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Better patient, better treatment with launch of Wilmington's Kurbi

Wes Garnett knows all about multiple sclerosis. "My mom was diagnosed eight years ago, then my great uncle was diagnosed a year later, and his daughter a year after that." Garnett has created Kurbi, a web-based & mobile optimized personal health record that allows users to record daily symptoms and share data with healthcare providers.
 Currently, Kurbi is in the prototype phase, and will officially launch at this month's Philly Tech Meetup. Garnett saw a need for the standardization of symptom reporting. "Time with the doctor is really short. Patients have to recall all of what happened since their last visit. They don't always have the words to describe their symptoms." 
Kurbi, instead, provides a detailed daily account of illness. "One of the main reasons we started with MS is that it is really unpredictable. It's a multi-system disrupter. It can affect cognition, vision, and balance at same time. The next day the patient has no problems, then the day after, there are problems with the bladder, hearing, and vertigo. Symptoms can last a day, a week, or two weeks."
In this early version, Kurbi offers patients daily notification and a symptom questionnaire to complete, which is then scored. Symptoms and their severity can be tracked over time, and compiled data is presented to the physician at scheduled visits.
At the moment, Garnett wants to offer Kurbi free to patients, and says the company plans on a fee-based recommendation engine. The obvious funding channel for Kurbi is the pharmaceuticals that manufacture medications for chronic conditions, but Garnett approaches the possibility of advertising and partnerships with care. "People like my mom are spending a thousand dollars a year on medicine. Before we enter into relationships with pharmaceuticals, we want to give a fair shake to our users."
Kurbi, adapted from the name of a talking parrot, came out of a Startup Weekend in Delaware. Garnett and partners live and work in Wilmington.

Source: Wes Garnett, Kurbi
Writer: Sue Spolan

Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia Selects Finalists for $2.7M in Funding

Fifty-five finalists were announced last week for the Knights Arts Challenge Philadelphia, a three-year, $9 million community-wide funding contest for the most innovative local ideas in the arts.

Not surprisingly, there is a wide range of projects in the running. They stretch from Norris Square and East Kensington to Center City. They celebrate African, Latino and Asian culture. They are large organizations like Campus Philly and individuals like Katarina Dudas. Thirty-six winners will be chosen by the spring, the second round of funding after last year's debut.

"The diversity of finalists proves that good ideas really can come from anywhere," says Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for the Knight Foundation. "We're seeing ideas from across our many neighborhoods taht we believe will help bring us together through the arts."

The challenge is open to anyone with a great idea about the arts in or benefiting Philadelphia who can find funds to match Knight's commitment. Here's a complete list of finalists:

Artists and Musicians of Latin America
To cultivate new audiences for Latin Jazz by presenting "pop-up" performances of local artists using a portable stage

Arden Theatre Company
To diversify artistic offerings by presenting theater performances alongside the dozens of gallery events during Old City’s monthly First Fridays

Art Sanctuary
To celebrate two art forms that use the human voice to tell profound stories by creating a “Hip H’Opera” using the stories of urban life

Asian Arts Initiative
To provide everyday artistic experiences in Chinatown and South Philadelphia by creating site-specific works for nontraditional places like restaurants, storefronts and public plazas

Bearded Ladies Cabaret
To attract new audiences to theater – and use the medium as a way to explore politics, gender, sexuality and identity – through a series of original, late night cabarets

Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
To showcase diverse cultures by transforming a symphonic “pops” concert into a celebration of world music

Brandywine Workshop
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this printmaking institution by commissioning 10 emerging and established artists to create prints

Campus Philly
To foster a lifelong appreciation of the arts by offering free or discounted admission to venues and performances for college students

Catzie Vilayphonh 
To promote storytelling within the Lao-American community through a writing, performing and filmmaking workshop

Center City District
To help transform historic Dilworth Plaza by commissioning internationally recognized sculptor Janet Echelman to create an artwork inspired by the site’s historic association with water and steam

Center City Opera Theater
To attract more Hispanics to the opera by launching a Spanish-language opera festival featuring a new piece by a Philadelphia-based Hispanic composer

Center for Emerging Visual Artists
To bring visual art to a wider audience by placing locally produced art in public advertising spaces in the same neighborhood where the piece was produced

Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse Project
To spark dialogue about contemporary art by incorporating the work of internationally acclaimed light artist James Turrell into a new Quaker meetinghouse that is open to all

Community Cultural Exchange
To bring the South Street business district together through music and culture by introducing family-friendly street performances to the area

COSACOSA art at large
To transform overgrown and abandoned spaces into “sacred” art parks for the community by engaging residents to create visual and sound gardens in the Niceville-Tioga neighborhood

Crane Arts
To raise the international profile of local artists by organizing an artist and exhibition exchange between Crane Arts and London’s V22 Collection

David Clayton
To help residents fully experience the city’s two main waterways by creating a floating workstation along the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers where artists can interpret and explore the surroundings

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
To use world rhythms – from cowbells to congas, beat-boxing to Bhangra – to learn about cultures at an interactive music and dance festival

Erica Hawthorne
To give a boost to local artists by creating a mini grant program to help cover their costs with awards ranging from $50 to $1,000

Fleisher Art Memorial
To engage the community in hands-on art making by expanding the reach of a mobile studio where participants create projects inspired by their neighborhoods

Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund
To help transform neighborhoods by turning blacktop lots into art-laden skate parks

Geoffrey Johnson
To foster appreciation for public art by covering publically displayed statues in the city for a month – and then unveiling them with fan fare at a festival

GoKash Productions
To promote original plays through a free theater festival dedicated to the contemporary African-American experience

Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation
To engage new audiences in the visual arts by launching With Art Philadelphia, a two-year joint marketing program that includes late-night happenings for younger audiences at local museums

Iron Age Theatre
To create new performing arts experiences through a series of live-streamed, mini movies that patrons can watch throughout the city by scanning QR codes on their cellphones

Katarina Dudas
To develop the next generation of visual artists by pairing children with local artists to create site-specific environmental art in the Kensington community

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
To engage new audiences in the performing arts by creating a residency program in the Kimmel Center’s black box theater for innovative and emerging art groups

Little Berlin
To help transform the East Kensington neighborhood by turning an empty lot into an event space for musicians, art fairs and children’s workshops

Moore College of Art & Design
To introduce the work of local visual artists and filmmakers to a wider audience by establishing an urban drive-in movie theater on the Parkway

Music Row Philadelphia
To support emerging musicians and create a destination for live music by fostering the growth of music venues along Girard Avenue

To empower and inspire Philadelphia’s youth by providing them with weekly drumming lessons and performing opportunities

Norris Square Neighborhood Project
To preserve local Latino culture in North Philadelphia by creating a sound booth to record stories that will be featured in podcasts

Orchestra 2001
To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by presenting a new concerto based on the civil rights leader’s life and featuring local performers

Partners for Sacred Places
To expand the capacity of the city’s theater community by providing a new space for theater designers and visual artists at a decommissioned church

Philadelphia Art Alliance
To re-imagine public space and civic life by organizing an all-night, free arts festival based on the Nuit Blanche/Bring to Light events in Paris, New York, Miami and other cities

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
To encourage broader audience participation in the city’s visual arts by expanding “Philly Photo Day,” where the community is invited to take and submit a picture that is ultimately used in an exhibition

Philadelphia Theatre Company
To use the theater as a way to examine the United States’ education system with a work that actor/journalist Anna Deavere Smith will create during a two-year residency

Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative
To support the emerging creative underground in Philadelphia by establishing a festival that highlights the next generation of filmmakers, visual artists, musicians and performers

To foster the development of local jazz artists by formalizing mentor relationships between established and younger musicians, where the elders teach life lessons, and emerging artists offer tips on using new media

RAIR, Inc.
To create awareness about sustainability through art and design by establishing a yearlong series of projects that allow local artists to experiment with recycled materials

Scribe Video Center
To explore the city’s relationship to mass transit by publicly displaying multiple digital video works in high traffic public sites

Sean Stoops
To support an innovative form of 3D storytelling by creating a series of outdoor video art events screened on local buildings

Sharon Torello
To engage younger audiences in classical music through the creation of a group with membership benefits that include discount ticketing and unique social gatherings

Sojourner Ahebee
To further cultural understanding by facilitating youth-led poetry workshops for Liberian teenage girls in Philadelphia and Liberia

Swim Pony Performing Arts
To weave the arts into the community by presenting revamped versions of plays in non-traditional spaces, including Eastern State Penitentiary and the Land Conservancy of Elkins Park

The Brothers Network
To introduce more diverse audiences to the performing arts by creating a multidisciplinary festival that features black male choreographers, filmmakers, actors, writers and composers

The Clay Studio
To explore the relevance of handmade ceramic objects in the 21st century by providing a handmade mug to people leaving coffee shops with disposable cups and encouraging them to post about their experiences on the Web

The Crossing
To introduce a wider audience to contemporary chamber music by establishing a series of new works designed specifically for a nontraditional venue – the recently restored Crane Arts’ Icebox

The Fabric Workshop and Museum 
To create a new sculpture series by artist Daniel Arsham at the museum that will debut along with a live performance and explore the boundaries between the galleries and theater

The Hacktory 
To promote the use of technology in the arts by developing a corps of interactive artist teachers who will share their knowledge and expertise in programming and engineering with Philadelphia artists

The University of the Arts
To promote economic stability for the city’s cultural community by offering support to emerging creative businesses with pre-seed funding, mentorships programs and workshops

The Village of Arts and Humanities
To develop young people’s awareness of the city’s vibrant cultural scene through interactive scavenger hunts led by local artists

The Wilma Theater
To enhance training for local actors by creating a series of master classes

University City District
To establish a new outlet for public art that showcases temporary installations to the city’s tens of thousands of daily commuters

Vic Reznik
To help promote the city’s cinematic identity by commissioning emerging filmmakers from Philadelphia to produce shorts for a new, local film festival

PMN's Project Liberty Launch welcomes three of city's most promising tech startups

The call came from inside the venerated Inquirer building at 400 North Broad. It was Brendan McCorkle calling to talk about his company CloudMine's participation in the newly launched Project Liberty along with fellow DreamIt Ventures grads SnipSnap and ElectNext
Funded by a $250,000 Knight Foundation grant administered by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Project Liberty is Philadelphia Media Network's new six-month digital incubator that provides office space, mentoring and the chance to collaborate in the transformation of a Philadelphia media institution. "It's the first newspaper-based tech incubator of its kind," says Ted Mann, one of the founders of SnipSnap, a digital couponing platform.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the incubator is the two way nature of the program. Says Mann, "The 3 startups are working directly to help provide strategy and solutions to core PMN divisions: Cloudmine is powering the backend services for the next generation of Philly Media mobile apps; SnipSnap is working with the sales team to become the digital & mobile solution for the newspaper insert advertisers and publishers and ElectNext will power Philly.com's 2012 election center." Mann, a former Gannett Newspapers employee, hopes to develop a strong relationship with the Inquirer and PMN to both sell and co-promote the SnipSnap app, and to use this as a template for working with other newspapers.
"One of the values of CloudMine is that we take an organization that is historically not mobile and allow them to become mobile." says McCorkle. "Philadelphia Media Network is a legacy news company that's done a fantastic job of reinventing itself."
ElectNext's Keya Dannenbaum says, "We're thrilled to be entrepreneurs-in-residence at Project Liberty and to work closely with Philly.com as a first partner.  It's an insider's perspective that gives us the best opportunity to develop a product that will work for this and similar media organizations." 
While the Knight Foundation provided the grant, the three companies will not receive direct funding during their stay at PMN. McCorkle terms this a more proper incubator, rather than an accelerator. Project Liberty will take no equity share in any of the three companies.

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

Wharton MBA candidates size up online clothes shopping experience

Size Seeker, you are blowing my mind. A new company about to launch out of University City has the potential to vastly improve the online clothes shopping experience. "Only about 7 percent of clothes are for sale online," says Ian Campbell, co-founder of Size Seeker, which uses Xbox 360 Kinect technology to find correctly sized clothing for online shoppers.
Size Seeker will officially launch at this month's Philly Tech Meetup. "It's not necessarily bad to be provocative when you are an entrepreneur," says Campbell. "Retail is about entertainment and being edgy." Campbell and partner Mona Safabakhsh met in the Wharton MBA program, where they are both currently enrolled.

"We each had clothing in closets that we'd bought online," recalls Campbell of the company's inception. "It's hard to find what size you are. Due to a vanity sizing problem, you don't know if you're a medium or a large. We both had clothes in our closet that were past the 30 day return window. We'd ended up with clothes that were never worn."
Settling upon the Kinect for Xbox 360 as a means to measure people accurately in the comfort of their own home, Size Seeker built a program that captures the shopper's entire body in a matter of seconds. Campbell compares that with other programs that may take five minutes or longer to achieve the same results. Partnering with TC Squared, Size Seeker was able to create a database of 100,000 body scans, bringing the accuracy of future scans to within an inch.
Using the Xbox for Size Seeker gamifies fashion, says Campbell, who adds that the online clothing industry shows enormous potential, growing 20 to 25 percent over the last 10 years.
Size Seeker is now looking to hire developers for the data platform. "We are a B to B company," explains Campbell. "We are essentially helping brands and retailers reduce return costs and convert new customers." Size Seeker's technology may have the power to bring the clothing industry up to speed with items such as computers, of which 50 percent are now sold online.

Source: Ian Campbell, Size Seeker
Writer: Sue Spolan

Forget Bush. The Reckoner is the new decider

Got a tough decision? Plug it into The Reckoner and see your peers' opinions. "One of the great things the internet has told us over the last four years is that you can ask it for advice and get actual good information back," says Dan Koch, founder of ReckonLabs, which created The Reckoner. "Giving practical answers to individuals has worked well for Q&A sites, but has not yet worked well for polls. Internet polling is still back in 1998."
The Reckoner seeks to bring the internet poll into the present, with a new kind of content curation and a heaping helping of humor. Launched at the end of November, the site took off immediately. In its first month, reports Koch, The Reckoner welcomed 11,000 unique users and 81,000 page views. One of the more popular questions currently in rotation asks:

The Reckoner, says Koch, will make money via two primary revenue streams: "The first is advertising. The second part is feedback. Knowing what customers are thinking is valuable." 
Koch envisions a company posting two possible ads on The Reckoner to elicit feedback, for example. He trusts that an occasional sponsored question will not ruffle feathers. "In America, so much of our culture is based on shopping and our relationship with our brands." For its part, The Reckoner offers advertisers unique access to an affluent, educated young adult demographic. "The Reckoner has to achieve a certain scale to make it worthwhile," says Koch.
Coming from Accenture, where he was a consultant on the road most of the time, Koch returned to his hometown of Philadelphia to create a business where he grew up. "One thing I've learned is that Philly has a great tech scene, much better than I ever thought," says Koch, who is a member of Indy Hall and participant in Philly Tech Meetup.
The future of The Reckoner rests on solid visitor numbers, with 10,000  and 50,000 unique visitors the two benchmarks. "The timeline is the key thing," says Koch, who has set July 2012 as the deadline to decide if the website is self sustaining, with an interim analysis scheduled for this March, at which point Koch will make a decision about pursuing outside investment.

Source: Dan Koch, The Reckoner
Writer: Sue Spolan

Center City business intelligence firm RJMetrics raises a quick $1.2M

Center City based RJMetrics just closed on a $1.2 million round of financing from a syndicate that includes both local and national players. "Now I can go back to actively running the business," says CEO Robert J Moore, who recalls that the fast growing business intelligence company made a decision around the end of the third quarter of last year to go to market and see what potential deals might look like.

"We found a deal that made economic sense and we moved extremely quickly," says Moore. "Honestly, from the moment we decided we definitely wanted to raise money, it took less than a week to get all the commitments."
Moore and co-founder Jake Stein, who is COO, met while both were working for Insight Venture Partners, which gave the pair an edge during the fundraising process. "It's very common in these negotiations for entrepreneurs to be confused or intimidated by the legal aspects of raising capital," says Moore. "When one of these deals takes place, there are literally dozens and dozens of small terms, and they can go over the heads of people raising money."
The inspiration for RJMetrics also came while Moore was at Insight. "Part of my job was due diligence on new investments. A lot was driven by data analysis, which I was doing by hand in Excel and MS Access. I was doing that analysis dozens of times, and common themes emerged. As a programmer, I realized I could replace myself with a program."
The productized version of Moore's program is available to businesses for a low monthly subscription fee, and RJMetrics considers venture firms a lead generation channel. The company now has 60 customers, up from 20 in the beginning of 2011, and has grown from 4 to 12 employees in the same time period. The cash influx, which is already in the bank, will go to marketing and continued expansion.

Source: Robert Moore, RJMetrics
Writer: Sue Spolan

Startup activity gains momentum in 2011

It's the classic impulse: make lemonade out of economic lemons. 2011 was the year of the startup. When the job market slumped, ingenuity kicked in, and entrepreneurs had places to gather. The Quorum at the University City Science Center opened to provide a common space for entrepreneurs, hosting events like Philly Tech Meetup, which drew increasing crowds to its monthly demos of startups.

Along with the Science Center's continued support of entrepreneurs, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania provided funding for many local companies including AboutOne. BFTP's Navy Yard neighbor GPIC has stepped in to centralize the future of energy efficiency.

Bob Moul, of Dell Boomi, took the helm at Philly Startup Leaders, which is re-tooling its mission while putting together a pair of fruitful Philly Startup Weekends.

DreamIt Ventures 2011 gave a boost to 14 fledgling companies, including frontrunners Cloudmine, ElectNext, SnipSnap, Metalayer, and Spling, all to remain in Philadelphia. Yasmine Mustafa, a past DreamIt participant, and most recently a Philadev Ventures member, recently sold her startup 123LinkIt to national content syndication network Netline.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Innovation in 2011 stretched beyond tech to retail, media and civic engagement

Innovation in Philadelphia: it's not just all about tech. Government, retail, media and the way we work and live made major strides forward in 2011.

The University of the Arts' Corzo Center for the Creative Economy funded arts entrepreneurs this year, and businesses like Little Baby's Ice Cream, Kembrel, Gritty City Beauty, LevelUp and ReAnimator Coffee are just a few examples of the retail revolution underway in Philadelphia. Storably and Inhabi launched to re-imagine rentals. Milkboy Coffee expanded from Ardmore to Center City, and made plans to move its recording studio downtown as well.

Crowdsourced civic change is a major trend in Philadelphia's innovation efforts. We were named a Code for America city the second year in a row; programs like Open Access Philly and Change By Us live at the intersection of technology and civic engagement, with government stewardship by Jeff Friedman. Adel Ebeid arrived to lead the city's newly formed Office of Innovation and Technology in increasing broadband penetration.

TEDxPhilly, Young Involved Philadelphia, Philly Tech Week, PhillyStake, the Philadelphia Geek Awards and IgnitePhilly mixed business with pleasure, merging crowds and companies in festive settings.

Gaming and gamification continues to trend; local efforts include Cipher Prime, Port 127, Play Eternal and networking group PANMA.

Incubators and coworking spaces surged, with Indy Hall making expansion plans for K'House, Philadev's Musemaka, OpenDesksStartup Therapy, and Novotorium in Langhorne.

In media, Wharton Publishing went all digital; Ryan Seacrest opened The Voice studio at CHOP; G Philly, Hidden City's Daily and Generocity launched; WHYY's Newsworks grew; and if it was relevant to technology, Technically Philly covered it all this year, never missing a beat.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Life sciences, tech, and food drive job creation as city's unemployment lags behind national average

Philadelphia's most recent unemployment rates checked in at 10.9%, which is well behind the national average of 8.8%. While the entire tri-state Greater Philadelphia area fared better at 8.4%, 2011 showed plenty of companies that are hiring.

When a company cannot hire employees fast enough, it's got to be NextDocs. The Microsoft SharePoint provider is bringing people in at breakneck speed. Transcend United continues to expand in IT, through mergers, acquisitions and hiring. GPIC is always looking to staff its constituent companies.

Google search challenger DuckDuckGo expanded from a basement operation to offices in Paoli and is seeking employees to fill the new space. VCopious, which provides virtual environments for enterprise, expects to double its staff by the end of next year. GIS expert Azavea continues to expand.

Center City based Cliq is looking for engineers who can assist in the mission to transform social data into social knowledge.

Other growth areas are in life sciences; Greenphire, founded to streamline clinical research, expects to double staff following a Series A round of funding. Echo Therapeutics reported earlier this year it was hiring 25.

Farm to table continues upward. South Jersey based Zone 7 and Chester County's Wyebrook Farm expanded considerably this year. Philly Cow Share, Bennett Compost, and Common Market all thrived this growing season. The Healthy Carts initiative launched to address the problem of food deserts in underserved areas of the city.

Writer: Sue Spolan

Lots of activity on DreamIt's Demo Day as 14 companies move on

When shots of Jameson's are poured, stacked three deep and consumed with great aplomb, it must be DreamIt Ventures demo day. But that's getting ahead of the story, because the libations came only after the presentations were given, after the business cards were handed out, and after 12 intense weeks of entrepreneurial incubation.

"Demo Day was a great success. All 14 companies had strong presentations and we had a full house of investors. The companies' booths were packed with interest until we had to exit the building! It’s one of the strongest classes that we’ve had at DreamIt," remarks Kerry Rupp, DreamIt managing partner.

The 2011 Philadelphia DreamIt Ventures class wrapped up last Wednesday in University City at World Cafe Live. Just a few blocks from DreamIt offices at 34th and Market, fourteen startups presented polished seven minute pitches. 

ElectNext, Cloudmine and SnipSnap are all slated to remain in Philadelphia, and details of their plans have not yet been announced.  ElectNext also got a same-day bump with a Fast Company article featuring founder Keya Dannenbaum.

One company, UXFlip, started life at DreamIt as FeedbackTrail, but 8 weeks into the program, founder and CEO Michael Raber says he had to drop and turn on a dime when it became clear that FeedbackTrail was not going to be a long term revenue generator. With three weeks left in the DreamIt program, Raber created UXFlip, which will allow mobile app developers to make changes without forcing a user-end update.

Spling, a social media content sharing platform, is the standout for raising a $400,000 Series A round of funding during DreamIt.

"The companies represent the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent in the Internet & mobile space. They include PhD’s and JDs from top academic institutions like Yale, Stanford and UT, as well as dropouts from top academic institutions like Duke, Georgetown and the Wharton School at Penn," adds Rupp, who notes that one company's founders are still in their teens.

"Five of the companies were selected in partnership with Comcast Ventures, as part of the Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP)," says Rupp. "ElectNext, Kwelia, MetaLayer, ThaTrunk and Qwite include owners who are African American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian."

The afterparty, and the shots, went down at National Mechanics, the go-to bar for the local tech community. It got loud, but you've got to forgive the crowd. It was the last time they'd all be together in one room. The companies have a week to pack up and move on. None received checks or solid offers at Demo Day, but a lot of cards were exchanged and some promises made. At happy hour, companies compared the size of their spikes -- on Google Analytics.

Up next, according to Noelle McHugh, DreamIt's office manager and MacGyver, the team goes north to New York City for DreamIt 2012, which begins in March. Applications for the NYC DreamIt class open on December 26th, with a March 16 deadline for companies, and an April 6 2012 deadline for individuals. The New York class begins in mid-May of next year, and at the same time, applications for the 2012 Philadelphia program open.

Source: Kerry Rupp, Noelle McHugh, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern startup AboutOne about to be the center of attention, hiring

Joanne Lang has star power. It wouldn't be surprising if the founder and CEO of AboutOne left a trail of glitter dust in her wake. In the past several months, the Malvern based startup has received a huge amount of attention and money, including nearly $2 million in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, which pledged $100,000 in May, and a $1.6 million Series A round led by Golden Seeds, a majority women owned national investment network. Lang's company also just announced partnerships with Microsoft and Suze Orman's IDSafe.

AboutOne addresses the needs of an increasingly powerful online contingent: moms. While dads can also use AboutOne's family management tools, Lang's idea was borne of her own pain point as a parent. Lacking proper medical information in an emergency involving one of her four children, Lang realized that data stored in the cloud could literally be a lifesaver.

She left her job at SAP to start AboutOne, which aims to organize all household management tasks. In addition to medical data, subscribers can store images and videos, keep track of bills and receipts, maintain contacts and calendars with important family dates and deadlines, and even automatically send out cards. "I have Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, but nothing in the middle for the people I love the most: my family and children," says Lang. "There was nothing to manage my home life more smoothly."

The service has been in beta since April, and in January launches the full gamified version, using feedback from beta tester moms. Several key improvements include automation of information gathering via social media sites and points for using AboutOne that translate to gift cards and credits.

Lang is featured in the soon to be released documentary about entrepreneurs called Control+Alt+Compete, produced by Microsoft. "There were 63 companies presenting, and they picked three to follow," says Lang, whose gentle charm and enthusiasm outshines the other two companies profiled.

AboutOne is on a mission to give back, with a lifestyle blog, special help for military families, a Comeback Mom program for women re-entering the workforce, and promotions designed to give back to the community. The company, which was founded with five employees, has just doubled staff and is continuing to hire.

Lang will also be featured in an upcoming series The Alchemist Entrepreneur. "It's how about when you want something mentally, the forces come together and help you achieve that goal. Really weird things happen to me all the time. I feel like I have a business angel. When we got our office space, we couldn't afford to buy furniture. Twenty minutes later, someone's mom called asking if anyone wanted office cubicles. She dropped off top of the range furniture."

Look for the full scale release of AboutOne in mid-January. Those who sign up friends will be entered into a contest to win an Amazon Kindle.

Source: Joanne Lang, AboutOne
Writer: Sue Spolan

Snapline merges social and shopping data, to seek funding in early 2012

Todd McNeal's company Snapline looks like a whole lot of money: slick website, professional press release. "Snapline is just me," says Bella Vista based McNeal, who presented his idea at this month's Philly Tech Meetup.

Snapline uses information readily available on the Facebook API to provide a better shopping experience. McNeal has developed a set of plug-ins based on the social data. The first one, now in use, looks at your profile and gives recommendations based on things you like, as well as what other people of similar gender, age, and interest like.

A retailer using the Snapline plug-in can segment and market specific products. "A jeweler shows engagement rings to people who are single, and anniversary presents to people who are already married," says McNeal, who is now beta testing Snapline with one of the largest online flower and gift retailers. McNeal does not want to publicly divulge the company name just yet.

"I was with IBM out of college, working as a consultant with an e-commerce platform that was used by a lot of top retailers." It was there that McNeal developed a deep understanding of what was lacking in the retail interface.

McNeal plans on releasing several more plug-ins for e-commerce data management over the next month. "My goal is to get enough information to prove that we are a viable business, and then go look for funding in the early part of next year." McNeal's current marketing strategy is personalized face to face demos, making a go as a bootstrapped one-man startup with an enterprise solution.

Source: Todd McNeal, Snapline
Writer: Sue Spolan

Science Center opens Bullpen coworking space, funds three QED projects

The University City Science Center does not slow down for the holidays. In the last week, it has announced a a new coworking space for emerging startup companies and a new round of funding for its QED Proof of Concept program.

The new coworking space, dubbed the Bullpen, is located inside the Science Center's Port Business Incubator (3711 Market St.)  and already has its first "pitcher" in Belgium-based Biologistics Consulting. The Bullpen offers relief from expensive office space in the form of desks, phone, and high-speed Wi-Fi, plus a convenient location in the heart of University City.

In addition, says Science Center President and CEO Stephen Tang, "Bullpen residents have access to the same services and programs offered to all the residents of our Port Business Incubator."

Biologistics Consulting, which is a participant in the Science Center's Global Soft Landing Program, isn't the only Belgian company at the Port Business Incubator. Arlenda Inc., which facilitates risk-based decision making for pharmaceutical- and  vaccine-makers, has moved into office space at the incubator, working closely with local universities, CHOP and Merck, to name a few.

On Monday, three first-time recipients of $200,000 each were announced for the Science Center's QED program, which aims to facilitate commercial investment in early stage and high-potential life science technologies.

Funding went to Philadelphia University for a new biocidal textile technology to address the high-incidence of hospital acquired infections.

Thomas Jefferson University won funding for the first clinically reliable test for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the primary form of pancreatic cancer.

Also, Lehigh University in Bethlehem received funding for a portable medical oxygen concentrator for patients with lung disease.

Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Wharton grads create hybrid retail apparel business, hiring to grow national presence

Stephan Jacob began his Wharton MBA with a specific plan. The day he decided to start Kembrel, an online retailer that now has a brick and mortar presence, was the day he applied to Penn. "For me, those two years were about finding partners I could trust to start a business," says Jacob of Cherif Habib and Aymeric de Hemptinne, Kembrel co-founders and fellow MBA grads. Kembrel recently raised $1 million in startup funding from MentorTech Ventures, Blazer Ventures, and private sources.

Jacob, who grew up in Germany, came to Philadelphia with a degree in computer science from the University of Mannheim. None of the founders was born in the United States.

"I was not at all into fashion," admits Jacob. "Fashion as consumer, yes. But I was more into web and software development. It's been an interesting learning curve, understanding how the industry works in the United States, identifying the supplier network."

Jacob credits Wharton with essentials like connecting Kembrel with advisors and investors, and even the company name, inspired by Wharton's Vice Dean of Student Life, Kembrel Jones, AKA Dean Of Happiness.

The retail operation launched its first beta version in April 2010. "It was a business with a plan, not just a business plan," says Jacob. "We dedicated that summer full time to the business and launched in September of 2010 with the vision of being a marketing platform for consumer brands that reach the college demographic."

With 32,000 online subscribers and 400 members who have signed up for the newly introduced  VIP level, Kembrel has a national reach, with a presence on over 2,000 campuses. The greatest activity is at Penn, University of Texas, University of Cincinnati, Northeastern, Harvard, Florida State, Ohio State, and University of Michigan.

Kembrel just opened up a store at 1219 Locust, which is also the company headquarters and fulfillment center. "We've only been open since Nov. 18, and it's interesting to see the cross conversion. It's something we are still experimenting with, how we can create a consistent experience for our customers in store and offline." The ability to stop in and try on clothing alleviates the fit problem with online purchases, Jacob adds.

Jacob agrees that Kembrel must compete with the big brick and mortar players who already have an online presence, but that Kembrel represents more aspiring, less known labels and young designers who are not in national chains.

The company, with five full time employees and under $50,000 in monthly sales, is hiring on the buying and merchandising end, and is now looking into growing its national physical presence.

Source: Stephan Jacob, Kembrel
Writer: Sue Spolan

PCS Technologies moves fashion forward, literally; hiring writers, programmers

PCS Technologies, located in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia, has been around for 20 years, but the past two years have seen rapid growth under the leadership of Chandra Allred.

"We just hired two people, and we are looking for more," says Allred, chief operating officer of PCS, who is still in search of a technical/creative writer, as well as programmers.

With clients that include Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie, The Gap (which also owns five brands, including Banana Republic and Old Navy), and Bed Bath and Beyond, PCS is a supply chain software firm. Their product, PCSTrac, helps companies keep tabs on millions of pieces of inventory.

"The Gap has 3,500 stores," explains Allred of just one of PCS Technologies' clients. "They use our scanning software to populate the enterprise wide system. Store associates don't scan at all. It's a huge labor savings." And a huge responsibility. "If there is an issue with our application, it's not just affecting the logistics and supply chain, but it's also affecting national and international inventory."

With under 25 employees, PCS software makes sure a million cartons a week get from the manufacturer to the store. Allred left her consulting business to join PCS in 2009. She was hired to retool the company's strategy.

"They were at a pivotal point in terms of growth. One of the co-owners of the firm approached me about running the company," Allred explains. "Since then there has been tremendous growth. In two years, our client base has more than doubled, and our installations have tripled."

PCS, says Allred, makes its money through recurring revenue. While there are initial licensing fees for its software, the company's main revenue stream comes from monthly product support fees.

"It's the reverse of a lot of software applications," says Allred. "In this industry, normal maintenance costs are 18 percent of licensing costs. Ours is completely flipped. Our software is very high maintenance. If data isn't showing up, you're stuck. It's a production environment."

Next time you're trying on a fuzzy cardigan at Urban Outfitters, it's PCS that gets it there.

Source: Chandra Allred, PCS Technologies
Writer: Sue Spolan
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