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Emerging Technology : Innovation + Job News

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How to Ignite hearts and minds, one slide deck at a time

The first thing you need to know is that Alex Hillman is dangerously awesome. He is the Pied Piper of the tech community. And he had a lot of competition onstage at Ignite Philly 8, which took place before a packed audience on Thursday (Sept. 22) at Johnny Brenda's in Fishtown.

Anyone who creates slide presentations needs to attend the next Ignite Philly. That would be you. Aside from 12 presentations about incredibly cool initiatives taking place in Philadelphia, the most inspiring part was the creative way presenters used Power Point. Makes a geeky girl sigh with pleasure.

The evening, hosted by Geoff DiMasi, David Clayton and Dana Vachon, began with Melissa Morris Ivone's Operation Nice. Talking about the inception of her blog, Ivone told the story of one morning commute during which she was cut off by another driver, but the day turned around when a stranger was nice to her on an elevator. That tiny act bloomed into the Operation Nice blog, which sports the tagline, "Encouraging individuals to be proactively nice." Kind of a pay it forward for the intelligentsia.

Did you know that Philadelphia has an Art Hotel? Krista Peel and Zak Starer run an artist residency located in East Kensington. Each year, the hotel accepts 10 residents free of charge. Chirstian Kunkel is bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to Philadelphia public school students with Startup Corps, which has already helped 70 young entrepreneurs in 6 schools, with the help of 150 mentors. Kunkel's dream is to offer an opportunity to start a business to every public school student in Philadelphia.

Hillman and DiMasi presented K'House, their coworking and cohousing experiment now under construction in Kensington. A last minute addition to the lineup, Hillman and DiMasi's presentation was created by drawing on bar napkins, taking iPhone pictures of the napkins, and building a brilliant slide show that had the crowd roaring. "I never know how the talks are going to turn out, but they always seem to exceed expectations," comments DiMasi, who counted 300 people in the capacity crowd.

Danielle Redden took us boating on the tidal Schuylkill; Michelle Bland invited everyone to Nerd Nite Philly; Theresa Rose, Jordan Rock and Brett Mapp explained the Philly Stake dinner concept; Mira Adornetto and Joel Fath planted the idea of Philly Seed Exchange; Tristin Hightower and Nicole Kline told the story of Philly Girl Geek Dinners; Greg Hoy made an argument for why Sansom Street should be confined to pedestrian traffic in his talk, "Less Garbage Juice, More with Love xoxo;" Gabriel Mandujano and Joel Hommes encouraged sustainable cleanliness with their business Wash Cycle Laundry, and Sarah McEneany  talked about the latest developments along the Reading Viaduct.

The majority of the night's proceeds were awarded to a former Ignite Philly Speaker, the EVX West Philly Hybrid X Team, which won $1,000 toward teaching high school students to build hybrid cars.

Source: Geoff Di Masi, Ignite Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

GPIC juggling several projects that aim to centralize energy efficiency

There's a major problem with the building industry. With 800,000 construction or architecture and engineering firms in the United States, each with an average of 10 employees, there is no critical mass to forward research and development, according to Christine Knapp of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC).

Knapp sees GPIC, a recipient of $129 million in federal funding to be a hub for energy efficiency, as a way to centralize the scattered practice, and there are a lot of initiatives underway at the multidisciplinary organization based at the Navy Yard, including the construction of a combination demonstration project and headquarters.

"We've selected our architectural design team. Kieran Timberlake is a Philadelphia based firm. It happened to work out that the team that won is local," says Knapp. "We're really trying to change the way buildings are designed. We want to be a case study and show people the hiccups and process. A big part of our work is showing the value of integrative construction, design and retrofit."

GPIC workshops are one way to accomplish increased cooperation and vertical integration, and a bunch are lined up this fall, including one that dovetails with DesignPhiladelphia. In November, a series of innovation seminars will begin.

Another goal is data collection, which is a huge job, and Knapp says GPIC is actively seeking a Building Energy Data Manager. "We met with the EPA and the Department of Energy. We plan to sync up with them, and share what data we are getting access to," says Knapp, in an effort to establish a baseline and cobble together a snapshot of the current state of construction.

GPIC is also home to The Sustainability Workshop, an academy for high school seniors that grew out of the West Philly Hybrid X team, which beat out MIT in a national hybrid car building competition. "If they could accomplish this much with an after school program," says Knapp, "what can they do with a full time school? Instead of automobiles, the focus could be energy efficiency of buildings, and they'd contribute to GPIC," says Knapp, who adds that her organization will be assisting with funding for the first year, and in return, students will be contributing to GPIC's work. Right now the program has 30 high school seniors and two full time educators.

In the near future, look for GPIC announcements about the disbursement of $10 million to up to seven applicants for the Opportunity Research Fund. Also, says Knapp, look for an upcoming announcement from GPIC about the choice of teams to assist with strategic planning as well as marketing and communications.

Source: Christine Knapp, GPIC
Writer: Sue Spolan

Center City's Cliq launches with social media spin on peer opinion, hiring

Cliq takes social data and makes it social knowledge, according to Alex Khorram. The new website, now in beta stage, aggregates all your Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Twitter friends' and friends of friends' recommendations to deliver a whole new kind of information about local business, products and brands.

"I bought a house in January. It became important for me to have a trusted source to touch base with prior to making a decision about a contractor," says Khorram, CEO of Cliq. After looking at Angie's List and ServiceMagic, Khorram sat down to build a product to create a reliable system for peer recommendations. "Facebook is a great white pages, but they've done a subpar job in terms of the yellow pages," says Khorram.

Cliq, already written up in Mashable, is based in Center City with seven employees, and is now seeking at least three engineers to join the team. At the moment, Cliq is public with restaurants only. A search for, say, Tony's Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, NJ tells me that six friends have liked or commented on the old time establishment, that there are over 6,000 check-ins and likes across social networks, and Cliq also displays buzz on the joint culled from Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter comments.

In Cliq world, each listing is customized to each human. Cliq scans millions of social network pages and delivers results directly from direct and secondary contacts. Any further out and results are too diluted, according to Khorram.

Why not Google search results? "They're a web engine with crawlers. Now, if you type in plumber in Philadelphia, you'll get a certain result, and most of it is anonymous stuff. We've already built a database of several million businesses. Our goal is to index every business in the world that has a social presence."

Khorram, who reports that Cliq is funded by angel investors for an undisclosed sum, expects to go global, with pages in Mandarin, Farsi and Hindu. As far as monetization, "We see Cliq as the last place you'll check prior to making a purchase decision. That gives us great leeway and we can work with partners like Expedia or Hotels.com. Finally, the internet meets word of mouth."

Source: Alex Khorram, Cliq
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

Natural killer cells and a microscope that breaks the laws of physics at CHOP

The more you know about the way the body works, the more wondrously mysterious it all seems. Researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, using super high resolution microscopes, now have far more understanding of the way the immune system works. Focusing on one type of cell in particular that naturally fights viral infections, Dr. Jordan Orange says his lab is using a Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscope to break the laws of physics and see particles smaller than 200 nanometers. To put that into perspective, one human blood cell measures about 5000 nanometers.

The results are fascinating. "The cell in my lab naturally fights viral infections, and seeks out and destroys cancer cells without the need to be trained. These cells are an important part of keeping us healthy," says Orange. "They carry around very small sacs of poison inside and move them to a contact point within a dangerous cell." The poison is released and the cell is destroyed, explains Orange, explaining this effective means of maintaining our health.

"One of the things we've now learned from the use of this technology is that these sacs have a rather elegant interaction with the structural framework of the cell." Orange, who is fond of analogies, says that the former understanding could be compared to getting something into the cellar by blowing a giant hole in the floor and dropping it down. "What this microscope has allowed us to determine is that in reality it's like opening a small vent in the floor to move the object that's almost the same size as the vent."

Orange and his team's findings about these natural killer cells have just been published in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology. Orange says that going forward, the findings will contribute to fighting all kinds of cancers and infections. It's also interesting to note that CHOP, where the ongoing NIH funded study is taking place, is one of the first institutions in the country to have the STED microscope.

Source: Jordan Orange, MD/PhD, Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crowdsourced education comes to Philly with Skillshare

What do you know? There's a new way to make money based on your particular set of skills and talents. It's called Skillshare. Launched in Philadelphia last month with national headquarters in New York City, Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything and get paid for it. Brendan Lowry has been in charge of launching the program in Philadelphia. "Every city is a university, all the restaurants and cafes are classrooms, and our neighbors are our greatest teachers," says Lowry, whose title is Special Operations.

Here's how it works: Say you are really good at knitting. Sure, you could sell your stuff on Etsy. But with Skillshare, you can also hold knitting class at a location of your choice. Set your own price per student, and get paid through PayPal. Skillshare deducts 15 percent of every ticket sold.

Skillshare, on a mission to democratize and redefine education, launched in New York in May of this year, and is now operating in Philadelphia and San Francisco, with hopes for setting up in cities across the US. Each city needs to be unlocked by popular vote. When the vote count surpasses 500, a team is created to get the word out. "We've targeted the tech community. It's one of the first industries we tapped into, but we don't want to fall exclusively in that category," says Lowry, who says right now there are over a hundred classes on offer in the Philadelphia area, ranging from The Art of the Cold Call to Beer 101. Teachers post credentials and a feedback process is designed to ensure a quality learning experience (full disclosure: I am teaching Communications for Startups on Sept. 20).

"Our marketing budget is literally zero dollars," says Lowry, who has done outreach through social media and word of mouth. There is also a newly created, limited time $1,000 scholarship fund which encourages more people to take classes in Philly and SF. Skillshare is set to launch next in Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans.

Source: Brendan Lowry, Skillshare
Writer: Sue Spolan

Growing Greenphire: KOP clinical research firm doubling staff

Put that paperwork down. Greenphire is fundamentally changing the entire clinical research industry. The King of Prussia based company has two products, ClinCard and eClinical GPS, designed to streamline clinical research studies. The technology is working, and it's well received, having just closed a round of Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital, on the heels of Ben Franklin Technology Partners funding last year.

Greenphire's COO John Samar reports that this year, the company will achieve 300 percent revenue growth over last year, currently serving 200 customers including big name pharma, biotech and medical device companies. Just four years ago Greenphire consisted of Samar and co-founder/CEO Sam Whitaker, and with the cash influx, the company is hiring. Samar estimates that the current staff of 16 will double by spring of 2012. Currently, there are three openings: VP Program Management, Program Manager and Office Manager/Client Support/Bookkeeper.

ClinCard, says Samar, is Greenphire's debit card based product that handles payments for participation in clinical research trials, adding email and SMS functionality to keep patients engaged in studies. Participants receive tailored messaging and appointment reminders.

"There are a lot of value adds that result from the way we package," says Samar. "Sponsors get cleaner, more robust data, and patients are happier. The whole clinical research industry is realizing that it needs to be more patient centered." Increased compliance on both sides of the equation, from patients to paperwork, sets ClinCard in its own class, and it's not hard to see how Greenphire's technology could be applied to a much wider healthcare market.

But Samar says right now Greenphire is sticking to its expertise in the clinical research sector, and this year launched its second product, eClinical-GPS (Global Payment System) to address payments involved in the execution of the study. So, for example, if a clinician draws blood, reimbursement -- which previously took 6 to 8 months -- now arrives within three days.

The high growth private company is partnering with Mytrus for Pfizer's virtual clinical trial program that allows participants to remain at home, using electronic communication tools to recruit, retain and administer studies.

Source: John Samar, Greenphire
Writer: Sue Spolan

Digital divide needs to be addressed, says city's first Chief Innovation and Technology officer

Adel Ebeid almost thought he was undergoing a form of frat-boy initiation, when during his first week on the job as the City of Philadelphia’s first Chief Innovation Officer, the region was rocked by an earthquake and then Hurricane Irene. As it turned out, the naturally occurring forces served to uncover details about the city’s technology.

“It was an excellent exercise in immediately getting to know who’s who and understand how, in a state of crisis, the city communicates and the flow of vital information,” says Ebeid, 47. “I couldn’t have asked for a better Philly 101.”

Ebeid, who previously served as head of IT for the State of New Jersey since 2006, was hired in mid-August thanks in part to a heavy courtship from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. On Aug. 22, Nutter signed an executive order establishing the Office of Innovation and Technology, which replaces the former Division of Technology headed by Allen Franks.

Ebeid says the goal is to rebrand the office (and IT culture) as an enabler and catalyst for helping city agencies improve their operations so they're better able to provide services to city residents and businesses. That's part of Nutter's vision that motivated Ebeid to come to Philly.

“We are ambassadors for how to take IT to the next level,” says the Egyptian native, who moved to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. “Sometimes you gain power by giving up power.”

For an innovation agenda to thrive, Ebeid says the city needs to understand obstacles to internet and broadband penetration. Ebeid says the latest figures he has seen reveal a whopping 41 percent of the city does not have internet access.

"That's quite high for the fifth-largest urban city in the country,” says Ebeid. "I can't figure if it’s an adoption, access or affordability issue, or a combination of all three."

Fortunately, there are already initiatives in place to help narrow the city's digital divide.

Just last week, Nutter was on hand during a press event introducing Internet Essentials, an ambitious, Comcast-led program for comprehensive broadband adoption that will provide families in Philadelphia with children who are eligible for free school lunches with low-cost Internet service, affordable computers and digital literacy training.

Ebeid is also excited about the city’s Freedom Rings partnership that brings together grassroots organizations, government and universities to establish 77 public computer centers, provide hands-on training to 15,000 residents, distribute 5,000 computers to public housing residents and generate 5,000 new broadband household subscribers and 50 small-business subscribers.

"Andrew Buss from my staff has done an excellent job managing this project and I plan to do everything i can to support him and his staff bring the project to a successful completion," he says.

Last Wednesday it was announced that Philadelphia was again selected as a partner for next year’s Code For America program, which unleashes the power of talented developers, designers and product managers on a city for a year to help create more open, participatory and efficient city government.

Ebeid says that in order for already underway projects, like PhillyStat or 311, to advance to the next level, the city’s IT infrastructure needs to be stabilized and secured. Last week, as reported in Technically Philly, Ebeid called for a 30-45 day moratorium on any new technologies within the city’s IT framework to "allow time to establish the appropriate management processes so that the City’s IT infrastructure can grow in a structured fashion but, more importantly, build the staffing capacity needed to sustain it for the long term."

Says Ebeid: "Very little can be achieved unless we have a stable infrastructure foundation in place. I didn’t count on that being my first priority but it now has my complete undivided attention until my staff can regain their confidence."

Source: Adel Ebeid, City of Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Secrets of Philly Startup Weekend 2.0 revealed

It's a super awesome Startup Weekend 2.0. Tickets are almost sold out for the Oct. 14 event. On the heels of the first wildly successful Startup Weekend held in January, 2011, the second gathering has a new venue, better food and more caffeine, according to organizer Brad Oyler.

"We sold 95 tickets in two weeks," he says. "The business development tickets are already sold out. We  want to balance it out with developers and designers."

This time, Startup Weekend moves west and will be held at Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law, in a brand new building with a big auditorium and the use of a dozen classrooms, says Oyler, who helped create the first weekend at University of the Arts, which drew national attention for winner Jameson Detweiler and his team's Launchrock.

"This time around, there's a lot more hype," says Oyler. "People have taken notice, and we've got all the biggest venture capital firms supporting Startup Weekend and getting involved."

The biggest change in programming, according to Oyler, is a new collaboration with the newly launched Skillshare, resulting in classes throughout the weekend instead of just speakers all day. Also, the Drexel Law venue provides several private rooms for top secret entrepreneurial exchanges.

Otherwise, says Oyler, the program will follow a similar curriculum to the previous weekend. Friday night pitches will start earlier. Saturday and part of Sunday will be devoted to building in teams comprised of designers, developers and entrepreneurs. The weekend ends with demos, judging, and awarding of prizes, which include 4 to 5 Dell Boomi tablets and computers, plus legal services from Morgan Lewis to each of the top three winning teams.

As far as judges, the well-rounded list keeps getting bigger, says Oyler, and currently includes Gil Beyda, Managing Partner at Genacast Ventures, Basecamp Business founder Mel Baiada, Morgan Lewis attorney Stephen Goodman, Boomi CEO Bob Moul, Tracey Welson-Rossman from Chariot Solutions, and Ellen Weber, executive director of Robin Hood Ventures.

While attendance is currently capped at 120, Oyler says that's a conservative figure and may open up in the coming weeks. Currently, a few limited ticket types are still available and range in price from $40 to $75.

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

Virtual mural-ity: Breadboard and Mural Arts join for innovative residency, exhibition

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is once again reinventing itself, this time through its special muraLAB initiative and with Breadboard, the hybrid program out of the University City Science Center that explores intersections between contemporary art, design, science and technology.

The partnership has formed a joint artist residency and exhibition opportunity that explores the intersection of muralism and technology. Last week the groups announced a request for proposals to established and emerging artists--or interdisciplinary teams of two--with priority given to those having a strong Philadelphia connection. Four selected artists or artist teams will be given access to NextFab Studio's high tech fabrication equipment and staff from November through March, 2012 to produce public art project concepts and models ad prototypes for exhibition in April and May at Breadboard's Esther Klein Gallery. Projects will also be considered for full-scale public art projects produce by Mural Arts in 2013.

Artists and teams will earn a stipend of $2,000 and a $500 credit toward workshop and machine time fees and staff consultations. Deadline for submissions is 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3.

There are two upcoming open houses at NextFab for interested artists--not mandatory but definitely encouraged--on Wednesday, Aug. 31 (5-7:30 p.m.) and Saturday, Sept. 10 (1-3:30 p.m.). RSVP here.

Source: David Clayton, Breadboard
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Startup Therapy: Philly's new get-off-the-couch approach to entrepreneurial networking

There is no shortage of groups and events geared toward Philadelphia's still-fertile startup community. One new group, which is still figuring out how it fits in, is sure of one thing: its members will be active participants.

Startup Therapy, founded by Jeff Deville and supported by a group of six to 10 active participants, has met for lunch on three recent Fridays. Deville is working on a pair of soon-to-launch ventures: WishGenies is a platform that uses social media to deliver gift ideas for your family and friends and MixMeUp is an app that helps you choose an appropriate cocktail. Earlier this month he made his first visit to Independents Hall, the Old City-based co-working space that turns four years old on Thursday and is home to many of the city's most active and influential entrepreneurial types, and his subsequent blog post imploring Philly startups to unite became the initial framework for Startup Therapy.

Through three sessions, the group has worked to develop its tone and structure while aiming to establish an exclusivity not yet present in the local startup community, which appears to be its niche.

"There are a lot of groups in the area that let anyone in who has an interest," says Brian Glick via email. He's an active founding member of the group and president of logistics software startup Aspect 9, which has developed a customizable supply chain platform for businesses of all sizes. "The problem is, having an interest is not the same as doing something about it. The groups become too big to deliver focused value for their members.

"We think that with a smaller group of engaged people who you know and trust, opportunities for sharing and leveraging each other's resources are much more plausible."

Glick added he sees the group as "open source in the real world." Other early discussions centered around the need for higher level, focused learning sessions (something deeper than Marketing 101).

If you want in and are willing to be a fully engaged member, the group meets at Indy Hall (20 N. 3rd St., Suite 201) every Friday just before noon and leaves for its lunch session promptly at the top of the hour.

Source: Brian Glick, Aspect 9
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Newest Science Center tenant serves as bridge to U.S. for overseas life science companies

The American business landscape can be daunting to an outsider, but it's all in who you know. The Triana Group's address book is brimming with invaluable connections, easing the path for overseas companies who want to create a US presence.

Based in Paris with offices in New York and San Jose, Triana has just opened an office at The University City Science Center that focuses on life science companies. "They need help identifying a strategy and sources of capital," says Triana Group Co-Director Lorraine Marchand. "We give companies a turnkey solution that includes access to capital and introductions to corporate partners. We make it as easy as possible to set up shop in the US."

Marchand and co-director Pamela Yih, along with the Triana board of directors, offer a vast extended network. Their cumulative employment experience means that they can draw on excellent connections within pharmaceuticals, contract research organizations, venture capital and academia.

Because the company is based in Paris, Triana is a dedicated overseas link that runs in both directions. "Our colleagues in Paris know granting organizations that will help companies' expansion into the new market and enable feasibility. We're a bridge." Triana is currently "in various stages of engagement" with five to seven life science companies. Some are at the feasibility stage, in which Marchand and Yih help to develop a plan, look at the business model and market share, and give the startup a sense of resources and financing needed.

"As part of the feasibility process, we introduce companies to capital sources and granting agencies. We do a road show with corporate or strategic partners and thought leaders. From there, we pull together legal services to help set up a limited liability corporation," says Marchand, who adds that not all companies require top to tail assistance, and for those who just need a hand with one piece of the puzzle, Triana tailors its offerings to organizational need.

Because of its location in the Science Center (which happens to be on the same floor as the newly opened Quorum space), Triana will share existing office space and help place businesses in the complex, which is already tailor made for life science startups. Triana's mission dovetails with the SciCenter's Global Soft Landing Program.

Source: Lorraine Marchand, Triana Group
Writer: Sue Spolan

All geeked up: Inaugural Philadelphia Geek Awards gets nuts

The thing that surprised Eric Smith the most about the first annual Philadelphia Geek Awards wasn't the guy who accepted his honor in a fox head costume. It wasn't the sold out crowd of over 400 who packed the Academy of Natural Sciences auditorium last Friday night. It was the negative feedback from folks who were upset by who was left out. "It shows that people were invested and care about what we're doing," Smith reflected after a good night's sleep. "It was supposed to be something mostly for fun, but it got a lot more serious." In the two weeks leading up to the Awards, Smith says press coverage blew up, and tickets disappeared.

The Geek Awards, the brainchild of Smith, Tim Quirino and Michelangelo Ilagan, who make up the staff of Geekadelphia ("A Guide to Everything Geek in the City of Brotherly Love"), were by all measures a total success. Sponsored by a host of local organizations including The Academy of Natural Sciences, who provided the venue free of charge, along with Drink Philly and National Mechanics who donated food and beverages, the event celebrated dozens of the city's technological finest, with just under twenty categories, from Best New Blog (a tie between DrinkPhilly and Naked Philly; the latter wore the fox head) to Outstanding Achievement in Fashion & Lifestyle, which is not the first attribute that comes to mind in the geek world, but Philly happens to have some very hip and good looking techies. Cadence Wrist Watch Company, home of the 4-bit, 4:20 and Wrist Rocket models, won that title.

"It was always something Tim and I wanted to do," says Smith of the awards. "We have all these great awards in Philly, but nothing for geeks." Let's just say that PriceWaterhouseCoopers did not oversee the process. Smith and cohorts at Geekadelphia designed the ceremony and chose categories, nominees and winners (with a little help from friends like Alex Hillman of Indy Hall). Next year the Geek Awards will be even more inclusive and probably a lot more serious, with spots for scientists, web developers and programmers.

Following his moment in the spotlight and cheering crowds, Smith returns to his day job at the Philadelphia based Quirk Books, which turns out bestsellers including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, as well as the aptly titled Geeky Dreamboats.

Source: Eric Smith, Philadelphia Geek Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

Drexel's Baiada Center set for expansion, to add lab for entrepreneurial focus groups

The Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business is about to expand, taking up residence in the soon to be constructed LeBow building at 32nd and Market Streets. Currently tucked away in a former industrial space at 32nd and Arch, the Baiada Center has been physically separate from LeBow, but that's all about to change. The business school's former home, the Mathieson Building, is now in the process of being demolished to make way for a 12 story state of the art structure. The new Baiada Center will have a light-flooded open floor plan, and will add a behavioral lab where entrepreneurs can conduct focus group tests.

A division of LeBow, Baiada has long offered full support for entrepreneurs, from office and conference space to mentoring, training and promotion. "A lot of what we do is built around the presumption that most entrepreneurs know their space, and need help building and selling their companies,' says Mark Loschiavo, Executive Director and Senior Executive in Residence. Startups, which range in specialty from transportation to medical devices, also receive a small amount of seed capital.

The current space is currently home to ten companies, notably CityRyde, which just received $345,000 in funding for its bike share technology, as well as current undergrad Bradley Ericson, whose company 3 Second Receipts earned him the title of Entrepreneur magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2009.

Loschiavo says that the vast majority of Baiada's tenants are Drexel alums, and all have had some affiliation with Drexel. The center chooses two to three companies each year, negotiates a competitive one-year lease, and reviews the startup's performance at the end of the initial contract.

While residence is open ended, Loschiavo says companies must show movement in the right direction to remain in the center. One Baiada business, Drexel Drinks, is something of an incubator within an incubator. The on-campus beverage delivery service has become a model for succession, providing turnover and training as students graduate and move on.

Founder and primary funder Mel Baiada is a Drexel alum and serial entrepreneur who credits a successful exit in the software industry. He also founded Basecamp Business, a networking tool for entrepreneurs. "The Baiada Center established a culture of entrepreneurship at Drexel, and helps the university maintain an entrepreneurial focus," he says. Mel's brother, Mark, who founded Bayada Nurses, is also an investor in the incubator, which is named in honor of their father. The new LeBow building should be complete in 18 months.

Source: Mark Loschiavo, Mel Baiada, The Baiada Center
Writer: Sue Spolan

South Philly resident grows composting collection business

Your scraps are Tim Bennett's gold mine. Bennett Compost offers urban dwellers the opportunity to recycle food waste without expensive equipment or outdoor space. Bennett began the business out of a personal need. "At the time, where I was living in South Philly, I wanted to compost, but I had no backyard." After dissatisfaction with home composting systems costing around $300, Bennett created a composting service that would benefit city homes and businesses at a fraction of the cost.

For a $15 monthly fee, residential customers receive a covered bucket, and Bennett's truck swings around once a week to empty and return the container. Commercial customers, including coffee shops, a florist and some restaurants, pay on a sliding scale depending on volume and frequency of pickup, but Bennett adds that the cost offsets commercial trash hauling fees, and in some cases commercial customers are able to save money on refuse.

Used food and some types of paper are sent to a composting facility in Delaware and then picked up for distribution to area community gardens. Customers can opt to receive up to 10 gallons of the finished product free of charge; beyond that, compost is available at a discounted price. You don't have to be a customer to buy compost. Five gallon buckets are available to the general public for $10, and will soon be sold at area retail locations including Essene Market and Green Aisle Grocery.

Current offices are based in South Philly at Bennett's home, with a North Philadelphia warehouse. Bennett was able to quit his day job at Temple University last summer to devote his career full time to compost. "We bootstrapped our way up. Now we are profitable enough that I am able to pay my own salary, and we have three part time employees." The business continues to grow, with 300 residential customers and 20 businesses distributed across the entire city.

Source: Tim Bennett, Bennett Compost
Writer: Sue Spolan
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