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EFE Labs boosts local startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories


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


Seed funding to expand labs and add jobs at Science Center startup Graphene Frontiers

If you've ever left a doctor's office with an order for lab tests, you’re likely familiar with the inconvenient and stressful experience of waiting days for results that may or may not provide a definitive diagnosis.

Fortunately, thanks to a recent $1.6 million series B seed funding effort led by Trimaran Capital Partners, Science Center-based nanotech startup Graphene Frontiers is poised to put an end to many such experiences by "creating a major paradigm change in medical diagnostics," says CEO Mike Patterson.  

That paradigm change will come from unique biosensor devices that can actually identify antibodies, proteins and other markers of infection and disease.

Graphene has already developed a proprietary and highly efficient process to produce the graphene used in the sensors. The upcoming product will allow testing from a single drop of blood that can be drawn and processed right at your doctor’s office, providing near-immediate results.  

Patterson explains that the company is also working on using its biosensors as a preventative tool -- doctors will be able to monitor changes to a patient’s specific health markers over time. 

While Graphene's early business model relied primarily on providing its namesake material to other researchers, recent seed funding will allow Graphene to "refocus and expand their efforts into more industry changing applications with the [ultra-thin graphene] material," says Patterson.

In addition to job growth and a lab expansion at the Science Center campus, the company plans to pursue opportunities in the consumer electronics industry through a new partnership with the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Mike Patterson, Graphene Frontiers

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


South Jersey's Collingswood Book Festival celebrates its 12th year

It was on an autumn Saturday some 13 years back when Jeanne Brennan, a longtime trustee of the Collingswood Library Board, stumbled upon a modest outdoor book festival during a trip to New York City.

"It was on the small side, but it intrigued me," she recalls. "And I thought it would be something that would be beneficial for our area."
Indeed, South Jersey in 2001 was not a region known for its public celebrations of the written word, and that doesn't seem to have changed much. In the northern stretch of the state, Jersey City has an annual book fest. Newark hosts a respected biennial poetry event. The Princeton Public Library runs a children's book fest.
But for the past 12 years, the Collingswood Book Festival, which Brennan launched with help from friends and family less than a year after that trip to New York, has been the sole annual option for South Jersey dwellers with an interest in street fair-style literary entertainment.
The event has become a beloved fall tradition in the small borough of 14,000, which sits halfway between Camden and Cherry Hill (it's an easy trip on PATCO). The borough's commissioners and its mayor are staunch supporters, says Brennan, who adds that attendance has grown steadily over the past decade.

"The first [festival] was kind of bare-bones," she says. "We didn't have any tents or any audio equipment."

Still, roughly 3,000 people showed up to see 15 authors speak. This October 11, Brennan expects 8,000 attendees to converge on Collingswood's Haddon Avenue.

Fifty authors, some self-published and some relatively well-known (including Wesley Stace and Leigh Gallagher) will be on hand to read and sign books. Writing workshops and panel discussion will also take place. And an entire block, dubbed "Loompaland," will boast books and activities for children.

All events are free.

Correction: This year's Collingswood Book Festival takes place on Saturday, October 11; not October 15, as a previous version of this story incorrectly reported. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jeanne Brennan, Collingswood Book Festival

Tech entrepreneur teams with Drexel to launch a mobile audio tour experience for museums

If you've ever spent any time inside an art or natural history museum, there's a chance you've encountered the ubiquitous hand-held audio wand. Attached to a museum wall alongside an exhibit and stored in a charging station, audio wands share pre-recorded information about adjacent objects and displays.    
Now, with a bit of business development assistance from Neville Vakharia of Drexel's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, local tech entrepreneur Cliff Stevens has created a game-changing audio-tour tool that is both less expensive and more convenient than the traditional museum wand solution.
Known as CultureSpots, the product exists as a free web-based mobile tool -- not an app -- that users can easily access on smartphones or tablets.
Vakharia, who studies the roles technology can play in building stronger and more sustainable arts organizations, helped Stevens develop a business plan for the audio platform, positioning it specifically as a solution for small and mid-size galleries and museums. Institutions, in other words, that can't necessarily afford expensive audio-tour infrastructure.   
"I immediately gravitated towards [his] idea," says Vakharia, who first learned about CultureSpots during a chance encounter with Stevens at a Drexel T3 tech event. "I realized that Drexel could bring the resources and expertise to really make this successful, and to really make a change in the museum field."   
After piloting a beta version of CultureSpots at 15 local museums and galleries, "we were really pleased to see that people wanted it, and people used it," explains Vakharia. "Overwhelmingly, the feedback was very positive."
CultureSpots will be officially launched at Drexel's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery on October 22 from 9 to 11 a.m., during which visitors will have an opportunity to test the platform.   
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Sources: Neville Vakharia, Drexel University and Cliff Stevens, CultureSpots


AmerisourceBergen expands to Conshohocken; 185 jobs to follow

AmerisourceBergen, a global pharmaceutical services company, is expanding into a new location in Conshohocken and expects to create at least 185 new jobs over the next three years.

"As a company, we just crested $100 billion in annualized revenues, and our growth in business is driving the opportunity to expand our presence in the Philadelphia area," says Brett Ludwig, the company's vice president of communications. "The company will retain 1,200 existing Pennsylvania-based positions, 850 of which are in the Philadelphia area, and has committed to creating at least 185 new jobs over the next three years. In addition to the new office in Conshohocken, AmerisourceBergen will maintain its presence in the Valley Forge campus location."

Ludwig adds that the new office will provide workspace for a variety of professional-level roles in finance, human resources and information technology.

AmerisourceBergen will lease and renovate Millennium III, an existing 70,000-square-foot office building in Conshohocken. The company plans to make a multi-million dollar investment at the site and the expansion is expected to be completed by end of 2014.

The company received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, including a $675,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant that facilitates investment and job creation ,and $555,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits. AmerisourceBergen has accepted the funding proposal, applied for each grant and agreed to the terms prior to award receipt.

The expansion, said AmerisourceBergen President and CEO Steve Collis, "will give us the opportunity, in both our new and current locations, to make our associate work experience even more collaborative, rewarding and efficient."

Source: Brett Ludwig, Amerisource Bergen
Writer: Elise Vider

Make it to the Greater Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit

There are over 5,000 small, medium and large manufacturers in greater Philadelphia, one-third of all manufacturers in Pennsylvania. They design and produce everything from chocolate to rocket launchers to medical devices to state-of-the-art helicopters, powered by high-precision machining, electronics and electrical-equipment-contract manufacturing. 

On Friday, October 3, the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) is hosting the Greater Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit to demonstrate the vigor of this essential sector.

According to DVIRC, "manufacturing is a healthy and diverse economic powerhouse that supports over 150,000 jobs, and contributes millions to the regional economy."  

"DVIRC’s entire focus in on helping manufacturers to grow profitably as they are a critical component of our regional economy in terms of jobs, technology and innovation," adds DVIRC president Barry Miller. "The goal of the summit is to share manufacturing best practices, particularly around workforce but inclusive of advanced manufacturing practices as well."

Miller expects about 250 manufacturers and those who support the manufacturing sector to attend, especially economic development professionals and representatives of the region's workforce investment boards.

The program will feature keynote speaker Adam Steltzner, lead landing engineer of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Project; his topic: "Breakthrough Innovation: Making the Impossible, Possible." Other programming will focus on strategies for growth, strategies for continuous improvement, innovation in workforce development and energy. 
The all-day summit will be held at Simeone Automotive Museum (6825-31 Norwitch Drive) in Philadelphia. 

Source: Barry Miller, DVIRC
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly startup Grand Round Table brings technology to medical ritual

Grand rounds are a medical ritual -- regular conferences held at academic medical centers, where doctors, med students and other health care professionals convene to discuss challenging cases, share experiences and talk about relevant research.

Now, with the mass adoption of electronic health records (accelerated by the Affordable Care Act), a Philadelphia startup is aiming to modernize the grand rounds model by sharing best practices through technology.

Eric King, a former medical student and self-described data nerd, launched Grand Round Table (GRT) with co-founder John Schaeffer "because I saw the potential to enhance patient care with the same big data technologies that touch our everyday lives with Google and Amazon," he explains.

GRT's software both enables hospitals and health systems to fulfill upcoming government mandates requiring the implementation of clinical decision support solutions, and saves clinicians time digging for patient-centered resources.

Accorind to King, the company "is using the latest big data technologies to make it possible to continuously connect health care providers in any setting with the collective intelligence of the whole health system for any patient when it’s needed at the point-of-care... Our clinical decision support software automatically transforms the information that clinicians enter into the electronic health record about their patients into actionable insights based on the latest medical literature."

In a partnership with Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center, the company is performing at 70 percent accuracy making correct diagnoses on past cases, and two-thirds of residents report that the software enhances their educational experience during daily clinical conferences.
Within the next six months, GRT expects to launch a closed beta of its electronic-health-records application at several outpatient primary care sites in the Philadelphia area. Further along, GRT plans to expand into other kinds of health records and inpatient sites, and to launch another product for health plans.

Besides King, the company has two other employees and hopes to make two more hires in the next year. GRT is a graduate of the inaugural DreamIt Health program. The company stayed in Philadelphia, and is now located at the co-working space Indy Hall. Earlier this year the company received a $50,000 investment through the Technology Commercialization Fund of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Source: Eric King, Grand Round Table
Writer: Elise Vider

Invisible Sentinel and Victory Brewing join forces to defeat the evils of bacteria in beer

Flying Kite has twice shared the story of Invisible Sentinel, a local life sciences firm that develops low-cost and user-friendly diagnostic tools for the food and beverage industries.
The company's most recent breakout success was the result of a partnership with Sonoma County's Jackson Family Wines -- a novel and fast-acting product known as Veriflow BRETT was developed as a way to detect a yeast strain that commonly affects both the taste and aroma of wine.  
According to Invisible Sentinel co-founder Ben Pascal, that technology has since been adopted by large sectors of the wine industry.

"We've been so successful in the food safety [sector]," says Pascal. "And so we started asking ourselves, 'What other groups have the same types of problems with these organisms that can affect quality?' And naturally, we came to beer."
More specifically, they came to beloved local brewers Victory Brewing Company. The heads of the two companies met during a dinner party, and when Pascal and his business partner Nick Siciliano began talking to Victory's Bill Covaleski about the success of their Veriflow BRETT technology, "I think it got his wheels turning," recalls Pascal.  
Following a few months' worth of meetings with Victory's brewers and quality control team, a decision was reached to partner on the development of a new rapid molecular diagnostic tool, Veriflow brewPAL, that will quickly detect two types of bacteria that can spoil the taste of beer, leading to spillage at brewing companies that can't afford to lose inventory.
"There isn't any [similar] technology that exists today that's easy to use, and that's accurate and cost-effective," explains Pascal. "And with a partner like Victory behind us, I think this product is really going to be a paradigm shift, and a big game-changer in the industry."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel 


Spartan Hackathon Tour comes to Citizens Bank Park

In a city like Philadelphia, where the startup and technology industries have become so well-established that we now have a boulevard known as NERD Street, there might not seem to be anything unusual about the announcement of yet another hackathon.    
But thanks to a partnership between Hackfit, a Boston company that arranges events where entrepreneurs create health and fitness technologies, and Spartan, organizers of extreme obstacle races across the country, a decidedly unusual hackathon will kick off inside Citizens Bank Park on September 19.   
Only 60 total spots are available for the event. Teams of developers and designers will be tasked with pitching fitness industry-relevant business ideas, prototyping them, and then demonstrating the results of 24 nonstop hours of work on the idea. (Sign up here.)
RFID timing sensors, Sony Smartbands and other wearable technology devices will be made available to hackers, says Hackfit founder Justin Mendelson, who adds that most former participants have focused on building mobile applications.
"A few of [the teams] focus on hardware-oriented devices, like wearable trackers," says Mendelson. And during past events, "Other teams have even focused on timing technology, which is very important to the [obstacle race] experience."
Philly is one of four locations where Spartan Hackathons are happening this summer. Some of the winning teams will be flown to Spartan headquarters in Boston, where they'll have an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to company executives, perhaps earning a partnership or investment capital.
Here in Philly, however, even team members who don't succeed at building the quantified self movement's next big app will still have a chance to celebrate: After the Reebok Spartan Race Stadium Sprint wraps up on Saturday, hackers will be allowed to run the obstacle course at their own pace.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Justin Mendelson, Hackfit 


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

Nominations now open for Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs' 2015 Fellowship program

In 2009, when Jeanne Mell took a position with the University City Science Center, a colleague and friend -- Victoria Burkhart of The Burkhart Group -- gave her a powerful piece of professional advice: "If you're going to be [working] in Philly, you have to join [the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs]."
Today, Mell serves as the Fellows Committee Chair for the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a nearly 20-year-old organization "dedicated to fostering high-growth businesses founded or led by women," according to its mission statement. It's the largest group of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic.
Along with a schedule of educational and networking events, AWE also runs the annual Building Bridges Fellowship Program. Each year, up to four female early-stage entrepreneurs are selected to participate. The fellowship includes extensive one-on-one business coaching and professional mentoring from an AWE mentor-liaison, who helps to integrate the fellow into the larger AWE community.
Nominations are now open for the 2015 Building Bridges program, which will kick off this November.   
"What we're really looking for is a fellow who is committed to her business -- that's No. 1," says Mell. "We want somebody who will participate in the coaching sessions, and take full advantage of the fellows program. And it's not right for everybody."

The current fellowship class of 2014 features three women who not only operate three very different companies, but are also at very different stages of their careers and lives.

Still, "it's really interesting to see that these women share a lot of the same challenges and experiences, regardless of what sector they're in," she muses. "And I think that's really the value of the AWE Fellows Program: being able to help these women entrepreneurs on that level."
To access nomination materials, click here.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jeanne Mell, AWE Fellows Committee

Drexel aims to improve arts and cultural opportunities in Mantua and Powelton

As Drexel research director and assistant professor Neville Vakharia points out, university-level faculty members always have their own research agendas, regardless of their fields of study. But in 2013, three faculty from Drexel's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design -- Vakharia included -- discovered a subject they could all agree on, and one they felt warranted immediate attention.
That was the arts-and-culture ecosystem of Mantua, Powelton Village and West Powelton -- three neighborhoods adjacent to the Drexel campus. Vakharia and his colleagues were intrigued by the reality that while their neighbor communities are home to large concentrations of artists, they've somehow failed to transform culturally.
In an effort to discover what might be holding back the growth of cultural opportunities in Mantua and Powelton, Drexel dispatched a nine-member research team to conduct six months of community focus groups, interviews with neighbors on the street, and brainstorming sessions with various arts-based organizations and cultural stakeholders in the area.  
The group has since compiled its findings into a 12-page public report, "A Fragile Ecosystem," which can be accessed here (PDF). And while much of the report explores the breadth of cultural opportunities that already exist in the neighborhoods, it also offers possible solutions that might better tie the local arts community together.
In late August, "A Fragile Ecosystem" was distributed throughout West Philadelphia, where it's now in the hands of many of the area's artists, arts organizations, and cultural and civic groups.
"There are a lot of strong [arts] players in the neighborhood," explains Vakharia. "What we're hoping is that this report will allow them to understand what the needs are when it comes to arts and culture, and to [help them] move forward on developing some solutions that can benefit the community."    
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Neville Vakharia, Drexel University

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
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