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Storably launches, offering space to people with stuff

There's two sides to every storage equation: too much stuff and too much space. A new startup, Storably, aims to reach a zero sum, matching people with stuff to people with space. "If you think of Craigslist," says Brendan Lowry (and who among us does not think of Craigslist), community manager for Storably, "our website is the same thing, with added verification of people renting and posting." The downside of Craigslist is a lack of verification and trust, which Storably aims to fix via peer review and communication, says Lowry.

"Especially in the city, there are no storage spots within walking distance. This solution can be very convenient. It opens up even more creative ideas because no one has thought of storage this way," adds Lowry. 

Storably's founders are Wharton grads Apu Gupta and Josh Kowitt, respectively CEO and CFO. Says Gupta, "I was getting frustrated with finding an inexpensive place to park my wife's car while Josh was finding that he had numerous people asking if they could store stuff in his empty basement. Josh and I were both really into what AirBnB was enabling people to do. We figured by applying the AirBnB model to parking and self-storage we could help people find the right space in the right place, and enable people to generate a meaningful income from their unused or underused space."

Each listing includes a description, map, and details on price, size, access and special features. Lowry himself has an empty bookshelf available for $5 a month at the Storably offices, located at 2038 Locust Street.

Not only can you find a place for your things. Storably also offers parking spots. Lowry explains, "If you were to list your parking spot for $100, we would list it on the website and add a percentage, so it would cost $115. You're not losing any money."

At this writing, Storably lists 467 parking spaces for rent, as low as $50 for a moped spot in Rittenhouse to a "large outdoor storage area" in Eddystone, described as "4,000 sq/ft of outdoor space to store your trailers, trucks, and other equipment. This space works well for landscapers and others who need to park vehicles nightly."

Storably, which launched at the end of last month, funding partly by bootstrapping and partly by undisclosed outside capital, plans to go national. Cities will be unlocked when 200 people sign up.

Source: Apu Gupta, Brendan Lowry, Storably
Writer: Sue Spolan

MilkBoy Recording taking over The Studio above The Electric Factory

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Jamie Lokoff, MilkBoy
Writer: Sue Spolan

Speak up: TEDxPhilly 2.0, TEDxSJU on the horizon

The Femininjas are coming to TEDxPhilly, along with a whole cast of speakers designed to blow audiences away with their words, ideas and inspiration. The second annual local version of the global TED talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) will be Tuesday, Nov. 8, all day, starting at 9 a.m. at the Temple Performing Arts Center on North Broad Street.

The major difference with this venue, besides the location, is that we have the room to accommodate twice as many people," says TEDxPhilly organizer Roz Duffy. "We sold out last year (at the Kimmel Center) and had to deny people tickets leading up to the event due to capacity. This year, there should be more than enough seats for anyone who wants to attend."

The theme is The City, and organizers have invited  a compelling group of speakers to define the parameters of the urban landscape. "The City is about all aspects of urban life from people making a difference in Philadelphia and cities across the country to our collective experience of city life from the soundscape of our environment to the way we work, play, eat, live and breathe in the city," says Duffy.

Jennifer Pahlka, Executive Director of Code For America, will tell her tale of a year in city government. Speaker Youngjin Yoo is Director of Temple University's Center for Design+Innovation and Open Access Philly member.

Gregory Corbin, founder of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, where the Femininjas were born, will speak about creating an urban youth writing workshop that recently won national honors at Brave New Voices 2011 and a Knight Foundation grant. DJ Rich Medina will speak on spinning around the globe; sculptor Janet Echelman describes her art which combines ancient techniques with cutting edge technology; Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way Center, hosts the event.

"We will probably get close to 20 speakers this year and I’d guess around 800 attendees, but we have room for over 1,000 attendees, so we hope we can really fill the place with passionate, creative and inspiring individuals," says Duffy, who points to one returning guest she's particularly thrilled about. "Stanford Thompson leads a very intense music education program. Stanford’s students’ performance was so moving last year that there was not a dry eye in the house."

A full list of speakers and a link to purchase tickets can be found on the TEDxPhilly website.

By the way, St. Joe's is getting into the TED act with its inaugural TEDxSJU, which takes place on Oct. 13 from 4-7 p.m. at St. Joe's Campus Commons Building and will feature social entrepreneurs from across the country, including Olivia Bouler, who at age 12 created Save The Gulf, and LynnMcConville, whose Power Up Gambia is bringing solar to the African nation. The event is free and open to the public.

Source: Roz Duffy, TEDxPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiring: Kimmel Center strategy job could be a springboard

Attention recent grads: One of city's premier venues for arts and culture has just posted a job in its Strategy and Planning Office. It's a temporary position that is destined to place the right person in front of some of Philadelphia's movers and shakers, according to Beryl Byles, an executive coach who is fielding and screening resumes as a favor to her colleagues at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts.

This job has a long title and a short life," explains Byles of the posting for Strategy Specialist and Assistant to the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Planning. With just a five-month term, the open position will be filled ideally by "a real self starter who is quantitatively strong, creative and alert," says Byles, who adds that the ideal candidate will have strong computer and people skills but doesn't know quite how to navigate the job market. "It's a perfect transition from school to a real career."

The job would be an entree into the world of the arts as well as the world of business. The Strategy Specialist will go out into the business community, accompanying the SVP of Strategy and Planning as well as the President, serving as a poised and professional representative of the Kimmel among the city's movers and shakers.

Byles also frames the position as fulfilling a gap year for someone who is seeking a new type of employment. The five month post pays a total of $14,000 and while it is a limited engagement, Byles says the amount of built-in networking will provide plenty of opportunity for advancement, either within the Kimmel administration or through newly forged connections. By the way, this job is not being advertised on the usual help wanted sites. It's strictly word of mouth, according to Byles. To apply for the position or get further info, email your resume or questions.

Source: Beryl Byles, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Writer: Sue Spolan

Cluster-struck: Assessing the future of industry clusters

As America races to maintain standing in the global economy, industry clusters have been touted as a key strategy for technological innovation. While Silicon Valley and North Carolina's Research Triangle are held as bright spots where higher education meets high tech, few innovation clusters are successful. A recent column in the Washington Post dubbed government funded industry clusters "the modern day snake oil," doomed to fail.

At the third annual Regional Affinity Incubation Network (RAIN) meeting, held last week at the University City Science Center, David Finegold, Dean of Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations, responded. "A lot of efforts haven't panned out, but industry clusters are not without hope." He explained that early efforts were "real estate plays." What sets the tri-state region apart is the ability to build from that which is distinctive about this area, said Finegold, rather than starting from scratch and hoping that if it's built, innovation will come.

New Jersey, in particular, has nowhere to go but up, having ranked last in 2010 in U.S. job creation. While traditionally the state was a leader in biopharma and telecommunications, these industries made up a large-firm culture, and it's now time to build diverse networks, according to Finegold.

The University City District in Philadelphia is a 2.5 square mile powerhouse of commercial and institutional vitality, employing 70,000 people, according to UCD president Matthew Bergheiser. Forty percent of NIH funding in Pennsylvania is granted to projects within the boundaries of University City, and the Science Center has long been a fertile startup breeding ground that encourages organic growth, rather than superimposing ideas of innovation on an otherwise bereft area.

In Delaware, by contrast, plans are underway to convert Newark's former Chrysler assembly plant into an 250 acre innovation hub complete with living and working space, with an existing rail station to encourage commuters, and the potential to create collaboration across state lines, according to David Weir, PhD, Director of the Office of the Economic Innovation & Partnerships at the University of Delaware.

With a continued soft real estate market, Finegold offers that the way out of the recession is through leveraging human capabilities and university facilities. "We already have a great talent base here," said Finegold of efforts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, which he terms one of the most diverse regions on the planet.

RAIN is a regional network of over 40 research parks, incubators and support organizations located in the tri-state area.

Source: David Finegold, Matthew Bergheiser, David Weir, RAIN
Writer: Sue Spolan


Former Chrysler Assembly Plant in Newark DE

Sam Katz's big party plans: USA250, to celebrate nation, begins in Philly

Lollapalooza meets SXSW meets Burning Man, with a side order of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the first of many brainstorming sessions to shape the identity of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, creative ideas were flying.

Celebrating the passage of time since 1776 is a big project, so Sam Katz is starting with plenty of lead time. Fifteen years, to be exact. The three-time mayoral hopeful has turned his ambitions toward creating a national extravaganza branded as USA250, based in Philadelphia but celebrating the whole country, with the world as an audience. The idea merges with Katz's work as a documentarian. His new 30-minute film Philadelphia: the Great Experiment, is the first installment in what Katz hopes will become a series about the 400 year history of the city. Part one covers 1865-76.

In short order, the idea sprung to life from three highly involved Philadelphians -- Greg Heller, Job Itzkowitz, and Andrew Hohns. Now with a 501c3 non-profit group dedicated to USA250, the group is holding a series of idea gathering sessions with folks who will likely be around in 15 years to see the idea to fruition.

At a conference room in a Center City high rise, about a dozen of the city's brightest and most outspoken gathered to explore Katz's concept. While it will not be possible to recreate the 1876 Centennial celebration that attracted an international audience to Philadelphia, the group hopes to capture some of the spectacle and pomp of that event. "We want to promote, advocate, conceptualize and collaborate in the lead up to July 4, 2026," says CEO Katz, asking those gathered to use social media and email for outreach and spreading the word.

Katz plans on asking hundreds of people for their opinions on the nature of the USA250 celebration, which will have its own website and Facebook page, and is already making an appearance as the hashtag #USA250 on twitter.

What would you suggest if you could design USA250? Would you concentrate on diversity, the arts, democracy, history, technology or a caravan that travels across the United States gathering stories? The field is wide open to suggestions, and it could be your idea that makes millions in tourism dollars. By the way, Katz says he isn't planning on running for office again. Anytime soon.

Source: Sam Katz, USA250
Writer: Sue Spolan

University City locavores on display for Dining Days

University City's story of urban renewal, job creation and international talent is well-told. In a few short years, the 20 by 16 block, 2.5 square mile neighborhood has blossomed into a hub for culture and technology, with business and creative communities growing in tandem. One benchmark is fast growth in the food world, where five of The Food Trust's 40 area farmer's markets operate. For example, the Clark Park farmer's market has grown 30 percent since 2005 and has expanded from Friday afternoons when it began in 1998 to two days a week and year-round.

Another example can be found right now in University City Dining Days. An expected 26,000 patrons of 29 restaurants will eat the fruit of world class chefs like Garces and Flay for under $30. There's been a 20% increase in full service restaurants in the neighborhood in the past three years.

Philly Homegrown turns a sharp focus on all the awesome food on offer round these parts, and considers University City to be at the top of the locavore list, as the area provides a concentrated look at what can happen when people take farm to table very seriously. "West Philly is particularly rich in chefs and consumers who care about food," says Donna Schorr of the GPTMC.

UC menus tend toward locally grown and sourced items, and chefs may be found perusing the goods at Clark Park, where thousands flock weekly and even includes food trucks Honest Tom's and Guapos Tacos, which was recently renovated and sports bright orange furniture.

"It's a good source of revenue for small to medium family farms," says the Food Trust's Nick Uy, noting his organization charges vendors just $35 per stand.

There's an explosion of activity west of the Schuylkill, according to UC District Communications Manager Mark Christman, with tourism friendly Sustainable Saturdays and Farm to Table Trolley Tours; as well as neighborhood boosters like the Clean & Safe Program which employs 80 people who function as West Philly ambassadors, and the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, now in its second year providing employment for local high school students.

Source: Nicky Uy, Food Trust; Mark Christman, UC District; Donna Schorr, GPTMC/Philly Homegrown
Writer: Sue Spolan
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