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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 

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

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

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

Fairmount's Design Logic releases innovative cargo "fat" bike

In 2010, Lance Portnoff placed ninth among fifty contestants at the Motor Assisted Bike Death Race in Tuscon, Ariz., on a bicycle he designed and assembled himself in the basement of his Fairmount home. Shortly after, he earned a patent for the design -- dubbed "Da Bomb" -- and launched Design Logic Bikes.

The company makes heavy duty cargo bikes with built-in electric motors that travel up to 50 miles per hour (20 mph, legally). The frame includes a carrying rack that can hold up to 150 pounds, allowing the bike to haul anything from camping gear to humans over the back wheel. These are bikes built to do more than just get a person from place to place.

"The rear of the bike basically has a built-in rack," says Portnoff. "With most bikes you’d have to buy an accessory and bolt it in."

In mid-May, Design Logic will release a cargo bike, "Da Phat," with tires 4.8 inches thick. In addition to the built-in rack, the frame has a hitch that allows the Da Phat to move a small automobile trailer.

"There's a new trend in bikes within the last few years called a 'fat' bike with big fat tires," explains Portnoff. "A couple of manufacturers make bicycles with that size tires. We’re pretty much the first cargo fat bike."  

Design Logic plans to keep their operations lean (they outsource the machining). In addition to the new release, Portnoff is organizing an electric bike racing team. 

Source: Lance Portnoff, Design Logic
Writer: Dana Henry

DeTours opens its fourth season of Philadelphia Segway tours

In July 2010, Rassa Vella, founder of DeTours, returned from a trip to Paris with a new idea for exploring Philadelphia. Vella decided that a Segway -- a two-wheeled standing vehicle common in Europe -- could give tourists a more intimate view of the city compared to a traditional bus or carriage outing. DeTours open its fourth season this month and runs tours through October.

Since launching with just one guide, the company has grown to 13 employees and a full-time operations manager. DeTours has doubled their fleet to 15 vehicles and offer up to five tours per day. Trips cover Philly's murals, South Philly cheesesteak tasting and Center City sights. Stops include the Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell, Elfreth's Alley, Franklin Court and the Avenue of the Arts.They also cover contemporary Philly, including the Comcast Center, the Cira Center and urban parks. Longer trips go off-road on the Schuylkill River Trail.

"It's not just Betsy Ross," says Vella. "We integrate the present and the future along with the past. It's who Philadelphia is -- it's immersion."

Vella says the tours have grown increasingly popular for family gatherings and corporate outings. DeTours also serves larger private events and offers on-campus Segway demos at Temple student events. In the coming years, she hopes to open two other offices in the Greater Philadelphia region. 

"You can cover as much ground as you would on a bus, but you're experiencing it from the view of a pedestrian," says Vella. "You’re in the neighborhoods -- you're hearing, seeing and smelling them."

Source: Rassa Vella, DeTours
Writer: Dana Henry

Uber riding steady in Philly, eyes growth here and beyond

Being a baller is not gender specific. Uber, the new black car service in Philadelphia, is a heck of a guy magnet (it works wonders on chicks, too). Launched here last month, Uber takes taxicabs to task, providing concierge level service for just a few dollars more. Most rides within Center City cost the $15 minimum. And it's hella sexy to pick up your date in a chauffeur driven limo. 
Uber just announced tiered service here, following the lead of New York and San Francisco, two other Uber-serviced cities. If you want a standard town car, it's $15, and a swanky SUV goes for $25. In the first weeks of the service, it was the luck of the draw. Sometimes a celebrity style whip showed up, and other times it was the sedan. Now it's possible to choose.
Uber relies on a smartphone app, available for Android and iOS. Launch Uber to get a map of currently available drivers, click to order, and you'll be set for pickup. Along the way, you receive SMS updates about the location of your driver. You can set pickup for another location. One customer, according to Adria Hou, Philadelphia General Manager for Uber, sets his Uber pickup from 30th Street Station while on the Amtrak coming down from New York. Credit card information is already stored, so no cash changes hands.
Hou says Uber marketing relies solely on word of mouth, and that week over week growth here is in line with total company growth. Based in San Francisco, with a total of 60 employees and $44.5 million in venture funding, Uber provides on demand car service in 13 cities internationally, with plans to expand next to Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. Expansion in Washington, D.C., however, has proved dicey.
The main challenge is growing the customer base, says Hou. "Our core users are the tech community." From there, word spreads. Once you experience an Uber ride, it's a challenge to go back to the standard taxi experience. While the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is in charge of the city's taxicab medallion service, may grumble, Hou says Uber is in compliance with the rules. "It's about places where it's hard to get a cab," says Hou. Locations like Fishtown and South Philly are pain points where Uber works most efficiently.
The lean three person Philadelphia team is headquartered at SeedPhilly at 1650 Arch, and will grow over time, says Hou. Uber currently operates between 50 to 100 cars, working in partnership with a variety of already existing limo services here in the city.

Source: Adria Hou, Uber
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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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