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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.

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

Search church: NoLibs' Seer Interactive 'hiring at will'

Seer Interactive is a search engine optimization and management agency, but unlike its competitors, Seer says it doesn't game Google. While other SEO and SEM firms use any number of tricks to get clients to the top of search results, Seer, says CEO Wil Reynolds, relies on an ethic of caretaking. No tricks. Reynold's philosophy is to build popularity organically, not by creating thousands of dummy blogs that link back to the client homepage, a popular tactic.
Seer, housed in a former church in Northern Liberties, has built its reputation almost entirely by referral, according to Reynolds. "I've always had a belief that if you take care of each client to the nth degree, and you hire good people, over time you generate an avalanche of referrals," he says. "Cold calling is not my style. Instead, my style is to kick ass for you so you tell other people." 
Seer now counts 60 clients worldwide, in places like Brazil, South Africa, and most major US cities.
Reynolds just got back from San Francisco, the headquarters of eight clients. "I like that personal connection." While Seer was officially incorporated in 2002, it wasn't a real business until 2005, when Reynolds left his job at Aeon for quite altruistic reasons.

His job was getting in the way of volunteering three hours a week at CHOP, and four days after being denied permission to leave early to get to the hospital, Reynolds quit and took on Seer as a full time endeavor. Giving back is essential to the nature of the business. There are 24 logos of Seer supported non-profits displayed on the company website.
"We've been growing accidentally," says Reynolds. "This happened organically." Reynolds has gone so far as to tell clients not to pay when there have been delays in delivery. "We weren't taking on new SEO clients for the past 12 weeks so that we could ramp up hiring."

Seer just hired six new employees in the last six weeks, bringing the total to 44, with an additional half dozen contractors and part timers on the books as well. 
In the past year, says Reynolds, staff has doubled. In contrast to other tech firms, Seer hires marketing staff almost exclusively, with only one developer on board. Revenue, according to Reynolds, is up 50 to 70% annually for the past four years. "We hire at will. I will overhire on talent because I know it's easy for us to get new business." Seer accounts include Revzilla, LinkedIn, Wine Enthusiast, Intuit and Crayola, to name just a few.

Source: Wil Reynolds, Seer Interactive
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

NoLibs-based RezScore helps jobseekers to the top of the resume pile

What if you could get an objective grade on your resume? RezScore, a Philadelphia based startup, wants to see you with an A-plus. Founded by Sean Weinberg and Gerrit Hall, the free and simple process runs your resume through an algorithm that delivers instant results.

Weinberg was working as a recruiter at AC Lion, a New York firm specializing in staffing startups. "We were noticing trends within the volume of job seekers," says Weinberg. "If people knew about these trends and how they worked, they could create more effective resumes." Time and again, says Weinberg, certain types of resumes scored interviews, while others were ignored.

As a test, I asked if we could put my resume through the engine. But first, Weinberg provided helpful tips. One: your resume should resemble a magazine ad with a call to action. Two: your headline needs to be ten words or less. Three: use bullet points. Four: use adverbs and numbers. "People forget to be specific," says Weinberg. "People respond to action descriptions: I did this, I accomplished that. Here's the number attached. It tells the employer you are a doer."

Weinberg adds, "Anything that adds context and demonstrates value is good. People think they can't quantify what they do and they are usually wrong. They just haven't thought about the right angle." Stay away from putting references on the resume, and "References available upon request" can date you, he says. Better to use LinkedIn for colleague recommendations.

After a few tweaks, we sent my resume through the RezScore process. Got an A. Then got a follow up email, offering several paid options: sign up with Resume Rabbit, which allows you to register for the top job boards in one centralized location, a resume makeover, and an entire resume rewrite. Cost for the tiers is competitive with other resume writing and distribution services. "No one is more vulnerable than a job seeker," says Weinberg. "We like to give as much help as possible for free." Top scoring resumes are invited to the global leaderboard.

Weinberg calls his company ramen noodle profitable, and looks forward to potentially lucrative future partnerships and licensing deals. Rezscore's writers are now employed on a contract basis. Weinberg, whose company is headquartered in Northern Liberties, hopes to hire full time staff soon.

Source: Sean Weinberg, RezScore
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

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

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

MilkBoy Recording taking over The Studio above The Electric Factory

First, MilkBoy the cafe took Center City. And now MilkBoy Recording is following suit. While the lease has not yet been signed, Jamie Lokoff reports that MilkBoy Recording has a signed letter of intent and will be moving from Ardmore to Philadelphia, taking over The Studio, Larry Gold's state of the art recording facility above the Electric Factory at 7th and Callowhill.

"It's the best studio north of Atlanta and south of New York," says Lokoff.

With the upcoming expansion, MilkBoy will breathe new life into a recording studio just blocks away from its live music venue at its new location at 11th and Chestnut. The Studio --a  20,000 square foot converted factory space with walls covered in gold and platinum records -- is legendary in the music business, having hosted luminaries like The Roots, Tori Amos, Al Green, Patti LaBelle and many other award-winning acts.

Gold, who is also a virtuoso musician and is still arranging for Jay-Z, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez, will be handing over the reins to MilkBoy, itself an established talent factory, working with Usher, Dave Matthews and the Dixie Hummingbirds. For a brief time last year, The Studio was run by Solomon Silber, who is no longer associated with the organization.

At this point, Lokoff does not have plans for MilkBoy's current multitrack digital and analog Ardmore recording studio, and until the impending move, continues with a full schedule that includes film and TV work as well as album recording.

Source: Jamie Lokoff, MilkBoy
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

What's all this about LevelUp? Help your mom figure it out

My mom called. "What's this LevelUp? I got an email on my BlackBerry that I have two dollars off at Miel." When a brand new tech company already has the attention of the 70-somethings, it's got to be good.

LevelUp, which has a rapidly growing presence in the Philadelphia area, is a new kind of customer loyalty program for local business. Rather than carry around a walletful of punch cards, says launcher John Valentine, who has just been promoted to VP of LevelUp for the east coast. The company is hiring here in Philly, with two positions open in implementation and sales. Each city is slated to have a total of six employees.

Currently, says Valentine, there are 129 businesses in the LevelUp community, with 10 new merchants signing up each week. Here's how it works: Customers sign up online with a credit card. Participating businesses have a device, which is really a smartphone on a lucite platform, which reads a QR code on your phone screen (Valentine says the next generation of readers will be smaller and more streamlined). LevelUp then charges your card, bypassing the shop's cash register, and every 24 to 48 hours, says Valentine, LevelUp sends payment to merchants. As the customer, you receive several dollars off each purchase, and LevelUp tracks your activity, rewarding you for repeat business.

LevelUp evolved out of SCVNGR, a DreamIt Ventures funded startup. The location based scavenger hunt game led to a desire to solve the loyalty piece of the puzzle. "How do we get someone to frequent a place?" asks Valentine.

LevelUp is growing concurrently in Philadelphia and Boston, with plans to take over the world. New York is next, then Atlanta, Washington DC and Miami. "There's been enough validation for what we're doing in Boston and Philadelphia that we need to scale up fast." Valentine, who calls it sticky, says those who start using the program come back for more. "Within the next two weeks, 49% use LevelUp again."

Aside from the novelty factor, says Valentine, LevelUp gives businesses several advantages: the loyalty program brings people back more, brings in new customers, and has the added effect of incentivizing people to spend more money. Because shoppers are getting 5 to 15% back, they're actually spending more, according to Valentine. If you'd like to try LevelUp, Valentine is offering $10 in global credit to Flying Kite readers. Just use the code TECH when you sign up.

Source: John Valentine, LevelUp
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

Hella Favela: Brazil style set to paint our town

Giant koi swimming up 13th Street? Believe it. The Favela Painters are coming to Philadelphia. In mid-September, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, better known as the team Haas&Hahn, arrive here for a major public art project that spans three Philadelphia neighborhoods, trains countless new artists and brings a bit of Brazil to the city.

Favela is the term used for the slums of Rio de Janiero, lawless places ruled by criminal syndicates. Over the past five years, Haas&Hahn have transformed the walls and streets of these mountainside neighborhoods that loom over downtown Rio. Outrageous color and imagery, visible from all parts of the city, have transformed trash strewn chaotic areas into internationally renowned public art galleries.

Now the Favela Painters are set to transform Philadelphia, and the location of their work will be in some pretty high profile places: the 13th Street corridor owned by Goldman Properties in Center City; in North Philadelphia at Lehigh and Germantown Avenues, near The Village of Arts and Humanities (where Haas&Hahn will reside during the project); and in Manayunk, on old industrial buildings facing Interstate 76.

Funding, which is budgeted at just under $500,000 for the three-part project, comes from The Knight Foundation, The U.S. Department of Commerce, Goldman Properties and The Manayunk Development Corporation.

The teams that will work on the project will be trained by the Haas&Hahn guild. "People who don't have a lot of opportunities will be able to work with international artists," says Golden, who describes the artists' philosophy as a model for passing knowledge on. "What's the test of a good project? The shifting perspectives of people who made the art and people who live with it."

This will be the first permanent U.S. project for Haas&Hahn, who also created an installation for Art Basel Miami in 2010. Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, met the Favela painters through hip hop art consultant Todd Bressi, who brought Haas&Hahn to Miami. Bressi is a lecturer at The University of Pennsylvania and also worked on the Philadelphia Airport Gateway Project.

Golden says Haas&Hahn are on MAP's dream list of artists. "We're philosophically aligned. They're colorists with a background in architecture," says Golden. Kickoff is September 27 with a welcome reception. The entire project is set to last 18 months, including training and pop-up studios throughout the city. At its conclusion, a major exhibition is planned, which will also span Philadelphia and is slated for late 2013 to early 2014.

Source: Jane Golden, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Writer: Sue Spolan

Freckled Sage quietly ramps up oilcloth exporting operation

Fashion is freckled. Sage, that is. In a few quiet years, a Philadelphia company called Freckled Sage has grown into an international exporter of colorful handbags, aprons and table coverings made of oilcloth.

"It appeals to a wide audience," says Anna Marino, who founded and operates the company from a studio in a Kensington warehouse. "Thirteen year-olds love the bright colors. Twenty somethings think it's retro, and baby boomers get nostalgic."

Oilcloth is a traditionally heavy cotton or linen cloth with a semi-waterproof, linseed oil coating, often used for brightly printed kitchen tablecloths. All of Marino's products are made in Philadelphia. She also keeps an office in her Wynnewood home, where the business got started, but she spends the bulk of her time at the studio, and is now seeking a larger space where she can combine the two.

Marino also started the spinoff company Oilcloth By The Yard to sell bolts of the shiny fabric and says she is now the largest supplier of oilcloth in the country. "There's not too many people that manufacture oilcloth products. I went directly to the source and lucked out. The company was looking for someone to represent them."

Marino funded the startup entirely from her own savings, and says her success is due to reinvestment of profit right back into the business. While Freckled Sage products are not known here in the Delaware Valley, Marino ships worldwide, and reports that her biggest exports are to Japan and Switzerland. She estimates she exported between 5,000-8,000 yards of fabric in her latest shipment to Japan alone.

Marino travels throughout the year to trade shows in Texas, California, Nevada and New York. She buys the fabric from a manufacturer in Mexico that's been making the same patterns since 1952, giving them that mid-century look.

Her first products sold to friends and neighbors at the Jersey shore "and it never stopped. It snowballed into something," says Marino, who kept up with demand by creating over two dozen items, many of which are for sale to consumers on Etsy.

She still sells her products at the Ocean City Farmers Market every Wednesday. You can purchase Freckled Sage locally at the newly opened Lodge 215 in Northern Liberties, as well as Kitchenette in Center City.

Source: Anna Martino
Writer: Sue Spolan
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