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WizeHive expands with business apps, hiring

In just a few years, WizeHive has established a successful track record selling their collaborative platform as an application review tool and is ready to expand into new verticals. The Conshohocken comapny is hiring several positions including high-level web developers, web designer, experienced sales lead, and business development expert.
 
So far, WizeHive has largely served national and international nonprofits. Many of WizeHives clients, which include Society for Petroleum Engineers, American Humane Society, American Heart Association, Global Health Core, and Consumer Electronics Association, manage multiple programs. Some have up to a few hundred reviewers and receive as many as tens of thousands of applications. WizeHive's "customized workflow" has successfully eliminated endless sorting and meandering email chains from their review process.
 
"Foundations have sent us pictures of their offices before WizeHive and its just stacks and stacks of paper everywhere," Sarah Lang, Director of Marketing, says. "Now its all online and it's much easier."
 
The company is realizing their sophisticated automation of data and tasks may serve a variety of internal business needs as well, including bug tracking, employee database, and project management. The company has launched WizeHive 3.0 in private Beta for new business applications.
 
WizeHive has been doubling their business every quarter. They recently returned from the Dublin Web Summit, where they were one of 50 companies selected for Start.
 
"Every two weeks we're adding new features," Lang says. "Compared to this time last year we are well over double [our clients] and we keep growing every month." 
 
Source: Sarah Lang, WizeHive
Writer: Dana Henry


Malvern's ModSolar moving, seeking investors and adding jobs

Solar power seems like a great idea, but design and installation of solar panels is complex. Every roof is different, and power needs can vary greatly. "I was surprised how little technology was used in home improvement sales," says Mike Dershowitz, founder of ModSolar, a new B2B technology company that supports solar panel installers.

ModSolar allows the installer to use a satellite snapshot of a customer's roof and design the ideal solar array on a mobile device or a web browser. Shoulder to shoulder with the client, ModSolar has been an immediate hit. "At this point we average $100 million a week in proposals quoted on the platform," says Dershowitz, who reports that since launch close to $4 billion have been quoted on ModSolar. 
 
Inspiration hit Dershowitz in 2010 at the Philadelphia Home Show. At that time he was an employee for JP Morgan Chase leading their mobile design department. Dershowitz knew about the iPad due out just a few months later. "I saw pretty early that the iPad was going to be a great sales tool. I felt like it could create an intimate experience between the customer and salesperson."
 
In early 2011, ModSolar teamed up with its first customer, who had a booth at the Allentown home show. "He generated five times more leads on the iPad app than his competitors," reports Dershowitz, who credits his CTO and co-founder Kevin Ilsen with the ability to work lightning fast on a budget."One thing ModSolar is lauded for is our pace of change compared to everyone else. I'm not 100% worried about copycats," says Dershowitz.
 
ModSolar, based in Malvern, is completely bootstrapped and has four full-time employees, as well as several full time interns, and is in the process of hiring. Dershowitz is looking to fill two junior positions: a front end and a back end person. The company has a patent pending on its panel layout technology, and is in the process of raising a friends and family round of funding to accelerate growth. The company is also set to move somewhat closer to Philadelphia and is now seeking space in Bryn Mawr.

Source: Mike Dershowitz, ModSolar
Writer: Sue Spolan

King of Prussia's LiftDNA doubling staff following recent acquisition

Here's something you may not know: When you click on a website, ads you see are often the result of a real time auction. It's an outrageously fast paced auction, where bidding takes place within 300 milliseconds.

LiftDNA, based in King of Prussia, is in the business of managing online publications that derive revenue from these advertisements, and the company is growing very fast. "We manage 80 to 90 percent of their revenue," says Dan Lawton, Senior Vice President of Operations. "The goal is that we allow them to focus on publishing, and we take care of field management and the technical concerns of an advertising operations department."

A typical LiftDNA client gets over a hundred million impressions per month, says Lawton, and in total, the company serves well over 20 billion monthly impressions internationally. "Every millisecond counts when talking about scale and volume. If the ad doesn't load fast enough, that creates revenue loss."

Try this: go to Philly.com on two different browsers. First use Internet Explorer, and then go to the same site on another browser, like Google Chrome or Firefox. You will likely see entirely different ads. Your eyeballs were purchased in nanoseconds, based on cookies and other stored information. It's not something the consumer realizes or considers. "It's definitely the wizard behind the curtain kind of stuff," quips Lawton.

LiftDNA was recently acquired by Los Angeles based OpenX for an undisclosed sum comprised of stock and cash. On the heels of that acquisition, LiftDNA is planning on doubling staff in the next few months, going from over 20 to nearly 40 employees. The majority of hires will be in operations, says Lawton, plus a handful of developers and administrative support staff.

LiftDNA is going up against the giant of ad servers. "Google has taken over the entire ad ecosystem. They own Double Click Ad Exchange and AdSense, but they are advertiser focused.

We write code against Google to benefit the publisher," says Lawton. "There's nothing for free in this world. The only way the cost of free content is justified is to have effective ads on a site. Without ads, the content goes away."

The next big opportunity in online advertising will be mobile, says Lawton, who predicts we will see major changes in the coming months as real time placement jumps from desktop to handheld. "Mobile devices are outpacing PCs for the first time. There's a huge global impact. The reach is huge, and the dollars are going to follow that audience."

Source: Dan Lawton, LiftDNA
Writer: Sue Spolan

On and off: Zonoff hiring three to ramp up smart home software

Zonoff, in the business of facilitating smart homes, has just received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Zonoff is hiring three: a web and mobile UI developer, an embedded software engineer, and a contract technical writer. Cooper reports that the $200,000 from Ben Franklin will go toward ongoing product and market development.

The recipient of the largest sum in this most recent round, Zonoff launched in April 2011 to provide software that no one will ever see. Residing inside any "always on" device, like televisions, thermostats, security systems, door locks, garage door openers and refrigerators, to name just a few, Zonoff's software allows homeowners to control a variety of processes remotely.

The name of the revenue-positive company comes from the letter Z plus on and off, says Bob Cooper, Zonoff's Chief Marketing Officer and one of its co-founders. There are two smart home industry standards, he explains: the Z-Wave Alliance and the ZigBee Alliance. Zonoff works with both. "Consumers don't care if it's Z-Wave or ZigBee. They just want it to work," says Cooper.

"What's happening in the space now is the convergence of a number of factors," says Cooper, who attributes increased interest in the smart home to concurrent rises in broadband penetration and smartphones, along with a higher awareness of energy management. "Big players are entering the market." Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, for example, are beginning to take steps into facilitating the connected home.

Suppose, for example, you could turn on your hot tub, turn off your home security, and run your dishwasher from a mobile app. With Zonoff, it doesn't matter if it's a Z-Wave or ZigBee enabled device. Further, Zonoff learns from the homeowner's habits. If the thermostat is getting turned down to 62 every night, the program will ask if it should add the adjustment as a regular feature.

"We found Bulogics, another company in Philadelphia, that had developed the technology," says Cooper. "It was world class, but it was the best kept secret out there." Bulogics spun off its consumer technology portfolio and Zonoff was created, with a much more assertive go to market plan. Michael Balog, Zonoff's CTO, left Bulogics and joined Cooper and CEO Mike Harris at the Malvern HQ.

Cooper envisions all manner of disruptions. Alarm companies would be rendered obsolete by technology that automatically turns on cameras and sends a live feed to the owner's smartphone when a secure area is breached. The software can also alert the police.

Zonoff will soon be seeking an A round of funding and is forging relationships with channel partners for international distribution.

Source: Bob Cooper, Zonoff
Writer: Sue Spolan

Malvern's ReadySetWork hiring on heels of expanded scheduling platform, acquisition

ReadySetWork has served tens of thousands. While it all began with a sandwich franchise, co-founders Joel Frisch and Jacob Dreyfuss are in the business of serving those who serve. The company is hiring ASP.NET MVC developers, mobile developers and business development experts, on the heels of an acquisition for an undisclosed amount by national payroll solutions provider PrimePay.

ReadySetWork was created to schedule shift workers, first in the restaurant industry, and now branching out to any vertical that employs hourly, on-demand labor. Frisch and Dreyfuss first got the idea for the company when they owned several Pita Pit franchises, and developed the technology to fix a major pain point that had previously been a pencil and paper solution. "The whole pitch of our product is taking the schedule off the back wall and bringing it to life," says Frisch.

The RSW suite is a set of web and mobile tools that allow managers to schedule workers online, but also allow employees to tell bosses when they are available. "When employees have more access with ReadySetWork, they feel more a part of the process. Accountability and morale are higher," says Frisch.

The acquisition does not affect the management team or the location of company, which remains in Malvern. Frisch says the company's national client base has been built up through distribution channels, not one-by-one sales, and PrimePay is now offering a co-branded version of ReadySetWork.

Frisch reports that the company now schedules hospitality, healthcare, and recreation staff, and is moving into the rapidly growing on demand workforce that includes home health care, catering and security. "A tool like ReadySetWork is situated perfectly for that change." Look for a new RSW mobile app, to be launched this summer. By the way, RSW has lots of branded merchandise for sale, including a clock.

Source: Joel Frisch, ReadySetWork
Writer: Sue Spolan

Vascular Magnetics' $7M Series A round shows impact of Science Center's QED program, company's team

Fresh off a $7 million round of Series A financing, Richard Woodward says without hesitation that the company he co-founded, Vascular Magnetics, would not exist without the first-of-its-kind QED Proof of Concept Funding Program at the University City Science Center.

A veteran executive from the biotech sector with extensive startup and early stage experience, Woodward was semi-retired and consulting in 2009 when he learned about the QED program, which assesses white papers on promising technologies and links the best with a business advisor and the possibility of funding. In the case of Vascular Magnetics, Woodward was paired with Dr. Robert J. Levy of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and they were awarded $200,000 by the QED program in 2010.  The result was CHOP’s first spin-out company, focused on developing its proprietary, magnetically targeted drug delivery system for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

“I was joking with my wife that this would have been a whole lot easier when I was 40,” Woodward says. “She said that when I was 40, I wouldn’t have had any idea what to do.”

In one respect, Woodward has come full circle with CHOP. His daughter had a medical condition that incapacitated her for her a couple years and a physician from CHOP helped contain the ailment, allowing Woodward’s daughter to pursue a career working for another children’s hospital.

“Dr. Levy, I have so much respect for that man,” says Woodward, the COO, of the company’s founding scientist. “He’s brilliant and a very prolific inventor, with something on the order of 31 issued patents. He probably has another 30 in various stages of the application process.

“It’s fairly rare to find an academic like that.”

The entire Series A round was funded by Wayne-based Devon Park Bioventures, whose general partners Christopher Moller and Marc Ostro will join the Vascular Magnetics board and rounds out a compelling case study of the potential of Greater Philadelphia's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Funds will allow the company to complete clinical trials, which are expected to begin in 2014. While the company will stay “aggressively virtual,” according to Woodward, there’s a good chance it will hire up to two more individuals. Also, the company is planning on maintaining workspace in the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator.

PAD effects about 30 million in Europe and North America, including 10 million in the U.S. Vascular Magnetics’ system aims to provide a more durable and effective treatment than angioplasty, grafts and drug eluting stents. It does this by combining biodegradeable, magnetic drug-loaded particles, a magnetic targeting catheter and an external device for creating a uniform magnetic field.

Woodward says some of Levy’s team at CHOP will be involved as consultants.

“These are some of the people that have developed the whole system. It’s important to have them around.”

Writer: Joe Petrucci
Source: Richard Woodward, Vascular Magnetics

Photos courtesy of Vascular Magnetics
Richard Woodward
Dr. Robert Levy

Collegeville's GigiK helps beat the system with KOP-based Free Court Dockets

He has a big, long, hard to pronounce name, so Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha generally goes by the moniker Gigi K in Philadelphia entrepreneurial circles. Kizhakkechethipuzha's website Free Court Dockets is, he says, the only place online to get a federal case docket for free. The site, with a brand new design, will relaunch on or before February 14.

Otherwise, attorneys and legal researchers must use the Public Access to Court Records (PACER) Case Records locator system, which is about to raise prices 25 percent, from $.08 to .10 per page, starting in April 2012.
 
Kizhakkechethipuzha explains that while researchers have been charged per page for US District Civil or Criminal, US Bankruptcy, US Appellate, US Federal Claims, or US International Trade records since 2005, 14 universities were exempt until 2009, when even that avenue was closed.

According to an article in Ars Technica, "PACER locks public documents behind a paywall, lacks a reasonable search engine, and has an interface that's inscrutable to non-lawyers."
 
While activist Carl Malamud and Senator Joe Lieberman fought for the public's right to access to the documents, the paywall remains, and the search function remains a hurdle for lay audiences. Two large firms, LexisNexis and Westlaw, offer a more user friendly interface, but that ease comes at a premium price.

The King of Prussia startup Free Court Dockets has a different pricing structure, explains Kizhakkechethipuzha. The cost of obtaining the records will be covered by advertising revenue on the site and user donations.
 
Kizhakkechethipuzha, who lives in Collegeville, originally got into legal information services via inspiration delivered nearly to his front door. His neighbor, an attorney, was explaining how court scheduling orders often got mixed up, and a lawsuit could result from a missed court date. Kizhakkechethipuzha developed Docket Digest, which was an automated system to download and extract court dates to keep attorney calendars straight. While Docket Digest is no longer in existence, Free Court Dockets grew out of it.

Kizhakkechethipuzha, whose office is in King of Prussia, also operates several other startups, including Courtport, for legal research, Gami LLC, which offers outsourced business processes and applications (Kizhakkechethipuzha works with developers based in India), and Talentoid, an online job recruitment resource.

Source: Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha, Free Court Dockets
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

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

One-stop IT shop Transcend United continues to expand footprint, hiring in Wayne

From headquarters in stately Wayne, Transcend United Technologies is taking over the world of IT and telecom through mergers and acquisitions. The company originally known as Fastech is on a fast track, acquiring nationally to provide infrastructure, networking, telephony, data center optimization and more, becoming a one-stop shop for the CIO.

"Historically, a CIO might be approached by two to four vendors," says
Transcend United's CEO Rick Hirsh. "We saw that was inefficient." Companies, he says, have an easier time dealing with one partner.  While Hirsh says Transcend United isn't 100-percent vendor neutral, he terms his offerings vendor agnostic. The newest challenge for his company, and for IT in general, is keeping up with the explosion of wireless bandwidth requirements. Employees now have WiFi enabled smartphones, laptops and tablets. "Estimates of how they would use the network weren't even close," explains Hirsh of the BYOD revolution (Bring Your Own Device).

"We started with a strategy in 2009 to change Fastech’s model," says Hirsh.  "That strategy was based on the convergence of IT and telecom, the fact that most mid-market VARs were only successful at either IT or Telecom, but not both, and that we could build scale on both geography and breadth of solutions."

Fastech, originated in the Philadelphia area. Hirsh engineered the acquisition of two Philadelphia area companies, and another two in the upper Midwest, with a current total of 115 employees, 15 of whom were hired this year. Roughly half of the company works out of the Wayne facility, with centers of activity in Minneapolis and Omaha. "We can grow organically at about the speed that the tech market grows, which is 20-25 percent," says Hirsh of his company that is two-thirds employee owned.

Transcend United continues to hire in sales and marketing, and plans to acquire more companies in the near future.

Source: Rick Hirsh, Transcend United Technologies
Writer: Sue Spolan

Search challenger DuckDuckGo expands to new office in Paoli, hiring

How much smaller is the bubble going to get? If Google and Facebook have anything to say about it, predictive search will narrow your results to the size of bath bubbles, one cell of information at a time.

Enter DuckDuckGo, a search engine challenger to the big guys that aims to burst the bubble, offering a disruptive paradigm worth $3 million in recently raised first round VC funding, which also allows for DuckDuckGo's physical expansion, from self-funded, home-based business to offices in Paoli by next month. The company now has two full time employees and four contractors, with plans to double staff by the end of 2012.

MIT-educated Gabriel Weinberg is the mind behind the engine. He launched his company in 2008, garnering national press. "I was well aware of Google's domination but it didn't phase me," says Weinberg. "It's not my goal to make a dent. One of my reasons for starting DuckDuckGo was the feeling that Google was too cluttered with ads and commercial results." 

Ad clutter's not the only thing DuckDuckGoes after. Another feature is Zero Click, aka goodies, which are all free and open source. Type your query into the search box to get instant results for complex calculations, recipes, and statistics, rather than just links to web pages with answers. Weinberg and team are adding new features constantly, with growing contributions via open source channels.

To get the eye of the tech elite, DuckDuckGo rented a high traffic billboard in the SF Bay area at a cost of $7000 for two weeks. Weinberg, who grew up in Atlanta and went to school in Boston, strategically chose the Philadelphia area, and specifically Valley Forge, to raise a family and grow the business.

Weinberg attributes the surge of interest in DuckDuckGo as "a bunch of threads coming together," citing an increase in people looking for alternatives and growing concern about spam and privacy.

On privacy, and its increasing lack thereof, Weinberg says, "A large percentage of people would like their privacy reasonably protected if they had real choices and were educated on the issues."

Source: Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo
Writer: Sue Spolan

Fast-growing software startup VCopious receives funding, expects to double staff by end of 2012

VCopious is expanding rapidly. The nine month-old, Conshohocken-based software company just announced it has received funding of an undisclosed amount from a consortium of four funders, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, Emerald Stage2 Ventures, MAG and Silicon Valley Bank.

CEO Ken Hayward says VCopious is now "into a stage of development geared toward market facing activity," and capital raised in this round of funding will go toward global expansion. VCopious also announced that Siemens Corporation has signed a multi-year agreement to use the VC2 platform, billed as the "world's first virtual spaces application server appliance." The firewalled networking, socializing and tracking tool allows people to meet in cyberspace, regardless of physical location.

VCopious already has a strong relationship with SAP, which it counted as one of its first customers. "It's a proven model," says Hayward of the technology that was built with no original outside financing. "Unlike other tech startups that are trying to raise money to build the technology, we've been out raising money to expand market activities."

The next step for VCopious is to build out a sales organization that's focused on high level direct sales to enterprise, and then find distribution partners that will move the product beyond the reach of its own direct sales force, according to Hayward. "One of the most sought-after destinations is around collaboration, ecommerce and social media. Between those, the VCopious platform is an aggregation tool for all those capabilities."

While Hayward will not talk about revenue or company growth in concrete terms, he projects that the company's staff will double by the end of 2012, from 25 to 50 employees, which is impressive for a company that only launched in early 2010.

Source: Ken Hayward, VCopious
Writer: Sue Spolan
 

Two newcomers among six startups to rake in more than $1M in Ben Franklin Technology funds

Two suburban companies, AssetVUE  in Bucks County and MobileReactor LLC in Chester County, were each approved for $200,000 investments in the latest round of funding announced in a news release on Monday from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

AssetVUE, based in Bristol and led by President Sean Cotter, provides hardware, strategies, support, assembly and upgrades for data centers. The other new investment was for MobileReactor, based in Devon and doing business as OneTwoSee, which develops products and services that allow TV viewers to use mobile devices to play along with their favorite shows and other viewers in entertaining ways that are also meaningful for advertisers.

Also funded were:

Essential Medical, Wayne: $250,000 to aid in developing innovative products for use in cardiac catheterizations in leg arteries.

Novetas Solutions, Philadelphia: $200,000 toward processing and marketing of recycled glass that is crushed through a patent-pending grinding process and used in industrial processes. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $300,000.

Real Time Tomography, Villanova: $150,000 to continue its development of state-of-the-art image processing and image reconstruction for next-generation 2D and 3D medical imaging systems. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $425,000.

TicketLeap
, Philadelphia
: $25,000 for the e-commerce company providing online ticket-selling services for event organizers also provides barcode scanning, instant credit card swiping and design and tracking services. Previous Ben Franklin investments total $500,000.

Source: Jaron Rhodes, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Joe Petrucci

King of Prussia life sciences Sharepoint provider NextDocs 'hiring nonstop'

NextDocs has probably quadrupled in the last two years, according to CEO and co-founder Zikria Syed, who says the company, a Microsoft SharePoint partner, is now in a period of 60 percent year over year growth. "We have 100 people now. In 12 months we'll employ 160."

As a result, King of Prussia based NextDocs is in a hiring way, and jobs are available throughout the entire organization, from technology and customer support to sales and marketing. NextDocs is also growing geographically, with a new office in Portland, Oregon to cover west coast operations. The company already has a presence in Western Europe and Canada, and in the next few weeks, will open another office in Japan.

When asked how many people NextDocs is hiring, Syed responds, "We're hiring nonstop. It's hard to tell. New people start literally every day. We are only limited by our ability to find people quickly enough."

In the past three years, the company has grown more than 3,000 percent; at the end of fiscal year 2010, it reported $9.8 million in revenue, and it projects 2011 annual figures at $15 million. NextDocs just received $10.3 million in Series A financing from OpenView Venture Partners.

The company, which has garnered best in class status in just five years, was founded by Syed and CTO Matt Walz in 2006. Both had been at Microsoft. "Essentially we are a technology company. We're focused on document quality management." When NextDocs began in the basement of Syed's home, it was in response to a lack of existing solutions for compliance and quality management.

Syed defines NextDoc's relationship with Microsoft as the software giant's go to market partner for life sciences, pharma, medical devices and biotech. He says that the recent $10.3 million injection will go to three areas: first, further investment in solutions and products; second, geographical expansion, and third, a deeper investment in customer support.

Source: Zikria Syed, NextDocs
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
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