our wasted or uneaten food into landfills. Why can't we be more like Austin or New York City, which already have food waste recycling programs? Councilwoman Cindy Bass, of Philadelphia’s 8th District, wants to get the ball rolling.

"It’s probably easier to refer to it as composting. The ‘food waste’ thing hasn’t really caught on," says Elliot Griffin, a spokesperson for the Councilwoman, referring to a recent City Council hearing on the feasibility of a city-wide food waste recycling program.

Participants in the November 12 hearing included representatives from the City’s Committee on Streets and Services and Committee on the Environment, alongside composting experts from groups including the U.S. Composting Council's Institute for Local Self Reliance and RecycleNow Philadelphia.

The administration testified that the estimated cost of launching a city-wide composting program, including street pick-up of compostable materials -- and a composting center to handle a city-sized mound of nature’s recycling -- could cost $37 million.

"We’re not exactly in a position to start that today," explains Griffin, but the point of the hearing, which she says was well-attended especially by supporters from Philly’s Northwest neighborhoods, was to help people realize that such a program could be feasible.

According to Griffin, Councilwoman Bass first got inspired on Philly’s composting potential when she read a spring 2014 article in the New York Times about comparable American cities that have already started these initiatives. At the hearing, the biggest surprise was how many locals, from restaurant owners to ordinary citizens to organizations like Weavers Way Co-Op, are already composting on their own.

“We recognize that we have to start the conversation now,” says Griffin, so the next generation can keep the momentum going and make wide-spread composting a reality, benefiting the environment, saving energy and creating jobs.

The construction of an organic recycling center and the jobs created for those who would manage it is "something that could benefit the whole Delaware Valley," adds Griffin.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elliot Griffin, office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass

 

Philly's foodie community gives a local dairy farm its own cheese cave

For Sue Miller, making cheese on her family's Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County is more than a way to make a living.

"It’s a beautiful process," she says. "We really have touched everything from the very beginning."

They breed the calves on the farm, grow the grass their Holsteins (over 80 of them) graze on, and do all of the daily milking. Up until now, they made and aged the cheese at a rented space nearby, before bringing it to market at Philadelphia-area stores and restaurants. Now, thanks to a successful Kickstart campaign -- more than fully funded with $33,507 raised as of the drive’s close on December 13 -- that is about to change.

After seven of cheesemaking, Birchrun Hills had outgrown that rented space. The funds will allow the Millers (which also includes Sue’s husband Ken and their adult sons Randy, a recent Cornell University graduate, and Jesse, who will receive his degree from Cornell next year) to build their own fully outfitted cheese caves. 

Because dairy farming is so capital-intensive and involves many complicated disciplines, from horticulture to nutritional and veterinary science to milk production, "it’s a challenging thing in the dairy industry to be a first generation [farm]…and unusual in cheese-making," Miller explains. "A lot of people come into cheesemaking after another career."

"You have to be committed to it not as a career, but as lifestyle," she adds.

Their first cheese customer, Di Bruno Bros., is a testament to the quality of their handmade raw-milk cheeses. Now, you can buy favorites like Birchrun Blue, Red Cat, Fat Cat and Equinox at venues such as the Fair Food Farmstand and Salumeria in Reading Terminal Market. Local restaurants, including White Dog Café, Fork and Nectar, also serve Birchrun cheeses.

A loan is allowing the family to build the new structure and the crowdfunded cash will go towards equipment, including a curd vat, specialized shelving and a cooling system.

Miller is proud that her two sons have chosen to return to the family business post-college, and she loves the chance to make a living based on the humane and healthy treatment of farm animals.

"I just love everything about [dairy cows]," she enthuses. "Their personalities can really come through…They are calm and lovely and accepting of human beings. It’s nice that they’re kind of unflappable."

She says the family has been overwhelmed by fans' support -- the crowdfunding campaign easily surpassed its initial $25,000 goal.

"We’re excited that people in our community have so strongly supported this project," adds Miller. "It’s tremendously humbling.”

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sue Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm

Kensington Quarters, Philly's only restaurant/butcher shop, opens in Fishtown

We're all used to picking up everything -- from steak to veggies to detergent to wrapping paper -- in one stop at the grocery store, and it’s hard to remember that we used to shop very differently.
 
Philly restaurateurs Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello, who together own Bufad, Prohibition Taproom and Café Lift, want to revive the specialized shop tradition with their new restaurant/butcher shop Kensington Quarters (KQ).
 
Opening KQ, housed in a former welding facility on Frankford Avenue, was a journey that took two years. According to Michael, the 25-foot ceilings and sheer size of the spot -- 35 feet wide and 100 feet long -- was initially "very daunting."
 
But that surfeit of space is part of what inspired them to create something unique for Philadelphia: a restaurant that butchers humanely-raised, locally-sourced animals in its own kitchen (instead of ordering cuts of meat) and a butcher shop within the space where folks can purchase their own high-quality cuts.
 
In service of that goal, Michael teamed up with expert butcher Bryan Mayer, who he first connected with over a beer in 2012.
 
"Originally, the concept was a restaurant centered on whole-animal butchery," recalls Michael. "We’re buying animals from farms and not bringing them in in boxes…We believe this is the most efficient way to run a restaurant."
 
While the space was still in its design phase, the two men were touring it and stopped to look at an area that had originally been designated as a lounge and coat closet.
 
"Why don’t you put a butcher shop over here?" Michael remembers asking Mayer, who had been looking to launch his own small-scale, locally-sourced butcher shop.
 
"Come here, get your meat, make it an adventure, talk to the butcher," he explains, insisting on the appeal of getting people out of the grocery-store habit.
 
Michael now says it’s a good thing that the space took so long to develop.

"The more time it took to get that place built, the more the concept evolved and became better understood and well-rooted," he insists.
 
Today, along with the butcher shop, that means wood-fired meals (with herbs from the garden out back) from pastured animals that spent their entire lives on local farms dedicated to humane husbandry, no antibiotics or GMOs (even on the drinks menu), and a simple cooking philosophy.
 
And, starting n 2015, the KQ team hopes to offer classes for those who want to learn more about cooking, butchering, using the whole animal and where food comes from.
 
The kitchen at Kensington Quarters (1310 Frankford Avenue) is open Sunday through Thursday, 5 - 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 - 11 p.m. The butcher shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, Kensington Quarters 

 

A wet and wild happy hour with The Academy of Natural Sciences

Like a little water science with that happy hour beverage? The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is re-launching a "science café" program, previously held at the Cherry Street Tavern, at Old City’s National Mechanics.

The new monthly program is called Tapping Our Watershed. The first presenter (6 p.m. Monday, November 17) is Carol Collier, the Academy's senior advisor for watershed management and policy and director of Drexel's Environmental Studies and Sustainability program. These "happy-hour-style lectures" on the science of local rivers will happen on the third Monday of each month and be similar to the existing Science on Tap events run through the Academy and other local partners on the second Monday of the month.

Collier’s presentation is called "The Future of the Delaware River Basin: Why We Need to Think Holistically." It’ll be a chance to learn about what’s stressing our modern waterways, and what we can do to help.

"What I’m hoping for mostly is for people who are experts to talk about these issues in a supportive environment…and for those who are less experienced to realize there is so much work being done," says Meghan O’Donnell, a staff scientist at the Academy who manages the Tapping Our Watershed seminars. "I think that a lot of this goes under the radar for people." 

O’Donnell coordinates field research for the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, funded by a $35 million commitment from the William Penn Foundation. It’s a "really expansive" project, she explains, monitoring the waters and ecosystems flowing from the headwaters of the Delaware River, up in the Poconos, all the way to Philadelphia. Partnerships with about 40 other organizations help to monitor 35 different sites four times a year.

"We’re pretty much on the go all the time," she adds. "We just finished our algae and fish surveys, and now we’re moving on to fall chemistry."

O’Donnell appreciated the original Cherry Street venue but is looking forward to the facilities at National Mechanics, with its larger space and A.V. accoutrements. She hopes the expert commentary in the informal setting will help "people to feel relaxed and grab a beer after work, and still keep themselves informed on what’s going on in the watershed."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meghan O’Donnell, The Academy of Natural Sciences

 

For three young entrepreneurs in Malvern, 'Maholla' means eco-centric products

Three young entrepreneurs, committed, they say, "to getting back to the basics of good business: high-quality innovative products, unparalleled customer satisfaction, social responsibility and having the smallest environmental impact possible," have launched Maholla Products, an eco-centric lifestyle products company in Malvern.

The company name comes from a mixture of the Hawaiian word "mahalo," meaning thanks or gratitude, and the slang greeting "holla."

"'Mahalo' is a really powerful word that encompasses how we approach people, life and our company," says co-founder Evan Hajas. "We chose 'holla'… to mean 'keep in touch' or 'see you soon.' The combination of the words, to us, is a respectful and friendly greeting. It sums up our company in one word. We respect our customers and our products, and want them to keep in touch. When we sell a product, that is just the beginning of our relationship with the customer -- we don't want it to be a cold 'see-you-never' sale."

Hajas, along with co-founders Andrew Lees and Jim McHugh, recently launched Grassracks, a line of easy-to-hang, bamboo racks that can be used to hang skateboards, bikes, skis, etc. Grassracks make a stylish statement and are made of 100 percent bamboo, a highly sustainable material.

Grassracks are manufactured in Malvern and Ohio, and sold online in a few brick-and-mortar locations around Philadelphia.

"Our product is unique in that brick-and-mortar stores buy them for use as in-store displays, but also to sell to end consumers,” explains Hajas. "That has allowed us to develop some creative referral programs that have worked out great for us and the retailers."

Maholla is currently developing some new home decor lines. "Even some that dip into the audio and accessory industries, but those are still a little hush hush," adds Hajas. "We started this company to live the American dream. We're three young guys that are committed to making high-quality products, being good to our customers, and doing what we can to protect the environment and raise the bar in terms of environmental awareness for companies."

Source: Evan Hajas, Maholla Products
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Mr. Milkman, an organic dairy delivery service, is now available in Philly

All it took was a single taste of Trickling Springs Creamery's premium ice cream to convince Dan Crump he had to leave his job at FedEx and follow his passion of supporting local farms and healthy organic eating.

Shortly thereafter, he purchased the Lancaster County-based organic dairy delivery service known as Mr. Milkman.

At the time, Mr. Milkman had a limited delivery area and only a few customers -- it was really more of a hobby than a business for its previous owner.

"I knew it would mean a pay cut," recalls Crump. "But I also knew I could use my FedEx [logistics] knowledge to make [the business] work."

Almost immediately after purchasing Mr. Milkman, Crump began to wonder whether or not he should expand services to Philadelphia. Without an advertising budget or established customer base, he figured the costs would be prohibitive. Fortunately, a fruitful visit to Reading Terminal Market convinced Crump to add Philadelphia-area delivery services a few months back.

Now, thanks to the airing of a spotlight piece on Lancaster County’s WGAL last week, Mr. Milkman’s business in Philadelphia has taken off.

Due to the spike in orders, the company has added new Philly-area routes. It delivers each Saturday, and is poised to continue its growth with a hiring push. Crump is also working with a gluten-free bakery and will be offering fruit and veggie boxes this spring.

In addition to Trickling Springs Creamery dairy products, Danda Farms organic meats, artisan cheeses, raw honey and a number of other organic goodies, Mr. Milkman also delivers raw milk from Swiss Villa.

"We’re dedicated to supporting our local organic farmers and their workers," says Crump, "while ensuring that busy moms, families, and other [Philadelphia] residents have access to healthy food."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Dan Crump, Mr. Milkman

 

Do you love kids and hate litter? If so, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful wants to talk

For the past 18 months, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Executive Director Michelle Feldman has been spreading the organization's message of environmental stewardship to local public school students. From educational presentations and workshops to hands-on projects, Feldman has been tireless in her efforts to inspire and empower children to beautify their communities.

To date, the organization's programs have reached over 1,500 students, and they want to do more.

"We came to the realization that we could do so much more if we had volunteer teachers who were out there and passionate about this [work]," explains Feldman.

In an effort to achieve its goal, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful is seeking five volunteers willing to train with the organization and then work as part-time ambassadors in area elementary, junior high and high schools. 

Prospective volunteers should have a passion for recycling and other environmental issues, and must commit to two presentations per month, with each engagement lasting roughly an hour.

Volunteer teachers will be responsible for leading presentations similar to Keep Philadelphia Beautiful's signature program, "Litter-Free School Zone." Supplemental activities include field trips, local clean-up events and on-site recycling demonstrations.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful also coordinates with community groups to create unique one-off learning opportunities such as DIY-style programs on creative reuse.

The organization will attract and engage with prospective volunteers through its website and social media channels, and additional details will appear in its upcoming October newsletter.

Interested in applying? Complete the online application by November 30.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

 

No sweat! Philly's Fairwear keeps bike commuters cool and office-appropriate

Riffing off Benjamin Franklin, inventor, founding father, quintessential Philadelphian and all-around cool dude, Fairwear, a Philly startup, promises freedom to pursue an active lifestyle while staying comfortable. 

Founder Louis Pollack says the idea arose from the challenge of staying cool and presentable in everyday clothes while biking around Philadelphia, his adopted city.

Fairwear uses performance-based materials to create garments that are moisture wicking and highly breathable.

"Our apparel doesn't have a glossy lycra-like flair, nor does it have awkwardly placed pockets or technical trim," explains Pollack. "Fairwear is meant for a clean and comfortable transition from bike to boardroom to bar, in no particular order."

Fairwear’s line of men's button-down shirts is priced between $75 and $85. 

The company sources everything domestically from Philadelphia or New York, and manufactures at a factory in Northeast Philadelphia.

"When I started I knew I wanted to source everything locally," recalls Pollack. "My desire to keep production nearby is partially patriotic but also makes sense logistically. Local factories offer a much higher level of craftsmanship because you can maintain close input on the process. Sending your stuff overseas to be made is scary because you instantly lose control and are trusting someone you’ve never met before."

Fairwear is sold at a handful of Philly-area bike shops, craft and high-end flea markets like Philadelphia’s Franklin Flea and Phair, and at trade shows such as the upcoming Philadelphia Bike Expo

Pollack comes from a garment industry background and established the company earlier this year. As the company grows, he hopes to take Fairwear to larger national shows, and eventually open a brick-and-mortar location.

"We are always improving and tweaking details," he insists. "Stuff like material, fit and finish can always be made better. Our immediate reaction has been very positive. We want to continue supporting our early adopters, while sustainably growing Fairwear’s presence."

Source: Louis Pollack, Fairwear
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia Honey Festival offers three days of buzz-worthy culture and education

The annual Philadelphia Honey Festival, a celebration of the importance of bees and the honey they produce, has been in existence for just five years now. But to hear Suzanne Matlock of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild explain it, the three-day festival -- running September 5 to 7 at three historic locations throughout the city -- can trace its genesis back to Christmas Day 1810. That was the day Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born at 106 S. Front Street.
 
Widely known as the "Father of American Beekeeping," Langstroth is the man responsible for inventing the Langstroth bee hive. Consisting of movable frames and resembling a stout wooden cabinet, the Langstroth is still considered the definitive beehive for keepers worldwide. So important was his contribution to beekeeping that on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a historical marker noting his accomplishments was raised outside his former Front Street home.  
 
The first annual Philadelphia Honey Festival was also celebrated that year, largely to honor Langstroth's memory and his significant impact on the craft. Only 500 people took part.

But in the seasons since, the event has evolved into a family-friendly educational and cultural celebration promoting urban beekeeping. It aims to "increase awareness of the importance of bees to [the] environment" and "the impact of local honey on our economy," according to a release. Last year, over 2,300 bee-curious locals showed up. 
 
Organized by the Beekeepers Guild and hosted at Bartram's Garden, the Wagner Free Institute of Science and Wyck Historic House, the festival's free events range from bee bearding presentations and open beehive viewings to a honey-themed happy hour and honey extraction demonstrations.

For a complete schedule, click here. (Don't miss the Beekeeping 100 panel on September 7.)
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Suzanne Matlock, Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild

MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
 
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
 
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
 
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
  
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
 
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate

A pop-up park blooms at the Destination Frankford pop-up gallery project

The art-centric Destination Frankford initiative has been active since early spring with a mission of reclaiming, rediscovering and reanimating the formerly industrial Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford, primarily through a process known as creative placemaking.
 
Thanks to a grant from ArtPlace America -- a national association that supports placemaking projects -- Destination Frankford was able to transform a vacant and dilapidated neighborhood storefront into the Destination Frankford Gallery.      
 
Two of the three exhibitions scheduled to take place in the pop-up gallery have already happened. The first, Reclaim, featured art constructed from items reclaimed by the Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia. The second, Rediscover, was a photography show featuring work exploring the city's often overlooked urban terrain.  
 
According to Ian Litwin of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Frankford CDC "wanted to keep the energy we built around the gallery going," so the opening reception of the gallery's third and final show might prove to be the project's most important event yet.
 
That reception will kick off at noon on June 28 and feature the unveiling ceremony for a pop-up park in the vacant city-owned lot adjacent to the gallery. The temporary space will host film screenings, art shows and live music events.  
 
The show itself, appropriately dubbed Reanimate, will run every Saturday through July 26, and feature work from the Philadelphia Sculptors organization.
 
Unfortunately, Destination Frankford's previously announced plan to install a trio of sculptures by artist Christine Rojek in Womrath Park won't be happening, but Litwin promises "we are exploring ways to keep the gallery or some sort of community in the building going."
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ian Litwin, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Startup PHL announces 2014 Call for Ideas grant winners

The local entrepreneurial initiative known as Startup PHL has announced the 2014 winners of its second Call for Ideas grant round. This particular round focused specifically on the matter of student engagement with Philadelphia’s tech community.
 
Five micro-grants have been awarded to local internship programs, business incubators and boot camps that plan to hold seminars, workshops and various other programs aimed at area students.
 
Here is a complete list of the winners and their ideas:
 
PennApps Fellows Internship Program received up to $25,000 to fund 10 internships. The program will connect student interns from across the nation to Philadelphia-based companies for a 10-week internship during summer 2014.

Philadelphia Fashion Incubator received $25,000 to create a series of monthly seminars, panels and interactive workshops focused on the business of fashion.

Zivtech Developer Boot Camp was awarded $24,000 to support a six-week developer bootcamp for a class of 30 participants.

NextFab Fellows Co-op Program received $25,000 to support four co-op fellowships. Students will receive training and materials while gaining experience working with NextFab companies in need of talent.

Technical.ly and Philly Startup Leaders were awarded $25,000 to create and execute a series of eight workshops to better connect the PHL tech community to students and universities.

The $500,000 Call for Ideas grant program -- one of two initial measures supported by Startup PHL -- was specifically designed to fund innovative projects that support Philadelphia entrepreneurs and startups, regardless of which industries they work in.
 
According to Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a Department of Commerce entrepreneurial investment manager, Startup PHL has plans to announce two more rounds of Call for Ideas. One of those will likely happen later this year.
 
If you or your organization is hoping to claim one of the micro-grants, take heed: "Essentially, we're looking for ideas that will improve the startup community in either growing companies or improving talent," says Lopez Kriss. "Or maybe create some sort of network that helps people work better together."
 
For more information about the specific ideas Startup PHL is hoping to fund in the future and the collaboration they hope to encourage between entrepreneurs, mentors and investors, visit their FAQ page.   

Source: Rebecca Lopez Kriss, Philadelphia Department of Commerce
Writer: Dan Eldridge





PowerCorpsPHL is improving parklands, enhancing watersheds and changing lives

Thanks in part to $200 million in funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that funds AmeriCorps, Philadelphia is home to an innovative new initiative. PowerCorpsPHL is helping to improve local parklands and watersheds while also acting as a violence prevention strategy for young adults aged 18 to 26.
 
The program got its start when Philadelphia was awarded a $636,000 grant -- one of just six nationwide -- from the CNCS program known as the Governor & Mayor Initiative. Matching funds brought the program's annual budget to $2.1 million.
 
PowerCorpsPHL's goal is multipronged, but at its core is an effort to engage young people. According to Julia Hillengas of the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, the program was developed as way to integrate low-income and underserved young people back into the community, while also providing them with the sort of technical training and job experiences that could lead to skilled employment at the end of each the program's six-month run.
 
Two city agencies are currently partnering with the program; one PowerCorps crew is managing stormwater with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), while the remaining four crews plant trees and revitalize public land with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR).

After serving for six months, the approximately 50 AmeriCorps crew members -- who are funneled into the program from agencies that assist youths who've had legal trouble, or who've recently come out of the city's foster system as adults -- receive three months of job placement support.
 
According to the PWD's Christine Knapp, the program could provide a recruiting funnel for the large number of skilled positions the city will soon need to fill as baby boomers retire en masse. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Julia Hillengas, Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service 




The Navy Yard's EEB Hub welcomes its newest international tenant

At the end of January, the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia welcomed its latest tenant -- the Sydney, Australia-based energy efficiency firm Ecosave, Inc.
 
Ecosave's U.S. headquarters took up residency at Navy Yard's Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), a uniquely specialized space that was funded three years ago by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); they hope to significantly transform the energy efficiency market for existing commercial buildings. EEB Hub is the only such U.S. government campus-within-a-campus of its kind in the country.
 
According to Ecosave CEO Marcelo Rouco, his firm had already decided that the Northeast Corridor would be its American base when it eventually entered the U.S. market.

"Because in the Northeast, you have the highest cost of energy," he explains. Ecosave makes its money by helping large commercial buildings use significantly less energy and water; it also offers an ongoing energy-monitoring service to holders of commercial real estate.
 
"[But] we weren't even thinking about Philadelphia," explains Rouco, until an office in Sydney with connections to the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) brought the city to their attention. This was two years ago, and in the time since, Rouco and his team expanded their search for the company's first North American office to Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York.
 
In the end, Rouco says, the existence of the Navy Yard's EEB Hub was a major factor in Ecosave's decision to choose Philadelphia.

"We liked the idea of being part of [a community that] in the future could be the equivalent of a Silicon Valley for green buildings," he says. "An area where we could meet with new technologies and best practices that are being developed, and deploy them early, before they hit the market."  
 
According to a press release distributed by Governor Tom Corbett's office, Ecosave's new Navy Yard headquarters will create 125 new jobs for Pennsylvanians.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Marcelo Rouco, Ecosave



Need to charge your phone? A local company has your back

There are few things worse than watching the battery on your smart phone slowly drain towards zero at the worst possible moment. Fortunately, an innovative local company is hoping to lend a hand.

One of the many vendors debuting products at the recent GreenBuild International Expo was Plymouth Meeting-based CarrierClass Green Infrastructure (CCGI), founded by Jim Innes and Ian Jones in 2008. CCGI designs, sells and installs solar electric, solar thermal and custom off-grid solar power products for commercial and residential customers. 

CCGI's latest solar-powered product addresses a mounting problem for those of us who rely heavily on our mobile devices -- their tedency to lose power at inopportune times. 

Though other public mobile device charging stations are already available, CCGI’s ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations offer the distinct advantage of using green energy to repower devices. In addition to the sustainable advantages offered by their use of solar energy, ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations provide unique security advantages over other charging stations. As a fully off-grid system, ConnecTables continue to provide power during extended electric outages and natural disasters.

ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations are available for commercial and residential use in café, picnic and deck table forms, designed to accommodate a range of table design aesthetics, surface materials and site designs. They are ideal for universities, city parks, outdoor malls, sports complexes, mixed-use developments and theme parks. 

Qualifying organizations may be eligible for low-interest financing of the tables through Pennsylvania's Sustainable Energy Fund, founded during electric deregulation proceedings to promote, research and invest in clean and renewable energy technologies. 

ConnecTables also qualify for the 30 percent federal business energy investment tax credit offered to businesses that install solar; and colleges may use designated green funds to purchase tables.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Paige Wolf, Certified B Corp.

West Philly's Fresh Food Hub, a mobile farmers' market, now serving communities city-wide

America's obesity epidemic is often attributed to a lack of available and affordable unprocessed foods, especially for lower income and urban populations. The mobile farmers' market Fresh Food Hub offers a simple antidote while also supporting the local food system and economy.

Founder Ryan Kuck and his wife's personal gardening project in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia grew into a community garden on Preston Avenue, aptly named Preston's Paradise. Kuck used a pushcart to distribute fresh produce from Preston's Paradise, eventually partnering with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington, to expand. When Flying Kite last covered the company, Kuck had purchased a bread truck and was operating it as a mobile store four days a week.

Now, the company is positioning to grow again.

"Our pilot has been pretty successful and we'd like to extend it to other neighborhoods," says Kuck. "If we really want to take this idea to its full potential, we need to invest."

Kuck launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $9,773 to branch geographically, support more local farmers, extend hours, hire more staff and upgrade the truck.

The community responded -- the Fresh Food Hub campaign exceeded its goal, raising $10,500 even before its funding period was complete.

One community that Kuck is particularly dedicated to serving is Philadelphia's older adults. In addition to food stamps, the truck also accepts produce vouchers from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). Kuck is currently working with PCA to identify additional senior centers in North and South Philly to add to the truck's route. 

Kuck's reaction to the community's support for the Fresh Food Hub is as simple as the food he grows and sells.

"People just are happier when they eat well," he says.

The Fresh Food Hub's Spring operations will begin on April 30; like them on Facebook for updates about the truck's route.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Ryan Kuck, Fresh Food Hub

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

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

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

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

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

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: 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

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

Common Market's Philly Good Food Lab supports local entrepreneurs

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

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

Wash Cycle Laundry teams up with Neighborhood Farms CSA

Thanks to an innovative partnership with Wash Cycle LaundryNeighborhood Foods CSA will soon begin delivering its food shares from urban farms to subscribers via bicycle.

This past year, the Merchants Fund introduced Neighborhood Foods CSA to Wash Cycle Laundry, a wash-and-fold two-wheeled delivery service. Both businesses are new, local, independently-run and invested in creating quality jobs while advancing sustainability. Cross-promotion seemed natural, but Wash Cycle had a better idea.
 
"The more we thought about it, the more we thought it made sense to do delivery," says Gabe Mandujano, founder and CEO of Wash Cycle Laundry. "We've gotten really good at hauling things around town. For us, it's the first time we've hauled anything other than laundry."
 
Neighborhood Foods CSA, a project of Urban Tree Connection, provides shares comprised of seven to ten varieties of produce sourced from two multi-acre farms -- 53rd and Wyalusing in West Philly and one in South Philly -- supplemented by a small Lancaster farm. Add-ons include fruit from Breezy Acres Farm and Beechwood Orchards, bread from Four Worlds Bakery, jam from Green Aisle Grocery, honey from local beekeepers and coffee from La Colombe. In their first year, Neighborhood Foods provided 68 shares over the course of 22 weeks. By offering delivery service from Wash Cycle Laundry, they expect to serve 100 customers from May through October.
 
"Our hope is that by offering delivery, it will make the CSA more attractive to a new type of customer," says Mandujano. "A lot of people like the idea of local food, and might even be willing to pay a little bit of a premium for it, but can't get to a pickup site every week."
 
At the partnership's inception, Wash Cycle Laundry obtained a $50,000 loan from Patricia Kind Family Foundation and increased their workforce from 12 to 16 employees. They expect to grow to 30 employees by the end of this year.
 
Source: Gabe Mandujano, Wash Cycle Laundry
Writer: Dana Henry

Philadelphia Science Festival offers over 100 interactive events

Mummies, baseball and hallucinogens -- these are just a few of the marvels explored in the third annual Philadelphia Science Festival, created by the Franklin Institute. Running April 18 through 28, the festival offers over 100 events throughout the city.

Over the past two years, the Festival has engaged over 120,000 people, including 30,000 students. The hallmark of the fest is promoting "citizen scientists" and all events are interactive. Here are a couple of our picks:

For fans of local fare, Yards is offering Beer Chemistry: Perfect Pairings, a chemistry lesson with a brewmaster’s twist -- and carefully selected food and beer pairings. Elsewhere, Chef Max Hansen of Max Hansen Catering will illustrate the science behind farm-to-table with a four-course meal during The Sustainable Table: A Dinner Experience.

Sustainability seekers should also check out Sweet and Savory: Hives and Honey, a bee expo led by local beekeepers; Urban Farming at Bartram’s Garden, an exploration of agricultural science; and Naturepalooza!, an outdoor Earth Day celebration hosted by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Those still awaiting the zombie uprising can watch local taxidermist extraordinaire Beth Beverly -- her accessories fashioned from road kill earned her a spot on AMC’s Immortalized -- demonstrate how to bring the dead back to life with Skinned, Stuffed and Mounted: Taxidermy Exposed. They can also help solve a mystery pandemic at Murder at the Mütter: Outbreak! and learn how to compile forensic evidence while listening to live music from Cornbread Five during Nerd Night: CSI.

Arts and culture lovers will appreciate a multi-media presentation from the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts [PIFA] on Icarus at the Edge of Time, based on the children's physics book of the same name. Breadboard will also open a Cellular/Molecular Exhibit showcasing local bio- and chem-inspired art. Meanwhile, the Science of Jazz will demonstrate sound waves at work using live scores.

And be sure to save room for the Science Carnival, the Science Festival's signature event featuring live science demos outside on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

For more on the festival -- and to check out a full calendar of events -- visit PhilaScienceFestival.org.

Temple University team launches alpha version of its urban farming site

Justin Shi, a computer science professor at Temple University, wants to create up to 300 farming jobs in two years. If that weren’t ambitious enough, he plans to do so on Philadelphia's 40,000 vacant lots.

According to Shi, many university students have the will and passion for urban farming, but not the resources and information. GrowShare.net, an online resource he created with four Temple students, helps build the local urban farming economy by providing the essential data.
 
The project was funded by the Knight Foundation and earned runner-up status in Google's international Place API Developer Challenge in Feburary. The site recently launched in alpha and the team plans to incorporate as a nonprofit this summer.
 
By logging onto Growshare.net, users can locate urban farming projects in Google Maps, view crime statistics and assess resources in the surrounding area. They can also log into an auction platform and bid on gardening supplies, equipment and plants from other local farmers.
 
"What can public data do to help solve a problem?" asks Shi. "The Growshare project puts private and public data together in one place."
 
Assets like volunteer labor and knowledge -- which Shi calls "intangible resources" -- are advertised and claimed on the site. He expects to launch a separate currency called "Universal Resource Exchange" to facilitate the trade of volunteer hours.
 
"Those intangible resources have no place for trade," he says. "Growshare allows those intangible resources to be fairly traded on a platform that includes tangible resources."
 
GrowShare was developed through Temple's Computer and Information Systems Department (Shi is associate chair), and received support from the City, The National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and Code for America of Philadelphia.
 
 "If we quantify the volunteer work and use social networking power and people's goodwill, those vacant lots will be much more effectively utilized," says Shi.
 
Source: Justin Shi, Temple University
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Navy Yard welcomes Quorum for energy entrepreneurs

The Navy Yard is fast becoming a national nexus for energy advancements. In addition to the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub, the formerly derelict warehouse district has gained Viridity Energy, Oxicool, Pace Controls and the Mark Group in recent years.
 
Now the University City Science Center is bringing Quorum programming (Flying Kite, February 19, 2013) to the Navy Yard from March 14 through January 312014. Per EEB Hub’s request, "Satellite" Quorum will focus on Philly's growing clean energy and energy retrofit sectors.
 
"Flagship Quorum really is a broad program open to entrepreneurs in any part of tech-based innovation," explains Jeanne Mell, the Science Center's Vice President of Marketing Communications. "We're taking the principals we learned with flagship and applying them to a much more targeted sector."
 
At Satellite Quorum, "Coffee and Capital," a gateway to the tech investment community, becomes "Coffee and Counsel," in which a selected leader in energy enterprise fields questions from a small audience of entrepreneurs. The Science Center is also developing programming that addresses sector specific issues such as strategies for approaching building managers. Additionally, the series provides ongoing networking, a key component to startup acceleration.
 
As the first member of  Satellite Quorum's Strategic Partner Alliance,  Clean Tech Open, a national incubator, will help promote programming.  According to Laurie Actman of EEB Hub, the recent passage of Philadelphia's Commercial Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure Act, will give the retrofit sector even more of a boost, increasing the need for industry-specific programming.
 
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, Kristen Fitch, The University City Science Center; Laurie Actman, EEB Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

Ignite Philly 11 provides lively showcase for city's top thinkers

Most know Christine Knapp as a sustainability ambassador via her outreach roles with Penn Future, the Next Great City Intiative, the Passyunk Square Civic Association and, most recently, the Philadelphia Water Department. But during Ignite Philly 11 (held last Thursday at Johnny Brenda's), Knapp gained a new title: karaoke master.

After sharing best practices from her 15 years of experience, Knapp inspired Indy Hall's Alex Hillman and Flying Kite’s Michelle Freeman to join her onstage for a rendition of Journey's "Don’t Stop Believing."
 
Such is the spirit of Ignite Philly, where local leaders put their titles aside to share their passions. Spoken word artist Erica Hawthorne gave a lively pitch for Small But Mighty Arts Grant, her mission to recover the 72 percent of art in Philly that’s gone "missing" due to lack of funding. Brett Hart of the Wooden Boat Factory explained how wood and the Delaware River are transforming the youth of his native Frankford ("This wood is like my life -- it's hard, but I’m trying to shape it into something," a student once told him). Hive76’s Jordan Miller, a Penn scientist, demonstrated how he generates living vascular structures via 3-D printing -- in sugar.
 
Ignite 11 also reflected Philly’s burgeoning love for open data. Mark Headd, the city's chief data officer, opened the evening by making a compelling analogy between Athenian Democracy and urban open data usage, warning that many Philadelphians still can't participate due to the digital divide (a problem he’s addressing with GetYourToga.org). Dave Zega and Jake Wells of ElectNext revealed their method for using data to verify the claims of politicians. Ben Garvey showed Ignite how data can be made visual -- and more digestible. And Stephanie Alarcon, Amy Gutherie and Georgia Gutherie of the Hacktory shared "Hacking the Gender Gap," a database that tracks causal experiences leading to the gender disparity in tech.
 
Other notable speakers included Amanda Feifer-O'Brien, the force behind a local movement to save beneficial micro-organisms via fermentation; Drew Beecher, president of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and leader of a national tree-planting campaign; and Ashvika Dhir, the Pennsbury High School Senior behind CauseHub.com, a meta-blog for teenage change-makers. 
 
Ignite 11 was hosted by P'unk Ave's Geoff DiMasi, Indy Hall's Adam Teterus and Breadboard's David Clayton. They also awarded Girl Develop It Philly -- presenters at Ignite 10 -- $1000 to provide tech class scholarships for 50 local women.
 
Source: Ignite Philly 11
Writer: Dana Henry

Wind power provider Clean Currents opens Philly office, hiring sales reps

When Clean Currents, a wind power company based in Silver Spring, Md., opened a third office at 15th and Walnut Streets, they wanted Philadelphia to know. Last week, they showcased a 20-foot model wind turbine in Rittenhouse Square, Love Park, Manyunk and at the Wachovia Center in South Philly.
 
The "See The Power" campaign incorporated social media contests to build buzz around the availability of locally sourced wind power. According to Gary Skulnik, the company's president and chairman of the board, selling this energy is only the first step.

The company -- which has a second office in Baltimore -- also publishes a bi-weekly newsletter on environmental issues and policy, holds sustainability webinars, campaigns for energy efficiency legislation, gives presentations on environmental issues at local grade schools and holds "green neighborhood challenges" with prizes such as rain barrels and compost bins.
 
"We really view ourselves as a front door to sustainability," says Skulnik. "Once people and businesses sign up with us, we like to help them take additional steps. I think they appreciate an approach that pushes the envelope a little."
 
In two years, Clean Currents has racked up thousands of customers including businesses, schools and embassies. They have over 12,000 e-newsletter subscribers. From 2011 to 2012, their revenues grew 400 percent. They are currently hiring sales reps to round out their five-person Philly office.
 
According to Skulnik, Clean Currents chose their new locale because of an environmentally conscious consumer-base -- he credits the Sustainable Business Network and the Delaware Valley Green Building Council for helping drive the movement. In an era of mass information, sustainability requires more than individual action.
 
"The only way we are going to solve [climate change] is by creating a ground swell of support for solutions," he says. "It’s really vital that we create this sense of community."

Source: Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Quorum, the 'clubhouse for entrepreneurs,' reaches $1 million milestone

After receiving a final contribution from the University of Pennsylvania, the University City Science Center closed its Open the Doors Campaign. The first fundraiser in the local institution's fifty year history raised over $1 million for Quorum. This "clubhouse for entrepreneurs" has a two-pronged mission: to provide a place where entrepreneurs can meet and present a programming series designed to help those entrepreneurs move forward.
 
Quorum -- equipped with meeting rooms, a lounge and a small auditorium -- is distinguished from traditional coworking spaces through open accessibility. Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to use the space to host meetings or to just drop by to work among their peers. No membership required.
 
"We really want to give people the chance to make informal connections," says Jeanne Mell, VP of marketing and  communications for the Science Center.
 
The roster of investment and advising opportunities includes Coffee and Capital, an educational meeting between an investor and 20 entrepreneurs; Office Hours, where local business experts -- including Jeff Libson from Pepper Hamilton, Jeff Bodle from Morgan Lewis and Allison Deflorio from Exude -- meet individual entrepreneurs to answer pre-submitted questions; Angel Education, which hosts a panel of entrepreneurs to educate angel investors about opportunities in emerging industries;  and How to Talk to Money, a new series by BizClarity's Steve Bowman on approaching investors.  
 
The concept emerged from recommendations made by Select Greater Philadelphia's CEO Council for Growth. Since opening in 2011, the facility has serviced 12,000 individuals and hosted 250 events. The Science Center has also partnered with the Navy Yard's EEB Hub on Satellite Quorum, to offer programing on energy-related ventures.
 
Open the Doors received support from 34 private companies and institutions, including Morgan Lewis, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Energy Plus. Moving forward, the Science Center expects to provide opportunities for ongoing sponsorship.
 
"As the money has rolled in, it's been used to support Quorum's programing," says Mell. "This is really the first step in our fundraising journey."
 
Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center
Writer: Dana Henry

Our partner for the "Inventing the Future" series is the University City Science Center.

Job Alert: Holiday sales spike for Charity Gift Market

The preponderance of local gift guides, handmade marketplaces and gift-making workshops indicates that the buying public is ready for alternative ways to celebrate. It's in that spirit that the Camden-based Charity Gift Market was born. The online marketplace allows humanitarian nonprofits to sell handmade wares directly; the organizations keep 92 percent of the profits. (Most charitable marketplaces, by comparison, donate a percentage of the proceeds, usually less than 15 percent.) Halfway into their second holiday season, sales are up 300 percent and the new company continues attracting partners.
 
Purchasers select by "product," "charity" or "cause." Say your sister works in public health and just had a baby? Charity Gift Market might lead you to a quilt made from saris and stuffed with recycled clothes, created by a mother in India working from home to provide nutritious food and medical care for her family.
 
"It brings charity into the larger marketplace of commerce," says co-founder Lindsey Markelz. "People are generally quite selective in giving donations to charity, but they may find a product they like on Charity Gift Market and, thereby, provide additional support to that charity's work."
 
For the organizations-in-need, Charity Gift Market is generally their first and only means of online vending. A personal thank you letter from the charity—often including artisan and product information along with the backstory—accompanies purchases. In one year, over 15 percent of buyers have become repeat customers.
 
The site was launched in June 2011. Markelz—who is also founding director of UrbanPromise—met husband and co-founder, Andy Markelz, who teaches special education in South Philly, while working for the Peace Corps. The couple dreamed up Charity Gift Market during Christmas of 2010, when their hunt for perfect conscientious gifts proved cumbersome.
 
"We started toying with the idea of creating a marketplace for products created and sold by charities so that socially-oriented consumers could find them," explains Markelz.
 
Since then, fifty small-to-mid-sized organizations, including Ardmore-based Profugo, Prosperity Candle, Freedom Stones, and Women's Bean Project, have opened online shops. Many work internationally to support opportunities for women and families. 
 
Charity Gift Market is currently looking for a Chief Technology Office (CTO). As they grow, Markelz says they are proud to forge connections between customers and causes.
 
"Visitors love the story on each product page," says Markelz. "They know where their money goes and that their purchase directly helps others."

Source: Lindsey Markelz, Charity Gift Market
Writer: Dana Henry

Retrofit Reverb: Navy Yard's EEB Hub jumpstarts local energy economy

If you're a commercial or multi-family building owner dreaming of an energy efficiency overhaul, now’s your chance. The Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub is offering $150,000 grants to building owners, facility managers, tenants, service providers and engineering firms for integrated energy retrofits—projects addressing whole energy systems, not just individual parts. The Advanced Energy Retrofit Opportunity (AERO) Fund will finance 20 projects early next year, and has extended the deadline for first-round applications to January 30, 2013.

Laurie Actman, deputy director of EEB Hub, calls Philly a "testing bed" for energy innovation: "We want to take examples from the work done here and promote them nationally," she says.

Retrofitting identifiable candidates—nearly half our building stock—could spur the creation of 23,500 jobs and $618 million in spending for the Philadelphia region, according to the Econsult Corporation. These jobs include service providers, equipment providers, architects, engineers and systems vendors.

"We’re trying to stimulate a lot of activity in the [energy retrofit] market," says Actman. "It’s hard to get [industry professionals] to work together at the same time on a design. We’re trying to create demand for that approach so the industry will take a more integrated approach themselves."

Established by the Department of Energy as the nation's largest research and innovations center for the energy economy (and based in the Navy Yard), the Hub plans to repeat the grant program throughout the next five years, investing tens of millions in our local retrofit economy. They aim for a 20 percent regional reduction in energy use by 2020.

"We see [The AREO Fund] as a permanent part of the city and the region," says Actman.

Source: Laurie Actman, EEB Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

Graduation day at Good Company Ventures, supporter of socially-minded startups

It’s great to hear a company wants to "go green" or pay a "living wage," but for the startups at Good Company Ventures social capital is at the core of their operations. The 2012 graduates—a group that features low-cost geothermal technology, a social crowd-sourcing platform and a green laundry service with an eye towards workforce development—are in the midst of first-round fundraising, and at least one company has gained nearly $1 million in investment. These innovators will join leaders of the public and private sector on Tuesday November, 20 at First Round Capital, for a public graduation reception and networking event.

Regalii, one of the graduating businesses, enables Latino immigrants to send remittances in the form of store credit via text. While their service has a clear social value—it protects the sender from predatory fees and the receiver from robbery—the stores lose value because they sell credits to Regalii in bulk. According to Zoe Selzer, executive director of the Good Company Group, this kind of value proposition triangle (where the purchaser is not the benefactor) can make the social venture business model tricky.
 
“We look for companies where the market strategy is not necessarily intuitive," Selzer says. "A lot of accelerator programs focus on the development of the product. We assume that people in our incubator have a product of pretty good value and what they really need to focus on is how to translate their good idea into something really valuable in the marketplace."
 
Good Company merged with Green Village Incubator in March 2012. The ventures are operational when accepted into the accelerator program and spend each week working through issues a potential investor would raise. They get feedback and advice from a panel of business and venture capital experts as well as their peers. The process often results in a complete reworking of the company’s value proposition. Edi Bikes, which relocated from Chicago, entered the program expecting to provide bike customers roadside assistance. They now focus on commuter-centric engineering.  
 
"[These companies] can’t just assume that their social mission is going to carry them forward," says Selzer. "You have to answer all [investor] questions if you want to be considered for a second meeting. We’re not giving any passes because you're trying to save the world."
 
Over the past three years, Good Company Ventures graduates have raise over $30 million of investment. This year, Wash Cycle Laundry will graduate and hire its sixteenth employee. Other startups, including Start Some Good, continue attracting venture capital and national press, proving companies that do good can also do well. 

Source: Zoe Selzer, Good Company Ventures
Writer: Dana Henry

The Corzo Center cooks up a new batch of creative entreprenures

In 2011, Michele McKeone, a teacher and University of the Arts alum, entered the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts intending to market her specialized curriculum. One year later she launched the beta version of Autism Expressed, an interactive web-platform that helps autistic students develop digital skills. McKeone and three other 2011 Corzo Center/Wells Fargo Fellows will share trials, mistakes, successes and plans from their creative ventures during What’s Cooking at Corzo on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Like many artistic entrepreneurs, McKeone, a former media design student, struggled to turn her passions into something marketable. Many creative startups also have difficulty appealing to traditional funding sources.

“When the politicians talk about ‘job creators,’ they are not talking about the small businesses created in the creative economy,” says Neil Kleinman, Senior Fellow for the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy. “As we know, though, a thriving economic community requires that we have a creative culture.”

The Corzo Center provides workshops, mentorship and consulting to meet the specific needs of creative startups and offers select entrepreneurs a $10,000 grant. The presenting 2011 Corzo fellows demonstrate a diverse range of business concepts rooted in creative education. In addtion to McKeon, presenters include:

ADMK:  As a graduate student at UArts, Andrew Dalhgren, a master crafter, spent a year investigating the state of textiles in Philadelphia. He developed a vision for scalable production of handmade knitting enabled by advanced technology, and plans to launch Knit Lab as a shared workspace.
 
Bonded Forever Jewelry: This company designs jewelry that “bonds” cancer patients with their loved ones. Cassandra Hoo, a writer, filmmaker and recent Alliance for Women Entrepreneur (AWE) fellow, developed the concept after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Bonded Forever Jewelry is sold in local shops and helps fund cancer research.

Bioskin: Eric Zola is an industrial designer developing new forms of environmentally sound insulation using biomimicry—sustainable design based on biological forms.

McKeone, who since completed the Good Company Ventures accelorator and was awarded a 2011 AWE fellowship, is currenlty testing Autism Expressed at area charter schools. She credits Corzo for pushing her to incorporate entrepreneurial thinking into her vision.

"At the time, I had no clear business model, just an emerging vision," she says. "After working through the incubator, attending its workshops and open office hours with experts in the areas of law, business, marketing, etc., I emerged with not only a well-defined vision, but a scalable product and business model."

In the past three years, six of the ten total Corzo Incubator fellows launched startups that continue to progress. Nonetheless, Kleinman says the ultimate focus is not about success.

"We have emerging entrepreneurs with remarkable stories," he says. "Their time with Corzo was intended to be a learning process—the first stage along a path that may lead to new ideas and new ventures. Each started at a very small spot on the road and has begun to move out into some delightful, surprising forms of recognition.”

Source: Neil Kleinman, Michele McKeone, Corzo Center
Writer: Dana Henry

Creekside Co-Op promises to revive Elkins Park East, hiring

For the past decade, the Elkins Park East commercial corridor, home of the once thriving Ashbourne Market, struggled to retain businesses. With help from Weavers Way and considerable investment from the Cheltenham community, Creekside Co-op will open where Ashbourne once stood. They are hiring a financial controller and several store positions.

“The Ashbourne Market operated for over 30 years and was a destination for many folks from all around Philadelphia looking for quality food,” Max Minkoff, Creekside Board President, says.  “We hope that Creekside will be an anchor for the great businesses [of Elkins Park East] and boost the entire area.”

Previous attempts to reopen the Ashbourne site were less than successful. The comercial district, however, is revitalizing with a newly beautified High School Park and several emerging businesses including Shakti Yoga, The Stitching Room, Fresh From Provence, and The Whistle Stop Café.

Creekside Co-op will operate as a full service grocer offering local, gourmet, and all-natural selections. Most co-ops attempt a few hundred memberships, but CreekSide already has 1,500 members, who provide over $200,000 in equity and $330,000 in loans to the new market. In recent years, Mariposa expanded, Weavers Way opened a second store and  Fishtown organized a co-op, proving cooperative neighborhood food stores are succeeding in Philadelphia. CreekSide Co-op opens mid-November with a grand opening celebration in January.

“Turning an empty building dragging down the neighborhood into a thriving, tax-paying business is something that is easy to get behind,” Minkoff says. “Some are motivated by the opportunity to buy local, quality food, some by the ability to have a food market within walking distance, some by revitalizing the neighborhood, and some by increasing property values, but we can all get together and create this business that makes sense for these and so many more reasons.”

Source: Max Minkoff, Creekside Co-op
Writer: Dana Henry

ModSolar closes costly loophole for the solar industry, experiencing rapid growth and hiring again

Since launching last June, ModSolar facilitated over $5 billion in solar transactions, with thousands of proposals generated every month. Their app helps installers cut down on “soft cost” associated with creating sales, and allows solar companies to pursue more leads. They are designing new product features and hiring developers.
 
The ModSolar concept came to Mike Dershowitz, the company’s co-founder and CEO, while investigating solar options for his new home. The former design manager for JPMorganChase, discovered the solar industry was stuck in antiquated methods of appraisal. He got to work building an experimental mobile solution, later used by an emerging sole installer during a home trade show.
 
“The big [solar] companies generated 15 or 20 leads, but [our client] generated 113 leads by using the iPad app we developed,” Dershowitz says. “At one point there were lines at his booth of people wanting to get a solar quote. We knew that we could apply sales technology to the solar industry and really make an impact.”
 
“Previously, the sales person would have to visit a home, get up on the roof, take some measurements,  do a [solar] panel design, figure out how many [solar] panels they needed—you have to do all this by hand—then [the salesperson] went back to the office, crunched the numbers, and put a proposal together. We've eliminated all that. You can actually do a design for a solar system from your office before you get to the homeowner, pushing the designing and quoting down to the salesperson,” Dershowitz says.   
 
Dershowitz estimates 40 percent of the price of installing solar is “soft costs” or transactions that don’t include parts and labor. He says discrepancies between federal and municipal electric codes and inconsistent building codes contribute to soft costs for American buyers, which is more than double the expense paid in Germany. By comparison, Germany now gets 30 percent of their power from the sun.  Soft costs are a major setback to the industry’s domestic growth and our energy future.
 
ModSolar developed a complex “matching system” that automates current codes, utility rates and financing options for individual sites and has helped small and national companies produce accurate quotes in a third the time. With shorter sales, clients report a 10-20 percent increase in customer acquisition. The number of ModSolar clients and the size of their purchased subscriptions continue to grow.
 
“With the same amount of resources, [solar installers] can approach more opportunities,” Dershowitz says. “The home improvement industry is ripe for someone to help these folks who may not be digitally oriented, handle their business.”
 
The company, which recently moved from Malvern to Ardmore, looks forward to releasing finance and e-commerce solutions, including a platform that connects home owners to inventory providers.  According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, photovoltaic installations quadrupled in the United States between 2005 and 2010. With deflating soft costs, and increasing sales, ModSolar is providing disruptive technology that will make solar an increasingly affordable option for years to come. 

Source: Mike Dershowitz, ModSolar
Writer: Dana Henry


Shift_Design's DIY green roof product, Living Tile, exhibited at DesignPhiladelphia

The foliage blossoming from the roof of the Shake Shack at 20th and Sansom in Center City is the work of Mario Gentile and his company, Shift_Design. Their portable 'living tile,' aka green roof tile, offers urban homes and storefronts a DIY method of adding rain-absorbing shrubbery to any impervious surface, be it a concrete patio or any of the countless flat roofs in Philly. Their latest edition, the Fairmount Living Tile, will be demoed at the Design Philadelphia event, Up and Dirty.

“A green roof for the masses is not easily accessible yet,” Gentile says. “The costs associated are exorbitant. We wanted to solve larger issues—stormwater management, heat island effect, and air quality—by offering an accessible, well designed living tile kit that makes it easy for the end user. No need for a structural engineer, landscape architect, contractor, roofer, installer, etc.”

The tile, a rectangular aluminum tray, includes specially formulated Gaia soil, which is half the weight of typical soil, but absorbs twice its weight in water. According to the company’s structural assessment, Gaia soil can be supported by the roof of a row home during maximum snowfall, but it’s so light weight it easily blows away. Shift_Design includes burlap casing, made from La Colombe coffee sacks, to mimic natural ground floor covering and keep the soil in place.

Shift_Design was founded in 2008 when Gentile—who currently teaches biomimicry architecture at UPenn—pulled a few of his former Temple design students for a residential rain barrel project. The company has since graduated from Good Company Ventures as experts in elegantly designed passive stormwater management technologies—ie raised gardens, living walls, rainwater collection etc. Their work is installed at Shake Shack, Urban Outfitters Headquarters, and countless homes across the city.

Sure, it looks pretty, but greening also serves an impending urban need. Sixty percent of Philly’s sewers are “combined" sewers meaning they carry both sewage and rain water. As climate change increases the east coast’s annual rainfall, combined sewers carry the risk of overflow, creating a potential citywide sanitation hazard. The Philadelphia Water Department has proposed a $2 billion plan to catch excess water before it hits the sewer using greening and other passive technologies—it’s a lot cheaper than building new pipes.

In addition to stormwater reduction, green walls and roofs support dwindling pollinators, remediate air and water pollution and lower household energy consumption by regulating temperature. In their market segment study, Shift_Design found east coast cities, including Philly, New York and Baltimore, have a profusion of impervious surface ripe for alteration.

“Flat roofs are abundant and they’re doing nothing for these cities,” Gentile says. “Adding just a little bit of greening, a little bit of life, to your home reduces stress. If many households do it, the added benefits [for the city] are incredible.”

Gentile, who has a track record of hiring his employees directly from Philly schools including UPenn, Temple and UArts, will also launch a kickstarter campaign for manufacturing toolage during Design Philadelphia. With advanced equipment, Gentile says, Shift_Design can increase production and lower the price point even further while adding a few green manufacturing jobs to our area.

Source: Mario Gentile, Shift_Design
Writer: Dana Henry

A different State of Young Philly aims to create tangible outcomes

Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) kicked off its third annual State of Young Philly on Thursday with a standing-room only crowd at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio and full-fledged ambition.

“State of Young Philly, for all intents and purposes, is totally redone from the previous two installments,” says Jason Wolfson, YIP's Programing Committee Chair. “The first two have been very positive in terms of getting people excited, getting people to want to do more, getting people more involved in their community. What we really want to do now is make that tangible.”
 
Drawing support from over 50 participating change-making organizations, this year’s catalogue offers 12 total events from “key issue” areas: Economy, Education and Sustainability.  

Instead of simply listening and networking, participants are guided by action-oriented questions. Sophie Hwang, YIP's Outreach Coordinator, offers an example from the Education Track: “Not everyone has a computer but most everyone has a mobile device. So how can we use mobile technology to better inform parents?”
 
Last year’s State Of Young Philly gave birth to the educational nonprofit, Philly Core Leaders. This year’s installment encourages similar results, offering $1,000 in seed money to winners of the YIP Challenge.

“People can get inspired by attending the first couple of events, meet new people, build teams and submit a proposal,” Hwang explains.
 
It’s passion and drive balanced with fun. One night, City Councilman Bill Green’s office hosts a pitch competition for educational entrepreneurs. The next, DIY experts give how-tos on composting, making all natural cosmetics, and altering refrigerator coils to save energy.
 
“We’re going to have events for everybody, regardless of how knowledgeable you are in a particular field.”  Wolfson maintains.
 
When else can you visit the home of an internationally-renound orchestra and leave with your very own homemade deodorant?

Source: Jason Wolfson, Sophie Hwang, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

Ben Franklin Technology Partners' mapping initiative gives state energy economy visibility

For years we’ve been hearing of the “new energy economy,” a vision of a diversified and cooperative energy industry amalgamation promising cleaner air, lower energy bills, and more green jobs. The recent release of Energy Economy Map by Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ statewide network is evidence that it's actually happening.

Using open-source, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the map exhibits over 2,000 Pennsylvania energy companies, research programs, and related resources, largely concentrated in Greater Philadelphia.

“The intent of the map is to drive economic development, collaborative opportunities and partnership across the state," says Jim Gambino, Vice President of Technology Commercialization at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “It gives companies and universities an opportunity to present their projects.”

According to Gambino, sustainable building design and materials, clean energy storage, and smart grid technology are areas of continued market growth. Some of the map’s projects have intriguing titles, including Drexel University’s Human-electric Hybrid for Urban Commuting and Temple’s Multiple Stream Waste-Derived Energy Production.

The Energy Economy Map was piloted at the Navy Yard by BFTP-Southeastern Pennsylvania and funded by the state's  Department of Community and Economic Development and tghe Governor’s office.

It’s not the typical stagnant, end-of-the-year-let’s-evaluate-how-we’re-doing report. The map, created in partnership with Philadelphia-based Azavea, evolves as users update entries on their energy work. 

“It’s really up to the registrant to enter the kind of information they see as important,” Gambino says. “We’re really looking for the users to provide the additions to improve the map.”

Eventually, BFTP-SEP expects the dynamic resource will attract more capital to the region.

“Early on we had determined in our analysis that we had significant energy assets here in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Gambino says. “[Outside companies and investors] will get a sense of the relative strength and vibrancy of both traditional and alternative energy communities in Pennsylvania.”

Source: Jim Gambino, David Cohen, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Dana Henry

Malvern's ModSolar moving, seeking investors and adding jobs

Solar power seems like a great idea, but design and installation of solar panels is complex. Every roof is different, and power needs can vary greatly. "I was surprised how little technology was used in home improvement sales," says Mike Dershowitz, founder of ModSolar, a new B2B technology company that supports solar panel installers.

ModSolar allows the installer to use a satellite snapshot of a customer's roof and design the ideal solar array on a mobile device or a web browser. Shoulder to shoulder with the client, ModSolar has been an immediate hit. "At this point we average $100 million a week in proposals quoted on the platform," says Dershowitz, who reports that since launch close to $4 billion have been quoted on ModSolar. 
 
Inspiration hit Dershowitz in 2010 at the Philadelphia Home Show. At that time he was an employee for JP Morgan Chase leading their mobile design department. Dershowitz knew about the iPad due out just a few months later. "I saw pretty early that the iPad was going to be a great sales tool. I felt like it could create an intimate experience between the customer and salesperson."
 
In early 2011, ModSolar teamed up with its first customer, who had a booth at the Allentown home show. "He generated five times more leads on the iPad app than his competitors," reports Dershowitz, who credits his CTO and co-founder Kevin Ilsen with the ability to work lightning fast on a budget."One thing ModSolar is lauded for is our pace of change compared to everyone else. I'm not 100% worried about copycats," says Dershowitz.
 
ModSolar, based in Malvern, is completely bootstrapped and has four full-time employees, as well as several full time interns, and is in the process of hiring. Dershowitz is looking to fill two junior positions: a front end and a back end person. The company has a patent pending on its panel layout technology, and is in the process of raising a friends and family round of funding to accelerate growth. The company is also set to move somewhat closer to Philadelphia and is now seeking space in Bryn Mawr.

Source: Mike Dershowitz, ModSolar
Writer: Sue Spolan

Seven startups rake in $1.375M in Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA funding

Geothermal, software, medical devices and smart grid technology are among the areas funded by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which announced $1.375 million in funding for seven Greater Philadelphia companies.

All seven recipients are based in the Philadelphia suburbs, according to a news release issued by BFTP-SEP on Monday:
 
ARB Geowell, West Conshohocken ($125,000): The company uses a unique design to promote heat transfer for its geothermal heating/cooling platform, which offers higher energy efficiency and eliminates significant construction costs for commercial buildings, schools and developments.
 
Brad’s Raw Chips, Pipersville ($100,000): Founder Brad Gruno wants others to discover the benefits of eating raw food like he did. He uses an advanced dehydration system to keep raw chips crunchy and tasty.
 
Drakontas, Glenside ($250,000): The company provides mobile collaboration software solutions for police, military, fire, emergency response and public service teams. Its flagship DragonFroce product utilizes geo-tracking and shared media and files to help those teams act faster and enhance public safety.
 
Kerathin, Chester ($200,000): The company previously received $150,000 from Ben Franklin for its PodiaPro nail debridement system for the diabetic population.
 
OneTwoSee, Devon ($150,000): Formerly Mobile Reactor, the company targets television broadcasters and producers to help them deliver interactive TV experiences through connected devices.
 
S4 Worldwide, Doylestown ($250,000): The company provides a variety of safety, security and regulatory solutions for drilling companies working in the Marcellus Shale.
 
Tangent Energy Solutions, Kennett Square ($300,000): Commercial and industrial companies can save up to 20 percent on energy costs thanks to Tangent’s grid optimization technologies.

Source: Jaron Rhodes, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Joe Petrucci

United By Blue's do-good approach to apparel working well, hiring 'several' in coming months

They do the work of a non-profit, but United By Blue is a for profit company. Started by Temple University grad Brian Linton, the clothing company, guided by a deep sense of social entrepreneurship, aims to clean up the world's waterways.
 
Linton, an American by birth who grew up in Asia, founded the eco-entrepreneurial venture in 2010. He says, "We sell sustainable apparel that leverages technology, social media and environmental activism."
 
Now 200 stores in the US and 60 stores in Japan carry the United by Blue clothing line, in addition to online sales. The company headquarters is at 12th and Callowhill, where seven are employed full-time and Linton says there are plans to hire several more staffers in the next few months. United By Blue is set to hire a full-time developer within the next few weeks, bringing a job that was previously outsourced in house. UBB also hosts up to eight interns per semester in the spring, summer and fall.
 
For every product sold, UBB removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups. "We've done 85 cleanups in 17 US states, removing 138,000 pounds of trash, working with about 1,900 volunteers," says Linton.
 
UBB also has two major corporate partnerships. Subaru of America donated two new Outbacks in April 2012, and a co-branded line of apparel sells on the Subaru website as well as in dealerships. "We wouldn't have expected it from a car company, but they can move a significant amount of apparel. The Subaru customer is the United By Blue customer." UBB also partnered with Sperry, known best for its sailing shoes and apparel.
 
The concept behind the company name is that we are all united by blue. We all need water to live. Its not a theory; it's a fact.

"Life does not exist without water," says Linton, a seasoned world traveler. "Water on the streets of Philadelphia could be on streets of Beijing years later. If we mistreat water, the implications are for the whole world."
 
To date, UBB has been bootstrapped and is self-sustaining, and Linton says that the company will be looking to raise a round of funding this fall to pursue more retail outlets as well as bolster its online presence.

Source: Brian Linton, United By Blue
Writer: Sue Spolan

Free and Open Source Software Convention coming to Philly next month

The creators and supporters of free and open source software have always bucked the current of commercialization. It's events like FOSSCON, the Free and Open Source Software Convention, that allow developers to gather and gain strength in numbers. FOSSCON 2012 takes place Saturday, Aug. 11, at Venturef0rth at 8th and Callowhill. 
Organizers are looking for free software enthusiasts, user group members, coders and users to join them at the grassroots event, aimed at creating a common meeting place for people all over the Northeast US.
 
"We've been doing FOSSCON for 3 years now," says Jonathan Simpson, event coordinator. "The first year was actually in upstate New York, but we moved to Philly.  I live outside Philly myself so it's personally a lot easier running an event an hour away instead of several." Plus, he adds, Philly is a pretty FOSS-friendly city.
 
The event features six general-interest talks, and workshops on topics including development, community building, hackerspace activities, and more. Ubuntu PA and Hive76 will be on hand for demonstrations and workshops. 
The community will have a chance to explore topics from 3D printing to privacy. Keynote is Bradley M. Kuhn, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy.
 
"There are other FOSS events around the world and in the US," says Simpson, who mentions CPOSC in Harrisburg, and SELF, which serves the Southeasterm US. "This is the only one that goes by the FOSSCON name, but there is a longer term plan to spawn others."
 
FOSS tends to put control in the hands of users, says Simpson, and that represents a threat to the control of media companies, as well as to most of corporate America. "FOSS, as well as the culture it encourages, endangers that control." Simpson also cites Linode, which has been a conference sponsor for years, as a great example of a successful services based FOSS company.
 
"The temptation to close the source of software is real, especially in the startup world where competition is really aggressive. FOSS are beneficial in the long run, but those benefits are often ignored to protect short term gains. Reminding computer scientists and entrepreneurs of the benefits of FOSS, and that their latest project is 90% dependent of those FOSS softwares, is important work," says Simpson.
 
Basic admission to FOSSCON is free, but organizers encourage attendees to level up to paid admission of $25 to help keep the event open to as many people as possible.

Source: Jonathan Simpson, FOSSCON
Writer: Sue Spolan

Are Energy Commercialization Institute's investments approaching critical mass?

Sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference in energy efficiency. The Energy Commercialization Institute awards grants to cleantech startups with a proven track record.  Bird droppings on solar panels are a literal barrier to efficiency. Not something you think about, but it makes sense. Shu Yang, PhD., a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and one of five recent ECI grant recipients, earned  to develop a nonstick coating for photovoltaic cells.

ECI also funded Drexel profs Emin Caglan Kumbur, Ph.D and Yury Gogotsi, Ph.D for energy storage technology; Alexander Fridman, Ph.D, leading a Drexel University/Temple University team to create clean energy from biomass, coal and organic wastes; a new electrospinning/electrospraying process for energy fuel cells from Drexel's Yossef Elabd, Ph.D; and a Drexel/Penn initiative to create thin-film solar cells from Andrew Rappe, PhD. Total for the recent round was $500,000.
 
The ECI is funded by the State of Pennsylvania and created by a consortium that includes Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Drexel, Penn and Penn State. 
 
It's a new focus on commercialization, says Tony Green, PhD., Director of the ECI as well as its forbear, the Nanotechnology Institute. "The NTI model led to the ECI model which led to EEB Hub," explains Green. "The difference is that NTI is based on a platform, while the ECI is an application." Rather than focus on nanotech, the ECI mission is not about any specific technology. "The buzz phrase is alternative and clean energy."
 
For the first time, says Green, the ECI is now getting metrics on commercialization, licenses and jobs created through ECI grants. While the state-funded NTI has a 10-year track record, Green and company are about to release a semiannual report that credits ECI with the creation of over 50 jobs in the last two years.
 
"We have already accrued almost 150 intellectual property assets, applications and issued patents," says Green. "We've executed 18 licenses and options. With only 700K project funding, we've created three startups in the last year, and that number is going to grow. Universities are doing a lot better at commercializing technology. ECI projects are not technologies that are basic research. The intellectual property already exists."
 
Green looks to MIT and UCSD as big names in higher ed tech commercialization. "We can do the same thing, but not through a single institution. It's a consortium." The cumulative capabilities are much greater, says Green. The ECI also works with small institutions like Fox Chase Cancer Research Center and Philadelphia University, where there might be one researcher doing groundbreaking work. "We want all boats to rise," adds Green.

Source: Anthony Green, ECI
Writer: Sue Spolan

Roots of innovation planted with 15 new Philly Fellows

Literacy, health, poverty, and the greening of the city. It's all in a year's work for the newest recruits to Philly Fellows. Now heading into its seventh session, Philly Fellows was founded by two Haverford College grads with a dual mission: to support recent college graduates as well as urban change.
 
Philly Fellows just announced its newest class of 15, to begin a one year program of service to the city July 30 in cultural, educational and social-service organizations including Philadelphia Youth Network, Project HOME, Calcutta House, Fleisher Art Memorial, and The Pennsylvania Health Law Project. Co-founder Tim Ifill reports that Philly Fellows received a total of 123 applications for the 2012 class.
 
Each Fellow receives $12,191 for the year, health insurance,student loan forbearance, a transportation allowance and a $5,350 education award, all through the AmeriCorps*VISTA program. 
 
They're either graduates of local colleges, primarily Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania, or they grew up in the Delaware Valley and attended schools outside the local area.
 
It's a real world Real World. A gentle extension of college life, each participant commits to 40 hour work weeks at a non-profit, sharing co-ed quarters with 4 to 6 others in one of three group houses located in West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, or Northern Liberties.

"About two-thirds of our graduates end up staying in Philly, and a handful are hired by their host agencies," reports Ifill, who counts a total of 102 alums, with 16 more graduating from the 2011 program at the end of this month. Erika Slaymaker, who worked at Project HOME this year, says. "I am staying on next year to continue to implement the projects that I started as a Philly Fellow.  Julia Cooper, who is a part of the incoming group of Philly Fellows, will be joining me to create an Environmental Sustainability Team at Project HOME."
 
The deadline for applications to next year's class is January 2013, and host agency deadline is November 2012.

Source: Tim Ifill, Erika Slaymaker, Philly Fellows
Writer: Sue Spolan

Chasing elusive healthcare innovation: IBX Game Changers Challenge applications due soon

The Independence Blue Cross Game Changers Challenge is now accepting applications, and the window to enter closes on July 10. The idea is to link the muscle and financial power of big health care with the energy of startups in an effort to drive change.
 
"This is a huge opportunity," says Tom Olenzak, who, as a full-time consultant, is helping to run the Game Changers Challenge, which draws on the partnership of IBX, Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, the Department of Public Health of the City of Philadelphia, Venturef0rth, and ?What If! Innovation Partners. 
 
Applicants have until July to submit proposals aimed at improving the overall health and wellness of the Greater Philadelphia region. New companies, applications, technology, products, programs, and services that promote health and wellness are all welcome to enter. The prize is $50,000 for up to three winners, who will be notified by the end of July.
 
"Health care legislation has forced people to think about change," says Olenzak. "We've been stuck in an employer based sales model."

While most individuals consider themselves insured by a particular company, insurers are actually built on a B2B model, selling to employers, not employees. That's why customer service at an insurer can be quite frustrating. It's not a detail most people consider while on hold trying to get information about a claim.
 
Making change in healthcare is daunting, even to a seasoned professional like Olenzak, who's been in healthcare IT for 20 years, and reports that innovation in healthcare has always been the next big market. 
 
Olenzak sees the regulatory process as a barrier to innovation. "There's been a ton of innovation on the care side," but not on the business side, adds Olenzak. "The challenge in health care is that open and transparent transactions are almost unheard of."
 
With an economy that continues to struggle, and cuts in reimbursement, Olenzak says healthcare focused acclerators are on the rise around the country, and points to Blueprint Health in New York, Rock Health in San Francisco, and Chicago Health Tech.
 
Here in Philadelphia, Venturef0rth hosted the first ever Startup Weekend Health at the beginning of this month, and there are plans in the works for a Philadelphia based health care accelerator, details of which cannot yet be disclosed.
 
"Once you start pulling on one thread, you find it's attached to 16 more," says Olenzak of the complicated field of health care innovation. "We're at a stage where we need a larger platform like an insurer or a health system to get involved to make a difference."

Source: Tom Olenzak, IBX Game Changers Challenge
Writer: Sue Spolan

Overheard at Venturef0rth: Million/Million for SnipSnap; CloudMine releases version 1.0

It wasn't up there for long, but the upstart startup CloudMine celebrated the release of version 1.0 by attaching one of its massive company logo banners to the water tower atop the large white building at 8th and Callowhill where it calls home at Venturef0rth. Talk about eyeballs. The water tower got the attention of tens of thousands of Friday commuters. 
 
While none of the CloudMine founders was willing to take credit (or in this case, blame) for the guerilla marketing stunt, CloudMine's presence is hard to miss. With a newly redesigned website, the year old Backend-as-a-Service company has put its beta to bed, according to CEO Brendan McCorkle. But developers were not so fortunate, with Marc Weil reporting that the team worked well into the wee hours to make the launch happen. Developers are now running more than 1,500 apps on the CloudMine platform.
 
Meanwhile, just yards away at Venturef0rth, Ted Mann of SnipSnap announced that he's raised a million dollars in funding for his coupon snapping app, and a million coupons have been entered into the system. Adding to recent Ben Franklin Technology Partners of SE Pennsylvania funding, Mann says Philly's Mentortech Ventures and Michael Rubin contributed to the round.SnipSnap is hiring two in leadership positions, and according to Mann, is engaged in a national search to hire a VP of Marketing and a VP of business Development and Sales.
 
Keya Dannenbaum, founder of ElectNext, and late of Project Liberty Digital Incubator stopped by to check out the space, and reports that the candidate choice engine is now closing in on a round of funding. She also mentioned that co-founder Paul Jungwirth has moved on and is no longer with the startup.

Source: Brendan McCorkle, CloudMine, Ted Mann, SnipSnap, Keya Dannenbaum, ElectNext
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Creative sector jobs, reputation for art growing in Philadelphia

The whole starving artist cliche doesn't fly in Philadelphia. Two releases, one from the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and another from The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Board, point to arts as an area of serious growth, and a powerful financial force in the region.
 
According to the newly released Creative Sector Jobs Report,  new research shows that 48,900 jobs exist in the creative sector, which represents 6.5% of the jobs in Philadelphia.  Creative sector employment grew 6.3% from 2001 to 2011, yielding $5 billion in direct output and $2.7 billion in direct employee earnings.
 
The GPTMC just launched its new With Art Philadelphia campaign, as well as its annual report, titled "The Art of Collaboration." GPTMC CEO Meryl Levitz reports that the city welcomed a record 38 million visitors in 2011, and will likely see a dramatic increase with the lure of the Barnes. The GPTMC also unveiled its impressive new With Art site which allows visitors to curate their own Philadelphia experience by shopping through the city's arts and culture offerings to create an individualized tour.
 
"Culture and the creative sector are a critically important part of our city, and a critical creator of jobs," says Gary Steuer, head of the OACCE. "Creative assets are a core reason people visit Philadelphia."
 
The GPTMC also announced that it has a 75-page spread in the June 2012 US Airways Magazine, highlighting area museums, historical sites, music and public art. "Philly is a city in the throes of artistic revolution," reads one article.
According to the OACCE's Creative Sector report, In 2010 and 2011, research studies ranked Philadelphia 50-70% above the national standard in “creative vitality” using the Creative Vitality Index, a research tool developed by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to measure the creative health of an area.

Source: Gary Steuer, OACCE, Meryl Levitz, GPTMC
Writer: Sue Spolan

Old City interactive shop I-SITE hiring four for new international projects

I-SITE, the super groovy interactive agency with an international clientele, is hiring. "One project manager, one developer, one contract Drupal programmer, and also we need a contract designer for the summer. So there will be four new faces working with the team in the next few weeks," reports Ian Cross, President and CEO. 
 
Cross, who also operates burlesque-a-go-go hot spot The Trestle Inn, says Project Manager Jessica Chappell is moving to the UK, and one of the company's programmers is going freelance. "That said, we are growing and taking on more projects. I-SITE is a seven person core team – all about open collaboration, problem solving, and coming up with innovative digital," explains Cross, who hails from the UK.
 
Offering graphic design, animation, app development and website management, I-SITE has several international projects in the works, including one in Iceland that deals with beverage development, and one in Africa aimed at animal conservation, according to Cross.
 
"We're doing more app development for smartphone and tablet," says Cross, who lists projects with Deloitte, Sprout, and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. "It' a nice mix of corporate and social causes. We also just launched an iPad app highlighting the housing crisis in Northern Armenia."
 
The company, located in an expansive space on 3rd Street in Old City, even operates an online audio program and just released MUSIC MIX VOL.14 - I've Got a Bike (You can ride it if you like). Look for Volume 15: Whiskey and Go Go mix, to be released this Thursday.
 
"We’ve always been boutique," says Cross, who says he's created a great team of people who are cross trained and can communicate well directly with clients. While I-SITE has has a few more or less employees over time, it has never employed over 15. "These days we're lean and mean – the way I like it," says Cross, who reports that out of the four open positions, he's already got strong candidates in mind for two.

Source: Ian Cross, I-SITE
Writer: Sue Spolan

Ridaroo partners with PECO/Exelon to offer secure carpooling

Boom: Ridaroo is running with the big boys now. The two-year old company has partnered with PECO/Exelon to launch a secure enterprise-wide ride-sharing program. The bootstrapped startup, which comes out of Drexel's Baiada Institute, has been working on a program to match drivers with riders within a specific organization.
 
Ridaroo will even tell carpoolers if there are discounts and deals along the route.
 
Andy Guy and Aksel Gungor, both former Drexel students, built the firewalled program to stand out from traditional ride boards by building in a new level of trust. Each organization has its own online ride board, separate from all the others, so that employees don't have to take a risk in order to go green on the road.
 
Gungor recalls that as an undergrad at Drexel, there was a bulletin board in the hall where, like at most colleges, people posted notes about rides offered and needed. The Career Services department would manually copy down each post and email it to students.

"I had an internship to which I had to take a bus. I ended up carpooling by default,"says Gungor. "There had to be a better, more efficient way of doing it. Fast forward to Andy and me sitting down and working on it. We set up a private website for different organizations."
 
The beta version, which was open to all college students in Philadelphia, led to the new corporate version. Integrating social media tools, Ridaroo allows PECO employees to log in and create trips limited to PECO staff. Andy Guy created an automatically generated matching system which screens for preferences like distance, time, number of available seats, pick up location, and even smoking or non-smoking.
 
Gungor says companies like PECO can offer the Ridaroo service as an employee benefit, and the bill goes to the employer. "It's a pure sustainability play. We calculate all the emissions and the analytics behind that." Not only do employees save hundreds of dollars per year, but companies can earn LEED points via collected Ridaroo data.
 
Gungor says Ridaroo isn't seeking outside funding at this time; rather, he and Guy are focused on growing with the revenue generated by enterprise solutions. Current partnerships (including another with the law firm Morgan Lewis) will help Ridaroo scale quickly, which will lead to hiring. At that point, the team will look at raising a small round. 
 
And that whole boom thing? "Andy and I always joke around. When something good happens, we say, 'boom,' that just got done."

Source: Aksel Gungor, Ridaroo
Writer: Sue Spolan

Educational strength in numbers: The School Collective connects teachers with good ideas, hiring

There's a lot of talk about technology and education, but most of the time, the conversation is about individual schools implementing technology. In the case of The School Collective, a social entrepreneurship startup based in Philadelphia, technology becomes a way to link and improve all schools at once.
 
Sebastian Stoddart, one of the co-founders, says "We originally came up with the idea at Oxford University. Alyson Goodner and I were both studying for our MBA. The education problem is bigger than just one issue. We identified an element of the education world where we can actually make a difference." 
 
The School Collective joins teachers across schools through a website where educators can share best practices through lesson plans, materials, and instant communication. Currently there are over 1,700 members sharing nearly 21,000 documents and over 36 thousand lesson plans.
 
Stoddart, who remains in the UK but visits town 3 to 4 times a year, says it was Goodner's enthusiasm and energy that drew him into the project. "She's incredibly passionate. It's her one focus and one mission. From my standpoint, it's a real chance to use innovation to improve education. It's an opportunity to reshape an existing model that isn't working."
 
Coming from one of the most venerated learning institutions in the world doesn't hurt. "One thing you get from Oxford is a hands on teaching style," says Stoddard. "You work directly with a tutor, and there are 2 to 3 other people in the room. The difference of that model to Philadelphia education is huge. Oxford is an incredible education, and it gives you a massive desire to give that education as well."
 
Goodner adds, "I am not British. I was born here in Philly, and ended up at Oxford, a place where people gather to talk about global change. Here in Philadelphia we get a fairly bad rap. People say, education reform here in Philly? Good luck with that. But there has been movement. There are amazing people doing reform work in Philly."
 
The School Collective, says Goodner, gathers revenue via a freemium model. Teachers sign up for free or pay $5 per month to access the full functionality of the site. Organizations can also subscribe to the site using a tiered model.
"The School Collective is built to give benefit to every user on the site," says Stoddard, who compares traditional teaching tools that are brought in by the principal, but offer no benefit to the teacher, "From the beginning we wanted this to be something teachers would want to be on."
 
An essential key to The School Collective's success is Goodner and Stoddart's professional development package, their hands on approach to teaching teachers. During a 10-hour workshop, The School Collective shows educators take the time to visit schools in person and explain exactly how to use the tools, resulting in a 98% acceptance rate.
 
With this level of success, expansion is on the agenda, although it would be difficult to replicate an Oxford-educated team. "We are looking to bring on a person full time similar to what I am doing, and a full time developer on Sebastian's side to build a team in Philadelphia," says Goodner, who plans on tapping into former Teach For America participants to find the right fit.
 
Currently, The School Collective serves a diverse roster of Philadelphia schools, including The William Penn Charter School, Stepping Stones, and The School District of Philadelphia. The plan is to expand to include parents and students, and to extend The School Collective's reach to neighboring states. 

Source: Alyson Goodner, Sebastian Stoddart, The School Collective
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philly as a model for social entrepreneurship examined as part of The New Capitalist Junto

Getting paid for paying it forward is the future of social change. Last Wednesday (June 6), Good Company Ventures hosted The New Capitalist Junto.

In the high-rise offices at 1650 Arch, formerly known as The Green Village, around 220 attendees gathered to consider the task of making Philadelphia a center for new capitalism. Based on the book The New Capitalist Manifesto written by Umair Haque, the business philosophy embraces sustainability, non-violence, equity and improving quality of life.
 
"Philadelphia has all of the infrastructure, in institutions, talent and beyond, to be a global leader in social entrepreneurship," says Technically Philly's Christopher Wink, one of the night's top rated speakers. "The intractable legacy problems we have in our big, old, industrial city, mean that this is among the most meaningful places in the world to confront the challenges that we need to solve most -- education inequality, crime, violence, drugs, poverty, joblessness and the like."
 
Joined by Mayor Michael Nutter and 25 local organizations from all corners of business and civic life including Robin Hood Ventures, EEB Hub and NextFab Studio, the goal, says Wink, "is to get a broad coalition and conversation happening around the region being a relevant, sensible and powerful hub for mission-minded ventures."
 
Good Company's Zoe Seltzer says, "It was a nice mix of engaged, yet wanting more.  Venture types curious about the social stuff and social types wanting us to reach further. As long as we have this diverse group talking, we've made a good start."

The idea of the Junto originated in Philadelphia in 1727, and was defined as a club for mutual improvement. P'unk Avenue, one of the evening's participants, has hosted a monthly junto for about 2 years.

Source: Christopher Wink, Zoe Seltzer, The New Capitalist Junto
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

'Twive and Receive' fundraiser for TechGirlz on June 14

A one day only fundraiser for TechGirlz will take place June 14. The local nonprofit, dedicated to training middle and high school students for jobs in technology, is Philadelphia's entry in Give Across America through the Twive and Receive campaign. 
 
Gloria Bell, who chose the organization for the competition, says, "TechGirlz gets all of the money we raise and if they are in the top three fundraising cities, they get an additional amount, $5,000 for third place, $10,000 for second place or $15,000 for first place, on top of what we raise."
 
Here's the setup: donate $10 and then encourage 10 friends to donate as well through social media. Bell has written suggested tweets, so it's a no-brainer to participate.
 
TechGirlz, with the mission of empowering girls to be future technology leaders, has a year round calendar, and is running a one week Entrepreneur Summer Camp for middle school girls the week of July 9, where each student has a chance to create a startup in a hackathon setting. The program is in conjunction with DreamIt Ventures and Startup Corps
 
Tracey Welson-Rossman, a female tech star in her own right, founded TechGirlz, and has since welcomed Kerry Rupp, Yasmine Mustafa, Jane Frankel, Neelan Choski, Anita Garimella Andrews, Christian Kunkel, Karen Stellabotte, Skip Shuda and Joyce Akiko to the leadership team.

"Curiosity and research led me down the path to find where I hypothesize it begins - at high school, specifically 9th grade.  Studies show that girls at that age self-select out of technology learning because they do not understand what a career in tech can be.  They see the stereotypes in the media of nerdy white males who work in cubicles and are not creative or collaborative," says Welson-Rossman. "We know that is not the case.  TechGirlz wants to show the depth and breadth of what technology can offer.  We also want to represent what the folks in tech actually look like - men and women."
 
TechGirlz hosts regular workshops to teach girls a wide range of skills including programming, web design, podcasting,3D printing and animation. Welson-Rossman also reports that TechGirlz is at a point where it will soon be hiring staff to help the organization grow and to track participants' progress.

Source: Gloria Bell, Tracey Welson-Rossman, TechGirlz
Writer: Sue Spolan

QuickSee MD wins Health Startup Weekend with on-demand care platform

The first-ever Startup Weekend Health yielded solid business ideas, most of which addressed the gap in communication between patients and care providers. The weekend's winner, QuickSee MD, was no exception.

Helping users choose appropriate on-demand medical care, the QuickSee team was an early pick by judge Kimberly Eberbach, VP of Wellness and Community Health at Independence Blue Cross. IBX, incidentally, was one of the sponsors of the weekend, held at Venturef0rth at 8th and Callowhill.
 
Also on the judging panel was Philly Startup Leaders President Bob Moul, a veteran of Startup Weekend judging, who reported that more so than normal, fledgling companies were very tightly clustered and the final debate to choose the winner got intense.
 
QuickSee MD is an obvious choice for IBX as a potential white label solution, and the startup will take part in the upcoming IBX Game Changers Challenge. QuickSee MD has many parallels to iTriage, a Denver-based startup formed in 2008, and purchased by Aetna. QuickSee also won the honor of audience favorite, as determined by the decibel level of cheers on an iPhone app. QuickSee has set up a twitter account but has not yet tweeted, and has no active website as of this writing.
 
"There is almost a religious feeling here," said Jarrett Bauer, CEO of Basic Health, a soon to be launched startup. This was Bauer's first Startup Weekend. While he ultimately decided to remain a spectator, he was impressed with the fervor of the teams.
 
Second place went to HealthHereNow, a smartphone app that sends health oriented location based alerts, and Food Mood, an easy way to log mood before and after eating, took third. A total of 85 attendees teamed up to present ideas for 12 health care-related startups.

Other standouts included Stump The MD, a social website to crowdsource medical education with parallels to the legal education platform ApprenNet (out of Drexel Law); Beverage Buddy, aimed at curbing sugary drink intake and obesity, and CareProsper, which incentivizes patient data sharing.
 
On a related note, Venturef0rth continues to increase its ranks, and will soon announce the arrival of several recently funded, high-profile startups.

Source: Bob Moul, Elliot Menschik, Jarrett Bauer, Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Beer pong your way to an employer's heart at UNCUBED at World Cafe Live on June 21

Looking for work is about to get way cooler, thanks to UNCUBED. "Everyone likes to have a good time, and everyone hates job fairs," says Tarek Pertew, UNCUBED organizer and co-founder of Wakefield, a media company that's producing the event which takes place June 21 from 11 am to 4 pm at World Cafe Live in University City. 
 
"UNCUBED is something everyone can enjoy, with music and drinks. No one wears suits, and companies are not going to have a barrier to interaction with candidates. It's a different mindset, where people can interact on a more realistic level. It's what startups want. Their approach to culture is significantly different from large companies." 
 
Targeting the fast growing world of tech entrepreneurs, Philly UNCUBED is an expansion from the first UNCUBED which took place in Manhattan in April 2012 and drew tech luminaries like Tumblr and Spotify, not to mention 1100 attendees vying for jobs at 85 companies.
 
Here in Philly, AppRenaissance, Zonoff, Monetate, RJ Metrics and Leadnomics will join dozens of companies for music, an open bar, food and games. And of course, to find employees.
 
UNCUBED is a production of Wakefield, which sends out a daily email on startups: think Daily Candy for business, says Pertew, who comes from a background in fashion retailing. 
 
Wakefield plans on taking UNCUBED to more cities in the future, but chose the vibrant tech scene in Philadelphia for its initial expansion.

Source: Tarek Pertew, UNCUBED
Writer: Sue Spolan

On and off: Zonoff hiring three to ramp up smart home software

Zonoff, in the business of facilitating smart homes, has just received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Zonoff is hiring three: a web and mobile UI developer, an embedded software engineer, and a contract technical writer. Cooper reports that the $200,000 from Ben Franklin will go toward ongoing product and market development.

The recipient of the largest sum in this most recent round, Zonoff launched in April 2011 to provide software that no one will ever see. Residing inside any "always on" device, like televisions, thermostats, security systems, door locks, garage door openers and refrigerators, to name just a few, Zonoff's software allows homeowners to control a variety of processes remotely.

The name of the revenue-positive company comes from the letter Z plus on and off, says Bob Cooper, Zonoff's Chief Marketing Officer and one of its co-founders. There are two smart home industry standards, he explains: the Z-Wave Alliance and the ZigBee Alliance. Zonoff works with both. "Consumers don't care if it's Z-Wave or ZigBee. They just want it to work," says Cooper.

"What's happening in the space now is the convergence of a number of factors," says Cooper, who attributes increased interest in the smart home to concurrent rises in broadband penetration and smartphones, along with a higher awareness of energy management. "Big players are entering the market." Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, for example, are beginning to take steps into facilitating the connected home.

Suppose, for example, you could turn on your hot tub, turn off your home security, and run your dishwasher from a mobile app. With Zonoff, it doesn't matter if it's a Z-Wave or ZigBee enabled device. Further, Zonoff learns from the homeowner's habits. If the thermostat is getting turned down to 62 every night, the program will ask if it should add the adjustment as a regular feature.

"We found Bulogics, another company in Philadelphia, that had developed the technology," says Cooper. "It was world class, but it was the best kept secret out there." Bulogics spun off its consumer technology portfolio and Zonoff was created, with a much more assertive go to market plan. Michael Balog, Zonoff's CTO, left Bulogics and joined Cooper and CEO Mike Harris at the Malvern HQ.

Cooper envisions all manner of disruptions. Alarm companies would be rendered obsolete by technology that automatically turns on cameras and sends a live feed to the owner's smartphone when a secure area is breached. The software can also alert the police.

Zonoff will soon be seeking an A round of funding and is forging relationships with channel partners for international distribution.

Source: Bob Cooper, Zonoff
Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern's ReadySetWork hiring on heels of expanded scheduling platform, acquisition

ReadySetWork has served tens of thousands. While it all began with a sandwich franchise, co-founders Joel Frisch and Jacob Dreyfuss are in the business of serving those who serve. The company is hiring ASP.NET MVC developers, mobile developers and business development experts, on the heels of an acquisition for an undisclosed amount by national payroll solutions provider PrimePay.

ReadySetWork was created to schedule shift workers, first in the restaurant industry, and now branching out to any vertical that employs hourly, on-demand labor. Frisch and Dreyfuss first got the idea for the company when they owned several Pita Pit franchises, and developed the technology to fix a major pain point that had previously been a pencil and paper solution. "The whole pitch of our product is taking the schedule off the back wall and bringing it to life," says Frisch.

The RSW suite is a set of web and mobile tools that allow managers to schedule workers online, but also allow employees to tell bosses when they are available. "When employees have more access with ReadySetWork, they feel more a part of the process. Accountability and morale are higher," says Frisch.

The acquisition does not affect the management team or the location of company, which remains in Malvern. Frisch says the company's national client base has been built up through distribution channels, not one-by-one sales, and PrimePay is now offering a co-branded version of ReadySetWork.

Frisch reports that the company now schedules hospitality, healthcare, and recreation staff, and is moving into the rapidly growing on demand workforce that includes home health care, catering and security. "A tool like ReadySetWork is situated perfectly for that change." Look for a new RSW mobile app, to be launched this summer. By the way, RSW has lots of branded merchandise for sale, including a clock.

Source: Joel Frisch, ReadySetWork
Writer: Sue Spolan

GPIC gets more efficient as EEB Hub, which shifts focus and is hiring up to five

The multi-partner organization GPICHub is now EEB Hub, which stands for Energy Efficient Buildings Hub. Same players, but a redesigned website, logo and tagline to reflect a change of focus. "From early on the name was made to speak to the Department of Energy, and be region focused," says Christine Knapp, Manager of Public and Client Relations for the EEB Hub, who feels that the shorter name says more in fewer words.

EEB Hub is more market focused as well, according to Knapp, with pages that break down content into four sections she calls "point-of-view" pages: Owners/Operators/Occupants, Architects/Engineers/Suppliers, Policy and Finance, and Education and Workforce. An even more granular approach is in the works, says Knapp, with some of the categories broken out further to address specific needs, say, of building owners.

The multi-stakeholder organization, which began life last February with temporary headquarters at the Navy Yard, is now in the process of constructing Building 661, a showplace for green building innovation. In what Knapp terms an entrepreneur's dream come true, even the current headquarters has become a lab.

"The temporary building we are in now is one of the most highly instrumented buildings in the country. It collects 1500 data points every minute," says Knapp, who looks forward to the ability to dashboard all that data, which will include energy, weather and occupancy data, to name just a few.

"ICon, our immersive construction lab, is up and running," reports Knapp. "It's a virtual 3D environment which allows design teams to put schematics into the system, put goggles on and walk around a building together." EEB Hub's Building 661 design team is using the technology now, and EEB Hub will soon make it available to regional architecture and design firms. "They can bring all their architects and engineers into the room together," says Knapp.

EEB Hub is seeking a full time manager for demonstration projects. Currently there are two, but up to five more are in the works, and will soon grow beyond the confines of the Navy Yard and into the larger region. Also available are ten paid summer internship positions for both undergrad and graduate students.

EEB Hub seeks to reduce energy use in the area's commercial building sector by 20 percent by 2020.

Source: Christine Knapp, EEB Hub
Writer: Sue Spolan

RightCare wins Wharton Business Plan Competition

Life sciences ruled at this year's Wharton Business Plan Competition, held April 25. RightCare Solutions won first place and will receive the $30,000 grand prize. Competing against seven other finalists, RightCare created D2S2, a discharge planning and readmission decision support system. The evidence-based tool was developed by Dr. Kathy Bowles, Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, and the business plan was written by Eric Heil, who graduates from the Executive Wharton MBA program this year.

"It was the topic of my senior thesis as an undergrad at Penn engineering in 2005. Kathy and I worked on it then, and she continued her research in the field and perfected the algorithms," says Heil. "We stayed in touch over the years, and given some of the changes in the reimbursement and regulatory landscape, we decided to create the tool to commercialize her research."

RightCare addresses a $30 billion problem in the United States: preventing readmission. Working with hospitals, insurers, and homecare agencies to identify patients at high risk for readmission, the tool was developed from a study led by Dr. Bowles using referral decisions made by discharge planning experts for 355 hospitalized older adults.

Used at the beginning of a hospital stay, D2S2 can help care coordinators identify high-risk patients quickly, and provide them enough time to coordinate the right care for high-need patients post-discharge to facilities such as home-care, skilled nursing, rehab, or a nursing home. Beta testing is now underway at three hospital systems, according to Heil, and D2S2 is scheduled for national implementation this summer.

Second prize at the Business Plan Competition went to 1DocWay, an online doctor’s office connecting hospitals with underserved patient populations, including the rural, elderly and disabled, via a secure video chat platform. Samir Malik, who graduates from Wharton next year, was the lead on the business plan development team.

In third place was Calcula which is developing urological medical devices for the removal of kidney stones without anesthesia.  The People's Choice Award winner was ChondroPro, which is developing therapeutic technology to treat osteoarthritis. By the way, Heil says the health care focus of the finalists and winners was happenstance.

Previous winners of the Wharton Business Plan Competition include Warby-Parker and Stylitics.

Source: Eric Heil, RightCare
Writer: Sue Spolan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Nearly $3M in Knight Arts Challenge Awards awarded at Philadelphia Museum of Art

"You have to look at his lines," said Janet Echelman of the collection of rare Van Gogh paintings on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the venue for the Knight Arts Challenge Awards ceremony on Monday night. "Look at his drawing skill." Echelman, an internationally known sculptor known for her public art, was on hand to share in the honor of a $400,000 grant to the Center City District to transform the Dilworth Plaza, and be completed in March 2014, according to Paul Levy, who accepted the Knight Award on behalf of the CCD.

Winners and ceremony attendees were treated to a private viewing of the blockbuster exhibit of impressionist paintings, and Lorene Cary, who received a $100,000 award for her Hip H'Opera project, toured the exhibit with Jeri Lynne Johnson, winner of $50,000 for the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra.

The 35 winners, who have known for a month but were sworn to secrecy, uniformly reported great surprise upon receiving the news, hauling in a combined $2.76 million. "They don't just call you. They say, 'We want you to come into the office,'" said Lori Dillard Rech, who accepted $25,000 on behalf of the Center for Emerging Visual Artists' Made in Philly project. "You think you have to defend yourself, not knowing that you've already gotten the award."

Erica Hawthorne, who applied as an individual on behalf of other individuals, could not believe she was granted $60,000 for her Small-but-Mighty Arts Grant, which will award local artists anywhere from $50 to $1,000 each.

Speakers at the event included Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy's Gary Steuer, who said that the Knight Arts Challenge, now in its second of three years, is making its imprimatur on the city. Mayor Nutter remarked upon the larger effect of $9 million in Knight grants, which translates to $18 million, since each grantee must come up with matching funds, touching the lives of all Philadelphians and bringing in tourism dollars.

On a related note, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation received $350,000 for Midnight Madness, an effort to engage younger audiences with a series of late night summer happenings to include music, food and rare midnight tours of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Campus Philly, helmed by Deborah Diamond, received $100,000 to offer free or discounted admission to college students visiting the city's cultural venues.

It's not all about Center City. Neighborhoods likw Nicetown-Tioga, West Philadelphia, and East Kensington will also be getting a little Knight magic. You can see the full list of winners below, and a video here.

Performing Arts Will Diversify Old City's First Fridays
Project: Arden Festival Fridays
Recipient: Arden Theatre Company
Award: $50,000
To diversify artistic offerings by presenting multidisciplinary performances alongside gallery events during Old City's monthly First Fridays

"Pop-Up" Performances Bring Latin Jazz to Philly Neighborhoods
Project: AMLA Flash Jazz Mobile
Recipient: Artists and Musicians of Latin America
Award: $35,000
To cultivate new audiences for Latin jazz by presenting "pop-up" performances by local artists using a portable stage

Stories of Urban Youth Come to Life in "Hip H'Opera"
Project: Hip H'Opera
Recipient: Art Sanctuary
Award: $100,000
To celebrate two art forms that use the human voice to tell profound stories by creating a "Hip H'Opera" using the stories of urban life

Communities Experience Art in Unexpected Places
Project: Neighborhood Spotlight Series 
Recipient: Asian Arts Initiative
Award: $45,000
To provide everyday artistic experiences by creating site-specific works for nontraditional places like restaurants, storefronts and public plazas

Late-Night Cabarets Explore Social Issues with Sparkle on the Avenue of the Arts
Project: Bearded Ladies Cabaret Revolution
Recipient: Bearded Ladies Cabaret
Award: $30,000
To attract new audiences to theater – using the medium to explore social issues with sparkle – through a series of original, late-night cabarets

New Form of Symphonic Pops Concert Celebrates World Music
Project: Black Pearl Pops!
Recipient: Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
Award: $50,000
To showcase diverse cultures by transforming a symphonic "pops" concert into a celebration of world music

College Students Gain New Access to the City's Arts Scene
Project: Campus Philly's Passport to the Arts
Recipient: Campus Philly
Award: $100,000
To foster a lifelong appreciation of the arts by offering free or discounted admission to venues and performances for college students

Workshop Gives Voice to Unheard Stories of the Lao-American Community
Project: Laos in the House: Voices from Four Decades of the Lao Diaspora
Recipient: Catzie Vilayphonh
Award: $25,000
To promote storytelling within the Lao-American community through a writing, performance and filmmaking workshop

Public Art Transforms Dilworth Plaza and Thriving Center City
Project: New Public Art at Dilworth Plaza
Recipient: Center City District
Award: $400,000
To help transform historic Dilworth Plaza by commissioning internationally recognized sculptor Janet Echelman to create an artwork inspired by the site's historic association with water and steam

Art Installation Open to All Inspires Dialogue on Art and Spirituality
Project: In the Light: A Skyspace by James Turrell
Recipient: Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse Project
Award: $80,000
To offer visitors a contemplative art space by incorporating the work of internationally acclaimed light artist James Turrell into a new facility


Residents Transform Vacant Lots Into Visual and Sound Gardens
Project: Site and Sound Gardens
Recipient: COSACOSA art at large
Award: $75,000
To transform abandoned spaces into "sacred" art parks for the community by engaging residents to create visual and sound gardens in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood

Local Artists Get Support From Mini Grant Program
Project: Small-But-Mighty Arts Grant
Recipient: Erica Hawthorne
Award: $60,000
To give a boost to local artists by creating a mini grant program to help finance their art making with awards ranging from $50 to $1,000

Mobile Studio Brings Community Art to New Neighborhoods
Project: ColorWheels: Delivering Creativity to Your Community
Recipient: Fleisher Art Memorial
Award: $50,000
To engage the community in hands-on art making by expanding the reach of a mobile studio where participants create projects inspired by their neighborhoods

West Philadelphia Lots Become Artistic Skate Parks
Project: Skateable City
Recipient: Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund
Award: $100,000
To help transform West Philadelphia neighborhoods by turning blacktop lots into art-laden skate parks

Free Theater Festival Showcases Diversity On Stage
Project: Philly Urban Theatre Festival
Recipient: GoKash Productions
Award: $20,000
To promote original plays through a free theater festival dedicated to multicultural themes 

Late-Night Museum Happenings Encourage New Audiences
Project: Midnight Madness 
Recipient: Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation
Award: $350,000
To engage younger audiences in the visual arts through a series of simultaneous late-night happenings at three of Philadelphia's premier  art museums

Cutting-Edge Performing Arts Gain New Visibility Through Residency Program
Project: Underground Residencies at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Recipient: Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Award: $150,000
To engage new audiences in the performing arts by creating a residency program in the Kimmel Center's black-box theater for innovative and emerging art groups

Visual and Performing Arts Fill an East Kensington Lot
Project: Little Berlin Fairgrounds
Recipient: Little Berlin
Award: $10,000
To help transform the East Kensington neighborhood by turning an empty lot into an event space for musicians, art fairs and children's workshops

Outdoor Summer Film Series Showcases Local Artists and Filmmakers
Project: Urban Drive-In with DIY Food Culture
Recipient: The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design
Award: $20,000
To introduce the work of local visual artists and filmmakers to a wider audience by establishing an outdoor independent film series on the Parkway

Weekly Drumming Lessons Inspire Local Youth
Project: Drum Line 
Recipient: Musicopia
Award: $90,000
To empower and inspire Philadelphia's youth through their participation in an indoor percussion ensemble by providing weekly drumming lessons and performing opportunities

Gospel Choirs, Composers and Jazz Ensembles Celebrate Dr. King
Project: New Music Celebrations of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Recipient: Orchestra 2001
Award: $40,000
To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Orchestra 2001 will present a concert featuring a new concerto based on the civil rights leader's life

Design Center Provides New Resources to Theater and Visual Artists
Project: Philadelphia Theatrical Design Center
Recipient: Partners for Sacred Places
Award: $180,000
To expand the capacity of the city's theater community by providing a new space for theater designers and visual artists at a repurposed local church

Free Digital Cameras Give Access to Communities for Photography Exhibition
Project: Bring to Light: Philadelphia
Recipient: Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
Award: $35,000
To encourage broader audience participation in the city's visual arts by expanding Philly Photo Day, where everyone is invited to take a picture on the same day for an exhibition

Architecture Seen in a New Light with 3D Video Art Events
Project: Animated Architecture: 3D Video Mapping Projections on Historic Sites
Recipient: Sean Stoops
Award: $20,000
To support an innovative form of 3D digital animation by creating site-specific video art events screened on local buildings

Plays in Nontraditional Spaces Bring Adventure to Audiences
Project: Outside The (Black) Box
Recipient: Swim Pony Performing Arts
Award: $50,000
To weave the arts into the community by presenting original, contemporary plays in nontraditional spaces, including Eastern State Penitentiary and the Academy of Natural Sciences

Multidisciplinary Festival Features Black Male Artists
Project: Henry "Box" Brown - The Escape Artist 
Recipient: The Brothers Network
Award: $25,000
To introduce diverse audiences to the performing arts by creating a multidisciplinary festival that features black men as thinkers, artists, choreographers, dancers, composers and more

Locally Produced Art Populates Neighborhood Public Spaces
Project: Made in Philly
Recipient: The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
Award: $25,000
To bring visual art to a wider audience by placing locally produced art in public advertising spaces in the same neighborhood where the piece was produced

Ceramic Mug "Assault" Explores Relevance of Handmade Things
Project: Guerilla Mug Assault
Recipient: The Clay Studio
Award: $15,000
To explore the relevance of handmade ceramic objects in the 21st century by providing a handmade mug to people leaving coffee shops and encouraging them to post about their experiences on the Web

Choral Works for Nontraditional Spaces to Be Commissioned
Project: Performances at the Icebox
Recipient: The Crossing
Award: $50,000
To introduce a wider audience to contemporary choral music by establishing a series of new works designed specifically for a nontraditional venue – the recently restored Crane Arts' Icebox

Sculptural Installation Explores Visual Art and Theater
Project: Daniel Arsham: Performative Architecture
Recipient: The Fabric Workshop and Museum
Award: $80,000
To create a sculptural intervention by artist Daniel Arsham within The Fabric Workshop and Museum that will include a live performance to explore the boundaries between museum and theatrical spaces

Teaching Program Fosters New Knowledge for Use of Technology in the Arts
Project: Corps of Interactive Artist Teachers
Recipient: The Hacktory
Award: $40,000
To promote the use of technology in the arts by developing an intensive tech/art curriculum for local artists who will share their knowledge with Philadelphia students

Creative Incubator Supports Emerging Creative Businesses
Project: Creative Incubator
Recipient: The University of the Arts
Award: $120,000
To promote economic stability for the city's cultural community by offering support to emerging creative businesses with pre-seed funding, mentorship programs and workshops

Citywide Scavenger Hunts Introduce Teens to Art and Adventure
Project: ARTward Bound: a creative orienteering adventure
Recipient: The Village of Arts and Humanities
Award: $60,000
To develop young people's awareness of the city's vibrant cultural scene through interactive scavenger hunts led by local artists

Master Class Series Provides Advanced Training for Local Actors
Project: Creating a Common Artistic Voice
Recipient: The Wilma Theater
Award: $60,000
To enhance training for local actors by creating a series of master classes

Public Art Enlivens The Porch at 30th Street Station
Project: A Permanent Place for Temporary Art in University City
Recipient: University City District
Award: $120,000
To establish a new outlet for public art that showcases temporary installations at The Porch at 30th Street Station

Source: Mayor Michael Nutter, Gary Steuer, Lori Dillard Rech, Erica Hawthorne, Lorene Cary, Janet Echelman, Paul Levy
Writer: Sue Spolan

A 41-hour digital fast to raise digital divide awareness

Could you step away from the keyboard? This weekend, Philly Tech Week (PTW) curator Tayyib Smith, in conjunction with KEYSPOTS, asked the tech community and everyone else in the city to participate in a 41 hour digital fast beginning Saturday April 21 at 3 p.m. No computer. No email. No social media. No mobile apps (those participating in Philly Startup Weekend get a fast pass). The fast ended when PTW began, with breakfast on Monday (April 23) at 8 a.m.

Brandon Shockley, a content associate at Mighty Engine, did his best to participate in the fast, but couldn't make it even a quarter of the way. "I can't say I was successful, despite my best efforts. I cracked," reports Shockley. "The internet is habit forming. I made it about 7 hours, and then had to go back to the safety of my inbox."
 
Nearly half of Philadelphia lacks basic computer skills and internet access, according to Smith, who did make it through an internet free weekend in which he says he stopped himself 15 or 20 times from reaching for his phone and computer.

In the lead-up to Philly Tech Week, Smith, founder of 215mag and Little Giant Creative, called attention "to the 41% of Philadelphians who still don’t have basic computer skills and Internet access, which essentially means a  lack of basic opportunity." Smith curates this year’s Access and Policy track for Philly Tech Week.
 
"One of the biggest dangers to the people in our city who can’t communicate digitally is the risk of being underrepresented in media, government, and culture," says Smith, who notes that a new discourse is being developed, the language of programming, and it seems to him as if a monolithic group of people are explaining that language, disproportionately affecting minorities. "That’s why the first step is closing our city’s digital divide is raising awareness of this issue."
 
Smith hopes the fast will help publicize KEYSPOTS, an initiative of the Freedom Rings Partnership, that offers over 80 public computing sites where residents can get free internet access and training. "Do nothing and support our efforts," reads a banner on the website. Well, not totally nothing. In the next few days, Smith encourages connected people to spread the word about the fast via Facebook, Twitter and email. And then shut it all down. 

Source: Tayyib Smith, Digital FAST, Brandon Shockley, Mighty Engine
Writer: Sue Spolan

Announcing the world's first Healthcare Startup Weekend, to take place in Philadelphia on June 1

While Philadelphia Startup Weekend prepares for the sold out 3.0 edition, organizers have just announced Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia.

The first of its kind in the world, the June 1 event will take place at Venturef0rth and is co-organized by Elliot Menschik, who already possesses a background that blends entrepreneurship and medicine.

Menschik gets an increasing number of calls from healthcare colleagues seeking tech solutions. He says, "Healthcare so lags behind the pace of change in mobile and analytics. As soon as you step into the healthcare domain all that efficiency and convenience goes out the window. Both practitioners and consumers experience this on a daily basis."

Menschik, who founded and sold the startup HxTechnologies, says this lag is the reason he got into healthcare IT in the first place. "There's so much opportunity and it's why it deserves its own weekend."

Philadelphia is just the place for the specialty startup weekend due to its position in both the medical past and present. He writes in the event blog, "From the biopharma corridor to world-class hospitals, medical schools, research institutions, health plans, associations and non-profits, you’d be hard pressed to find another city so immersed in all things medical.  So it’s only fitting that Startup Weekend hold its first-ever Healthcare-only Startup Weekend in the same place as the nation’s first hospital (1751), first medical school (1765), and many other firsts."

Also, Menschik is hoping that potential sponsors, which would include providers, hospitals, insurance providers, and CROs, would not just kick in money, but would send a rep to present a problem. "Ultimately we would like to have sponsors who will alpha or beta test products. The hardest thing is getting a place to test in a field where customers are so conservative," says Menschik.

Meanwhile, the already sold out Philly Startup Weekend 3.0, the general all purpose edition, will take place April 20-22 at The University of the Arts. Says co-organizer Brad Oyler of this year's improvements, "We are switching from mentors to coaches as an experiment to get coaches more involved with Startup Weekend teams, and we are going for a more social version this time, with a nightly team bonding event outside of the venue." Oyler thinks PHLSW 3.0 will be orders of magnitude better than 2.0 in October, 2011.

Source: Elliot Menschik, Brad Oyler, Philadelphia Startup Weekend
Writer: Sue Spolan

Coworking update: Indy Hall readies for expansion; Venturef0rth up to three companies

Coworking is exploding in Philadelphia. Venturef0rth, at 8th and Callowhill, stands apart as an entrepreneurial lab hewn from science. All that's missing are the white coats. 
 
Meanwhile, the venerable Indy Hall, in operation since 2007, announced on Thursday it is planning on expanding into a street level storefront at 20 N. 3rd in Old City. Alex Hillman, who led the town hall meeting with founding partner  Geoff DiMasi, says, "We've had a waiting list since September, and it's been growing faster than it's been shrinking. These aren't just people looking for an office, they're people who want to join Indy Hall." Now with a total of 153 members at all levels, Indy Hall exudes a clubhouse cool. The lively, art filled space has an underground feel.
 
The plan, according to Hillman, is to take over the downstairs where Indy Hall now occupies the second floor, and install a staircase connecting the two floors internally. Adding a pedestrian friendly entry will greatly increase eyes on Indy Hall, and potentially attract more members, but the challenge lies in getting the right storefront presence. A cafe and pop up shops were mentioned at Thursday night's meeting. The estimated total cost of expansion is $60,000, according to Hillman, who is aiming for a quick May 1 deadline.
 
Over at Venturef0rth, which pays tribute to the hacker ethic with a zero in the name, Elliot Menschik, impressively credentialed and successfully exited, has teamed up with Jay Shah and Jesse Kramer to create a soaring, pristine space that currently houses three startups: Lessonsmith, and recent DreamIt grads Metalayer and Grassroots Unwired. "At full capacity we could hold 100 people here working full-time," says Menschik. "That would compromise some of the common space, so a good place would be 60-75 people, with 20 companies or so."
 
Both Venturef0rth and Indy Hall plan on events to engage the community; Indy Hall's expansion plan includes a classroom and team spaces for companies that have outgrown individual desks but want to stay in the community and act as mentors. At Thursday's town hall meeting, Councilman Bill Green was in attendance; at this weekend's Lean Startup Machine seminar at Venturef0rth, Mayor Michael Nutter dropped by.
 
Hillman and Menschik exude magnetic charm, albeit in different styles, and it's easy to see why startups would choose either camp. But are there hundreds of people in Philadelphia to populate these and other recently opened, more specialized coworking spaces like Green Village, Philadelphia Game Lab and SeedPhilly?

Source: Elliot Menschik, Venturef0rth; Alex Hillman, Indy Hall
Writer: Sue Spolan

Photos: Indy Hall (top) and Venturef0rth.

Inside Philly SEED's wildly successful, crowdfunded night for education entrepreneurs

When you are talking sustenance, the combination of education and a hot meal is just about ideal. Philasoup, along with Springboard Collaborative, won top prize at Philly SEED, a new crowdfunded gathering specifically for educational entrepreneurs in the style of PhillyStake.

Philasoup's top spot in the Emerging Entrepreneurs category garnered $5,000. Springboard Collaborative, won the Expanding/Established Entrepreneurs category, receiving a bundle of pro-bono services. Funds were collected via ticket sales, as well as from a Knight Foundation grant.

The two winners were chosen from an original 41 applicants and 12 finalists, which included ApprenNet, The School Collective, Lessonsmith, Yes! for Schools Philly, and Investing in Ourselves. Educational entrepreneurs are hot right now; last month's Philly Tech Meetup focused on the same topic.

The awards ceremony took place at WHYY on Wednesday, March 28 to a packed house of nearly 200 people, a number of whom were also members of Young Involved Philly, which has a great track record of getting people out to events. Councilman Bill Green was on hand as co-host, as were several Philadelphia philanthropists.

Rachel Meadows, who works for Councilman Bill Green event organizer for Philly SEED, a member of PhillyCORE Leaders, says she hopes the event will be take place at least annually, if not more frequently.  "There's an audience for these type of events. I think people have realized that bureaucratic change is difficult, so perhaps bottom-up entrepreneurial efforts are more effective."

Kristen Forbriger, the Communications Manager for the Philadelphia School Partnership, looked around at the young, engaged crowd and remarked, "This represents a lot of energy in the city. There are a lot of tough problems to solve and a lot of people wanting to solve those problems."

The winner, Philasoup, will use its award to host a monthly microgrant dinner where educators connect and fund projects to benefit Philadelphia students, regardless of institution.

Source: Rachel Meadows, Kristen Forbinger, Philly SEED
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crosstown tracking: The Philly Tech Week 2012 preview

Sure Old City is ground zero for the Philly tech scene, but Philly Tech Week 2012 organizer Christopher Wink has his eye on advancing technology citywide. Kicking off April 20 with Philly Startup Weekend, PTW 2012 is designed to reach a bigger audience with curated events organized by track. With over 60 items now on the calendar, and more to come, Wink says he wants PTW to reflect a broad, inclusive and impactful tech community.

"I have always been interested in digital access issues," says Wink, who is working with State Representative Rosita Youngblood on an event aimed at increasing computer literacy for seniors, as well as widening the circle to include neighborhood groups outside the city ring. Wink, who is also the co-founder of Technically Philly, is looking forward to the robotics expo, which aims to show middle and high school kids that technology can be both cool and practical.

The avalanche of events of last year's inaugural PTW, says Wink, was meant to rapidly raise awareness of the tech community. Feedback from 2011 led to curation of 2012 participants and creation of tracks for Entrepreneurship/Investment, Media/Transparency, Arts/Creative, Access/Policy and Design/Development. "Sixty to 70 events are too much to comprehend," says Wink. "The grouping of events makes it easier for Joe Entrepreneur." A close relative, by the way, to Joe Sixpack, organizer of Philly Beer Week and the inspiration for PTW.

That first weekend, beginning April 20, already packs a punch. In addition to Startup Weekend, which will take place at University of the Arts, the Women in Tech Summit meets all day Saturday, April 21, and on Sunday, April 22, Indy Hall sponsors a block party on North 3rd Street from 1 to 8 pm. You can also get a peek into how the Philadelphia Eagles choose draft picks, find out if your IP is leaking, and mingle with Switch Philly judges Josh Kopelman, Ellen Weber and Mayor Michael Nutter, who will choose one entrepreneur in the competition for a major prize package. The complete schedule can be found here.

Source: Christopher Wink, Philly Tech Week
Writer: Sue Spolan

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
 

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

From ashes to microbes in Glen Mills: Organic lawn nutrient maker Holganix projects $3M in revenue

It's not Texas tea, but it's worth its weight in gold. Holganix, based in Glen Mills, Delaware County, has developed a sustainable and organic turf nutrient system derived from compost tea with a secret living ingredient: microbes. Holganix just received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, following a previous $250,000 funding round in February 2011 for its environmentally safe holistic and organic lawn fertilizer.

Today, Holganix, which employs 17, celebrates its second anniversary. Founded in 2010, the company made $200,000 its first year, and projects revenues of $3 million in 2012, according to founder and CEO Barrett Ersek.
 
Those lush green campus lawns and rolling golf courses come at a high price to the environment, sprayed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides which then run off into local waterways.
 
Ersek says his environmentally benign product dramatically reduces a major source of runoff pollution by eliminating the need for conventional pesticides and herbicides. He points to a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico, which was brought about by chemical runoff from the Mississippi River. 
 
The secret in the Holganix formula is life. The lawn care spray actually contains beneficial microorganisms made without animal or human by-products. Right now, the liquid product requires refrigeration prior to application, and Ersek says his team is also working on a granulated formula, which will capture the other 50% of the lawn care market.
 
Ersek says the first round of Ben Franklin funding went to a validation study conducted at three universities. North Carolina State, Penn State and Purdue University all reported dramatic reduction, up to 88%, in the need to add nitrogen as a fertilizer following Holganix treatment. The Holganix formula also attacks weeds, drastically reducing the need for pesticides.
 
Ersek reports that his primary customer base is in the mid-Atlantic, with a rapidly growing clientele among the Amish and Mennonite communities, who appreciate the all natural formula. Holganix is also making its way south, now negotiating with companies in Florida. Holganix is primarily a B2B distributor, but also deals directly with large institutions.

The potential market for an organic lawn care product is huge. According to Ersek, there are 44 million acres of manicured turf in the US, and over a million acres of golf courses. The Holganix formula may also be applied to shrubs and crops.
 
The idea for the business literally rose from the ashes. Ersek, who had built and sold two lawn care companies, had stockpiled fertilizer in 2008, anticipating a 60% price spike. The warehouse went up in flames. "One of our core values is gratitude," says Ersek. "Look for greater potential in every situation. You can't control what happens to you. If you respond with gratitude, you'll be OK. The loss forced me to find a better alternative."

Source: Barrett Ersek, Holganix
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.



Philly retail rewards startup Lokalty gains traction, triples participating merchants

The pleasant sound of a Lokalty chime will soon be audible all over University City. Philly start up Lokalty, which rewards frequent local shoppers and cross promotes merchants, is now expanding westward from Center City. Over a dozen UC merchants have signed on since the company crossed the banks of the Schuylkill about a week ago. 
 
Launched in October 2011 by Penn grads Balu Chandrasekaran, Philip Tribe and Bipen Sasi, the name Lokalty is derived from Local plus Loyalty. "These days, business names are influenced by a domain name search," says Chandrasekaran, who changed the C to a K. But the uniqueness of the name is actually a good thing, adds Tribe, who comes from a product design background. "Lokal business means it's in our network," he says. The company tagline, "Keep it Lokal," has become a bit of a marketing boost.
 
Lokalty membership is not tied to a credit card, unlike LevelUp, which isn't a direct competitor except in the area of retail counter real estate. Both companies use a dedicated smartphone built into a plastic box to read customer QR or bar codes. 
 
Lokalty is a cloud supported consolidated version of all the separate customer loyalty tags people carry in wallets and on keychains. The idea is that when you earn points for shopping at one Lokalty business, you can reap rewards at any business in the Lokalty network. Buy enough coffee at Elixr and get free food at Manakeesh.
 
Growing the company has been tricky, says Chandrasekaran, who says he and his partners have taken on a difficult task, marketing to businesses and consumers at the same time. "It's the classic chicken and egg problem." While Lokalty means marketing for retailers, "most small business owners would rather hear sales pitches that address the cost side instead of the revenue side."
 
The business benefits of Lokalty participation may take time, but Chandrasekaran cites the example of newcomer Spread Bagelry, which saw several dozen new customers directly related to Lokalty participation. The participating merchant is privy to valuable metrics, and can get to know customers on a first name basis. Lokalty, says Chandrasekaran, is a year round marketing program, as opposed to less frequent offers like discount coupons and seasonal sales.
 
The fully bootstrapped Lokalty is set to release a new version of its smartphone app within the next few weeks, according to Tribe, and the company, which launched with 7 merchants and is now up to 29, hopes to achieve critical mass via placement in dozens more businesses around Philadelphia and the Main Line. 

Source: Balu Chandrasekaran, Philip Tribe, Lokalty
Writer: Sue Spolan

GENEROCITY: New ED of The Food Trust willing to take risks

(Editor's note: This story originally appeared here in Generocity, Greater Philadelphia's source for local nonprofit news, giving and networking. Sign up here to become more engaged, whether it's for donating, promoting or engaging.

There's an unmistakable California lilt in the voice of Yael Lehmann, executive director of Philadelphia nonprofit The Food Trust, and a San Francisco native. "I moved here at the end of 2000," she said. "I'd never been here, or lived outside of SF, and I had this grad-school fantasy. My only reference was Robin Williams movies with kids in the library with the desks with lamps on them."

Concurrent with earning her masters in Social Policy and Practice from UPenn, Lehmann was promoted from assistant director to executive director of the nonprofit, supervising everything from more than 30 farmers markets featuring exclusively local growers to coordinating nutrition education and other programs promoting access to affordable, healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.

She sat down for a chat with Generocity.org to talk about the necessity of risk-taking in the nonprofit world, comparing wardrobe notes with Michelle Obama, and why girls should play bass as loud as possible.

You've been with the Food Trust since 2001 and Executive Director since 2006. In ten years you must have done it all… aren't you bored by now?
The reason I love my job is there is no day to day… if you like to know what you're doing from 9-5 every day, it is not that! I'm never bored and I have no idea what might happen… We do stuff that is a little risky, and we try to be creative, too, so that keeps me motivated and really engaged.

When we opened up the Headhouse Farmers Market at Second and Lombard in the Shambles, many people had tried and failed many times to set up events there. We didn't know at all what would happen when launching Night Market, or if people would even show up. One thing I believe in is trying to do things where you don't know the outcome… we had no idea how many people would show up! Everyone ran out of food after the first hour.

I was at that first Night Market (East Passyunk Ave.). It was really funny because people were waiting in line for an hour-plus for something like a taco… when you can walk a block in any direction and get great tacos.
[Laughing] I'm sorry! We just had no idea what would happen. The area restaurants did well that night, when there was no more food. The first Night Market definitely flopped.

The Food Trust's work has been recognized by everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. What do you think your leadership has brought to the organization that has helped made it so successful?
I started with the organization in 2001, working closely with founder Dwayne Perry. It was a really small place then – just 4 people here – so I've had to wear every hat in the agency. I've been out to schools, our farmers markets, I made keys for people, I did everything. When I came on, I knew the place really well, but it's really the staff who are so incredible. I am definitely not the reason for the recognition!

Are there things you pay a lot of attention to that surprise you?
I'm turning 44 next month, and I was in my late thirties when I came on – it was a big learning period for me, I learned a lot about just running a business. I had always been on program side, in the research world, so the payroll, digging into financial statements, moving our offices… just in the functions of running a business I learned a lot. When I came on I learned pretty quickly that this would be part of my position as well, not just coming up with ideas for programs. My mother's a CPA and I worked for her while I was an undergrad, answering phones and whatever, but my experience working for her in her office paid off for me later in life.

What's the thing you least like doing everyday? Every job has its headache…
Oh yeah definitely! Half of our funding is federal money, so wading through all the paper work can be tough. If you come to the office you'll see tons of binders everywhere, with paper work you have to submit to the state to go to the federal government. Luckily, we have Karima Rose on staff here, who is the mastermind! I'm very grateful for that funding; it's totally worth it – we're doing nutrition education in low income schools in Philly and Reading, and it's a huge part of that funding.

Is there anything that brings a tear to your eye when you think back on what The Food Trust has achieved?
There are kind of huge tearjerker moments, like when Headhouse launched and all these people showed up. I had the opportunity to meet the First Lady twice, and each time it was really hard for me to keep it together. When I think about how Night Markets have evolved, we've gotten a lot better at it… and I think this year will be so much better. At the last one in Chinatown, DJ Fox was playing and the crowd was just kind of watching him, but no one was dancing and it was mildly awkward. I think he just went into a particular song and the whole crowd bum rushed the middle of the street, and all of us are jumping up and down dancing right under the Chinatown Friendship Gate. It was so unexpected and fun to just dance in the middle of the street.

What was it like to meet First Lady Michelle Obama? Was she as genuine in person as she seems in the press?
You rarely get to meet your heroes in life. She's my inspiration. The First Lady is fairly tall, beyond gorgeous, and very warm. When I was lucky enough to visit the White House in July last year, I almost fell over when she told me that she also owned the exact same dress I was wearing that day! Her Let's Move campaign is a multi-faceted approach to solving food access issues and increasing physical activity, but even more than that, it has started a country-wide conversation about food and healthy living. It's a conversation and campaign that could change the way we think about eating as dramatically as government anti-smoking efforts did. With the First Lady as spokeswomen, this is our moment, when the attention to and momentum of the food movement could bring about real change across the country.

I read you play bass in a band, Happy Accident, with your husband Blake and Brian "Bucky" Lang. How role does music play in your life?
Music is super important to me. It's really fun to plug in the bass and just play super loud. Every girl should do it! Bass or drums or whatever, it's the best feeling ever. It's a good excuse for all of us to drink beer, and this fun thing to have – Blake and I have an 8 year old son, so this is something we do together. I also volunteer with Girls Rock Philly, even though my schedule is insane. I just love music so much, and I think it's so empowering for girls and women to participate in music. I'm all for Philly music.

If you could give one piece of advice to others working in the nonprofit sector, what would it be?
I would say that I think one of the best things we did early on was bring in a research director, Dr. Alison Carpin. From the very beginning we were able to carefully evaluate and look at the effectiveness of the programs. Alison has been posting a ton, and we continue to publish: it's a way to legitimize the work you are doing. I think that was a great thing to do – we did that even when we had a really small staff. In the end it's just about finding and hiring really smart and effective people. It sounds maybe too simple, but that's what is it.

Keep up with The Food Trust by following them on Twitter @TheFoodTrust, and "Like" them on Facebook. Look out for a series of events celebrating the organizations' 20th anniversary throughout 2012.

Photo via Yael Lehmann




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

Startup activity gains momentum in 2011

It's the classic impulse: make lemonade out of economic lemons. 2011 was the year of the startup. When the job market slumped, ingenuity kicked in, and entrepreneurs had places to gather. The Quorum at the University City Science Center opened to provide a common space for entrepreneurs, hosting events like Philly Tech Meetup, which drew increasing crowds to its monthly demos of startups.

Along with the Science Center's continued support of entrepreneurs, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania provided funding for many local companies including AboutOne. BFTP's Navy Yard neighbor GPIC has stepped in to centralize the future of energy efficiency.

Bob Moul, of Dell Boomi, took the helm at Philly Startup Leaders, which is re-tooling its mission while putting together a pair of fruitful Philly Startup Weekends.

DreamIt Ventures 2011 gave a boost to 14 fledgling companies, including frontrunners Cloudmine, ElectNext, SnipSnap, Metalayer, and Spling, all to remain in Philadelphia. Yasmine Mustafa, a past DreamIt participant, and most recently a Philadev Ventures member, recently sold her startup 123LinkIt to national content syndication network Netline.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Innovation in 2011 stretched beyond tech to retail, media and civic engagement

Innovation in Philadelphia: it's not just all about tech. Government, retail, media and the way we work and live made major strides forward in 2011.

The University of the Arts' Corzo Center for the Creative Economy funded arts entrepreneurs this year, and businesses like Little Baby's Ice Cream, Kembrel, Gritty City Beauty, LevelUp and ReAnimator Coffee are just a few examples of the retail revolution underway in Philadelphia. Storably and Inhabi launched to re-imagine rentals. Milkboy Coffee expanded from Ardmore to Center City, and made plans to move its recording studio downtown as well.


Crowdsourced civic change is a major trend in Philadelphia's innovation efforts. We were named a Code for America city the second year in a row; programs like Open Access Philly and Change By Us live at the intersection of technology and civic engagement, with government stewardship by Jeff Friedman. Adel Ebeid arrived to lead the city's newly formed Office of Innovation and Technology in increasing broadband penetration.

TEDxPhilly, Young Involved Philadelphia, Philly Tech Week, PhillyStake, the Philadelphia Geek Awards and IgnitePhilly mixed business with pleasure, merging crowds and companies in festive settings.

Gaming and gamification continues to trend; local efforts include Cipher Prime, Port 127, Play Eternal and networking group PANMA.

Incubators and coworking spaces surged, with Indy Hall making expansion plans for K'House, Philadev's Musemaka, OpenDesksStartup Therapy, and Novotorium in Langhorne.

In media, Wharton Publishing went all digital; Ryan Seacrest opened The Voice studio at CHOP; G Philly, Hidden City's Daily and Generocity launched; WHYY's Newsworks grew; and if it was relevant to technology, Technically Philly covered it all this year, never missing a beat.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Life sciences, tech, and food drive job creation as city's unemployment lags behind national average

Philadelphia's most recent unemployment rates checked in at 10.9%, which is well behind the national average of 8.8%. While the entire tri-state Greater Philadelphia area fared better at 8.4%, 2011 showed plenty of companies that are hiring.

When a company cannot hire employees fast enough, it's got to be NextDocs. The Microsoft SharePoint provider is bringing people in at breakneck speed. Transcend United continues to expand in IT, through mergers, acquisitions and hiring. GPIC is always looking to staff its constituent companies.


Google search challenger DuckDuckGo expanded from a basement operation to offices in Paoli and is seeking employees to fill the new space. VCopious, which provides virtual environments for enterprise, expects to double its staff by the end of next year. GIS expert Azavea continues to expand.

Center City based Cliq is looking for engineers who can assist in the mission to transform social data into social knowledge.

Other growth areas are in life sciences; Greenphire, founded to streamline clinical research, expects to double staff following a Series A round of funding. Echo Therapeutics reported earlier this year it was hiring 25.

Farm to table continues upward. South Jersey based Zone 7 and Chester County's Wyebrook Farm expanded considerably this year. Philly Cow Share, Bennett Compost, and Common Market all thrived this growing season. The Healthy Carts initiative launched to address the problem of food deserts in underserved areas of the city.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern startup AboutOne about to be the center of attention, hiring

Joanne Lang has star power. It wouldn't be surprising if the founder and CEO of AboutOne left a trail of glitter dust in her wake. In the past several months, the Malvern based startup has received a huge amount of attention and money, including nearly $2 million in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, which pledged $100,000 in May, and a $1.6 million Series A round led by Golden Seeds, a majority women owned national investment network. Lang's company also just announced partnerships with Microsoft and Suze Orman's IDSafe.

AboutOne addresses the needs of an increasingly powerful online contingent: moms. While dads can also use AboutOne's family management tools, Lang's idea was borne of her own pain point as a parent. Lacking proper medical information in an emergency involving one of her four children, Lang realized that data stored in the cloud could literally be a lifesaver.

She left her job at SAP to start AboutOne, which aims to organize all household management tasks. In addition to medical data, subscribers can store images and videos, keep track of bills and receipts, maintain contacts and calendars with important family dates and deadlines, and even automatically send out cards. "I have Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, but nothing in the middle for the people I love the most: my family and children," says Lang. "There was nothing to manage my home life more smoothly."

The service has been in beta since April, and in January launches the full gamified version, using feedback from beta tester moms. Several key improvements include automation of information gathering via social media sites and points for using AboutOne that translate to gift cards and credits.

Lang is featured in the soon to be released documentary about entrepreneurs called Control+Alt+Compete, produced by Microsoft. "There were 63 companies presenting, and they picked three to follow," says Lang, whose gentle charm and enthusiasm outshines the other two companies profiled.

AboutOne is on a mission to give back, with a lifestyle blog, special help for military families, a Comeback Mom program for women re-entering the workforce, and promotions designed to give back to the community. The company, which was founded with five employees, has just doubled staff and is continuing to hire.

Lang will also be featured in an upcoming series The Alchemist Entrepreneur. "It's how about when you want something mentally, the forces come together and help you achieve that goal. Really weird things happen to me all the time. I feel like I have a business angel. When we got our office space, we couldn't afford to buy furniture. Twenty minutes later, someone's mom called asking if anyone wanted office cubicles. She dropped off top of the range furniture."

Look for the full scale release of AboutOne in mid-January. Those who sign up friends will be entered into a contest to win an Amazon Kindle.

Source: Joanne Lang, AboutOne
Writer: Sue Spolan

Change By Us launches as virtual, social Post It note for community innovation

It would be great to stick a Post It note on the front door of City Hall. Philadelphia's new Change By Us initiative, officially launched last week, offers citizens the virtual and social networked version of the Post It experience. The Knight Foundation, one of the project's funders along with The Rockefeller Foundation, also announced that it has thrown $25,000 into the mix, divided in a way to be determined, with the understanding that the funds will help facilitate community generated change in Philadelphia, according to Knight's Donna Frisby-Greenwood.

So far, says Jeff Friedman, Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation in the Mayor's Office, the Change By Us website has attracted 229 users who have generated 234 ideas, from poetic to prosaic. For example: "We've started our own grassroots campaign in Old City named Scoop the Poop Campaign. Our slogan is "No Pile Left Behind," reads one note. While there are many similar ideas having to do with pets and regulation of their behavior, there is also a groundswell of support for better use of community centers and public facilities. "The way the world communicates is changing," remarked Mayor Michael Nutter during the Change By Us press conference. "As social media evolves, the City of Philadelphia is at the forefront." Of the 234 ideas, 32 projects have so far been created on the site.

An important aspect of Change By Us is connecting citizens with resources, and a section of the site, which was developed with the help of the Philadelphia's Code for America fellows, offers one click connections to the East Park Revitalization Alliance, Congreso, and The Center City District, among dozens of others.

The second city in America to adopt Change By Us, Philadelphia is following the blueprint of the recently launched New York City Change By Us program, developed through a $100,000 initial grant, according to Jake Barton, whose group Local Projects created the New York version and acted as consultant for the local initiative. Going forward, Barton announced that the Change By Us platform is open source, freely available to every village, town, city or megalopolis.

The Philadelphia initiative has its own public service announcement, created by PhillyCAM, featuring local leaders like Young Involved Philly's Claire Robertson-Kraft and Department of Parks and Recreation's Mike Deberardinis telling viewers they are listening. Kraft says, "Jeff and I were talking about the priorities of the Change By Us program, and our three choices were smarter, safer and greener." Rather than attempt to choose one of the three, says Robertson, the Change By Us tagline includes all three goals. "There are projects on Change By Us that are similar to ideas generated at State of Young Philly."

Friedman adds that Change By Us can eliminate duplicate efforts. If a community group has improved a park in Northeast Philly, people in South Philly can find out about it, reducing time and sharing resources, he explains. Response leaders, says Friedman, will monitor projects coming in to steer them to the right departments and organizations.

Source: Jeff Friedman, Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia, Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

SBN's Social Venture Institute aims to 'change the way people run businesses'

Philadelphia continues to grow in its national leadership role as a center for all things green and sustainable. This weekend, The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia hosts the 2011 Social Venture Institute, a two-day seminar with the mission of growing green businesses now in its ninth year.

"The Social Venture Institute is our region's premier sustainable business event. SVI was one of the first conferences to discuss the Triple Bottom Line business model of incorporating People, Planet and Profit into a business’ success," says Jennifer Devor, Events Manager at SBN. "While the audience is primarily from the Greater Philadelphia area, we do have a handful of entrepreneurs coming from around the country. We have people registering from as far away as Washington State."

Mayor Michael Nutter, who was handily re-elected for a second term last week, emphasized the role of Philadelphia as a center of sustainability in his acceptance speech:

"Four years ago I said that Philly could be the greenest city in the United States of America. Today the federal government is investing $130 million at our Navy Yard to build a clean tech hub, our recycling rate is three times higher than it has ever been, and we are one of the leading cities in America taking advantage of the growth in the green economy."

The Social Venture Institute (SVI) will take place at The Hub, self-proclaimed as the only privately held LEED Silver certified meeting space in the country. Rather than keynotes, SVI has True Confession Speakers, including Paul Saginaw, co-owner of Michigan based Zingerman's Community of Businesses, and MaryAnne Howland, owner and president of Nashville, Tenn., ad agency Ibis Communications.

The schedule, aimed at teaching "entrepreneurs how to run successful businesses that have a positive social and environmental impact," includes workshops and networking sessions that cover topics from finance to social media. Devor expects around 200 attendees and 30 experts, including representatives from Praxis Consulting Group, Women’s Business Development Center, Valley Green Bank, and Technically Philly.

"This conference is about learning how to balance your business goals with your passions and change the way people run businesses," says Devor.

Eighty scholarships, funded by The Prudential Foundation, are available to minority entrepreneurs and low-income applicants and reduce the cost to $40; full price tickets range from $45 to 180, depending on the number of sessions you'd like to attend. Both scholarship and full price tickets are still available.

Source: Jennifer Devor, Sustainable Business Network, Mayor Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

GPIC report: Energy efficiency work could mean $618M in local spending, 23,500 jobs

Energy efficiency retrofits at nearly half of our region's commercial buildings could mean $618 million in local spending and support 23,500 jobs, according to a report issued on Monday by the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster.

The Philadelphia Navy Yard-based GPIC, a 24-institution, $129 million consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies, also issued a report detailing programs and policies already encouraging retrofits and further steps the region can take. Both reports can be found here.

The University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Mark Alan Hughes, the leader of the Policy, Markets and Behavior task team at GPIC, says in a news release that the reports "provide ample evidence that the Philadelphia region is well-situated to take advantage of the economic opportunities inherent in energy efficiency retrofits."

According to the main report, conducted by Econsult Corporation, 47 percent (or 4,201 buildings) of the region's commercial and flex-industrial space between 20,000-100,000 square feet are potential retrofit candidates.

Cozen O'Connor staff compiled the secondary report, which examines laws, regulations, financial incentives, contracts and public bidding requirements to encourage energy efficiency retrofits.

"Removing barriers and employing new policy tools to spur retrofits will not only save energy, but also grow jobs and stimulate the regional economy," says Hughes.

Source: Christine Knapp, GPIC
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Open Access Philly: Empowering the intersection of data and community

Here comes the promise of Mayor Nutter. In less than two years, Jeff Friedman has revolutionized Philadelphia's role in connecting community engagement and technology. On Oct. 28, Friedman, manager of the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation & Participation, hosted Crowdsourcing at the Intersection, a free all-day Open Access Philly conference.

Speakers at the Science Center's Quorum included crowd pleasers Robert Cheetham, Alex Hillman, Geoff Dimasi, Desiree Peterkin-Bell and Paul Wright, co-leader of the forum and Comcast's project manager for Local Media Development and the new Project Open Voice initiative.

Mayor Michael Nutter, who offered remarks right at the top of the program, announced that Philadelphia's efforts have won a top-10 place on the Public Technology Institute's list of Citizen Engaged Communities. "We are in the customer service business," says Nutter of the city government's outreach strategy, in which open data and constant communication is crucial. During his speech, Nutter tweeted a photograph of the audience to prove his point.

Friedman stated as his broad goal a movement without strict membership rules convened to articulate a shared vision for open access to data. Cheetham's company Azavea, in partnership with NPowerPA, Technically Philly, and The William Penn Foundation, created the Open Data Race, and Cheetham announced winners at the forum.

Out of dozens of contenders, first place went to Public School Notebook, which wants data on where Philadelphia public school students go after 12th grade; in close second place, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia requested information on bike thefts, and third place went to Conservation Pennsylvania for vacant land data. In addition to information, winners receive cash prizes of up to $2,000.

Source: Jeff Friedman, Mayor Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia; Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

Local tech VP appointed to FCC's advisory committee on diversity

Brigitte Daniel is on her way up, literally. By the time you read this, Daniel will be on a seven-week fact-finding mission through Southeast Asia funded by an Eisenhower Fellowship. But wait,  that's not all. Daniel was just appointed to the Federal Communications Commission’s Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age. We'll get back to that tour of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore in a minute.

How about that FCC appointment? Daniel, an attorney and Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronic Systems, is one of the youngest appointees to the committee and the only representative from Philadelphia. The committee will meet in Washington, DC to ensure that minorities and low income communities get broadband access. "It's being reframed as a civil rights issue of the 21st century," says Daniel, who adds that increasingly, institutional interactions require internet access. If you want to apply for a job, apply to college, and get social services, you need the web.

Wilco is a family business founded by Will Daniel, Brigitte's father. One of Wilco’s primary missions is to provide low cost, high speed advanced telecommunication services to minorities and underserved communities in the Greater Philadelphia area.  “One of the reasons I was appointed to the diversity committee for the FCC was because Wilco served as a catalyst to bring together the various partners and community groups that formed the Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership. Freedom Rings is a citywide consortium of educational institutions, municipalities, The City of Philadelphia, and Wilco, which had the goal of providing high speed access to underserved and economically stressed areas."

While Freedom Rings provides free access to participants, Daniel stresses that ultimately, the goal is affordable service. "When you start talking about free, it's hard to be sustainable. Someone will always have to pay for it." Daniel adds that if the service is free it will perceived to have less value. "Our whole point is to make it affordable." To prove that point, Wilco customers can get digital cable, high speed internet and a laptop for under $50 a month. "It's our version of the triple play," says Daniel.

Back to that whirlwind trip to the other side of the globe: Daniel is a 2011 Eisenhower Fellow. The India and Sri Lanka segments of her seven week trip are funded by the fellowship; she added the other destinations in order to gather even more knowledge of emerging technologies and policies for connecting impoverished populations.

Daniel returns in December and begins a two-year term at the FCC while remaining at Wilco. "Whatever we recommend, I hope it's taken to heart. At Wilco, we are on the ground, in the trenches. If the FCC takes our policy recommendations seriously, that's exciting."

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

Philly Stake deadline looms for next round of microgrants

Back in July we reported on the growing micro-funding event series known as Philly Stake.  The series combines fast, no-nonsense funding for great ideas, combined with local food and fun with friends.

The next round of proposals is due by noon on Sunday, Oct. 30. Creatives, artists, organizers and thinkers are asked to submit their best ideas. It's a four-question application, and it could help your project earn fast funds. Ten proposals will be chosen to be voted on at the next Philly Stake event on Nov. 13 at the Ukie Club (847 N. Franklin St., Philadelphia).

Tidal Schuylkill River Tour ($1,000), Fair Grounds ($600) and Sunday Suppers ($500) were winners at the last Philly Stake.

Source: Philly Stake
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Farm to freezer: New CSA aims to provide region with sustainably grown produce in winter

Buying and eating local is easy during the summer months, when produce is literally falling off the back of farm trucks. It's a different story after the ground freezes over, but a new company has launched to address that seasonal shortfall and provide sustainably grown fruit and vegetables -- from farm to freezer.

"It's not easy to eat food grown closer to home year round," says Winter Sun Farms Greater Philadelphia co-founder Sara Gordon. Sure, there are storage crops, like apples, winter squash and root vegetables, "But for things like green beans and corn, unless you are putting them up, those items are coming from California and South America."

Winter Sun  is selling a total of 250 CSA monthly shares that provide a five month regional produce subscription that's available in two sizes, costing $175 and $315. Each share is made up primarily of flash frozen produce with some fresh items in the mix. Husband and wife team Sara and Adam Gordon started the business three months ago.

Originally from Connecticut, Adam Gordon landed a job in the Philadelphia area two years ago and the couple relocated to Bucks County. They immediately got involved in the strong local food movement here, joining a CSA and becoming part of a buying club that's grown into the Doylestown Food Coop.

Adam's job came to an end this year, and the timing was perfect, says Sara, for the launch of a new business. While future plans are to run the entire operation out of the Philadelphia area, this first year Winter Sun is getting everything from its Hudson Valley counterpart, which is already set up with a processing facility with an IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) machine that uses nitrogen to flash freeze individual peas and corn so the home cook can open a bag and use just a portion.

This year, the couple hopes to break even, and is marketing the new service at area farm markets and on social media. Right now, about half of its 250 total shares are spoken for. Interested customers can register online.

Source: Sara Gordon, Winter Sun Farms Greater Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

State of Young Philly has never looked better

If you want to know how young Philly's doing, let me sum it up for you: smart and good looking. From the highest reaches of government right down to our youngest up and comers, there's never been a more attractive bunch of people in charge.

The second annual State of Young Philly, convened by the all-volunteer Young Involved Philadelphia for a two-week run, was a series of six events designed to engage, connect and represent citizens. Targeting community engagement, education, sustainability and the creative economy, State of Young Philly drew close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city, according to organizers. From the first packed event at World Cafe Live on Oct. 4 to the standing-room only crowd at the finale at The Gershman Y, the crowd was diverse in age and background and alike in its forward-thinking approach.

Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia Board Chair, says, "When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in the discussions over the course of the past few weeks has been very different than that initial perception I got when I first moved here. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was as much about how to build on already existing innovation and assets the city has to offer."

Alain Joinville, Public Affairs Coordinator for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and a Young Involved Philly board member, adds, "It was easier to get partnering organizations involved. The State of Young Philly series is the biggest and most audacious project our organization has undertaken in its 11-year history, and we did it pretty well last year, so we are seen as a credible organization in the eyes of the City's leaders and leading organizations."

Robertson-Kraft points to several initiatives that launched in the lead-up to this year's State of Young Philly: a local version of the online web portal Change By Us,a partnership with United Way to improve Philadelphia public education, entry into the Open Data Philly challenge, and social media hashtags #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts.

But ultimately, the draw of State of Young Philly is the promise of doing good combined with a commitment to fun. Reports Robertson-Kraft, "Let’s just say that the after-party went into the late hours of the night. At all of our events, we strive to achieve that perfect balance of meaningful conversation and a good time."

It's a whole new take on a thousand points of light.

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Audaciousness Alert: Eff the PPA emerges a winner from Philly Startup Weekend

If you want to get ahead in the startup world, it helps to be audacious. Startup Weekend Philadelphia took place this past weekend, and the winner was Eff the PPA, a mobile app for finding parking, preventing tickets, and fighting parking tickets for a mere $5 fee. Second place went to HangPlan, a mobile app and website that helps people make plans with friends. Third place was awarded to Intro'd, a simple mobile app for connecting your colleagues.

Philly Startup Weekend (Twitter hashtag #phlsw) took place at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University, thanks to law professor Karl Okamoto, who was also a participant in the 54-hour event. Okamoto's initiative, ApprenNet, with the Law Meets project, grew out of the first Philly Startup Weekend in February and is already in use in 60 law schools as a way to leverage peer learning, with potential vertical applications in other kinds of businesses. In fact, Okamoto and team will be meeting with a national restaurant chain this week to see if the Meets model can translate to hospitality management.

But back to the winners. Eff the PPA draws its rebel energy from the team of Drexel Law student Hans Smith and entrepreneurs Ted Mann and Ashwin Dhir. In short order, the team built a powerful app that even includes a geolocation function and timer so you don't lose track of your vehicle or the time left on your meter. The team exhorts, "It's time to beat the parking authority at their own game. This app gives you the inside scoop on how to score a legal spot. And if you are still socked with a ticket, it gives you a quick and easy way to get it thrown out." While judge Tracy Welson-Rossman voiced her concerns about the name, saying she didn't want to sign up for the startup's twitter feed, the group got the most audible and hearty audience response of all presenters.

HangPlan, which came from the mind of Melissa Morris-Ivone, who recently made an impression at Ignite Philly with her presentation about the Operation Nice blog, is a way to streamline social gatherings. Rather than find out after the fact about a great party, HangPlan, endorsed by Philly Party Ambassador, lets users get the scoop before the first toast. "We not only created a web app, mobile app, and an API, but we developed a brand, gathered research, and put together a social media presence," says Morris-Ivone.

You can see a full list of all 20 startups that presented this weekend. Brad Oyler, one of the organizers of the weekend, thinks the more full-time presence of mentors made a big difference and he's looking forward to the next startup weekend in April.

"Also, a lot of the teams focused on customer feedback to help shape their business," says Oyler. "A few teams, like SME Brain and ApprenNet, even had meetings with some serious clients."

Source: Karl Okamoto, Brad Oyler, Melissa Morris-Ivone, Philadelphia Startup Weekend
Writer: Sue Spolan

Storably launches, offering space to people with stuff

There's two sides to every storage equation: too much stuff and too much space. A new startup, Storably, aims to reach a zero sum, matching people with stuff to people with space. "If you think of Craigslist," says Brendan Lowry (and who among us does not think of Craigslist), community manager for Storably, "our website is the same thing, with added verification of people renting and posting." The downside of Craigslist is a lack of verification and trust, which Storably aims to fix via peer review and communication, says Lowry.

"Especially in the city, there are no storage spots within walking distance. This solution can be very convenient. It opens up even more creative ideas because no one has thought of storage this way," adds Lowry. 

Storably's founders are Wharton grads Apu Gupta and Josh Kowitt, respectively CEO and CFO. Says Gupta, "I was getting frustrated with finding an inexpensive place to park my wife's car while Josh was finding that he had numerous people asking if they could store stuff in his empty basement. Josh and I were both really into what AirBnB was enabling people to do. We figured by applying the AirBnB model to parking and self-storage we could help people find the right space in the right place, and enable people to generate a meaningful income from their unused or underused space."

Each listing includes a description, map, and details on price, size, access and special features. Lowry himself has an empty bookshelf available for $5 a month at the Storably offices, located at 2038 Locust Street.

Not only can you find a place for your things. Storably also offers parking spots. Lowry explains, "If you were to list your parking spot for $100, we would list it on the website and add a percentage, so it would cost $115. You're not losing any money."

At this writing, Storably lists 467 parking spaces for rent, as low as $50 for a moped spot in Rittenhouse to a "large outdoor storage area" in Eddystone, described as "4,000 sq/ft of outdoor space to store your trailers, trucks, and other equipment. This space works well for landscapers and others who need to park vehicles nightly."

Storably, which launched at the end of last month, funding partly by bootstrapping and partly by undisclosed outside capital, plans to go national. Cities will be unlocked when 200 people sign up.

Source: Apu Gupta, Brendan Lowry, Storably
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Open Data Race lets you vote for data sets that are most fit for public consumption

Data collection and dissemination: how much fun is that? If you are participating in Philadelphia's Open Data Race, you might actually squeeze a good time out of otherwise flat statistics. Voting in the Open Data Race is open to the public until Oct. 27, and currently, you can make your opinion known on which of 24 data sets you would like to see made public.

"We hope to generate excitement around open data," says Deborah Boyer, project manager at Philadelphia-based Azavea. Nominations contributed by non-profit organizations were reviewed by OpenDataPhilly partners, namely Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, The William Penn Foundation, and Technically Philly.

It's probably too early to judge, but right now the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's request for stats on reported bike thefts is atop the rankings with 55 votes, followed by Demographic Info for Individuals Accessing Shelter Services submitted by Back on My Feet with 50 votes. Other organizations represented in the voting ranks include the Committee of 70, The Urban Tree Connection and The Sustainable Business Network.

Boyer says, "Public participation has been a key feature of OpenDataPhilly and is also crucial to the Open Data Race. We encourage people to submit data sets for inclusion in OpenDataPhilly or nominate data they would like to see made available."

Boyer points to difficulties municipalities might have in identifying which data is most needed. "Through Open Data Race, non-profit organizations have the opportunity to let the city and OpenDataPhilly partners know what information they need to fulfill their missions."

Winners, to be announced on Friday, Oct. 28, will receive cash prizes. First place gets $2,000, second place gets $1,000, and third receives $500. At that point, the fun really begins, when OpenDataPhilly works with the city to unlock the requested sets and then hosts hack-a-thons to create applications that use the data.

Source: Deborah Boyer, Azavea/OpenDataPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

GPIC awards $1.3M in regional energy efficiency grants to seven research projects

They might not reinvent the light bulb, but with any luck, they’ll cost less to use.

The Opportunity Research Fund of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster announced $1,327,253 in grants to seven research projects on Monday, all aimed at improving energy efficiency at the Philadelphia Navy Yard-based cluster.

The grants, which ranged between $100,000-$250,000 and were announced in a news release, "support research, development, demonstration and deployment of technologies, policies, business models and training programs that advance GPIC goals." GPIC is one of the nation’s three energy hubs working toward reducing American energy use in buildings by 50 percent and stimulate private investment and job creation in our region and beyond.

"The selected projects reflect the priorities and areas of need for GPIC where additional research will contribute significantly toward meeting GPIC goals and spurring innovation," says Henry Foley, executive director of GPIC and VP for research at Penn State University.

GPIC’s 24 member institutions were eligible to apply, but had to partner with a non-member on their proposals. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania managed the proposal review process. The funded projects include:

- Integrated Lighting Controls with Hybrid Connectivity for Energy Efficiency and Easy Retrofit, $200,573: Penn State University and Phillips Research North America

- Beta Testing, Validation and Manufacturing of Low Cost Next Generation HVAC Energy Efficiency and Smart Grid Retrofits for Commercial and Residential Applications, $146,692: Penn State University Center for High Performance Buildings and Pace Controls

- Demonstration of Modelica-Based Tool Chain for Rapid Prototyping and Evaluation of Integrated Business Controls, $233,000: Purdue University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

- The Sustainability Workshop, $200,000: Drexel University, Penn State University, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

- Electro Chronic Glazing for Improved Performance of Commercial Buildings,$200,000: Penn State University and Sage Electronics

- Navy Yard Operations Center: An Innovative Energy Management, Workforce Development and Education Opportunity for Greater Philadelphia, $161,487: Drexel University, Penn State University, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, University of Pennsylvania, and Viridity Energy

- Construct Baseline Commercial Building Envelope to Evaluate Energy Retrofit Strategies, $185,501: Bayer MaterialScience and Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Source: Christine Knapp, GPIC
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Speak up: TEDxPhilly 2.0, TEDxSJU on the horizon

The Femininjas are coming to TEDxPhilly, along with a whole cast of speakers designed to blow audiences away with their words, ideas and inspiration. The second annual local version of the global TED talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) will be Tuesday, Nov. 8, all day, starting at 9 a.m. at the Temple Performing Arts Center on North Broad Street.

"
The major difference with this venue, besides the location, is that we have the room to accommodate twice as many people," says TEDxPhilly organizer Roz Duffy. "We sold out last year (at the Kimmel Center) and had to deny people tickets leading up to the event due to capacity. This year, there should be more than enough seats for anyone who wants to attend."

The theme is The City, and organizers have invited  a compelling group of speakers to define the parameters of the urban landscape. "The City is about all aspects of urban life from people making a difference in Philadelphia and cities across the country to our collective experience of city life from the soundscape of our environment to the way we work, play, eat, live and breathe in the city," says Duffy.

Jennifer Pahlka, Executive Director of Code For America, will tell her tale of a year in city government. Speaker Youngjin Yoo is Director of Temple University's Center for Design+Innovation and Open Access Philly member.

Gregory Corbin, founder of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, where the Femininjas were born, will speak about creating an urban youth writing workshop that recently won national honors at Brave New Voices 2011 and a Knight Foundation grant. DJ Rich Medina will speak on spinning around the globe; sculptor Janet Echelman describes her art which combines ancient techniques with cutting edge technology; Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way Center, hosts the event.

"We will probably get close to 20 speakers this year and I’d guess around 800 attendees, but we have room for over 1,000 attendees, so we hope we can really fill the place with passionate, creative and inspiring individuals," says Duffy, who points to one returning guest she's particularly thrilled about. "Stanford Thompson leads a very intense music education program. Stanford’s students’ performance was so moving last year that there was not a dry eye in the house."

A full list of speakers and a link to purchase tickets can be found on the TEDxPhilly website.

By the way, St. Joe's is getting into the TED act with its inaugural TEDxSJU, which takes place on Oct. 13 from 4-7 p.m. at St. Joe's Campus Commons Building and will feature social entrepreneurs from across the country, including Olivia Bouler, who at age 12 created Save The Gulf, and LynnMcConville, whose Power Up Gambia is bringing solar to the African nation. The event is free and open to the public.

Source: Roz Duffy, TEDxPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

R.E.Load bags the recession, retools boutique manufacturing of messenger bags

You’ve more than likely come close to sideswiping a cyclist sporting a messenger bag with your car. You better pray that’s a R.E.Load product at stake. Operating out of a small boutique on 2nd Street in Northern Liberties, the Philadelphia company and its staff stand much larger and tougher than meets the eye. While growth has been slow, according to co-owner Roland Burns, R.E.Load continues to try new methods to stay afloat. "We discovered that, due to the nature of our production methods and materials, increases in volume didn't necessarily result in that much more of a bottom line, and it made us miserable."

The company prides itself on durable products that that honor self-expression, and an underlying business integrity rooted in humble beginnings. Roland Burns and Eleanor “Ellie” Lum, the ‘R’ and ‘E’ in R.E.Load, began the business while working full-time as bike couriers in Philadelphia, creating custom bags for friends and co-workers on the side.

“We're doing our part to inspire a resurgence of manufacturing within Philadelphia,” co-founder and materials engineer Roland Burns says. The company has grown from producing a few prototypes to creating an internationally marketed product.

“We're very lucky. Our bags are pretty recognizable, and in a lot of cases, when somebody has a really custom bag, other people will approach them to talk about it,” Burns says. Lucky is one way to describe it. With distributors in Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Japan and several European nations, lucky seems awfully generous.
 
R.E.Load has made a name for itself in a largely cycling-friendly demographic. The company is comprised of a dedicated group of six staff members who produce all merchandise in-house.
 
The recession has posed challenges for the small company. “One of the main things we face is the rising cost of material,” Burns says, adding that he’s seen a steady decrease in the availability of US-made material. Rather than sacrificing quality for quantity, the company is now aiming for plainer designs.
 
New product lines have less focus on originality and limited edition bags. “I'd like to think that we give people a chance to express themselves in a way that they might not have previously considered,” Burns says.

Source: Roland Burns, R.E.Load Bags
Writer: Michael Murphy

How to Ignite hearts and minds, one slide deck at a time

The first thing you need to know is that Alex Hillman is dangerously awesome. He is the Pied Piper of the tech community. And he had a lot of competition onstage at Ignite Philly 8, which took place before a packed audience on Thursday (Sept. 22) at Johnny Brenda's in Fishtown.

Anyone who creates slide presentations needs to attend the next Ignite Philly. That would be you. Aside from 12 presentations about incredibly cool initiatives taking place in Philadelphia, the most inspiring part was the creative way presenters used Power Point. Makes a geeky girl sigh with pleasure.

The evening, hosted by Geoff DiMasi, David Clayton and Dana Vachon, began with Melissa Morris Ivone's Operation Nice. Talking about the inception of her blog, Ivone told the story of one morning commute during which she was cut off by another driver, but the day turned around when a stranger was nice to her on an elevator. That tiny act bloomed into the Operation Nice blog, which sports the tagline, "Encouraging individuals to be proactively nice." Kind of a pay it forward for the intelligentsia.

Did you know that Philadelphia has an Art Hotel? Krista Peel and Zak Starer run an artist residency located in East Kensington. Each year, the hotel accepts 10 residents free of charge. Chirstian Kunkel is bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to Philadelphia public school students with Startup Corps, which has already helped 70 young entrepreneurs in 6 schools, with the help of 150 mentors. Kunkel's dream is to offer an opportunity to start a business to every public school student in Philadelphia.

Hillman and DiMasi presented K'House, their coworking and cohousing experiment now under construction in Kensington. A last minute addition to the lineup, Hillman and DiMasi's presentation was created by drawing on bar napkins, taking iPhone pictures of the napkins, and building a brilliant slide show that had the crowd roaring. "I never know how the talks are going to turn out, but they always seem to exceed expectations," comments DiMasi, who counted 300 people in the capacity crowd.

Danielle Redden took us boating on the tidal Schuylkill; Michelle Bland invited everyone to Nerd Nite Philly; Theresa Rose, Jordan Rock and Brett Mapp explained the Philly Stake dinner concept; Mira Adornetto and Joel Fath planted the idea of Philly Seed Exchange; Tristin Hightower and Nicole Kline told the story of Philly Girl Geek Dinners; Greg Hoy made an argument for why Sansom Street should be confined to pedestrian traffic in his talk, "Less Garbage Juice, More with Love xoxo;" Gabriel Mandujano and Joel Hommes encouraged sustainable cleanliness with their business Wash Cycle Laundry, and Sarah McEneany  talked about the latest developments along the Reading Viaduct.

The majority of the night's proceeds were awarded to a former Ignite Philly Speaker, the EVX West Philly Hybrid X Team, which won $1,000 toward teaching high school students to build hybrid cars.

Source: Geoff Di Masi, Ignite Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

GPIC juggling several projects that aim to centralize energy efficiency

There's a major problem with the building industry. With 800,000 construction or architecture and engineering firms in the United States, each with an average of 10 employees, there is no critical mass to forward research and development, according to Christine Knapp of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC).

Knapp sees GPIC, a recipient of $129 million in federal funding to be a hub for energy efficiency, as a way to centralize the scattered practice, and there are a lot of initiatives underway at the multidisciplinary organization based at the Navy Yard, including the construction of a combination demonstration project and headquarters.

"We've selected our architectural design team. Kieran Timberlake is a Philadelphia based firm. It happened to work out that the team that won is local," says Knapp. "We're really trying to change the way buildings are designed. We want to be a case study and show people the hiccups and process. A big part of our work is showing the value of integrative construction, design and retrofit."

GPIC workshops are one way to accomplish increased cooperation and vertical integration, and a bunch are lined up this fall, including one that dovetails with DesignPhiladelphia. In November, a series of innovation seminars will begin.

Another goal is data collection, which is a huge job, and Knapp says GPIC is actively seeking a Building Energy Data Manager. "We met with the EPA and the Department of Energy. We plan to sync up with them, and share what data we are getting access to," says Knapp, in an effort to establish a baseline and cobble together a snapshot of the current state of construction.

GPIC is also home to The Sustainability Workshop, an academy for high school seniors that grew out of the West Philly Hybrid X team, which beat out MIT in a national hybrid car building competition. "If they could accomplish this much with an after school program," says Knapp, "what can they do with a full time school? Instead of automobiles, the focus could be energy efficiency of buildings, and they'd contribute to GPIC," says Knapp, who adds that her organization will be assisting with funding for the first year, and in return, students will be contributing to GPIC's work. Right now the program has 30 high school seniors and two full time educators.

In the near future, look for GPIC announcements about the disbursement of $10 million to up to seven applicants for the Opportunity Research Fund. Also, says Knapp, look for an upcoming announcement from GPIC about the choice of teams to assist with strategic planning as well as marketing and communications.

Source: Christine Knapp, GPIC
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crowdsourced education comes to Philly with Skillshare

What do you know? There's a new way to make money based on your particular set of skills and talents. It's called Skillshare. Launched in Philadelphia last month with national headquarters in New York City, Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything and get paid for it. Brendan Lowry has been in charge of launching the program in Philadelphia. "Every city is a university, all the restaurants and cafes are classrooms, and our neighbors are our greatest teachers," says Lowry, whose title is Special Operations.

Here's how it works: Say you are really good at knitting. Sure, you could sell your stuff on Etsy. But with Skillshare, you can also hold knitting class at a location of your choice. Set your own price per student, and get paid through PayPal. Skillshare deducts 15 percent of every ticket sold.

Skillshare, on a mission to democratize and redefine education, launched in New York in May of this year, and is now operating in Philadelphia and San Francisco, with hopes for setting up in cities across the US. Each city needs to be unlocked by popular vote. When the vote count surpasses 500, a team is created to get the word out. "We've targeted the tech community. It's one of the first industries we tapped into, but we don't want to fall exclusively in that category," says Lowry, who says right now there are over a hundred classes on offer in the Philadelphia area, ranging from The Art of the Cold Call to Beer 101. Teachers post credentials and a feedback process is designed to ensure a quality learning experience (full disclosure: I am teaching Communications for Startups on Sept. 20).

"Our marketing budget is literally zero dollars," says Lowry, who has done outreach through social media and word of mouth. There is also a newly created, limited time $1,000 scholarship fund which encourages more people to take classes in Philly and SF. Skillshare is set to launch next in Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans.

Source: Brendan Lowry, Skillshare
Writer: Sue Spolan

Growing Greenphire: KOP clinical research firm doubling staff

Put that paperwork down. Greenphire is fundamentally changing the entire clinical research industry. The King of Prussia based company has two products, ClinCard and eClinical GPS, designed to streamline clinical research studies. The technology is working, and it's well received, having just closed a round of Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital, on the heels of Ben Franklin Technology Partners funding last year.

Greenphire's COO John Samar reports that this year, the company will achieve 300 percent revenue growth over last year, currently serving 200 customers including big name pharma, biotech and medical device companies. Just four years ago Greenphire consisted of Samar and co-founder/CEO Sam Whitaker, and with the cash influx, the company is hiring. Samar estimates that the current staff of 16 will double by spring of 2012. Currently, there are three openings: VP Program Management, Program Manager and Office Manager/Client Support/Bookkeeper.

ClinCard, says Samar, is Greenphire's debit card based product that handles payments for participation in clinical research trials, adding email and SMS functionality to keep patients engaged in studies. Participants receive tailored messaging and appointment reminders.

"There are a lot of value adds that result from the way we package," says Samar. "Sponsors get cleaner, more robust data, and patients are happier. The whole clinical research industry is realizing that it needs to be more patient centered." Increased compliance on both sides of the equation, from patients to paperwork, sets ClinCard in its own class, and it's not hard to see how Greenphire's technology could be applied to a much wider healthcare market.

But Samar says right now Greenphire is sticking to its expertise in the clinical research sector, and this year launched its second product, eClinical-GPS (Global Payment System) to address payments involved in the execution of the study. So, for example, if a clinician draws blood, reimbursement -- which previously took 6 to 8 months -- now arrives within three days.

The high growth private company is partnering with Mytrus for Pfizer's virtual clinical trial program that allows participants to remain at home, using electronic communication tools to recruit, retain and administer studies.

Source: John Samar, Greenphire
Writer: Sue Spolan

ReAnimator blazes local coffee roasting trail without the burn

The appreciation of coffee has risen to an art form, following the path of fine wine and craft beer. And while the city is dotted with culinary coffee establishments, most are serving products shipped in from distant locations. A new company, inspired by single origin roasters like Stumptown and CounterCulture, brings craft roasting to Philadelphia. ReAnimator Coffee was founded in April by Drexel University grads Mark Corpus and Mark Capriotti.

Corpus says that while coffee has been his stimulant of choice for years, visits to New York's Cafe Grumpy and 9th Street Espresso changed his opinion about how a cup of joe should taste. "These were coffees that were not only roasted to perfection, but were selected purposefully. At the time, there weren't many places in Philadelphia doing this type of coffee so I began looking into home roasting," says Corpus. "It was an interesting hobby that appealed to my nerdy tendencies and produced super fresh and delicious coffee with relative ease."

It was only through conversations with partner Capriotti that Corpus looked at his hobby with an eye toward a business. Using personal savings, the java-jolted duo took on the purchase of a roaster, which can run upwards of $8,000 for a starter model, and purchased  inventory. Coffee bean prices are now at an all time high, according to Corpus.

Both partners are still working day jobs, but have been pleasantly surprised by growth in sales during a hot summer. It's no surprise to anyone who tastes ReAnimator, which goes down easy, lacking the acidity and charred taste of the big name brands. "When you roast a coffee until it's burnt, all of the oils that hold all of those interesting aromas and flavors are lost. You see them on the outside of a greasy burnt bean where they do not provide any additional flavor to the brew," says Corpus. "When you take the time to figure out what roast level makes the coffee flavor best, you get the full potential of a bean."

ReAnimator has relied almost entirely on social media marketing using Facebook and Twitter, and they can almost always be found on Saturdays at Greensgrow Farmer's Market, just blocks from ReAnimator world headquarters in Fishtown. In addition to online sales, Quince Fine Foods and Green Aisle Grocery both stock the local roast, and Circles restaurant sells it by the cup.

As far as the name? "We wanted something that sounded different, not so burlap baggy wholesome. I had been reading HP Lovecraft's ReAnimator and it struck me as a great, unique term, and in my own experience reanimation and coffee go hand in hand," says Corpus, whose name, fittingly, translates as "body" from Latin.

Source: Mark Corpus, ReAnimator Coffee
Writer: Sue Spolan

NJ farm-to-table distributor Zone 7 doubles sales, hiring

There's a whole lot of hiring going on in Zone 7. Lest you think you've slipped into a science fiction world, Fresh From Zone 7 is the name of a fast growing company that's, well, all about growing. Founded in 2008 by Mikey Azzara, the Cranbury, N.J.-based farm-to-table distributor serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey has doubled in sales every year.

Right now, there are five job openings for energetic people who are committed to providing local food to local eaters: sales, warehouse crew, warehouse crew leader, drivers (multiple) and a sales team intern. While the positions are primarily part time, the right candidate could combine several to create a full time gig. Currently there are 9 people on staff, and the new hires would represent about a fifty percent increase. The company began with just two employees in 2008.

Azzara reports that each week of the 2011 season, Zone 7 has been adding deliveries at an almost explosive rate and at this point is maxed out in terms of staffing.

"On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, all three of our trucks are out," says Azzara of the fleet that picks up from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania, delivering to over 80 establishments, including The Farm and Fisherman, Southwark, Garces Trading Company, Weaver's Way, Greensgrow and the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia. The New Jersey territory stretches from Atlantic City to West New York, NJ.

The 40 farms that supply Zone 7 include Blooming Glen, Jah's Creation Organic, Griggstown Farm Market, and Branch Creek, where the original seed for Zone 7 was planted.

Azzara had been working for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey for five years when he sat down at the table of Mark and Judy Dornstreich, pioneers of the local food movement and founders of Branch Creek Farm, which has been growing and delivering organic produce to Philadelphia restaurants since the 1970s. "They supplied me with the truck, the name and the idea," says Azzara.

Zone 7, named for the USDA Hardiness Zone in which we live, is a 52-week-a-year operation, says Azzara, and its busiest months, surprisingly, are November and December. "Our time to catch our breath is January, February and March." Starting in April, asparagus and swiss chard are the first crops to harvest.

Source: Mikey Azzara, Zone 7
Writer: Sue Spolan

Drexel's Baiada Center set for expansion, to add lab for entrepreneurial focus groups

The Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business is about to expand, taking up residence in the soon to be constructed LeBow building at 32nd and Market Streets. Currently tucked away in a former industrial space at 32nd and Arch, the Baiada Center has been physically separate from LeBow, but that's all about to change. The business school's former home, the Mathieson Building, is now in the process of being demolished to make way for a 12 story state of the art structure. The new Baiada Center will have a light-flooded open floor plan, and will add a behavioral lab where entrepreneurs can conduct focus group tests.

A division of LeBow, Baiada has long offered full support for entrepreneurs, from office and conference space to mentoring, training and promotion. "A lot of what we do is built around the presumption that most entrepreneurs know their space, and need help building and selling their companies,' says Mark Loschiavo, Executive Director and Senior Executive in Residence. Startups, which range in specialty from transportation to medical devices, also receive a small amount of seed capital.

The current space is currently home to ten companies, notably CityRyde, which just received $345,000 in funding for its bike share technology, as well as current undergrad Bradley Ericson, whose company 3 Second Receipts earned him the title of Entrepreneur magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2009.

Loschiavo says that the vast majority of Baiada's tenants are Drexel alums, and all have had some affiliation with Drexel. The center chooses two to three companies each year, negotiates a competitive one-year lease, and reviews the startup's performance at the end of the initial contract.

While residence is open ended, Loschiavo says companies must show movement in the right direction to remain in the center. One Baiada business, Drexel Drinks, is something of an incubator within an incubator. The on-campus beverage delivery service has become a model for succession, providing turnover and training as students graduate and move on.

Founder and primary funder Mel Baiada is a Drexel alum and serial entrepreneur who credits a successful exit in the software industry. He also founded Basecamp Business, a networking tool for entrepreneurs. "The Baiada Center established a culture of entrepreneurship at Drexel, and helps the university maintain an entrepreneurial focus," he says. Mel's brother, Mark, who founded Bayada Nurses, is also an investor in the incubator, which is named in honor of their father. The new LeBow building should be complete in 18 months.

Source: Mark Loschiavo, Mel Baiada, The Baiada Center
Writer: Sue Spolan

From trading bonds to raising chickens, sustainably of course

Agriculture wasn't in Dean Carlson's original plan. "I was a bond trader working in derivatives," says the owner of Wyebrook Farm, a 355-acre spread in Chester County. Carlson is now offering sustainably raised chicken and eggs, with beef and pork on offer this fall. "We have two full time employees, three summer employees and two chef interns," says Carlson of the Honey Brook operation.

Carlson left Susquehanna International Group in 2009, hoping to take time off in a bear market. "I came across the idea of sustainable agriculture and became captivated by it," says Carlson, who explains that conventional agriculture, with its dependence on cheap oil, cannot last forever. "Five to 10 years years from now, it will be obvious. Food will become higher priced and more scarce. You see it already."

Carlson purchased the foreclosed 200 year-old farm from a bank for $4.25 million, and has invested over $750,000 in improvements, which include solar power and renovations to three existing 18th century stone buildings. "The previous owner was going to develop the land into a 100 house tract," says Carlson.

"I looked at the business of conventional farming and didn't like it," explains Carlson, who refers to standard practices as the definition of a bad business -- capital intensive and fraught with variables. "With sustainable agriculture, you are minimizing your input cost. Instead of machinery and hay in a barn, animals are out in the field, harvesting the grass themselves. Our input costs are sunshine and rain."

Wyebrook Farm's first product, Freedom Rangers Chicken, is now available for $4 a pound direct from the farm. Carlson is transforming the old stone barn into a store where customers will be able to purchase chemical-free grass fed meat and poultry directly. It's just a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and not much farther from New York.

Carlson draws inspiration from billionaire financier Jim Rogers, who, when asked by a room full of MBA finance students for advice, replied "Quit school and go work on a farm."

Source: Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm
Writer: Sue Spolan

South Philly resident grows composting collection business

Your scraps are Tim Bennett's gold mine. Bennett Compost offers urban dwellers the opportunity to recycle food waste without expensive equipment or outdoor space. Bennett began the business out of a personal need. "At the time, where I was living in South Philly, I wanted to compost, but I had no backyard." After dissatisfaction with home composting systems costing around $300, Bennett created a composting service that would benefit city homes and businesses at a fraction of the cost.

For a $15 monthly fee, residential customers receive a covered bucket, and Bennett's truck swings around once a week to empty and return the container. Commercial customers, including coffee shops, a florist and some restaurants, pay on a sliding scale depending on volume and frequency of pickup, but Bennett adds that the cost offsets commercial trash hauling fees, and in some cases commercial customers are able to save money on refuse.

Used food and some types of paper are sent to a composting facility in Delaware and then picked up for distribution to area community gardens. Customers can opt to receive up to 10 gallons of the finished product free of charge; beyond that, compost is available at a discounted price. You don't have to be a customer to buy compost. Five gallon buckets are available to the general public for $10, and will soon be sold at area retail locations including Essene Market and Green Aisle Grocery.

Current offices are based in South Philly at Bennett's home, with a North Philadelphia warehouse. Bennett was able to quit his day job at Temple University last summer to devote his career full time to compost. "We bootstrapped our way up. Now we are profitable enough that I am able to pay my own salary, and we have three part time employees." The business continues to grow, with 300 residential customers and 20 businesses distributed across the entire city.

Source: Tim Bennett, Bennett Compost
Writer: Sue Spolan

Alpha Bike: How a team of local engineering students reinvinted the bicycle

Riding a bike to national recognition, a team of University of Pennsylvania mechanical engineering students created a revolutionary cycle design that propels far more than the rider. Geoff Johnson, Evan Dvorak, Lucas Hartman, Katie Savarise, and Katie Rohacz teamed up on the design and fabrication of The Alpha Bike, which is now getting coast-to-coast attention.

"Bikes have not changed much in the last 150 years," says Dvorak, who explains that Alpha allows the rider to literally flip a switch between freewheel and fixie style, which he compares to driving an automatic versus manual transmission car.

Alpha Bike is elegant. There are no external cables, brakes or hardware. Smooth surfaces were either milled or printed, and it is mindbending technology that allows stainless steel parts and plastic handlebars to emerge from a 3D printer. The seamless result came from thousands of hours of work. Dvorak estimates that the team spent, at minimum, 700 hours each over the course of their senior year, all while pulling full courseloads of up to six classes.

The 28 pound bike incorporates an electronic system similar to that of a hybrid car, with a dynamo, capacitors, an internal drive train, and the option to add even more bells and whistles such as an accelerometer. "We got our inspiration from Apple's design philosophy," says Dvorak, who describes the computer maker's products as almost magical. "The technology is completely hidden." Alpha's elegant and simple profile belies the complexity of the design.

The team estimates cost of the materials at between $15,000-$20,000, with much donated or purchased at a greatly reduced cost. Johnson, who calls this a concept bike, is not interested in selling the Alpha, but estimates the final tab for parts and labor at somewhere around $50,000.

The Alpha team received an initial budget of $1,500 from the School of Applied Engineering and Science; the team was able to fund the rest thanks to several dozen sponsors and suppliers.

The technology that the team developed is ripe for licensing, and after a recent demonstration, Drexel School of Law Dean Roger Dennis offered to handle the patent work. Johnson has been in talks with Specialized, an international cycle manufacturer out of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Source: Geoff Johnson, Evan Dvorak, Alpha Bike
Writer: Sue Spolan

Local bipartisan effort to boost life sciences aims to maintain region's edge

Concerns about money are raising the legislative roof at the federal level. Meanwhile, jobs and innovation are flowing out of the US and into China, India and the EU. The US biopharmaceutical industry is undergoing major changes. Hundreds of small and medium sized firms require intensive capital to conduct research. Major players in the industry, including Sanofi-Aventis,Merck, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have cut more than 43,000 jobs nationwide as of September 2010. Health care reform adds more uncertainty to the industry at large.

Rather than attempt to allocate nonexistent federal money for life sciences research and development, Representatives Chakah Fattah, Allyson Schwartz, and Pat Meehan, along with Senator Robert Casey Jr., have a plan to provide money on a national level for the life sciences industry though tax incentives. On July 25, the bipartisan group introduced The Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act of 2011 at the University City Science Center, a locus of life science research.

"This legislation is about inventing the future," says Casey. "In Pennsylvania, we don't wait for events to overtake us."

Southeastern Pennsylvania's political leaders have a vested interest in life sciences, according to Schwartz, who pointed to the concentration of teaching hospitals, medical research and life science entrepreneurs here.

"It's one of the aspects of the American economy where we are still leading, but we won't continue if we can't compete," said Meehan, who stressed that the bipartisan effort will have a much better chance of passing. Schwartz added, "It's not an easy time to get anything done in Washington."

The legislation, introduced on July 25, doubles the credit from 20 to 40 percent for the first $150 million of life sciences research and development. Also, to encourage domestic productivity, companies that bring foreign profits back to the United States will enjoy a reduced tax rate, as long as those funds that are used to hire domestic scientists and researchers and make new investments in American research and development.

Source: Robert Casey Jr., Allyson Schwartz, Pat Meehan, US Congress
Writer: Sue Spolan

The coolest company in Philly: OxiCool ramps up AC tech, hiring

There's something cool going on with air conditioning. OxiCool, Inc. a Philadelphia-based company, which has received $400,000 in investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, including $250,000 announced from its Competitive Energy Consortia last month, recently received a patent for its environmentally friendly air-cooling technology.  OxiCool is working under a Joint Development Agreement with one of the three largest truck companies in the world, and is about to finish their second prototype.

The technology uses water as the main refrigerant and low-grade, recycled heat from exhaust waste and other green sources as the main energy source. There are no toxic components and zero direct emissions; virtually this technology is completely clean.

OxiCool initially developed this technology to be used in sleeper cabs in long-haul trucks. Often the only way for drivers to power their air-conditioning units while they aren't driving is to idle their engines, producing exhaust and wasting fuel and contributing massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. OxiCool's product eliminates the need to idle because the technology uses minimal amounts of electricity to operate. This development has the potential to save nearly 11 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, as well as a lot of grief for truck drivers in the more than 30 states that have introduced anti-idling legislation.

OxiCool's joint research and development agreement with the U.S. Navy and another with an unnamed large U.S. corporation comprise much of its work at present. The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and private angel investors from across the country are other investors. OxiCool is in hiring mode, looking for "exceptional candidates."

Source: Emma Kaye, OxiCool
Writer: Nina Rosenberg


Community innovation at Stake with thriving local and organic fundraising dinners

You can have your stake and eat it too at this local micro-funding event. Philly Stake provides fast funding for great ideas, with a heaping helping of local cuisine and good cheer. On July 17, the group set up at Historic Bartram's Garden on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia.

A sliding scale admission fee of up to $20 gave over 250 attendees the opportunity to hear about 10 local startup projects while enjoying a locally sourced organic dinner. It was immediate gratification. At the end of the night, three groups were handed cash to carry out proposals.

Tidal Schuylkill River Tour received $1,000 to collaborate with the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory in creating a vessel that will go out on a river tour; Fair Grounds won $600 to build a food and sculpture garden in East Kensington; and Sunday Suppers received $500 to encourage family dinners in low income areas of Philadelphia.

Theresa Rose, who by day works for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and The Creative Economy, is the founder of Philly Stake, which is not connected with her work for the government. "I was excited about the idea of having a platform for people to get together and share ideas," says Rose. "There's so much going on in Philadelphia, but not so many outlets for us to share with each other." The July event was the third in the growing series, which began last September.

A shorts and sundress clad crowd set up blankets on a grassy bank overlooking the 46-acre botanic gardens and enjoyed a summer menu that included veggie and meat tamales, salads, dessert, beer and wine served on vintage plates collected at local thrift stores. Ten fundraising hopefuls, chosen randomly from a pool of 21 applicants, presented projects. Voting ballots were collected and tabulated on the spot to determine the night's winners.

It takes a lot of volunteer effort to orchestrate Philly Stake. There are 18 dedicated core organizers, according to Rose, who donate time and skills, including chefs Eliot Strathman and Eric Blasco. Rose got the idea for the program after attending Feast in Brooklyn and says it fulfills a need for a place to exchange creative ideas and foster connections. The next Stake dinner is planned for this fall in Center City.

Source: Theresa Rose, Philly Stake
Writer: Sue Spolan


Cluster-struck: Assessing the future of industry clusters

As America races to maintain standing in the global economy, industry clusters have been touted as a key strategy for technological innovation. While Silicon Valley and North Carolina's Research Triangle are held as bright spots where higher education meets high tech, few innovation clusters are successful. A recent column in the Washington Post dubbed government funded industry clusters "the modern day snake oil," doomed to fail.

At the third annual Regional Affinity Incubation Network (RAIN) meeting, held last week at the University City Science Center, David Finegold, Dean of Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations, responded. "A lot of efforts haven't panned out, but industry clusters are not without hope." He explained that early efforts were "real estate plays." What sets the tri-state region apart is the ability to build from that which is distinctive about this area, said Finegold, rather than starting from scratch and hoping that if it's built, innovation will come.

New Jersey, in particular, has nowhere to go but up, having ranked last in 2010 in U.S. job creation. While traditionally the state was a leader in biopharma and telecommunications, these industries made up a large-firm culture, and it's now time to build diverse networks, according to Finegold.

The University City District in Philadelphia is a 2.5 square mile powerhouse of commercial and institutional vitality, employing 70,000 people, according to UCD president Matthew Bergheiser. Forty percent of NIH funding in Pennsylvania is granted to projects within the boundaries of University City, and the Science Center has long been a fertile startup breeding ground that encourages organic growth, rather than superimposing ideas of innovation on an otherwise bereft area.

In Delaware, by contrast, plans are underway to convert Newark's former Chrysler assembly plant into an 250 acre innovation hub complete with living and working space, with an existing rail station to encourage commuters, and the potential to create collaboration across state lines, according to David Weir, PhD, Director of the Office of the Economic Innovation & Partnerships at the University of Delaware.

With a continued soft real estate market, Finegold offers that the way out of the recession is through leveraging human capabilities and university facilities. "We already have a great talent base here," said Finegold of efforts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, which he terms one of the most diverse regions on the planet.

RAIN is a regional network of over 40 research parks, incubators and support organizations located in the tri-state area.

Source: David Finegold, Matthew Bergheiser, David Weir, RAIN
Writer: Sue Spolan

PHOTO:

Former Chrysler Assembly Plant in Newark DE


PECO's load balancing gets tested with heatwave

Heat waves put a serious burden on the electric grid. Day after day of 90 degree heat translate into peak load for PECO as customers crank up the air conditioning. PECO Smart A/C Saver, part of the Smart Ideas program, asks electric users to participate in load reduction, not just by turning up the thermostat by a few degrees, but by allowing PECO to install a switch directly on air conditioner compressors.

As a thank you, residential and commercial customers receive a $30 rebate in June, July, August and September for a total savings of $120, whether or not the Smart A/C Saver kicks in. Last week, amid days of 90 plus degrees, the first ever A/C Saver event occurred, according to Cathy Engel Menendez, manager of communications for PECO. And participants probably didn't even notice.

After agreeing to join the Smart A/C Saver program, PECO sends out a technician to install a small gray box directly on the exterior compressor unit. A Smart A/C Saver event means that the compressor cycle will be slowed down, and the compressor rests up to 15 minutes of every half hour between the hours of noon and eight in the evening.

While the program quietly launched last summer, the big marketing push occurred this past spring, and this summer is the first that the program is in use, with 67,469 residential and commercial customers for a savings of 320 megawatt hours. The Smart A/C program also created 161 new jobs in the Philadelphia area.

Smart A/C Saver is part of a broader initiative. "In Pennsylvania, the Public Utilities Commision challenged all utilities to come up with products and programs to help customers save money and energy," says Menendez, who adds that the timing couldn't have been better with the expiration of rate caps this past January along a with sluggish economy.

Other programs in the Smart Ideas suite include energy efficient appliance rebates, old appliance recycling, and incentives to use better bulbs. Menendez reports that taking the whole suite of programs into account, through May 2011, customers saved more than 546 million kilowatt hours of electricity, and an estimated $131 million.

Source: Cathy Engel Menendez
Writer: Sue Spolan

University City locavores on display for Dining Days

University City's story of urban renewal, job creation and international talent is well-told. In a few short years, the 20 by 16 block, 2.5 square mile neighborhood has blossomed into a hub for culture and technology, with business and creative communities growing in tandem. One benchmark is fast growth in the food world, where five of The Food Trust's 40 area farmer's markets operate. For example, the Clark Park farmer's market has grown 30 percent since 2005 and has expanded from Friday afternoons when it began in 1998 to two days a week and year-round.

Another example can be found right now in University City Dining Days. An expected 26,000 patrons of 29 restaurants will eat the fruit of world class chefs like Garces and Flay for under $30. There's been a 20% increase in full service restaurants in the neighborhood in the past three years.

Philly Homegrown turns a sharp focus on all the awesome food on offer round these parts, and considers University City to be at the top of the locavore list, as the area provides a concentrated look at what can happen when people take farm to table very seriously. "West Philly is particularly rich in chefs and consumers who care about food," says Donna Schorr of the GPTMC.

UC menus tend toward locally grown and sourced items, and chefs may be found perusing the goods at Clark Park, where thousands flock weekly and even includes food trucks Honest Tom's and Guapos Tacos, which was recently renovated and sports bright orange furniture.

"It's a good source of revenue for small to medium family farms," says the Food Trust's Nick Uy, noting his organization charges vendors just $35 per stand.

There's an explosion of activity west of the Schuylkill, according to UC District Communications Manager Mark Christman, with tourism friendly Sustainable Saturdays and Farm to Table Trolley Tours; as well as neighborhood boosters like the Clean & Safe Program which employs 80 people who function as West Philly ambassadors, and the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, now in its second year providing employment for local high school students.

Source: Nicky Uy, Food Trust; Mark Christman, UC District; Donna Schorr, GPTMC/Philly Homegrown
Writer: Sue Spolan

CityRyde hiring developers after winning funding, validation for carbon reduction measurement

CityRyde, the Philadelphia-based startup that makes software to turn bike rides into cash, has become the first company to receive validation for its carbon methodology. "It's software that tracks every bike ride," explains Tim Ericson, CityRyde CEO and co-founder. All those accrued miles can then be sold as carbon credits as part of a worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adds co-founder and COO Jason Meinzer.

The company also announced that it will be receiving a total of $345,000, half from Virginia-based New Dominion Angels, and half in matching funds from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA.

CityRyde started as a Philly bicycle sharing concept. While there are no communal bikes on the streets here just yet, in a few years, CityRyde has instead positioned itself as a global software solution provider at the juncture of transportation and energy.

The startup's proprietary Inspire software enables bike sharing programs worldwide to create a new revenue stream. Ericson explains that Inspire "pinpoints the exact amount of carbon emissions saved, so it can be aggregated and sold within the carbon space."

Eight people now work at CityRyde, which is based at Drexel's Baiada Center. "We're hiring. It's part of Ben Franklin's requirement for funding,' says Ericson. "We anticipate having pretty extensive hiring spree in the next year." Developer positions will be advertised first, according to Ericson.

The idea for CityRyde came from a visit to Paris, where Ericson and Meinzer saw Velib' docks everywhere they turned. "Bike sharing has completely transformed the way the city moves, and reduced traffic by 8 percent within a year of implementation in Paris," says Meinzer, who terms biking the fastest growing form of transportation worldwide, with a predicted apex in 2017.

Source: Tim Ericson, Jason Meinzer, CityRyde
Writer: Sue Spolan

Amada means green: Heat recovery system lowers costs, kitchen temps for Garces

Jose Garces' Amada in Old City is known as the Iron Chef's flagship restaurant. With new heat recovery equipment in its basement that saves energy and money, the Spanish tapas restaurant has also become a green machine.

The system, installed by Scot Ziskind of Philly-based Zipco Wine Cellars, is a remarkably simple addition to the restaurant's kitchen. A closed heat transfer system unit siphons the heat from the restaurant's walk-in refrigerators straight to their water heaters and preheats the water for service. This recycled heat reduces fossil fuel consumption, saving energy and money, and as an added bonus, cools off notoriously sweltering restaurant kitchens to much more workable conditions.

Heat Recovery equipment is in no way new--dairy farms in the Midwest have been utilizing similar systems for ages. Ziskind discovered the heat recovery systems, manufactured by Mueller Industries of Nashville, and began installing them nearly two decades ago but demand was not high enough to make the service sustainable. The new emphasis on conservation and green energy however, has brought this kind of innovation back into the spotlight. Center City's Oyster House on Sansom Street and University City's White Dog Cafe use the heat recovery equipment and the now retired Philadeli had the system for years; one summer they reported saving nearly 80 percent of their energy costs.

Of course this statistic is not unusual; the beauty of the heat recovery equipment is in its simplicity and unobtrusive nature. Ziskind maintains that due to energy savings, the equipment will end up paying itself off in less than two years.

"The people that put it in were looking for a way to cut back on expenses without changing the quality of what the did," says Ziskind.

Source: Scot Ziskind, Zipco Wine Cellars
Writer: Nina Rosenberg


Entrepreneurial mom/lawyer makes business out of beauty in the gritty city

It's a gritty city, and someone's got to pretty it up. Sarah Holmes' Gritty City Beauty Company began as a personal quest for simple skin care products. "It started when I was pregnant," recalls Holmes, who had to give up tubes of topical ointment and needed a healthier alternative. She started making her own scrubs and masks, and it wasn't long before the full-time product liability lawyer saw a business idea in her afterwork potion making.

"It seemed like the more I cut out the prescription creams, the better my skin got," says Holmes, and Gritty City Beauty Company was born at the end of last summer. Holmes is also a wife and mother of a 15 month old toddler, yet she somehow finds time evenings and weekends to create and grow her line of organic beauty products.

Gritty City now carries soaps, scrubs and toners as well as all natural makeup. While the former can be cooked up in Holmes' Port Richmond kitchen, the makeup is created in a lab. While this type of product is not mandated by law, "You do have to adhere to certain manufacturing practices," says Holmes. "Ultimately you have to put out a product that is safe and can hold up to consumer use. I am very careful about that sort of thing."

Gritty City is primarily an online operation, and Holmes sets up tables at local outdoor events, where people are able to smell and test the items. Holmes was surprised to discover that she has a strong older customer base. If she had to guess, she would have placed her target customer in the 18 to 35 age range, but she actually gets a lot of buyers in their 50s and 60s.

Gritty City is also beginning to get placement in Philadelphia boutiques and has met or exceeded all its benchmarks so far. With no outside financing, Holmes relies on social media marketing, and Facebook and Twitter are driving traffic to the online shop. You can find Gritty City at Nice Things Handmade on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, and Vix Emporium in West Philly. Or head down to Headhouse Square on July 2, when Gritty City sets up shop at the Craft and Fine Arts Fair.

Source: Sarah Holmes, Gritty City Beauty Company
Writer: Sue Spolan

Azavea hiring to keep up with growth, new projects in Philly and Toronto

Robert Cheetham, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based geospatial analysis firm Azavea, is all about good growth. "We hire conservatively. We're not a venture capital funded company. We grow based on cash flow and the amount of business coming in, so there's not much margin for error."

His company is currently in the process of building staff. Some positions have recently been filled, while others are in the resume review stage, and still other positions are yet to be posted.

Azavea has built a strong reputation for merging geographic data with web and mobile software. Its high profile projects include the recently released PhillyTreeMap, which can easily be adapted to any city in the world and was funded by a research and development grant from the USDA; PhillyStormWater, to assist the Philadelphia Water Department's Green Stormwater Management Initiative, and a yet to be launched open source redistricting tool for implementation anywhere in America.

Azavea has just added several administrative and marketing assistants, a Graphic Information System (GIS) Analyst and a web designer. "We have grown every year we've been around," reflects Cheetham. "The last 2 years were relatively slow. Last year was 6 to 7 percent growth. The year before, nine percent. This year we're on track to grow 20 percent."

The secret of Azavea's growth is a mix of spending on business development and marketing through lean times, along with the lucky decision to hire a dedicated grant proposal writer just as the recession began. "We didn't necessarily anticipate the recession," says Cheetham, expanding Azavea nationally as well as internationally, with a recent job for the City of Toronto. "We get a fair amount of federal R&D work," says Cheetham, and while that's not the most profitable sector of the business, it's good for cash flow and pays for research that lays the groundwork for applications that can be adapted to any city or region in the world.

Azavea is always looking for great software engineers, a job sector that has remained fairly recession proof. In comparison, administrative job listings yield hundreds of resumes, and as a result, Azavea has developed a tool to select applicants. "We have crafted a questionnaire that requires job seekers to go to our website and look at the projects we do," says Cheetham.

Those who make it to the interview round have a much better take on Azavea's work and environment, and are able to explain exactly why Azavea is the right fit. It's almost like a college application, says Cheetham, who adds that he asks would-be employees where they heard about the job opening, allowing Azavea target the most effective places to advertise. Maybe there's a future app: Azavea Management Map?

Source: Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

Science Center welcomes five early stage companies in lifesci, investment, and medical devices

Days before longtime tenant BioNanomatrix announced its move to San Diego, the University City Science Center recently welcomed five new companies, and continues to be an incubator for both startups as well as international companies wishing to establish a U.S. base and national companies hoping to move into the Philadelphia market.

The new tenants include life science companies Longevity Biotech, Claremont, and Epitek, Inc.; investment firm Karlin Asset Management; and Parsortix, Inc. a French company that specializes in the transportation and medical equipment sectors.

Scott Shandler is co-founder of Longevity along with Dr. Sam Gellman of the University of Wisconsin. "Longevity develops market leading, novel therapeutics for both rare and widespread diseases," explains Shandler, who has a dual background in finance and biochemistry.

Longevity's primary product is the proprietary Hybridtide platform, developed at Gellman's academic lab in Wisconsin, enables the development of new therapies to treat a range of diseases including primary arterial hypertension, small cell lung cancer, type II diabetes and HIV, according to Shandler. Longevity currently has a contract with Fox Chase Cancer Center. "The exciting science in Dr. Gellman's labs together with the increasing lack of products within the Big Pharma pipelines led me to commercialize this line of work," says Shandler.

Claremont's sole employee is Blandine Chantepie, the U.S. director of sales and business development. Chantepie fell in love with Philadelphia in general and the University City incubator in particular, having already occupied space at SciCenter while working for Claremont parent company Ballina Capital group.

Claremont's two divisions have quite different client bases. Its medical device division manufactures a laser for dental use. "They have been selling around the world, and are strong in Europe and Korea," says Chantepie. Now the company wants to make inroads into the U.S market. Already past the hurdle of FDA approval, it's just a matter of setting up a sales and distribution network, which is already showing early success. Chantepie cites the proximity of Penn Dental School as a selling point for the company's location.

Calremont's train parts division looks to Amtrak and SEPTA for major contracts, and Chantepie says that Philadelphia's central spot along the heavily travelled Northeast Corridor is ideal. Many of Amtrak's corporate offices are right here in Philadelphia in the floors above 30th Street Station. Chantepie anticipates hiring employees within the next six to twelve months.

The remaining three companies moving into the SciCenter are early stage investor Karlin Asset Management, a Los Angeles based firm with $1 billion in equity capital; life sciences firm Epitek develops treatments for radiation exposure and methods of radiation prevention, and Parsortix is a particle separation company founded in 2006 that is developing applications for stem cells, oncology, pre-natal diagnostics and bacteria.

Source: Blandine Chantepie, Claremont; Scott Shandler, Longevity
Writer: Sue Spolan


Move over ice cream man, Healthy Carts are coming to Philly neighborhoods

Some Philadelphia neighborhoods have no choice about the food residents can buy. Corner stores stocked with sugary and salty processed snacks, Chinese take-out and pizza shops are the only options in many low-income areas of the city. The city's brand new Healthy Carts Initiative offers a solution to food deserts as well as providing employment to vendors.

"The program came out of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative," says Healthy Cart Coordinator Rachel Hynes, who is now accepting applications from individuals and organizations. "We approved the first five applications last week." Ultimately, the goal is to set up 20 vendors in this first pilot year.

Healthy Cart operators receive free small business training, waived fees, a streamlined inspection process and free EBT machines, which allow processing of debit, credit and food stamps/SNAP cards. "We are covering the minimum monthly EBT fees through March," says Hynes.

Vendors will be allowed to sell cut fruit and vegetables, as long as the chopping occurs in an approved kitchen. The initiative is administered by the Office of Food Protection, a division of the Department of Public Health, and the same group that oversees the city's growing fleet of food trucks.

To figure out which areas get carts, says Hynes, the Healthy Carts program employs a GIS (Geographic Information Specialist) who has mapped out the areas which are most in need. It's a matter of finding a balance of where there's a need and where cart owners will be successful, according to Hynes, who used the Green Cart program in New York as a springboard but added more features to the Philly program.

Cart owners can make a living wage, says Hynes, if they are out seven days a week and establish a routine. Vendors need to come up with their own business models and are responsible for sourcing, purchasing, storing and displaying their goods, with training from the city. Healthy Carts plans to partner with local community organizations and recreation centers to promote the new program.

Source: Rachel Hynes, Healthy Carts
Writer: Sue Spolan


Welcome to Quorum, the Science Center's clubhouse for entrepreneurs

"I was a Science Center squatter," says Han Cao, founder of life sciences startup Bionanomatrix, now valued at $40 million. It's success stories like these that inspired the new Quorum at the University City Science Center. Back when Cao was a struggling scientist, he occupied virtual office space at the SciCenter. But when rent money dried up, Cao camped out anywhere he could, hiding behind a column in the lobby or setting up shop by the coffee machine.

The Quorum is a well-appointed series of rooms that can be opened into one big space or divided into smaller areas. With a sweeping view of the city, SciCenter CEO Stephen Tang calls the space a clubhouse. "We acknowledge the universal need to meet people," says Tang, who feels that face time is an essential part of business success. With so many electronic ways to connect, meeting in person is harder when you don't know where to go.

Philadelphia's business and government leaders were present last Thursday to bless the grand opening of the 4,000 square foot Quorum, including Mayor Michael Nutter, Duane Morris attorney Richard Jaffe, who is the outgoing SciCenter Chairman of The Board, Craig Carnaroli, who replaces Jaffe in that role in addition to his day job as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania; Mel Baiada, founder of BaseCamp Business, and State Representative Jim Roebuck.

Upcoming events planned for the Quorum are designed to unite area business leaders with entrepreneurs; on June 20, Smart Talk: Adventures in Entrepreneurialism, Deloitte Fast 50 Secrets of Success features CEOs from some of the region's fastest growing companies giving advice to hopefuls who may one day be able to tell their own mutli-million dollar success stories.

Source: Han Cao, Bionanomatrix; Stephen Tang, University City Science Center
Writer: Sue Spolan

Code for America loves Philly, again

Philadelphia has made the cut, and is one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Code for America program. A national initiative that launched last year, Code for America links programmers with city government to create new avenues for civic participation. Philadelphia is a 2011 Code for America city, and Jeff Friedman, Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation for the City of Philadelphia, says Philly is all but assured a back to back nomination for the second year in a row.

Philadelphia's coding project is still in development, and you can get a sneak preview of the tool on June 15 at the Municipal Services Building. Friedman says the fellows began in earnest in January of this year with a month of orientation in San Francisco, returning east to do requirements gathering, meeting close to 200 people, and participating in a hackathon. The program is expected to roll out this fall.

But, you may ask, what does it do? "It helps people get projects done in and outside of government," explains Friedman, who uses as an example his own East Falls neighborhood. "Let's say I want to get a playground for my local park. I start a project with the Code for America tool. Now I am a known quantity and people can join my project. Once I have opened it up to the world, I find that there are actually 37 people who also want to work with me, and I can also locate another 17 people in the city who have been identified as experts in recreational development."

Friedman calls the initiative a revamped version of a public/private partnership that helps compress the life cycle of civic projects. "It's in line with a lot of the work we've been encouraged to do in this administration. We're using a new term, civic fusion, to explain this phase of using Internet tools for localized utility."

Source: Jeff Friedman, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Navy Yard's Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster hiring five

One of the goals of the Philadelphia Navy Yard-based Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) is job creation. And they've got your jobs right here. GPIC, a consortium includes Pennsylvania State University, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA (BFTP/SEP), the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, and the Wharton Small Business Development Center, has five available positions spread out among these members.

"This is an early wave," says Christine Knapp, Manager of Public and Client Relations at GPIC, her own position falling under the auspices of Penn State. "These are jobs that are really conducting the work of GPIC."

The available positions are a Post-Doctoral Scholar, an Intellectual Property Associate, a Program Director, a Database Analyst, and an Administrative Assistant. Knapp runs down the details. There has not been as much response to the architectural engineering post-doc scholar, as it is a highly specialized position in which the candidate would be assisting in the research and development of building systems.

The Intellectual Property Associate does not need a law degree; rather, says Knapp, the BFTP/SEP based position would take the lead in the commercialization and deployment task area. "One concern is that intellectual property is correctly managed," says Knapp. "Our companies have sensitive proprietary information, and as they are discovering things and getting them to the marketplace, we need to make sure that people get credit."

The Program Director is specifically associated with the Small Business Development Center of The Wharton School at Penn. "Each of the members is required to have a full time GPIC staff member, and this would be their liaison," explains Knapp.

The Database analyst is actually two positions, both at BFTP/SEP. "We are doing a lot of data gathering," says Knapp. "We're researching building energy use, consumption and performance." The analyst would also draw on existing databases, and ultimately the reports would be sent to the Department of Energy. "We want to be sure that the data is getting integrated and all task areas have access," says Knapp.

Finally, the Administrative Assistant will be working closely with Knapp at the Navy Yard, and ideally should be someone who can handle not only clerical tasks but also logistics, planning events and outreach engagement work. "It would be someone who is interested in moving up and taking on more responsibility," says Knapp, who expects hundreds of resumes. The GPIC positions will remain posted until filled, which is expected to happen around mid-July, but each position has its own timeline.

Source: Christine Knapp, GPIC
Writer: Sue Spolan


AlumiFuel maintains its power while seeking capital, government grants

A very common element forms the basis for a breakthrough portable power source. Philadelphia's AlumiFuel Power Inc. has developed a portable power system based on the chemical reaction of aluminum powder and water, according to CEO David Cade.

Using proprietary technology to strip the oxides from aluminum particles, the hydrogen generated is five times the density of a lithium battery, says Cade. "Our particular focus is portable, mobile and remote applications. We do on site, on demand power." The Alumifuel container is prefilled with aluminum powder. "The canister can be stored for years," says Cade. "You don't get hydrogen until you get water." A perfect application of the new fuel source is for the U.S Navy, which will pilot the hydrogen battery to propel unmanned undersea vehicles. Alumifuel is partnering with Ingenium Technologies for the project.

Cade is also excited by PBIS-1000, Alumifuel-powered weather balloons created in partnership with Kaymont Weather Balloons.

While Alumifuel is still "under the radar screen," and taking on a 100 year-old battery industry, Cade looks to continuing partnerships with major players like Ingenium and Kaymont to get the word out about a power source that provides 5-10 times the power of a lithium battery, is in no danger of exploding, and does not rely upon overseas oil and gas supplies.

"No one has ever commercialized this technology," says Cade. "There have been patents for years, but they have all been laboratory curiosities." The early stage company, based at the University City Science Center, is currently valued at under $100,000 and is in late development, early production stage. Cade says his partner, Henry Fong, is currently out raising capital, and if Alumifuel is awarded government grants, Cade and Fong's company could see serious growth.

Source: David Cade, Alumifuel Power Inc.
Writer: Sue Spolan

Green data center at former Bucks County steel mill could create up to 1,100 jobs

On the banks of the Delaware River, a green data center is set to rise from the remains of an old steel mill. David Crocker, CEO of Steel Orca LLC, says that while demand for data centers is growing at about 18 percent per year, supply is growing at only 5 percent every year. With many older data centers becoming obsolete in the face of new technology and increased power requirements, Steel Orca's goal is to build the greenest data center in the world, powered entirely by renewable energy sources. "Three to five percent of all energy generated in the United States goes into data centers. You can appreciate that data centers have a responsibility to be as efficient as possible," says Crocker.

As power density increases, so do cooling requirements. Steel Orca's planned center near Fairless Hills in Bucks County will require 100 megawatts of power, with an ultimate goal of 300,000 square feet of 'white space,' the term coined to describe the area where the servers are located, with a total footprint of 730,000 square feet.

The data center is in now the planning stage. HP has signed on to lead the design and construction team, with help from GE, Gilbane Construction and Villanova University Professor Alphonso Ortega. Ideas in the works include a triple failsafe power system, river water as a cooling mechanism, solar panels and and wind turbine generation.

Crocker terms the future center "a source of technological renaissance in the Delaware Valley," eventually creating 1,100 jobs in Bucks County. Steel Orca has completed a first round of funding with more than 50 investors, and Crocker projects that the first phase of the center, with at least 50,000 square feet of white space, will go online in the second quarter of 2012.

Source: David Crocker, Steel Orca
Writer: Sue Spolan

Lights, Camera, Ice Cream: Little Baby's rides into East Kensington

It's mobile punk rock ice cream with the cutest darn name. Little Baby's is pedaling into Philadelphia, courtesy of three guys who approach the creamery craft like a rousing cymbal crash. Little Baby's makes its debut on May 21, when the fledgling company rolls out its custom built multimedia tricycle at The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, a fitting location for what is sure to be a steampunk delivery system complete with music, lights and an ingenious regulatory-compliant system that provides hot running water, created by local sculptor Jordan Griska.

Little Baby's flavor roster reads more like a set list for a show, with options that include Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana and Cardamom Caramel. And that makes sense, since co-founders Pete Angevine, Martin Brown and Jeffrey Ziga are musicians and artists, not formally trained chefs.

"It's been mind over matter," says Angevine, who is also a drummer. "It's a strange, engaging, intriguing kind of fun."

Based in East Kensington, Little Baby's is already generating buzz, with articles in Zagat's, Meal Ticket and Thrillist. The fledgling outfit has a loose agreement with Pizza Brain, which will provide storage for Little Baby's full offering of twelve to fifteen flavors. At any given time, the Little Baby's trike will offer 6 of those flavors on a rotating basis. Little Baby's will also set up at private parties and events, tricycle optional. And Angevine reports that Green Aisle Grocery, on East Passyunk Avenue, will carry the frozen confection if you need your fix and the trike's not out and about. For up to the minute info on Little Baby's whereabouts, check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: Pete Angevine, Little Baby's Ice Cream
Writer: Sue Spolan

Port 127 game designers create an engaging ride in Hipster City

There's a new smartphone game in town, literally. If you've had enough of the aggravated avians, get on your virtual two wheeler and pedal over to Hipster City Cycle. And unlike Angry Birds, Hipster City has a narrative. "You start out living in Center City with a job as a paralegal," explains Port 127's design and coding team leader Michael Highland. "The goal is to blow all of your savings partying with friends and buying bike parts. As you move from neighborhood to neighborhood, the rent gets cheaper. We're turning the normal game progression around so that in Hipster City, you do something and get less." The final goal is to turn Binky McKee into a penniless cycling legend.

Highland sees Hipster City as more of an art piece, with an original throwback 16 bit soundtrack and very basic graphics that do a remarkably good job depicting the details of Philly neighborhoods. Graphic designer Keith McKnight faithfully recreated the orange tables at Pat's King of Steaks in South Philly, and in West Philly, you ride past hipster/student landmarks Koch's Deli, Allegro Pizza and Clark Park. At one point in the Northern Liberties map, you get to ride right on the El tracks, which Highland admits he's done in real life.

Highland says the game will officially launch for iPhone on May 19, and will take the average user about 10 hours to get to the end of the game, which also allows for competition with other players if you get lonely on the open road. Hipster City is simple to pick up, and meant to be played a few minutes at a time, taking the play through four Philadelphia neighborhoods in the process.

Highland, Kevin Jenkins and Keith McKnight all met at the University of Pennsylvania, and Alex Alsup went to Skidmore but is from this area. "Biking is nice, but harrowing at times," explains Highland when asked why the team chose cycling as a focus. "When I bike in Philly, my adrenaline is really high and I am in fight or flight mode."

Hipster City, which is entirely self-funded, also touched on a great marketing initiative which has brought them a lot of buzz without a lot of cash. Last fall, the group set up photo booths at events around the city, includings First Friday, and captured images of hundreds of local hipsters vying to become pixelated characters. There's a contest right now on the website: Visitors vote for their favorite three real people, and the top vote getters get to live forever in Hipster City. And, says Highland, cyclists from all over the world are spreading the buzz on biking forums.

"We're getting a lot of attention on international cycling boards and we're hearing that people in Taiwan and Dubai are excited to have the game."

Hipster City is unique among iPhone games in that it features a real world location, and Highland hints that other cities may soon be hipsterized as well.

Source: Michael Highland, Hipster City Cycle
Writer: Sue Spolan


Bresslergroup bringing Kitchen 2.0 to a smarthome near you, hiring

Kitchens haven't changed much in the past 40 years. Think about it: Aside from primarily cosmetic bells and whistles like digital readouts on ovens and refrigerators, the microwave oven was the last big addition to the culinary arsenal. And that was back in the 1970s. Numerous attempts to bring the internet to the kitchen have been unsuccessful. No consumer seems to agree with manufacturers who have tried and failed to innovate kitchen design.

Rob Tannen, director of research and interface design, and Mathieu Turpault, director of design at Bresslergroup, are actively trying to figure out how high tech can improve the kitchen in a way that consumers will love. Turpault was surprised to find out the small role that end user input figured into the kitchen of the future. "A lot of appliance makers are fishing for ways to make connectivity relevant, but they've approached the problem from a technological standpoint, so their solution is to slap a touch screen on the refrigerator door."

Bresslergroup is a growing product design firm that works with major manufacturers like Black & Decker, GE, Dewalt, and Bosch, and designs medical products as well as consumer appliances. The Philadelphia company, in business for 40 years, has launched what it calls Kitchen 2.0, a research project that aims to advance three areas of kitchen design: Eco, Technology and Modularity. The results of the research are available on a webinar.

"The biggest changes in the kitchen have been architectural," says Tannen, who points to the popularity of the kitchen island. To get to the world of Kitchen 2.0, Bresslergroup did a sort of anthroplogical study, examining the smallest components of workflow, activities and social habits in both urban apartments and suburban homes. They came up with the MySpice smartphone app, now in the planning stages, which interfaces with a camera that sends pictures of the inside of the fridge for viewing at the store. They conceived of a modular storage unit that doubles as a dishwasher and can be loaded from the dining room. "The end product of this is the ideas," says Tannen of the Kitchen 2.0 project, which he terms an exercise in design thinking. The company is headed in the right direction, experiencing steady growth for the past five years, and now on the lookout to fill two open positions, a user interface designer and a design manager, to join the team headquartered at The Marketplace Design Center in Center City.

Source: Rob Tannen, Mathieu Turpault, Bresslergroup
Writer: Sue Spolan


Navy Yard's Mark Group hiring for 70 energy efficiency jobs

The Mark Group, a UK company with recently opened North American headquarters at The Philadelphia Navy Yard, is hiring big time. And training, too. The Mark Group is looking for 60 to 70 new hires who can be trained to go out in the field as energy efficiency experts. The company, which concentrates on the residential market, recommends and completes refitting and repairs to make homes more comfortable and cheaper to run. Chief Operating Officer Dave Hopkins says Mark Group's average fee is $2,500, which will be returned in cost savings in two to three years.

Last week, The Mark Group graduated its first class of students at its North American Energy Efficiency Training Academy. The facility, developed with the support of a $192,000 grant from the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation, is sending out workers who can enter a home and go places even the homeowner may never have gone, like attics and crawl spaces, to identify and fix problems like leaks and drafts. Hopkins says the company is training and hiring two types of employees: assessors and technicians.

Since The Mark Group's US launch in November 2010, 40 people have been hired, and by year's end, The Mark Group will have over 100 employees out and about in the Delaware Valley, including New Jersey and Delaware. The parent company has a presence in 20 countries worldwide, and chose Philadelphia as its first stop in the US, thanks to assistance at the state level from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and locally from Select Greater Philadelphia. "We have plans to expand to the Pittsburgh market, Newark, New Jersey and Baltimore," says Hopkins.

So far, The Mark Group has relied on word of mouth referrals and a favorable article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and next month expects to launch a marketing campaign. The company has also signed an exclusive deal with Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors to provide energy efficiency services to the agency's clients.

Source: Dave Hopkins, The Mark Group
Writer: Sue Spolan


Viridity teams with Jefferson on smart grid, big battery

Thomas Jefferson University takes up a pretty big footprint in Center City, with a 13 acre campus just west of Washington Square. This week, Viridity Energy announced that it's partnering with Jefferson to provide an innovative energy storage program to optimize the University power grid.

On the heels of a smart grid project for SEPTA, Conshohocken-based Viridity approached Jefferson to gauge interest in a two-part program aimed at achieving optimal value from the school's wind power purchase. Audrey Zibelman, President and CEO of Viridity, notes that Jefferson is very forward looking in terms of how to manage energy, citing the university's recent acquisition of one-third of the electricity supply from Iberdrola Renewables' 102 megawatt Locust Ridge II wind power project located in Schuylkill County.

"Hospital demand is pretty flat. It doesn't peak. It's round the clock," explains Zibelman. But wind power is intermittent, and tends to be strongest at night. Sometimes the transmission system between the wind farm and the hospital is unavailable due to congestion. The environmentally-friendly solution is a giant battery to be installed on-site, which will store wind power when it's cheapest and most abundant, coupled with Viridity's dynamic load control optimization system. Viridity's proprietary VPower smart grid platform combines software with hardware to balance system loads, so that Jefferson can get the most cost efficient combination of wind power and traditional electric. When there is a surplus, VPower is set up to sell the energy back to the grid for a profit.

Zibelman says right now the project is in the planning stages. The company is in the market for a 1 to 1.5 megawatt battery, ranging in price from $750,000 to $3 million depending on vendor, chemistry, capacity and peripherals.

 "The battery will not always be providing physical reliability," says Zibelman, "but it will always provide economic reliability. It's a revenue source that pays for itself." Jefferson's combination of Viridity's VPower technology coupled with the giant battery will create a micro energy community in the heart of Center City.

Source: Audrey Zibelman, Viridity Energy
Writer: Sue Spolan


Wallquest's World: Wayne wallcoverings firm wins small biz award for exports, hiring up to 40

Wallquest has China covered. Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and India, too. The Wayne-based wallcoverings firm was just named Small Business Exporter of the Year by the Export-Import Bank, and received an award this week in Washington, DC. Wallquest's exports rose 76 percent to more than $17 million since 2008, thanks to robust sales overseas. Jack Collins is Vice President of the family-run company, which he runs along with his brother and father, who acquired Wallquest in 1985.

While the original customer base was domestic, big box retailers and toll free sales left no one to sell to in the United States, and Collins says Wallquest had to go overseas around 2005, now selling environmentally-friendly products in more than 50 foreign markets. With a good brand name in America, the company has had great success in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, and the trend is toward American design.

"You wouldn't think someone in Saudi Arabia or China would want American country style, but they do," says Collins, who explains that among affluent Chinese homeowners, a big wooden kitchen table is a sign of wealth, and American design dovetails with that table.

While Wallquest is a relatively small company, says Collins, its line is more extensive than competitors', with around 35 collections coming out this year.

"Our business used to be more seasonal, and now it's not because of our international clients. When the US market is strong in winter and spring, it's Chinese New Year, and in the summer, when the US market is down, the Chinese and Middle East markets are coming up."

Collins is grateful to both Ex-Im Bank and PNC Bank for playing an essential role in the company's global growth. Wallquest wallcoverings are made with water based inks and the highest quality printing technology in the main manufacturing facility in Wayne; recently, the company acquired and retooled two other factories in New York and New Jersey, bringing the total number of employees to 150. Later this year, Wallquest plans on opening another facility in King of Prussia, hiring an additional 30 to 40 employees.

Source: Jack Collins, Wallquest
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts kicks off this week with giant squid

Dan Schimmel's head might be in augmented reality, but the picture is pretty clear to him.

"Right now there's a giant, 100 foot squid hovering over the falls at Boat House Row," says the director of Breadboard, the art and technology program at Science Center that oversees the Esther Klein Gallery. Breadboard is participating in the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) with the free citywide VPAP@PIFA, the Virtual Public Art Project. Granted, explains Schimmel, you need a smartphone or other mobile device to see the Augmented Reality squid. "That's somewhat foreign to people, but this is where society's headed."

PIFA is about to overtake the city like a giant encornet (that's French for squid) with over 135 events, running from April 7 to May 1. If bright lights in the big city get you going, check out the 81 foot Eiffel Tower replica at the Kimmel Center, which serves as festival headquarters, with a light show daily at 7 and 10 p.m. The theme of PIFA is Paris 1911, tying in with the recent French-flavored Philadelphia International Flower Show. All over the city, you can catch performances, lectures, dance parties, installations, readings, a fashion show and eleven French chefs in residence at area restaurants.

The $10 million extravaganza showcases local and international talent. Visit a day-long free Parisian street fair April 30 on Broad Street where you can ride a giant Ferris Wheel and enjoy a multitude of acts including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. PIFA is also sponsoring daily wine tastings, crepe samples, free concerts, and French lessons.

Philly-Paris Lockdown, on April 17 at 8 PM at the Kimmel, features Philly's own ?uestlove of The Roots along with singer-songwriter Keren Ann, followed by an underground afterparty. Fourth Wall Arts hosts a special Salon on April 23 at the newly opened National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall, featuring Ursula Rucker, Mimi Stillman and muralist David Guinn.

JJ Tiziou's How Philly Moves, which just raised $26,000 in a Kickstarter Campaign, will be projecting massive images of Philadelphia's dancers on the side of the Kimmel throughout the festival. Hope: An Oratorio, is a work PIFA commissioned by composer Jonathan Leshnoff, to be performed April 24, performed by The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, along with four soloists, the Pennsylvania Girlchoir and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.

The Painted Bride, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Slought Foundation, the African-American Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, WXPN, Philadelphia's Magic Garden, and the Independence Seaport Museum are just a few of the many PIFA sponsors and event hosts. Get detailed program information, tickets, and download a festival brochure at the PIFA website. PIFA, along with the GPTMC, is also offering hotel and ticket packages for the festival.

Source: Dan Schimmel, Breadboard; PIFA; GPTMC
Writer: Sue Spolan


Philly solar conversion company among highlights of Cleantech Investment Forum

Clean technology is a big draw for potential investors. Several hundred people gathered at the Academy of Natural Sciences on March 31 for the 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum. Sponsored by Blank Rome Counselors at Law, the Academy and Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic, investor panels discussing the future of renewable energy, clean water, recycling and waste disposal were followed by presentations from area entrepreneurs.

On hand were members of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings. Williams J. Agate leads the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, developing and managing the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which is now in the process of creating a smart grid energy master plan.

The Fostering Cleantech Investment Panel included Kevin Brophy, of Meidlinger Partners, who talked about the future of clean water investment, and said that while innovation in the field came from the middle cap, the greatest opportunity for future investments is in the huge lower cap market. Also on the panel were Gary Golding, from Edison Ventures, who addressed rapidly improving awareness of water issues, Arun Kapoor of SJF Ventures, who mentioned 100 percent Pennsylvania wind provider Community Energy, and Josh Wolfe, the founding partner of Lux Capital. Wolfe described Lux as an early stage high risk venture fund valued at $100 million, and had a different take on the market than his fellow panelists, explaining that Lux focuses on companies that are long on human ingenuity and short on government rationality. Passing on biofuel, nuclear and natural gas investments, Lux is instead investing in nuclear waste management, calling it the energy industry's biggest unsolved problem.

The only presenting entrepreneur based in the immediate Philadelphia area is solar power conversion company Alencon Systems, Inc. Now in the research and development stage, Alencon addresses the problem of energy efficiency with large scale photovoltaic systems, which are currently created by aggregating multiple small systems. Alencon, which was borne of research at Rowan University, aims to simplify solar and wind power systems from distributed harvesting to centralized conversion. With a prototype already built and tested, Alencon slates projected sales of its streamlined systems at $45 million by 2014.

Source: 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: Philly Helps Japan, East Fairmoun Park

Flying Bytes is nuggets of innovation from across Greater Philadelphia:

BROTHERLY LOVE GOES GLOBAL

Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, there's been a swell of support from local companies and groups. Comcast is offering free calls to Japan for Xfinity Voice and Business Class Voice customers. Call Japan now until April 10, 2011 and get an automatic refund on your Comcast bill. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Red Cross is accepting both online and text message contributions for Japan relief efforts and reports that it has received generous donations from Westchester's QVC and Philadelphia Insurance. The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia has instituted a Disaster Relief Fund, and is also taking donations at the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival.

THE GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME
Urban Blazers, a Philadelphia program that organizes outdoor activities for under-resourced youth, is co-sponsoring an East Fairmount Park Spring Clean-Up. The event, to be held Saturday, April 2 from 9 to 1, will start at Mander Playground, 33rd and Diamond, for a seasonal overhaul of nearby recreational spots, as well as the Woodford Mansion Orchard. It's part of the citywide Philly Spring Cleanup. Participating civic groups include the East Park Revitalization Alliance, Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and the Strawberry Mansion Athletic Association. RSVP on Facebook or email info@urbanblazers.org.

COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE

Speaking of blazing, on April 16, grab a flashlight and head over to the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square Park for a warm spring evening of fun. Get Out Philly is hosting a game of Flashlight Tag beginning at 8. Put on your post-tax return attitude and casual clothes. Food and drink to follow at a nearby casual spot. Suggested donation is $1. You can RSVP on Facebook.

Source: Comcast, Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Red Cross, Urban Blazers, Get Out Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philly Tech Week promises a printer-smashing good time

In the spirit of Philly's other well-known celebrations like Beer Week and Restaurant Week, one of the main goals for Philly Tech Week, happening April 25 to 30 in locations across the city, is to have fun. Organized by Technically Philly, the week is meant to connect the many different segments of the Philly technology community, from hackers to Comcast and everyone in between, according to TP co-founder Chris Wink.

At this point, there are about 35 events on the schedule, with more to come. WHYY will serve as headquarters. Wink says the media outlet will host a daily lunchtime speaker series throughout the week, as well as the final big event Friday night. Tech Week coincides with two other major citywide happenings: The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) and The Philadelphia Science Festival. As a result, says Wink, some gatherings will carry all three labels, such as Augmented Reality Check: Seeing The Future Now, looking at the intersection of art, technology and science, to be held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 26.

Another exciting Tech Week gathering is The Future of Music featuring musician and producer RJD2, coordinated by Tayyib Smith, owner of Little Giant Media, which publishes two.one.five magazine. Smith hopes to draw like minded people actively engaged in creating, promoting and distributing music to envision the role technology will play in the future of music. "I am an analog person who is fronting like I am digital," says Smith, who hopes to get as much out of the discussion as any of the other attendees.

Local firm Azavea, which builds geographic analysis software, happens to be rolling out several projects that same week, and plans to show off the brand new goods. "One is Philly Tree Map," says President and CEO Robert Cheetham, whose goal is to create a crowdsourced urban tree inventory. Two other Azavea projects, Open Data Philly and PhillyHistory.org, will be showcased during Tech Week.

For those who have ever fantasized about going ballistic on your devices, be sure to attend the Office Space Printer Smash, co-sponsored by Nonprofit Technology Resources and The Hacktory. As the title indicates, participants will be encouraged to turn unrecyclable printers into a pile of mangled plastic and metal.

Source: Christopher Wink, Technically Philly, Tayyib Smith, Little Giant Media, Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

PA's power choice: The answer is blowing in the (local) wind, says Radnor's Community Energy

It's 2011. Do you know where your power is? With the expiration of Pennsylvania power rate caps at the start of this year, state utility customers are searching for alternative providers. If you are all about clean renewable energy that's local and sustainable, Community Energy provides 100 percent Pennsylvania generated wind power, and it's expanding to provide solar as well.

The Radnor-based company, founded in 1999, began selling retail wind power to commercial customers ahead of state mandates, enabling Community Energy to build demand for the construction of its own wind projects in Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey. "In 1999, there were a total of 10 megawatts of wind power east of the Mississippi," says Jay Carlis, Vice President of CEI's Retail Division. Texas boasts two of the world's largest wind farms, and California is not far behind. Carlis reports that in the past year, CEI experienced strong growth and has doubled in size, thanks largely to the addition of solar energy to its offerings. After CEI's initial foray serving commercial clients such as Carnegie Mellon University and Giant Market, CEI added residential clients to the roster, and then partnered with utility companies, enabling its reach to include the entire northeastern United States.

While the Pennsylvania PUC has created PA Power Switch, an easy to navigate website that helps customers shop for energy, Carlis says the site leaves out some vital information. "Most people don't understand the complicated aspects of the market. If you want wind power, and it's coming from Texas, the grids don't even connect," says Carlis. Rather, utilities are dealing in tradable Renewable Energy Certificates. For someone living in Pennsylvania, he says, there's a lot of benefit to having wind in the local grid, including a future price edge benefit. "Twenty years from now, if all of Pennsylvania is buying from Texas, Texas will look good, and it won't make a bit of difference for Pennsylvania. It's important that people understand the implications of their choices."

Source: Jay Carlis, Community Energy
Writer: Sue Spolan




Solar States flips the switch at Crane Arts for city's largest rooftop PV array

The switch is flipped at Crane Arts. This week, the Kensington warehouse building, which houses artist studios and commercial space, powered up Philadelphia's largest rooftop photovoltaic solar array. Over four hundred panels will supply 81 kilowatts per year. The array is owned not by Crane, but by a new company called Solar States, which hopes to expand partnerships with property owners to create 15 commercial solar rooftops in the city for a total of 1 megawatt of solar capacity outputting thousands of megawatt hours.

In a departure from traditional solar panel installation, the for-profit Solar States offers photovoltaic installation at zero cost to building owners, selling back electricity at a discount. According to Micah Gold-Markel, founder of Solar States, the plan is for Crane to remain on the grid, so tenants will be using a mix of solar and traditional electric company power. Another way Solar States could profit is by selling back surplus power to the grid. It's a complicated auction system in which a company like Solar States sells a certificate to electric companies as a way of diversifying their energy portfolio, in compliance with the state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. While Gold-Markel hopes Crane will use the maximum output offered by the solar array, there will be many hours of sunlight when the building is quiet, and excess power generated by the array will generate certificates, as well as a discount to Crane. Gold-Markel says that for Solar States, profitability is sustainability. Solar States, not the building owner, also receives all Pennsylvania and federal solar rebates, tax incentives and credits.

The Crane array was designed by Helio Systems and GRASS (Green Roofs and Solar Systems), and Solar States estimates that it will provide a 20 percent cost savings over standard PECO rates.

Source: Micah Gold-Markel, Solar States
Writer: Sue Spolan

Voila, it's Veolia: Philly's steam loop provider changes name, maintains efficient heat processes

Philadelphia is a steamy city, and the proof is issuing out of all those vents. This week, Veolia Energy North America announced the completion of the transition that renames Philly's steam loop provider from Trigen to Veolia. The Center City steam loop is a green idea from way back in the late 1800s, when the Edison Electric Light Company (now PECO) realized it could repurpose exhaust steam from its plant at 9th and Sansom Streets to heat the nearby Irving House on Walnut Street. The system grew to a total of 26 miles of underground pipes.

The synergy was such a success that cities around the country adopted the steam loop concept. Currently, 300 Philly buildings utilize Veolia's steam heat. The highest profile building, literally, is the Comcast Center. According to Mike Smedley, Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Veolia Energy North America, the tower's "utilization of district energy was one factor that contributed to its status as the tallest LEED-certified building in the US."

Why the name change? Smedley says that the Trigen brand name is only known for district energy, while the Veolia name is synonymous with creative environmental solutions. Not only does Veolia supply steam heat, but it's also pretty chill: the company also "built, owns and operates a 7,000-ton chilled water facility for Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital."

Traditionally, says Smedley, the production of heat and power are separate processes that are energy inefficient because a large portion of fuel burned is lost as waste heat. In contrast, Veolia's combined heat and power (CHP) plant recycles waste heat, and converts it into useful thermal energy. By combining the processes using CHP, says Smedley, Veolia can produce thermal and electrical energy using up to 40 percent less fuel than if the two forms of energy were produced separately.

Source: Mike Smedley, Veolia Energy North America
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: CoverPuppy, You Had Me at Yo, Flower Children and House Party

Flying Bytes is innovation nuggets from throughout Greater Philadelphia:

VANITY FUR

Forget LOLcats. Now you can get LOLdogs, in the form of CoverPuppy, a new iPhone app that puts your mutt's mug on the cover of your favorite glossy rag. Spots Illustrated and Bone Appetit are just a few of the possibilities. For $1.99, you can download this latest offering from Philly's own ChatterBlast Labs and see your puppy's picture on the cover of Rolling Over. Share with friends via email, Facebook and Twitter. A portion of CoverPuppy proceeds goes to the ASPCA.

BELL IS BROKEN. PLEASE KNOCK.
This week the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation announced the top-10 list of submissions for its With Love, Philadelphia XOXO Billboard Contest. It wasn't easy choosing from 2,711 entries sent in from all over the country (106 submissions with Rocky but only 19 mentions of Adrian). The top ten can be seen in a video roundup. Mary K.'s winning entry "Dear Philadelphia, You had me at Yo!" will adorn a billboard above I-95 by the Girard Avenue exit.

SEPTA SEEKS FLOWER CHILDREN
Get to Springtime in Paris via rail or bus. Going to the Philadelphia International Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center next week? SEPTA is encouraging visitors to leave cars at home and tiptoe through the tulips with a One Day or Family Independence Pass. SEPTA is also offering discounted tickets to the event, which runs March 6-13.

OPEN FOR GREAT MUSIC
No need to knock at JJ Tiziou's door. The Philadelphia photographer and supporter of the arts has announced the start of his 2011 house concert series at 4531 Osage Avenue. The April 2 lineup includes "pleasantly aggressive folk duo" Nervous But Excited from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Washington DC's Tinsmith. As always, donations of money, food and drink are always welcome. Proceeds pay performers and also benefit the larger Philadelphia arts community.

Source: ChatterBlast, GPTMC, SEPTA, JJ Tiziou
Writer: Sue Spolan

UArts' Corzo Center awarding creative dollars to help spur creators' profits

A degree in fine arts doesn't often come with instructions on how to take economic control of your creations. The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts steps in with a rescue plan, applying the concept of enterprise funding to creative business ideas. With a grant from the Dorrance Hamilton Foundation, UArts professor Neil Kleinman developed The Creative Incubator, a $10,000 opportunity open to graduating students and recent alumni to "give students in arts and media economic control over their lives."

On a recent Wednesday, Kleinman and associate Todd Hestand welcomed a dozen hopefuls to an orientation in preparation for the March 21 proposal deadline. "Some of you are here only for the money," said Kleinman, "Some of you are interested in getting self-positioned, to learn more about how to put an idea out there, and make it continue." Kleinman plans to give two to three applicants with sustainable ideas $10,000 each, divided into three payouts: a third up front, another midway, and the final payment after the project is complete, with the idea that once the $10,000 runs out, profitability is well underway. Last year, says Kleinman, about eight smaller grants were given out, but only one reached the final payout. "Many fell prey to the very problems we were afraid of: no sustainable plan, and lack of awareness about underlying costs." This year, there will be fewer grants and more competition, with greater scrutiny of applicants' business plans, budget, marketing structure and audience.

One applicant is Michael O'Bryan, a 2007 graduate of UArts, who is attempting to create workshops for marginalized youth, combining artistic exploration with civic engagement. He says he got the idea while working two jobs: as a Youth Services Coordinator at The Salvation Army, and as Music Department Coordinator and Community Outreach liaison at the New Freedom Theater.

The Corzo Center offers applicants like O'Bryan, as well as all community members regardless of application status, full entrepreneurial support, including assistance developing proposals and business plans, workshops, special programs, and real world business contacts. Eventually, says Kleinman, the Center hopes to expand its funding to include creative entrepreneurs citywide.

Source: Neil Kleinman, Michael O'Bryan, University of the Arts
Writer: Sue Spolan


Ben Franklin Technology Partners funds $2M to seven firms on heels of Early Stage Venture Showcase

The visionary folks at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA have been as busy as the companies they support.

The highly successful economic development program announced on Monday a total of $1,975,000 to seven early stage companies with promising technology innovations. The companies included Ambler's Bioconnect Systems Inc. ($500,000), Glen Mills' Holganix LLC ($250,000), Devon's LiftDNA Inc. ($250,000), West Chester's LoSo Inc. ($125,000), Bala Cynwyd's Orion Security LSP, LLC ($200,000), Malvern's Quanta Technologies, Inc. ($250,000), and Malvern's Valence Process Equipment ($400,000).

Last Thursday, 21 other companies strutted their stuff in front of potential money as Ben Franklin partnered with Greater Philadelphia Venture Investors and the University City Science Center to host its annual Early Stage Venture Showcase at the Navy Yard. The event was open only to investors; angels, venture capitalists, and individual investors packed the room. Upstairs, the highly popular IT/Physical Science/Clean Technology track companies presented; downstairs, Life Sciences entrepreneurs told their stories to a much smaller crowd.

Ryan Caplan, of ColdLight Solutions, opened with a strong presentation highlighting his company's impressive proprietary Neuron platform, which offers automated data analysis derived from artificial intelligence, leading to highly targeted recommendations for retail, pharmaceutical and communications applications. Another standout was Holganix, a Glen Mills-based organic fertilizer company which is already servicing some massive lawns in its first year of business, including Longwood Gardens. The Holganix process unlocks already existing nitrogen from the soil and air through biological means and dramatically reduces the need for pesticides.

Downstairs a smaller but tougher crowd checked out Science Center tenants BeneLein Technologies, which uses a bioprocess to create generic antibiotics, and Vascular Magnetics, which hopes to develop a magnetic nanotechnology treatment for peripheral artery disease.

Doug Leinen, founder of BeneLein, says that he has not received direct feedback from investors. Richard Genzer, who attended the Venture Showcase on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group, reports that he has taken further action with three companies.

Source: Doug Leinen, BeneLein, Richard Genzer, Mid-Altantic Angel Group
Writer: Sue Spolan





Moving wheels: Mt. Airy electric bike shop expands to larger quarters

It all started over a disagreement about who was going to use the car. Mt. Airy resident Meenal Raval and her husband Afshin Kaighobady had proudly downshifted from two cars to one, and that's when the couple purchased their first electric bike to navigate the hilly terrain of the neighborhood. But a two mile ride to work took an hour, reports Meenal, because people kept stopping her along the way to ask about her unique form of conveyance.

"We realized no one was selling electric bikes in Philly," says Meenal, who purchased that first bike out of state. Meenal and Afshin put their life savings into Philly Electric Wheels, or PHEW!, and opened their first store at the corner of Carpenter Lane and Greene Street, right across from Weavers' Way Co-op. The response was even greater than anticipated. Not only was PHEW! selling new bikes, but all those people who had bought bikes elsewhere dusted them off and brought them in for repairs within the first month.

With continued support for the only bike shop, electric or manual, in West Mount Airy, Meenal and Afshin soon grew out of their original space. Today is the grand opening of their expanded shop at 7102 Germantown Avenue, which boasts a larger retail area with both electric and non-electric bikes for sale, more storage, more space for repairs, and increased foot traffic. Meenal says that because the new shop is on two transit lines, bikers can hook their wheels onto a SEPTA bus, drop in for repair, and then ride on home. The new shop also serves an expanded clientele, as Germantown Avenue is the dividing line between East and West Mount Airy.

Source: Meenal Raval, Philly Electric Wheels
Writer: Sue Spolan




FLYING BYTES: PHL to QUE, Drexel and Boeing, and Mutual Funds from Hedge Funds

Flying Bytes is innovation nuggets from around the region:

CALLING ALL FRANCOPHILE JETSETTERS

Get your beret and cafe au lait. This summer, US Airways starts direct flights from Philadelphia to Quebec City. The daily, year round service begins June 2 and offers three nonstop round trip flights. The quick trip to the Quebec capital is under 2 hours each way.

THE LONG AND $HORT OF IT
Turner Investments of Berwyn announced the launch this week of three alternative mutual funds that employ hedge fund strategies. The Medical Sciences Long/Short, the Market Neutral and the Titan Fund all rely on diversified long and short investments. Matt Glaser, who manages the Market Neutral, says the funds seek to deliver superior risk adjustment return for clients. "Post financial crisis investors are looking for ways to mitigate risk and lower volatility, so hedge funds, and mutual fund vehicles are here to stay."

EARLY TAKEOFF
Drexel University engineering students will be working on Boeing projects, thanks to a long term agreement signed this week between CDI-Aerospace and Boeing. Through the school's co-operative education program, students will be working on structural designs, software conversions and stress analysis for the CH-47 military helicopter, the V-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and the Boeing 787 commercial transport aircraft.

STEAMPUNK ACTION
The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby is back for its 5th year, and organizers have put out a call for entries. Last year, participants crafted a bicycle powered steam engine, a conveyance that catapulted paint filled balloons onto a canvas, pirate ships and dragons, all foot powered. If your passion lives at the intersection of biking and art, visit the Sculpture Derby's home page for guidelines and registration forms. The event takes place May 21, and submit your entry form by April 15 to get free T-shirts for your team.

Source: USAirways; Henry Pyatt, Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby; Matt Glaser, Turner Investments, CDI
Writer: Sue Spolan

My baby ate a dingo: Vegan dessert tales from PureSweets

Take a big bite out of that Hippo. Nibble on the Panda, and save some Ladybugs for later. Andrea Kyan has named her PureSweets product line for all the animals she loves. "I turned vegan in 2007. I'd been vegetarian since I was a kid, but a visit to an organic dairy farm opened my eyes. Organic is not necessarily humane." Kyan says she developed PureSweets to satisfy her own sweet tooth.

She found existing vegan treats lacking in depth, with no butter, cream, or eggs to carry flavor. Kyan solved the problem by using nut flours, which provide "protein content, a nutritional boost, and are gluten free." The second main ingredient is coconut butter, and Kyan also relies on coconut oils as well as nut butters made from cashews and almonds. The sweetening comes not from refined cane sugar but from maple syrup, date sugar, palm sugar, and organic brown rice syrup. "Everything else is flavored with dried fruit and nuts, espresso, and organic dark chocolate."

Kyan was on her way to medical school with a goal of practicing preventative medicine, and she was working as a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, studying the way mindfulness meditation affects weight loss, when she decided to go for a career in sustainable baking. Last fall, she got an account with Whole Foods, and they are currently piloting her products at their Center City location. She's in talks with the seven regional stores, and her goal is to place products in all 250 Whole Foods. "The only way this will work is through volume," says Kyan. "Some of the ingredients are so expensive." Items have eco-friendly packaging. PureSweets operates out of an old church in East Falls, and there's no storefront at that location, so Kyan delivers all online orders to Philadelphia area homes and offices for a reasonable fee.

About that Dingo: it's the name of PureSweets' chocolate-dipped almond butter cookie. All PureSweets' products bear animal names, and Kyan donates five percent of sales to animal rescue organizations, including PAWS and the Camden County Animal Shelter.

Source: Andrea Kyan, PureSweets
Writer: Sue Spolan

ServePhiladelphia connects volunteers with opportunities

You've got to serve somebody. That's the message of newly launched ServePhiladelphia. It's an easy to use database that connects free people with places in need. Pick an area of interest from a pull down menu: Community Building, Education, Health, Leadership, Sustainability and more, and choose from dozens of projects that need your help. Selections run the gamut from gardening in the Wissahickon, to food distribution, to helping the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia translate English language guides into Vietnamese.

A city-led initiative, ServePhiladelphia launched this past Saturday, kicking off at the Free Library of Philadelphia with a project to get books to children learning to read. The initiative has a three part mission: to "create or elevate volunteer opportunities that impact educational outcomes and contribute to community vitality, to make it easier for citizens of every age to volunteer, and to support both public and private sector efforts to engage more volunteers in ways that have the greatest impact," according to Mayor Michael Nutter's kickoff message.

Nutter also announced the 2011 Volunteer Impact Challenge, with a three-time-a-year recognition ceremony for participants. Registration for ServePhiladelphia is simple, and allows citizens to bookmark interesting assignments as well as track hours. The initiative also has a Facebook page.

ServePhiladelphia is made possible by a Cities of Service Leadership Grant, allowing the hire of Catie C. Wolfgang, the City's first Chief Service Officer, and the establishment of the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. Cities of Service is a bipartisan coalition founded in New York City by 17 mayors working together to increase volunteerism. From its inception in 2009, Cities of Service now counts over 100 mayors in its ranks.

Source: Mayor Michael Nutter, ServePhiladelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Fare organic restaurant coming to Fairmount

You've got to give attorney David Orphanides a lot of credit. He's come up with an alternative to "artisanal," one of the more awkward-sounding terms in the English language. Jettisoning the word, but not the concept, Orphanides uses the more classic "crafted" when describing the four tenets that make up the philosophy of Fairmount's soon-to-open Fare restaurant, which also relies on local, organic and sustainable practices.

Orphanides eats organic and shops sustainably at home, so it makes total sense, he says, that Fare mirrors that lifestyle. "It's second nature for us. We couldn't see doing it any other way." Also on board are Savvas Navrosidis, who owns Fairmount Pizza, and attorney Andy Siegel.

Fare, which opens to the public in "early spring," eschews heavy creams and sauces for "food that's still very satisfying and filling." The projected 85-seat bar and restaurant located at 2028 Fairmount Avenue, across from Eastern State Penitentiary, is fit out with completely green, locally sourced furnishings. The black walnut bar comes from Pennsylvania trees. Wine, beer, and liquor served on that lovely expanse of local wood aims to be "biodynamic and organic, from local vineyards and distilleries," according to Orphanides.

Fare's menu evolved from an original concept of smaller snacks to include dishes for all appetites. Small plates and snacks range in price from $2-$8; salads are $6-$9, and main dishes range from $11-$18. Fare "started out more as a place for people to have a drink and socialize, more of a lounge" for Fairmount locals, but when chef Tim Bellew signed on, the menu expanded. Bellew's previous engagements include Fire in Cherry Hill, Black Eyed Susan in Long Beach Island, and MANNA catering in New York.

Source: David Orphanides, Fare Restaurant
Writer: Sue Spolan

Flying Bytes: Penn's power, Basecamp app, and vegan lunch

Flying Bytes is a weekly roundup of innovation news nuggets:

TGIVF: Miss Rachel's Lunch Pantry announces The Downtown Lunch Club, a new uber-healthy weekly lunch delivery service for Center City. Choose from three vegan options, pay just $10 via PayPal, order by Thursday, and get delivery to home or office on Friday. Coming soon: The Navy Yard Lunch Club.

Penn Players: The University of Pennsylvania plays a significant role in the growth of Philadelphia and the region, according to an upcoming report. This week's Penn Current newsletter highlights the statewide economic impact of Penn in 2010, Philadelphia's largest private employer, which "translates into $14.1 billion, and that number reflects a 46.5 percent increase since 2005," when the last report was issued.

Back to Basecamp: Basecamp Business has released the Business Calendar Network app for Android. Joining recent mobile app releases for iPhone and iPad, the Android app allows entrepreneurs to search for upcoming networking events by location and type, and lets users know if they can get their grub on.

Nutter for the Arts: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has long been a proud supporter of the city's art scene, with strong ties to the Mural Arts Program and Philly's music community. This week Nutter received the 2011 Public Leadership in the Arts Award, hosted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Americans for the Arts. Mayor James Brainard of Carmel, Indiana and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also received the award.

Cultural Cash Flow: The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance announced 40 winners of Project Stream seed grants, totaling more than $95,000. Local nonprofit arts groups and performers include Crossroads Music, Delaware County Community College and The Youth Orchestra of Bucks County. Recipients receive up to $3,000 each, and the initiative is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts' (PCA) Partners in the Arts program, with additional support from PECO.

Writer: Sue Spolan

RecycleNOW to help communities garner real Recycling Rewards

Go ahead. Drop that yogurt container into the recycling bucket. You know you want to. The City of Philadelphia has made recycling far more worthwhile with the Recycling Rewards Program. If a vague sense of helping the environment doesn't pull you in, discounts at local businesses will. In an effort to increase residents' compliance with the recycling program, Philadelphia has partnered with RecycleBank to create the Rewards Program, which is now available to residents citywide. But there are questions.  Christine Knapp of the local office of the state's leading environmental advocacy organization, PennFuture, says every time she talks to communities about the city's recycling program, someone asks about yet another item. Yes, says Knapp, all plastics with numbers 1-7 are now eligible. But not plastic bags. "They jam up the sorting system."

So many questions coupled with so little compliance: only 18 percent of all Philly's trash is diverted into recycling. Colleen Meehan is a program organizer for Clean Water Action of Pennsylvania, one of the groups involved with RecycleNOW Philadelphia, a coalition of individuals and organizations working to promote recycling. She says one of the barriers is that the Recycling Rewards Program is primarily online. Additionally, the program can be somewhat confusing. What is eligible for recycling, and how does a whole neighborhood benefit from the used soda cans of an individual household? The way the program is structured, an entire community shares in the benefits of individual families' recycling efforts. Each family gets its own rewards, which can be any of thousands of options, from supermarket discounts to minor league baseball tickets.

RecycleNOW hopes a series of four community activist workshops will spark interest in the program that was originally piloted in West Oak Lane and Chestnut Hill before citywide rollout. The gatherings are billed as training sessions for those who want to spread the good word in their communities, but, says Knapp, anyone with questions about the process can attend. Experts will answer commonly asked questions, and provide information and materials residents need to help sign up others in their communities. The first session is scheduled for this evening at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Center City. Workshops will follow in South Philadelphia, the near northeast, including Kensington, Fishtown and Northern Liberties, and the greater northeast.

Source: Christine Knapp, PennFuture; Colleen Meehan, Clean Water Action
Writer: Sue Spolan

Van Aken: Philly's SA VA Fashion "most socially sustainable apparel company" in U.S.

Philadelphia clothing designer Sara Van Aken, president of SVA Holdings Corporation, remains resolute in offering high fashion at a low impact to the environment. In fact, Van Aken says her company is the most socially sustainable apparel company in the United States. The formula is working, as Van Aken hints that SA VA Fashion is poised to go regional in 2011, and she's already offering a selection of ready-to-wear for purchase online. SA VA's flagship retail store is located at 1700 Sansom Street, and every item sold in the store is created in a garment factory directly upstairs from the retail operation.

SVA offers four exclusive clothing lines: SA VA, which is available to the public at the SA VA retail shop, as well as three others: Van Aken Signature, Private Label and Custom Shirts. The Signature line specializes in celebrity chef uniforms, having designed for culinary luminaries such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Van Aken says hers is the only fashion company that's completely vertical. It's all made right on location. "Everything is done internally. We make patterns and manufacture in house, and sell at the same place."

While many other clothing companies outsource to manufacturers outside the US, where labor is cheap, Van Aken remains committed to hiring locally. Her goal is to create 22 jobs over the next three years. Currently there are 15 employees in the SVA garment shop in Center City. In an effort to provide community outreach, SVA runs a semi-annual clothing drive to benefit local groups Career Wardrobe and People's Emergency Center. SA VA's upcoming customer events include the Reflect, Rejuvenate, Reawaken series, featuring programs focused on health and wellness.

Van Aken reports that while she is not able to create the fabric on site, her source materials are always locally made, fair trade, sustainable, made in the U.S., recycled or organic. Van Aken terms her style slow fashion, with an eye to the entire life cycle of a garment, from how it's made, manufactured, shipped and sold, to its destination beyond the closet.

Source: Sara Van Aken, SVA Holdings Corp.
Writer:
Sue Spolan

Food for health and the soul: Alive Kitchen opens in Mt. Airy with organic, seasonal fare

Denise Straiges Warkov, founder of recently opened Mt. Airy food business Alive Kitchen, is a practicing homeopath and professionally trained chef in health supportive and allergy safe cuisine. Deciding to start her own culinary endeavor, which provides seasonal, local and organic prepared foods for weekly pick-up at its storefront kitchen or for delivery, was easier than most of the recipes she uses.

"I was making suggestions for my clients' diets, and at some point, they began asking me if I could make the food for them," says Straiges, who joined forces with Ane Ormaechea, owner and executive chef of the now shuttered South Street tapas restaurant Apamate. Ormaechea, who is of Spanish descent and raised in Venezuela, provides a continental flavor to Alive, which offers "the freshest possible local, organic and sustainable" ready-to-eat food. For example, this week's menu offerings include Tortilla Espanola, Winter Greens and Potato Soup with Cannellini Beans, and Braised Short Ribs.

Straiges explains that in prescribing a probiotic diet for her clients, the health of one's gut is key to healing a number of systemic problems. She cites the GAPS diet, which stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome, a way of eating popularized by pediatrician Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. GAPS addresses food sensitivities and allergies, and the related illnesses that may follow, as well as damage done to the intestinal flora by overuse of antibiotics. Alive's menu always includes nutrient rich stocks and fermented foods.

Straiges, who lovingly recalls her Italian grandmother cooking classics in the family kitchen, says, "If we do what's right for ourselves, we're doing what's right for our families, and ultimately for the planet." Straiges says Alive Kitchen food tastes good, but more important, it feels good. "It's nutrient rich, yet delicious for everyone." She hopes to serve conscious but busy foodies who are looking for a little help in the kitchen. Straiges teaches cooking classes and workshops, does menu consulting for restaurants and corporations, and will offer cooking classes this spring.

Source: Denise Straiges Warkov, Alive Kitchen
Writer:
Sue Spolan

PNC awards $100,000 to United Way's Asset and Workforce Development Initiatives

Here's a surprising statistic: a family of four needs an income of over $60,000 a year to survive in the city of Philadelphia, according to United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. That leaves 20 percent of the city's households without adequate earnings to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, health care and child care. That's where The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Asset and Workforce Development Initiative offers a hand. United Way's goal is to educate, increase literacy, and help promote low income earners to higher paying jobs, not with handouts, but with financial self-reliance training, adult literacy programs, and assistance with tax preparation. In the past three years, United Way has provided nearly $2 million in funding and garnered over $50 million in tax refunds for local families.

To maintain and grow the Asset and Workforce Development Initiative in 2011, The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania has just received a $100,000 grant from PNC Community Development Banking, a division of PNC Bank. Jill Michal, CEO of United Way Southeastern Pennsylvania, says in a news release: "PNC's grant will help us reach our goal of finding jobs for more than 900 out-of-school youth and homeless veterans, and (help) some 500 individuals obtain an academic or vocational credential."

The Asset and Workforce Development Initiative is responsible for providing thousands of area residents with increased savings, leading to the potential for new home purchases and avoidance of foreclosure on existing mortgages.

Source
: United Way
Writer: Sue Spolan






Wireless Energy Solutions partners with Bulogics to help commercial buildings battle PECO rate hikes

This holiday season, commercial building owners in the Philadelphia area will be receiving a gift that they would love to return. This January, PECO is set to announce its first rate hike in 14 years. This expiration of the rate caps is likely to mean big increases for commercial buildings, where utilities are often the biggest expenditure. But one Glenside company wants to replace this lump of coal with energy savings, connecting cutting edge technology with complex building systems.

In 2009, long-time business owner and entrepreneur Tony DePaul created Wireless Energy Solutions (WES) as a marketing and distribution agency for Bulogics, the Philadelphia-based energy monitoring technology firm. Bulogics has created smart plugs that monitor energy usage for each device and transmit that information wirelessly. Partnering with Bulogics, DePaul's team has created an internet-enabled network allowing business owners to control energy usage and monitor devices from an iPhone or laptop off-site and from any computer in the building. This solution has helped commercial buildings across the region reduce usage before the rate caps expire.

"There are three major areas impacted: HVAC, lighting, and parasitic power," says DePaul. "By keeping your building the appropriate climate, managing the parasitic power and the lighting, it comes up to anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the energy bill each year. And depending on where the power companies are, some offer rebates for these devices. And we do all the applications. These things pay for themselves in a very short period of time."

WES promises a 100 percent return on investment within three years through savings and rebates. In Pennsylvania, while rates may be going up, PECO offers a 21-cent-per-square-foot rebate, helping building owners avoid the rate-cap woes.

"There is nothing else like this on the market," says DePaul. "The alternative is dumb, low-tech devices. Or you can use this, a wireless capability that is highly intelligent, programmable and reports and monitors the site completely."

Source: Tony DePaul, Wireless Energy Solutions
Writer: John Steele

Pure Fare marries online diet software with fast, casual dining in Rittenhouse

These days, most businesses fit into one of two categories--brick-and-mortar businesses and online cyber shops. And from the look of Pure Fare's 21st Street location, the Rittenhouse neighborhood is soon in for another sustainable cafe. But partners Kriti and Kunal Sehgal and  have something far more innovative in mind.

With PureFare.com, the Pure Fare team hopes to help customers monitor their eating habits and keep track of local food. The My Fare program would allow customers who live and work in the neighborhood to use a swipe card, keeping track of meals at Pure Fare. PureFare.com then offers detailed nutritional information for all purchases. Customers can also enter food items from other places into this online food log, helping Pure Fare's health nut customers have a more intuitive view to encourage healthy eating.

"Our goal right now is to cater to the breakfast and lunch crowd," says Pure Fare co-managing partner Kunal Sehgal. "It is a place where you can come to get a sandwich or a cup of coffee but we also offer these other features."

The owners say they have plans to make the building more sustainable as well, using low-impact lighting and composting in the kitchen. But the web tools are what set them apart. Sehgal says they even held up the opening until early 2011 to make sure they got the website just right.

"We are working on the design of the space but also making sure that everything we do is supported by the website," says Sehgal. By very effortlessly tracking what you are eating, we can track your (body mass index), health metrics and we are able to engage the user in a way that has never been done by a fast-casual brand."

Source: Kunal Sehgal, Pure Fare
Writer: John Steele

UgMo Technologies introduces a wireless soil sensor for small irrigation systems

In 2009, Tampa, Fla., experienced the worst drought in its history, causing quite a stir in the city's water department. From January to March, water enforcement officials had issued six citations a day for improper water usage. The situation became so dire that the city issued a ban on sprinkler systems, until the drought was under control.

King of Prussia sprinkler firm UgMo Technologies is helping Florida business and home owners protect against drought without throwing the baby out with the lawn water. They created ProHome, a wireless soil sensor that detects when soil has been adequately saturated and automatically shuts the water off, saving customers an average of 53 percent on water bills. Along with Florida, the company has sales teams in drought-plagued areas in Texas, California, Florida and Georgia. This week, Ben Franklin Technology Partners announced $500,000 in investment to help UgMo expand ProHome to larger, more commercial projects across the country.

"This is a true green product that allows you to cut down on your water usage and provides real savings," says UgMo CFO Joe Cahill. "That is something you don't see much in the green tech market."

After launching in 2004, UgMo began developing ProTurf, a version of ProHome marketed to sports facilities and golf courses. After releasing ProTurf in 2009, UgMo was well along developing its second product, ProHome. The Ben Franklin investment will help UgMo launch a new commercial version of its technology. The company looks to expand drastically in the next year, hiring in every department and expanding into home and commercial markets.

"The next generation of UgMo will address larger irrigation systems; everything from office parks to municipalities and strip malls," says Cahill. "As we spend the next year developing this product, the investment will help us continue our growth."

Source: Joe Cahill, UgMo Technologies
Writer: John Steele

Ride-sharing platform Ridaroo debuts at Drexel, looks to hitch a ride with other schools

It's holiday time again and students at college campuses across the U.S. will be huddled around their local ride board looking for a convenient carpool to drive them over the river and through the woods. As former Drexel University business students, Andy Guy and Aksel Gungor were in that rabble once. But thanks to their new internet platform Ridaroo, a digital answer to the college bulletin board, university students may soon be able to bypass this holiday huddle and get on the road a little faster. 

"We built Ridaroo here at Drexel initially as an answer to the co-op office's ride board," says Guy. "But we quickly realized there was a wider market for a product like this at universities, corporations and a lot of other entities and when we started expanding our horizons, we realized there was an opportunity to make this a real business."

Using Facebook and Google Maps, Ridaroo allows students to connect, share routes and meet up out on the road. Guy and Gungor hope to expand accessibility with smartphones, optimizing the site for mobile phones. As they get the word out through Drexel and other universities, Guy and Gungor are examining other applications, working with businesses and government agencies to start carpool programs for workers. Businesses and universities pay a subscription fee and Guy and Gungor admit that they are still learning how to bring the service to a new location. But once the pilot program is complete, they are confident they will be hitching a ride at college and business campuses across the country.

"Our goal is to go out to the local universities and get somewhere in the range of a dozen schools," says Guy. "At that level, we would feel confident knowing we had proven ourselves in the market. Then it's time to really go after a nationwide effort."

Source: Andy Guy, Ridaroo
Writer: John Steele 



Phoenixville's Arctic Ease plays it cool at Philadelphia Marathon

In Philadelphia in late November, keeping cool has never been a problem. That is, unless you run the Philadelphia Marathon. The annual race, which took place on Sunday, Nov. 21, attracted a field of over 11,000 runners, all battling for the finish line. When they got there, runners were greeted by the folks at Arctic Ease, a Phoenixville company specializing in cryotherapy wraps and pads proven to reduce swelling and stay cool for hours. The wraps require no time in the freezer and can be attached for more mobility.

A veteran of the health care industry and avid athlete, CEO Carol Forden founded Arctic Ease in 2009 after creating a chemical compound in her garage. Designed to remove heat from injured tissue, Arctic Ease keeps affected areas at a safe 60 degrees, reducing swelling and pain.

"If you are a weekend warrior and you overdo it or you are a runner in a marathon, on Monday, it is going to be a little tough to move around," says Forden. "What this product does is removes that swelling so you don't have that pain on Monday."

Along with offering wraps to runners at the finish line, Arctic Ease added a product sample to each marathoner's registration info and sponsored a massage tent. The company has appeared at marathons across the country and, after hiring four top-level positions in October 2009, is looking to expand into new markets in 2011. Along with expansion into other sports, Forden says the product may soon help osteoarthritis sufferers return mobility to creaky joints. 

"If you have ever twisted an ankle and wound up in the ER, you know that until they reduce the swelling, they can't do much," says Forden. "If you have nerve damage or a sprained ankle, they will tell you to come back three weeks later and they want you icing that whole time. Arctic Ease makes this process a little easier."

Source: Carol Forden, Arctic Ease
Writer: John Steele

Sustainability-minded singles get their own dating site courtesty of Doylestown healthy living pub

When Cindy Gruenwald started Doylestown's Creating Community magazine 17 years ago, the term "going green" hadn't yet  taken over the American lexicon and Al Gore was famous for simply being the Vice President. Creating Community was launched with a very specific community in mind; those interested in healthy living, sustainability and personal fitness. All these years later, the community is stronger than ever, leading Gruenwald to take her green guidance to the next level. Her new dating website, ANaturalAffinity.com, matches singles with similar interests in leading a healthier, more active and more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

"All of my single friends, no matter how crunchy granola they may be, were doing online dating because they found it hard to meet other single people" says Gruenwald. "And then, in doing online dating, they go on Match.com and there aren't enough like-minded people. Or they go on GreenSingles.com but there are not many people in their area. People who are interested in this range of things, it is generally not a casual interest like loving German Shepherds. These are really cornerstones of someone's lifestyle."

For fans of a more active lifestyle, there are groups and events calendars so dates are built right into the social fabric. The site even offers a list of conversational topics and access to message boards so you can chat before you date. Gruenwald announced the site this week with the hopes of going live January 1. In the meantime, Creating Community is looking to hire two staffers to help manage the site going forward, so that all the features work as they should.

"People want to connect with other people in their area," says Gruenwald. "The range of topics is the thing, really, the range of interests we have put together really drives people."

Source: Cindy Gruenwald, ANaturalAffinity.com
Writer: John Steele

Nova Thermal Energy brings geothermal heat to the Philly Water Department

The word 'geothermal' comes from the Greek term for "heat from the earth." But digging into the earth can be a challenge when it is covered by the concrete jungle of an American city. So Nova Thermal Energy created a geothermal energy system that connects to the sewer infrastructure, using these underground pipes as a geothermal loop. After commercializing in China, Nova Thermal brings a traditionally rural technology to large, urban buildings here in the U.S., and they are starting with the Philadelphia Water Department.

Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Nutter and the City of Philadelphia announced the Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology program that would allow three developing energy technology companies to install at buildings around the city to test the feasibility of different energy-saving measures. Nova Thermal Energy received $150,000 to bring urban geothermal to the Philadelphia Water Department headquarters at 1101 Market St. With this installation, Nova Thermal will monitor consumption, effectiveness and filtration to see if these technologies can be used city-wide to curb heating costs and reduce Philadelphia's carbon footprint.

"We have a project pipeline of about 15 projects in various stages of development throughout the Mid-Atlantic region but no one wants to be the first to demonstrate the technology," says Nova Thermal CEO Elinor Haider. "This will enable us to advance our commercial scale pipeline."

The Philadelphia Water Department has needed a new heating system for some time. This system provides a large-scale system that uses the heat from untreated sewage to heat large buildings, using filtration and a system of heat pumps. Nova Thermal Energy estimates that the 20,000 sq ft. PWD facility will save approximately 40 percent of the building's current heating costs when it is completed in January.

"By using wastewater for our heat pumps, the system is a fraction of the cost but a massive energy efficiency impact on buildings that couldn't use geothermal before," says Haider.

Source: Elinor Haider, Nova Thermal Energy
Writer: John Steele

Something to Bank On: City Partners Up to Boost Recycling Rewards Program

So by now you're a recycling pro: Your carefully sorted blue bins are first on the curb, and your trash can is light. And it's doubly awesome that you're so passionate about it, but you know, you could be getting something for all this. That's part of the message from RecycleNOW Philadelphia, which announced on Monday a partnership with the City of Philadelphia and RecycleBank to help boost citywide recycling rates. The program is centered around RecycleBank's Philadelphia Recycling Rewards program, which incentivizes recycling by offering points for regular recycling that can be cashed in for discounts or freebies at participating local and national businesses.

More than 100,000 Philadelphia households are already signed up for the rewards program, but the new partnership has RecycleNOW enlisting and training city residents to be neighborhood recycling advocates, who will sign up their freinds, neighbors, family and co-workers to earn their own incentives.

"This partnership will help us reach even more residents and provide them with the motivation to start recycling or recycle even more and get rewarded for it," says Denise Diorio McVeigh, Philadelphia account manager of RecycleBank, in a statement released Monday on America Recycles Day. RecycleBank launched its successful pilot program in Philadelphia in 2005, when it tripled recycling rates in Chestnut Hill and quadrupled them in West Oak Lane.

RecycleNOW's first neighborhood recycling advocate training will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. at 1500 Walnut Street (Suite 205). For more information, contact Katie Edwards here. The Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia is led by Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), the Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action and Niche Recycling.

Source: PennFuture
Writer: Joe Petrucci


Harvest From the Hood: Greensgrow and Philadelphia Brewing Company team up to produce hometown ale

Philadelphia Brewing Company's newest "Select Series" brew Harvest From The Hood is known as a wet-hop ale. When hop flowers are harvested, they are traditionally dried so that they can be shipped to breweries across the country. But with wet-hop ale, you get the hops into the boiler within 24 hours of the harvest to get the maximum flavor. PBC is located in Kensington, where there isn't a hops plant for 3,000 miles, but these beer barons weren't going to let a little thing like that stop them.

Through a partnership with the urban agriculturalists Greensgrow Farms, PBC brewers grew the hops on urban farm space both in their own courtyard and on Greensgrow's farmland, creating the world's freshest wet-hop ale and bringing a new brewing style to the table this harvest season.

"When you think about how things were marketed years ago, everybody bought something from their neighborhood," says PBC sales rep Tony Madjor. "Even with beer, especially in the Northeast, all the breweries were very regional and, in some cases, just in their own neighborhood."

Harvest From The Hood is the first beer in the PBC Select Series, a group of high-concept brews PBC hopes to offer seasonally while it works on its next great "session" beer.  On November 15, the company celebrates the release of Winter Wunder, a spiced ale containing plums, dates, cinnamon, allspice, clove, and a sprinkle of ginger. Mid-December will bring Shackamaximum, a chocolate imperial stout. And Kilty Pleasure, a Scottish ale, comes in January. These seasonal offerings will toy with local tastebuds, offering an endearing seasonal treat as well as sparking the creativity for PBC brewers.

"We are only approaching our third full year of brewing so we are looking at where the market is going but also looking at styles that we want to make," says Madjor. "We would like to keep this around though and have it come out every October.

Source: Tony Madjor, Philadelphia Brewing Company
Writer: John Steele

Niche Recycling brings composting dumpster, waste management systems to Navy Yard

When Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled 500 Big Belly solar garbage compactors all over the city in April 2009, there was skepticism as to the effectiveness of this new technology. But when this test run was complete and the Philly Throws Green case study was released in June, city officials found the compactors would save over $1.5 million in waste collection man-hours per year. The city hopes its newest garbage-related investment in composting will yield the same results.

In an effort to conduct a real-world test of its effectiveness, the city of Philadelphia has granted $18,700 to Niche Recycling for one of its composting "Bio Bins." By trapping in natural gasses released from food waste using a sealed bin, a recirculating air system and wood chips, Bio Bins break down food waste so that fewer collections are needed.

"With food waste, you typically have three days before you start to get anaerobic conditions and smell," says Niche Recycling founder Maurice Sampson II. "With Bio Bins, you can handle this on-site. There is a tremendous savings to not have to collect every other day and, unlike a typical composting operation, we can use normal garbage trucks."

The grant comes as part of the Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology (G-PET) program, which is funded through the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. With the exposure of this project and the recent opening of the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center, Sampson hopes to offer a full composting service that will give him a competitive advantage over trash collectors.

"We are very proud to be selected for this grant that is about commercialization, so that we can test it and find out what the criteria are," says Sampson. "Composting is not something we typically think of in America but oh my goodness, it is going to make such a difference."

Source: Maurice Sampson II, Niche Recycling
Writer: John Steele

AlumiFuel goes global with $7.5M in financing, eyes expansion of hydrogen-based projects

In Scotland two weeks ago, the Scottish Police Service agreed to European firm ITM Power's Hydrogen On-Site Trials, a test of hydrogen fuel cell technology and fueling stations. The trials, scheduled for early 2011, will also be conducted in England (Sheffield and Southampton). The trials are one of thousands of hydrogen-based projects going on across Europe. And Drexel University-spinoff company AlumiFuel Power--the company responsible for aluminum-powder capsules that, when delivered to water, create valuable hydrogen and steam--plans to be involved. This week, AlumiFuel announced the sale of $7.5 million in common stock of its majority-owned subsidiary, AlumiFuel Power International. The sale, officials say, will allow the company to expand internationally.

"This Memorandum of Understanding is the first step in our goal to broaden our reach outside of North America and provide access to capital for expansion of our product development and marketing activities," says Alumifuel CEO Henry Fong.

While much of the company's business currently focuses on lift-gas for weather balloons and flameless heaters, executives hope to expand the use of these cylinder capsules in back-up and auxiliary power for fuel cells and turbines. But they will have to act fast, as hydrogen is rapidly catching on in key worldwide markets.

"While we must still conduct further due diligence, we believe this can be accomplished in a relatively short time-frame for a deal of this nature," says Fong. "The creation of AlumiFuel International and this funding, if successfully completed, will allow us to expand our reach internationally and raise significant capital to fund our operations."

Source: Henry Fong, AlumiFuel Power
Writer: John Steele

With city financing, BuLogics to install energy-saving gadgets at Philly institutions

When most guys play pool, they talk about girls, music, sports; but when Drexel University electrical engineering grad students Ryan Buchert and Dr. Michael Balog gathered to shoot stick in their basement in 2003, the conversation was a bit more complex. Just as a stick is used to strike one ball against another into the pocket, the pair posited, what if all our tools could be controlled wirelessly, for simpler device management?

Those late-night pool games became the vision for BuLogics, a green gadget firm allowing for wireless control of everything from lights to smoke detectors. This week, the Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology Program--the first pilot program for the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster--announced an award of $175,000 to help these energy-efficient electricians bring light controls and metering technology to the Navy Yard in South Philly and the Inn at Penn in University City.

"Energy costs keep going up and small businesses are suffering because of that," says BuLogics CEO Mirka Walczak. "Everyone is on the bandwagon of reducing parasitic power and we have a solution in place will offer better control and allow them to really keep an eye on that usage."

For these two commercial institutions, BuLogics starts with the Smart-Grid controller--"the glue that holds it all together" says Walczak--that allows all devices to run through the same command center and be monitored for energy consumption. This, along with metering power strips and wireless transponders, gives office and hotel managers the power to run a more efficient business.

"When you lock up the door for the last time, you can punch in a code that shuts off the power to all the devices and lock the doors and the thermostat gets set back," says Director of Operations Jennifer Doebler. " I think that automation piece that makes energy management so much simpler is what makes our technology a little more comprehensive and a little more desirable, especially in commercial applications like the Navy Yard."

Source: Mirka Walczak, Bulogics
Writer: John Steele


 

Penn State helps urban farmers harvest success in University City

From a few tomato plants in a rooftop garden to acre-sized community farms, profitable plants are sprouting up all over Philadelphia. With the end of the harvest season upon us, Penn State University comes to the Enterprise Center in West Philly this week, pulling farmers out of the fields and into the classroom in the name of good agribusiness.

With open-enrollment extension course "Income Opportunities in Agriculture," students will learn successful business practices for urban farmers interested in taking their crops to market. How do you set prices? How do you market yourself? Who can you partner with to become more profitable? Enlisting professors from PSU's College of Agriculture, many with corporate farming backgrounds, this course will make sure you always have a plentiful harvest. 

"The people we are attracting are people following their passions and hopefully building it into something bigger," says Penn State extension director John Byrnes. "Philadelphia has some larger urban ag institutions--Greensgrow and the Weavers Way farm. These are places where people can hold down jobs and make a living. This is giving people the opportunity to learn about business and give them a shot at augmenting their income."

The course is part of a series of Penn State urban agriculture offerings delivered annually around the end of the market season. Penn State's agricultural extension program partners with local learning professionals to bring course offerings to people off campus as well. The College of Agriculture first presented "Exploring Your Small Farm Dream" for beginning farmers looking for an idea. "Income Opportunities in Agriculture" starts Tuesday, Nov. 9 from 6-8 pm at the Enterprise Center. Registration is $20 and can be taken care of here.

Source: John Byrnes, Penn State University
Writer: John Steele

Energy Innovation Hub grows as U.K. firm announces move to Navy Yard

Less than two months since $122 million was announced to create an Energy Innovation Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the project is already taking shape. United Kingdom-based Mark Group, a European home energy efficiency leader, was welcomed on Friday by Gov. Ed Rendell to its new home at the Navy Yard, where it will hire up to 320 workers over the next three years.

Mark Group was founded in 1974 and boasts of improving the energy efficiency of more than 2 million homes, installing more than 6,000 measures every week that help consumers save. The company is in growth mode, having recently established an Australian base of operations.

Led by a Penn State University-headed team, the Clean Energy campus at the Navy Yard is one of three regional clusters nationally that are designed to bring together leading researchers and the private sector to develop energy efficient building designs. Buildings accounty for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption.

"The creation of alternative energy sources is key to America's economic future," says Mark Group CEO Jeff Bartos. "We are excited to launch our business from Philadelphia and to deliver energy efficiency upgrades to homes throughout the nation."

As part of the move, Mark Group received a $3.28 million financing package from the Governor's Action Team. Bringing the company across the pond was truly a collaborative effort: The state Department of Community and Economic Development's international trade off, the City of Philadelphia, Select Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and the TeamPA Foundation were all credited.

Source: Jeff Bartos, Mark Group
Writer: Joe Petrucci

St. Joes receives $1 million to study fuel sources and green roofs

From mud thatch to clay tile, roofing materials are about as varied as the houses underneath them. But with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, St. Joseph's University students will test the limits of green roofing materials, trying out everything from gravel to plastic-based fabric to recycled sneaker rubber. By building an expansive green roof on the deck of the University's Science Center, St. Joes associate dean of Natural Science, Math and Computer Science Mike McCann will monitor the drainage of four different green roof sections to see which performs best.

"A big goal with the green roof project is public dissemination," says McCann. "What we want to do is be able to tell anyone who is looking to do a green roof in this area of the country 'here is some performance data that might help guide your design.' "

This grant will also fund a study of switchgrass cultivation. Widely thought to be an excellent source of biofuels, switchgrass growth may be impacted by climate change. Through university study and field research at National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research site Konza Prairie, near Manhattan, Kan. students will examine the effects of changes in precipitation, temperature, and carbon dioxide on the growth of switchgrass to see if it may one day become a sustainable fuel source. McCann and the St. Joe's brass hope these projects will help formally establish their proposed Institute for Environmental Stewardship.

"We expect development communities to be very interested as well as people looking at global climate change impacts," says McCann. "But this grant is going to support undergraduate and graduate students engaged in these projects. We are not doing this to train switchgrass researchers. We are doing this to train sustainable researchers to do all sorts of jobs."

Source: Mike McCann, St. Joseph's University
Writer: John Steele

Hand-me-downs never looked so cool with Wharton entrepreneur's Drop Swop clothing trade-in service

It's the curse of the middle child: your older sister's worn out jean jacket that went out of style two years before she bought it is now the only thing you have for the first day of school. Hand-me-downs can make your closet look like the wardrobe trailer for a John Hughes movie. But a new service from Penn's Wharton School of Business ensures that your kids won't suffer like you did.

It's called Drop Swop, a children's clothing trade-in service that allows parents to trade in their child's unwanted or outgrown clothes for points that can be put toward a growing online collection of gently used clothing cast-offs. A simple concept could have only come from experience and founder Marcus Hathaway says his inspiration came a little over a year ago after moving from California to attend Wharton.

"At that time, my son was growing, going through his clothes so we had piles of clothes that we just ended up storing in his room," says Hathaway. "We kept buying more clothes and storing clothes and he didn't even have a chance to wear most of the stuff."

Like the clothes that have become its specialty, rapid growth caused Drop Swop to outgrow its original location at the University of Pennsylvania. Today, parents can find Drop Swop bins at Turning Points for Children in Center City and at the Caring People Alliance at the West Philadelphia Community Center as well as Penn's Family Resource Center in University City. As the word spreads, Hathaway hopes to add more facilities and staff to fill them in the coming year.

"When we talked to our friends and members of our family, we recognized that ours was a shared experience," says Hathaway. "Drop Swop was a way to interact and help parents get the most out of their kids' clothes."

Source: Marcus Hathaway, Drop Swop
Writer: John Steele

CityRyde tracks carbon savings of sustainable activities

When most people strap on a helmet and hit the road on a bike, they are probably not thinking about carbon tonnage or sustainable energy credits. But with each pedal push, cyclists are putting a dent in Philadelphia's carbon footprint. And University City bike sharing consultants CityRyde want you to know how much your morning ride is effecting the planet.

Creating a personalized version of the carbon metering software they have in city-wide bike sharing programs from Paris to Portland, CityRyde introduced a new mobile application this week helping bikers and walkers monitor their carbon savings and see how much their car is polluting.  The company is beta testing on Android phones with hopes to expand to Blackberry and iPhone in the next month and is working on adding public transit to the application.

Twenty-five percent of the world's carbon emissions come from daily transportation.

"Knowledge is really power," says CityRyde CEO Tim Ericson. "I don't think anyone really understands the impact of their daily activities."

Through corporate partnerships, Ericson and his team hope to offer incentives for people to reduce their carbon emissions. Using increasingly comprehensive mapping software, CityRyde can examine a user's location, route and rate of speed to determine what mode of transportation a rider is using to keep things honest, holding sustainable to a higher standard and making it worth your while in the process.

"A perfect example would be (all-natural foods maker) Cliff Bar or one of those type of companies offering product samples or other incentives in exchange for those carbon credits, essentially giving them a marketing piece and a PR piece combined into one package," says Ericson.

Source: Tim Ericson, CityRyde
Writer: John Steele 

Northwest Farm Fest celebrates urban farming with country flavor

Farmers across Central Pennsylvania will be celebrating another plentiful harvest season this fall, but thanks to Weavers Way and the Awbury Arboretum, there will also be plenty of celebrating to do in the city. The Weavers Way Community Farm, a Northwest Philadelphia urban farm tended by high school students and used to make local products by community members,  is honoring another successful year. The Weavers Way farm celebrates this Saturday from 11am-3pm at Awbury Arboretum with the second annual Northwest FarmFest, a country festival for Philadelphia's city farmers.

"This farm is making sustainable agriculture a part of this urban community," says farm committee member Josh Brooks. "This is a time to gain acknowledgment for the farm, spread awareness and just celebrate that it's there. And have fun."

As the Weavers Way urban farm offers students and community members all the benefits of local agriculture--fresh produce, low prices, local cultivation--the Chestnut Hill food co-op's members and community program directors bring all the country comforts of a small-town festival to the big city. The Northwest FarmFest is free and open to the public, presenting musical performances from local acts, pumpkin painting, hay rides, and farm tours. And of course, the Weavers Way Farmstand will have plenty of homegrown produce on sale, along with prepared food from the Weavers Way's Marketplace Program, a school-based cooperative food business run by students. Weavers Way hopes the event will be a venue to show off many school programs focused on the benefits and lessons of local, healthy eating. And of course, to celebrate the harvest.

"We will also be promoting the whole aspect of Weavers Way Community Programs who work with schools to create a marketplace, teaching about food and creating a market" says Brooks. "We'll have food, some barbecue, the marketplace will be selling some food and drink."

Source: Josh Brooks, Weavers Way Farm
Writer: John Steele

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele





SEPTA subways go hybrid with lossless battery storage system

Philadelphians know SEPTA's Market-Frankford El as the Blue Line. But a new pilot program, which stores leftover power from the subway's regenerative braking system in a massive battery, would make the Blue Line a little greener, and provide SEPTA some much-needed capital.

Earlier this month, SEPTA and Conshohocken smart-grid firm Viridity Energy announced receipt of $900,000 from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority to install a massive storage battery--about the size of a cement truck--at SEPTA's Kensington electrical substation. The current regenerative braking system transmits electricity, collected as trains enter stations, to other electric vehicles. But if no other vehicles are in range, the electricity is lost. The battery, capable of storing up to a megawatt of electricity, would siphon energy to be resold to the power grid. Viridity estimates that this one battery will generate $500,000 a year in clean, green profit. SEPTA has already applied for new funding to install these battery systems at all 33 substations across their service area.

"With this technology, SEPTA can be very strategic with their power; when they are using it, when they are storing it and when they are selling it back into the grid," says Viridity Director of Business Development Laurie Actman. "At peak periods, the grid is willing to pay premium prices for sources of reliable load."

Since 2008, SEPTA has struggled to execute capital improvements to its transit infrastructure. Most recently, a proposed switch to SmartCards has drawn scrutiny from city media and transit bloggers. When Governor Ed Rendell made a play to turn state thoroughfare I-80 into a federal toll road, he promised a chunk of the resulting revenue to SEPTA. Since Rendell's proposal was defeated, SEPTA has been looking for other ways to fund improvements, from fare hikes to advertising on the sides of trains. The battery system technology could be the answer they have been looking for that will finally bring the Philadelphia subway into the 21st century.

"As we all know, SEPTA has always had a constrained budget and not enough money to invest in its infrastructure," says Actman. "For so long, SEPTA's infrastructure, that was built nearly a century ago, has been a liability. We are turning that into an opportunity."

Source: Laurie Actman, Viridity Energy
Writer: John Steele

More Innovation and Job News from across Pennsylvania on Keystone Edge

If you're interested in innovation and job news from throughout Pennsylvania, do yourself a favor and check out our sister publication called Keystone Edge. Keystone Edge covers Innovation and Job News from Erie to Easton in its weekly online magazine, which publishes each Thursday and is also available via free subscription here.

City's most involved young professionals imagine Philly's future with city-wide summit

Studies in recent years have revealed that while Philadelphia welcomes up to 50,000 freshman to its colleges and universities every year, less than half remained in the region after graduation. That statistic, in part, is what motivates Young Involved Philadelphia, a comprehensive network of young professionals and student groups producing advocacy campaigns and social events to make Philly a better place to live.

This week, the group opens the State of Young Philly: Imagining Philly's Future summit, a massive, two-week event hosting over 30 partnering organizations for speeches, roundtable discussions and brainstorming sessions to make Philadelphia a more attractive place for young people. The summit will focus on four key areas--Community Engagement and Volunteerism, Government and Leadership, Business and Entrepreneurship, and Arts and Culture--in an effort to "engage, educate and empower" young Philadelphia.

"For the first time since the '50s, the city is gaining population, and although we don't have the newest census data yet, we would venture a guess that this growth is due partly to an increasingly vibrant youth culture," says YIP board chair Claire Robertson-Kraft.

With speakers as varied as former Mayor John Street and the Mural Arts Program's Jane Golden, the summit hopes to gain a wide-reaching perspective that can be gleaned into an agenda ranking priorities and creating concrete deliverables. This agenda will inform an ongoing blog and will serve as YIP's action plan for the coming year. YIP hopes to make the summit an annual event, creating a constant barometer on youth culture in Philadelphia.

"The most important thing we hope people take away from the event is a sense of empowerment," says Robertson-Kraft. "As young Philadelphians, we should be organizing, demonstrating our ability to contribute to the debate, and doing more to ensure our voices are heard."

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: John Steele


Delaware's iBio partners with GE to bring plant-based vaccines to the world stage

These days, there is a pill for everything from restless leg syndrome to erectile dysfunction. In fact, the only medicinal plant you hear about is illegal in the U.S.

That's all about to change. With a complete line of plant-based vaccines and antibodies, Newark, Del. pharma company iBio seeks to spread its green-thumb mentality, helping other pharmaceutical companies more efficiently make the switch to plant-based products. This month, the company announced a partnership with GE Healthcare to jointly develop and globally market manufacturing solutions for biopharmaceuticals and vaccines.

"We expect this relationship with GE Healthcare to accelerate and broaden market penetration for our technology through access to GE Healthcare's existing relationships and its skill and experience with project implementation and process development," says Chairman and CEO of iBio Robert B. Kay. "This is another implementation of our model to affiliate and out-source with best-in-class collaborators."

iBio's iBioLaunch model--which provides an easy transition from synthetic manufacturing to a biopharmaceutical system at a lower cost and higher efficiency--is going global. But with their primary research partnership just seven years old, the company felt a partnership with the behemoth GE would allow a smoother transition into the global market. But iBio's brass remains competent that they are delivering a finished product onto the world stage. Move over marijuana, a whole new breed of healing plants should arrive on the scene soon.
 
"We have already done considerable planning and work with GE Healthcare to prepare for implementation of this agreement," says Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Vidadi Yusibov. "Therefore, we expect this relationship to start quickly and continue long after its initial three-year term to provide important results for our collective customers."

Source: Robert Kay, iBio
Writer: John Steele
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