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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

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

From trading bonds to raising chickens, sustainably of course

Agriculture wasn't in Dean Carlson's original plan. "I was a bond trader working in derivatives," says the owner of Wyebrook Farm, a 355-acre spread in Chester County. Carlson is now offering sustainably raised chicken and eggs, with beef and pork on offer this fall. "We have two full time employees, three summer employees and two chef interns," says Carlson of the Honey Brook operation.

Carlson left Susquehanna International Group in 2009, hoping to take time off in a bear market. "I came across the idea of sustainable agriculture and became captivated by it," says Carlson, who explains that conventional agriculture, with its dependence on cheap oil, cannot last forever. "Five to 10 years years from now, it will be obvious. Food will become higher priced and more scarce. You see it already."

Carlson purchased the foreclosed 200 year-old farm from a bank for $4.25 million, and has invested over $750,000 in improvements, which include solar power and renovations to three existing 18th century stone buildings. "The previous owner was going to develop the land into a 100 house tract," says Carlson.

"I looked at the business of conventional farming and didn't like it," explains Carlson, who refers to standard practices as the definition of a bad business -- capital intensive and fraught with variables. "With sustainable agriculture, you are minimizing your input cost. Instead of machinery and hay in a barn, animals are out in the field, harvesting the grass themselves. Our input costs are sunshine and rain."

Wyebrook Farm's first product, Freedom Rangers Chicken, is now available for $4 a pound direct from the farm. Carlson is transforming the old stone barn into a store where customers will be able to purchase chemical-free grass fed meat and poultry directly. It's just a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and not much farther from New York.

Carlson draws inspiration from billionaire financier Jim Rogers, who, when asked by a room full of MBA finance students for advice, replied "Quit school and go work on a farm."

Source: Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Do you know where your drugs are? Exton's Absorption Systems has the answer

Maybe you take a couple of different prescription medications. If you don't now, chances are that as you get older, you will. And the interaction between drugs can be a wild card. That's where Absorption Systems rides in like a pharmaceutical cavalry. Based in Exton, the privately held company is a pioneer in the field of pharmacokinetics. As CEO Patrick Dentinger explains, there are two areas of preclinical drug research: pharmacodynamics, or what a drug does to your body, and pharmacokinetics, which is what your body does to the drug. The latter is Absorption Systems' specialty. "The FDA has gotten tougher in trying to understand what a drug does when it hits your body," says Dentinger. The company researches the path that singular and multiple meds take through the body.

In a series of buildings filled with lab coated technicians and millions of dollars of equipment, Absorption Systems is big pharma's first stop on the way to developing a drug that will eventually go to market, perhaps a decade down the line. Many compounds don't even make it out of the research phase, and Dentinger reports that most of the time, pharmaceutical clients do not share the purpose of the proposed drug, just the chemical compound.

Once a compound is submitted to Absorption System's lab, it goes through rigorous testing involving human tissue to simulate the interaction. Absorption Systems grows intestine, liver and skin cells, and out of a scene from the classic Woody Allen film Sleeper, the company has even used human noses (harvested from cadavers) to measure the way a molecule does or doesn't get into a body.

"The industry has changed in general," explains Dentinger, who describes formerly high walls of privacy surrounding pharmaceutical research crumbling in recent years with outsourcing to biotech startups and contract research organizations (CROs) like Absorption.

While Dentinger, whose sole partner is Ismael Hidalgo, does not disclose details of the privately held company's revenue, Absorption Systems is certainly growing, with over 200 customers and 115 employees, a satellite lab in San Diego and direct interaction with the FDA. The company hopes its future proprietary data collection technology can revolutionize the way all scientific research is documented and potentially create a spinoff company.

Source: Patrick Dentinger, Absorption Systems
Writer: Sue Spolan

Business leaders name area's top tech companies at PACT Enterprise Awards

It was like swimming in a sea of money. On May 4, The Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies hosted the 18th Annual Enterprise Awards. About a thousand business leaders and executives attended. Beginning with a VIP reception, the kudos flowed as easily as the cocktails, while down the hall a larger food and drink fest filled with tuxedo and evening gown clad representatives from Philadelphia's top law and finance firms, who networked with the area's best and brightest entrepreneurs and incubators.

Out of 27 nominees, these are the results: the Life Sciences Startup Company award went to CareKinesis, Philly's top Technology Startup Company of 2011 is Monetate, an eCommerce leader that runs websites for Urban Outfitters and QVC; the area's Emerging Life Sciences Company was NuPathe, which works on branded therapeutics for diseases of the central nervous system; SevOne was named Emerging Technology Company, following a 2009 PACT award for Tech Startup, and this year's award for a MedTech Pioneering Company was sewn up by medical device provider Teleflex.

The award for MedTech Product Innovation went to Siemens Healthcare. The venerated Morgan Lewis attorney Stephen M. Goodman received the Legend Award for his many years assisting entrepreneurs; the IT Innovator Award of Excellence went to Lockheed Martin, Information Systems & Global Solutions Defense, based in Maryland but with offices in King of Prussia. The Investment Deal of the Year went to Safeguard Scientifics for the acquisition of Clarient Inc., formerly in Safeguard's portfolio, purchased by GE Healthcare for $144 million. "It was a spectacular dinner," says attorney Michael Heller, one of the evening's presenters and Chair of Business Law at Cozen O'Connor. "It was wonderful to see such a terrific turnout among the venture capital community. The region is more active today than it was a year ago, and there's more excitement in the air regarding the VC community."

PACT judges named James Walker of Octagon Research Solutions Technology CEO of the Year; Life Sciences Company of the Year was Health Advocate, and ICG Commerce beat out HTH Worldwide and Qlik Tech to win Technology Company of the Year.

Prior to the event, three CleanTech Companies to Watch were named: ElectroPetroleum, NovaThermal Energy, and Viridity Energy. Video of the entire event is available here.

Source: Michael Heller, Cozen O'Connor; PACT Enterprise Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

Photo : Attorney Stephen M. Goodman

Malvern biopharma startup Vicept on fast-track to get the red out

Rosacea is not a life threatening condition, but the facial redness of the disorder can be embarrassing enough to make a sufferer want to die. Rosacea is characterized by a red blush, spidery veins and acne-like pustules on the face. The condition may be intermittent or long term. Malvern-based Vicept is a specialty biopharmaceutical startup that has developed a topical cream that treats the most obvious symptom of the facial condition.

"There's nothing right now on the market that's strictly indicated for the treatment of the redness of rosacea," explains Vicept Director, President and CEO Neal Walker, MD. With $16 million in Investigational New Drug (IND) capital raised during a very tough time for the economy and for life sciences investment in particular, Vicept's prescription cream is an easy fix compared to other rosacea treatments on the market, none of which address the symptom of redness. Laser procedures are considered cosmetic and are not reimbursed by insurance; Oracea, a low dose antibiotic in pill form, affects the whole body and only targets the bumps and pimples, not the redness, according to Walker.

In contrast, Vicept's as-yet unnamed product goes after receptors in facial blood vessels, clamping them down with a vasoconstrictor mechanism and blanching out the redness. Walker is a practicing dermatologist and reports that the active ingredient in the cream has been around since the 1960s, and was originally in Afrin nasal spray.

Vicept has completed Phase 2 clinical studies and is ready to move on to Phase 3 as it continues to move the product along in development, talking with different types of potential partners for distribution both in North America and globally. The fast track company, founded in 2009, has seven full time employees and is nominated for a PACT Enterprise Award this year. Walker says he expects the prescription cream to be available within the next few years.

Source: Neal Walker, MD, Vicept
Writer: Sue Spolan

Safeguard drops $25M on chip-enabled eyeglasses

Eyeglasses are about to change dramatically, thanks to a major investment by Safeguard Scientifics. The Wayne-based holding company, in an effort to expand its footprint in life sciences investments, announced that it has provided $25 million plus an additional $10 million in venture debt to PixelOptics, a medical technology company in Roanoke, Va., for its emPower! line of chip-enabled glasses aimed at bifocal and progressive lens wearers, of which there are a total of 100 million in the US alone. Safeguard's Senior Vice President and Managing Director in the Life Sciences Group, Gary Kurtzman MD, notes that investment in life sciences start ups is shrinking, and Safeguard is seeking new opportunities by getting into consumer-driven companies like PixelOptics.

Rather than divide eyeglasses so that the top section is corrective and the bottom section is for reading, emPower! glasses rely on a chip embedded in the frame which electronically transforms the focus of the entire lens from corrective to reading power at a touch. The chip is powered by a battery which lasts at least two years and requires recharging every three days.

Kurtzman says the new eyeglass technology has significant near term potential both as a product and for revenue, citing a low regulatory bar, a big market, and the fact that the product is ready to go to market. "We think it has all the features of an ideal investment," says Kurtzman of PixelOptics' new product, the result of 12 years of research.

Kurtzman, who is already wearing a pair of the glasses, is impressed that he can use the entire lens for either purpose. "There is a small liquid crystal embedded in the glass of the lens. If I need it, I turn it on and it's there." He reports that the glasses are the same weight as their conventional counterparts, and the company is initially rolling out 36 different frames, competitively priced, in a variety of shapes and colors. Kurtzman says emPower! frames will be available in the Philadelphia area within six months.

Source: Gary Kurtzman MD, Safeguard Scientifics
Writer: Sue Spolan

Wallquest's World: Wayne wallcoverings firm wins small biz award for exports, hiring up to 40

Wallquest has China covered. Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and India, too. The Wayne-based wallcoverings firm was just named Small Business Exporter of the Year by the Export-Import Bank, and received an award this week in Washington, DC. Wallquest's exports rose 76 percent to more than $17 million since 2008, thanks to robust sales overseas. Jack Collins is Vice President of the family-run company, which he runs along with his brother and father, who acquired Wallquest in 1985.

While the original customer base was domestic, big box retailers and toll free sales left no one to sell to in the United States, and Collins says Wallquest had to go overseas around 2005, now selling environmentally-friendly products in more than 50 foreign markets. With a good brand name in America, the company has had great success in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, and the trend is toward American design.

"You wouldn't think someone in Saudi Arabia or China would want American country style, but they do," says Collins, who explains that among affluent Chinese homeowners, a big wooden kitchen table is a sign of wealth, and American design dovetails with that table.

While Wallquest is a relatively small company, says Collins, its line is more extensive than competitors', with around 35 collections coming out this year.

"Our business used to be more seasonal, and now it's not because of our international clients. When the US market is strong in winter and spring, it's Chinese New Year, and in the summer, when the US market is down, the Chinese and Middle East markets are coming up."

Collins is grateful to both Ex-Im Bank and PNC Bank for playing an essential role in the company's global growth. Wallquest wallcoverings are made with water based inks and the highest quality printing technology in the main manufacturing facility in Wayne; recently, the company acquired and retooled two other factories in New York and New Jersey, bringing the total number of employees to 150. Later this year, Wallquest plans on opening another facility in King of Prussia, hiring an additional 30 to 40 employees.

Source: Jack Collins, Wallquest
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: Microsoft in Malvern, Art in the Open and the Canal

Flying Bytes is a roundup of innovation nuggets from across the region:

OPEN UP TO ART
The second annual Art in The Open exhibit has been announced for June 9-12, 2011. The citywide exhibit features a juried selection of artists who will create site specific work along the Schuylkill Banks, from Bartram's Garden in Southwest Philly, and as far north as the Fairmount Park Waterworks. The result is a giant outdoor studio, with art stations for the public to get into the creative process. AIO co-founder Mary Salvante reports that all 2011 artist applications have been received, and the 40 winners will be announced shortly.

A CANAL PROPOSAL
The Manayunk Canal Towpath is about to get an art facelift. The Mural Arts Program, in association with the Manayunk Special Services District (MSSD) and the Manayunk Development Corporation, is calling for proposals to transform the disused canal into a temporary public art location with a focus on sustainability, incorporating water. The canal is the last surviving segment of a waterway that once ran as far as Schuylkill County, bringing coal from the mines into Philadelphia. The installation will coincide with this September's Manayunk Eco-Arts Festival. For more information, send email here.

MALVERN GETS 'SOFT
This week Microsoft opened a new 17,500 square foot Technology Center in Malvern. In attendance at the opening ceremony were Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The Philadelphia area tech center is the tenth in the United States, and joins 21 similar technology centers globally. According to Microsoft, "the center is designed to help companies throughout the mid-Atlantic region improve their use of technology to grow their businesses, add jobs, and strengthen their local communities."

PHILLY'S GONE DIGITAL
Digital Philadelphia and Code for America reports that our local team of fellows is working hard to get government data to citizens. Jeff Friedman says the Philly CfA team conducted over a hundred interviews in February, polling government and city workers, civic leaders including heads of non-profits, block captains, civic developers, and citizens. CfA Philly also held three Friday "hack" events to encourage local developers to engage with government data, an Open Data Forum with help from Young Involved Philadelphia, Technically Philly, and the City, and an open data camp where developers built out four functional mini-apps based on city data.

Source: Mary Salvante, AIO; Microsoft Technology Center, Jeff Friedman, CfA Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

PA's power choice: The answer is blowing in the (local) wind, says Radnor's Community Energy

It's 2011. Do you know where your power is? With the expiration of Pennsylvania power rate caps at the start of this year, state utility customers are searching for alternative providers. If you are all about clean renewable energy that's local and sustainable, Community Energy provides 100 percent Pennsylvania generated wind power, and it's expanding to provide solar as well.

The Radnor-based company, founded in 1999, began selling retail wind power to commercial customers ahead of state mandates, enabling Community Energy to build demand for the construction of its own wind projects in Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey. "In 1999, there were a total of 10 megawatts of wind power east of the Mississippi," says Jay Carlis, Vice President of CEI's Retail Division. Texas boasts two of the world's largest wind farms, and California is not far behind. Carlis reports that in the past year, CEI experienced strong growth and has doubled in size, thanks largely to the addition of solar energy to its offerings. After CEI's initial foray serving commercial clients such as Carnegie Mellon University and Giant Market, CEI added residential clients to the roster, and then partnered with utility companies, enabling its reach to include the entire northeastern United States.

While the Pennsylvania PUC has created PA Power Switch, an easy to navigate website that helps customers shop for energy, Carlis says the site leaves out some vital information. "Most people don't understand the complicated aspects of the market. If you want wind power, and it's coming from Texas, the grids don't even connect," says Carlis. Rather, utilities are dealing in tradable Renewable Energy Certificates. For someone living in Pennsylvania, he says, there's a lot of benefit to having wind in the local grid, including a future price edge benefit. "Twenty years from now, if all of Pennsylvania is buying from Texas, Texas will look good, and it won't make a bit of difference for Pennsylvania. It's important that people understand the implications of their choices."

Source: Jay Carlis, Community Energy
Writer: Sue Spolan




Virtual environments mean big business for Conshohocken's VCopious

"Events come and go, but persistent worlds live on," says Ken Hayward, CEO of VCopious, a virtual meeting platform that allows users worldwide to meet in cyberspace. It's an amalgamation of virtual environments like Second Life with social networking, and VCopious is gaining momentum. With VCopious, physical location is no longer a barrier to gathering. It doesn't matter if you are in Athens, Georgia or Athens, Greece.

After downloading the VCopious application, participants create avatars able to meet, talk and shop in-world. VCopious predecessor Second Life peaked back in 2007, and now that the dust has settled and the thrill of cybersex has worn off, corporate and academic entities are now seeing the greatest benefit from virtual engagement.

Based in Conshohocken, VCopious counts as its biggest customer software giant SAP, which is hosting between 30 and 50 virtual meeting instances on any given day, according to Hayward. This week, the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Technology and Capital (PACT) announced that VCopious has been selected as a finalist for the 2011 Technology Start Up of the Year.

"We believe that persistent virtual worlds are an important branding mechanism," adds Hayward, who touts his software's scalability. The recent SAP Sapphire event hosted a total of 51,000 participants, with 17,500 on the platform at same time. Hayward says it's the hardware, not the software, that might limit participation. "We believe we've done the largest single event in 2010 of anyone in the industry."
Unlike Second Life's virtual currency, Hayward says VCopious users spend real money for in-world transactions, and that virtual private environments are a way to monetize social media, representing, says Hayward, "a brand new gigantic market."

Source: Ken Hayward, VCopious
Writer: Sue Spolan

Chesco's ThingWorx, 'Facebook for objects,' lands $5M, to hire 30

Your objects may have social media envy. John Richardson, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Downingtown's ThingWorx explains that within the next decade, the number of things communicating on the internet is set to eclipse the number of people who communicate. Think of it as Facebook for the manufactured world. Holding company Safeguard Scientifics agrees, announcing this week $5 million in Series B financing for ThingWorx.

Richardson predicts that by 2020, well over a trillion devices and machines will connect via cloud computing. It's known as IoT, or the Internet of Things. Almost everything, large or small, will have a network enabled chip, including cars, factory equipment, and thermostats.
ThingWorx is a 100 percent software solution, according to Richardson, who cites the example of a beverage factory bottling line running low on syrup that will be able to send out an alert to a computer or smartphone, enabling adjustment, potentially without human intervention. "We've written the software in as small a footprint as possible," says Richardson. "A piece of the code could be imbedded in a device." Using the cloud-based proprietary program, devices will talk to open protocols.

While Richardson is not at liberty to divulge the names of his company's Fortune 500 clients, he says ThingWorx is moving software into pharmaceutical, food, oil and gas, and electric grid sectors at local, national, and international levels. Most are running ThingWorx on Amazon's cloud platform, but "companies that are averse to private data in the cloud could host on site." And there's good news for local job seekers. Richardson reports that the company is on track to create 30 new jobs at its Chester County headquarters by the end of 2011, with a projected workforce of 140 employees in three years.

Source: John Richardson, ThingWorx
Writer: Sue Spolan

UgMo Technologies introduces a wireless soil sensor for small irrigation systems

In 2009, Tampa, Fla., experienced the worst drought in its history, causing quite a stir in the city's water department. From January to March, water enforcement officials had issued six citations a day for improper water usage. The situation became so dire that the city issued a ban on sprinkler systems, until the drought was under control.

King of Prussia sprinkler firm UgMo Technologies is helping Florida business and home owners protect against drought without throwing the baby out with the lawn water. They created ProHome, a wireless soil sensor that detects when soil has been adequately saturated and automatically shuts the water off, saving customers an average of 53 percent on water bills. Along with Florida, the company has sales teams in drought-plagued areas in Texas, California, Florida and Georgia. This week, Ben Franklin Technology Partners announced $500,000 in investment to help UgMo expand ProHome to larger, more commercial projects across the country.

"This is a true green product that allows you to cut down on your water usage and provides real savings," says UgMo CFO Joe Cahill. "That is something you don't see much in the green tech market."

After launching in 2004, UgMo began developing ProTurf, a version of ProHome marketed to sports facilities and golf courses. After releasing ProTurf in 2009, UgMo was well along developing its second product, ProHome. The Ben Franklin investment will help UgMo launch a new commercial version of its technology. The company looks to expand drastically in the next year, hiring in every department and expanding into home and commercial markets.

"The next generation of UgMo will address larger irrigation systems; everything from office parks to municipalities and strip malls," says Cahill. "As we spend the next year developing this product, the investment will help us continue our growth."

Source: Joe Cahill, UgMo Technologies
Writer: John Steele

LeverSense develops new way to test complex materials like milk, blood or urine

Leversense CEO Pete Nagy doesn't have a particular affinity for fluids like blood or urine. But after selling his fiber-optics business to a Fortune 100 company, Nagy was looking for his next project and found himself in the laboratories of Drexel University's Dr. Raj Mutharasan. Mutharasan was working on a testing technology that could remain sensitive in dirty, unprocessed materials. Nagy, a career tech entrepreneur, immediately saw the commercial applications and decided to seed fund Leversense, making blood and urine testing his mission.

"The sensitivity we have is pretty extraordinary," says Nagy. "Most products out on the market require a lot of steps, a lot of processes in order to get samples to testing. It is usually very expensive and requires you do it in a lab and not in a practical setting."

This week, the company announced a new Ben Franklin Technology Partners investment of $300,000 for continued development efforts, getting Leversense ready to approach a waiting market with its biosensor diagnostics. In the months spent testing the technology, Nagy has been telling everyone who will listen, drawing attention from markets he didn't expect. One market has been food testing. The average food sample is much more complex and much dirtier than the average human fluid sample so they are much harder to work with. Leversense maintains its sensitivity in milk, which Nagy hopes will give the product great potential in the food-testing market.

"One of the things that attracted me to the technology is how much commercial interest there was," says Nagy. "We have had people approach us about food testing and bio-processing, so we are pursuing those things now as well."

Source: Pete Nagy, Leversense
Writer: John Steele

Are We Home Vet? brings pet health home with mobile veterinary practice

One of the hardest parts of a veterinarian's job is dealing with scared or skittish animals. Oftentimes, your four-legged friend knows they are going to the doctor and they don't like it. But Wayne veterinarian Dr. Holly Connolly has discovered a way to virtually eliminate these fears and the bad behavior that comes at the traditional vet's office. She took her practice on the road.

Earlier this month, Connolly started Are We Home Vet?  a mobile veterinary office run out of the back of a truck, offering all the same services of a traditional veterinary office, but without the hassles of leaving home.

"Pets are so much happier at home and we are able to catch them before their anxiety level gets so high," says Connolly. "By the time you get them in the car and make that 20-minute trip, they are already worked up so those animals that were a handful at the traditional office are completely different animals in the mobile setting."

The truck is fully equipped with an x-ray machine, a full-service lab, a laser for laser surgery and an exam table. Connolly says that, in the brief time she has been doing it, many of her regular clients have already taken advantage of the service. But perhaps more successful in attracting clients has been the truck itself. Connolly says she receives calls on a daily basis from people who have seen her out and about on her way to her next pet project.

"We will be driving around and you are basically driving a big billboard," says Connolly. "We have literally gotten calls while we are on the road. So the mobile unit has been a draw in and of itself!"

Source: Holly Connolly, Are We Home Vet?
Writer: John Steele

Phoenixville's Arctic Ease plays it cool at Philadelphia Marathon

In Philadelphia in late November, keeping cool has never been a problem. That is, unless you run the Philadelphia Marathon. The annual race, which took place on Sunday, Nov. 21, attracted a field of over 11,000 runners, all battling for the finish line. When they got there, runners were greeted by the folks at Arctic Ease, a Phoenixville company specializing in cryotherapy wraps and pads proven to reduce swelling and stay cool for hours. The wraps require no time in the freezer and can be attached for more mobility.

A veteran of the health care industry and avid athlete, CEO Carol Forden founded Arctic Ease in 2009 after creating a chemical compound in her garage. Designed to remove heat from injured tissue, Arctic Ease keeps affected areas at a safe 60 degrees, reducing swelling and pain.

"If you are a weekend warrior and you overdo it or you are a runner in a marathon, on Monday, it is going to be a little tough to move around," says Forden. "What this product does is removes that swelling so you don't have that pain on Monday."

Along with offering wraps to runners at the finish line, Arctic Ease added a product sample to each marathoner's registration info and sponsored a massage tent. The company has appeared at marathons across the country and, after hiring four top-level positions in October 2009, is looking to expand into new markets in 2011. Along with expansion into other sports, Forden says the product may soon help osteoarthritis sufferers return mobility to creaky joints. 

"If you have ever twisted an ankle and wound up in the ER, you know that until they reduce the swelling, they can't do much," says Forden. "If you have nerve damage or a sprained ankle, they will tell you to come back three weeks later and they want you icing that whole time. Arctic Ease makes this process a little easier."

Source: Carol Forden, Arctic Ease
Writer: John Steele

So far, so good for Berwyn cloud-computing darlings Boomi since Dell acquisition

It isn't very often that you get the best of both worlds, especially in the world of technology mergers and acquisitions. Mark Zuckerberg isn't the only one to lose a couple close friends along the way. But to hear the heads of Berwyn cloud computing firm Boomi tell it, it is possible to get acquired without selling out.

Founded 10 years ago, Boomi created a niche connecting all disparate online applications together in a cloud. Say you have taken on a new client and you want to add them to your finance records. Boomi helps you automatically add the information, without having to create a separate file in a separate program. After raising $4 million to date, worldwide computer manufacturer Dell, which was interested in creating a line of office services, took notice. The deal Dell struck two weeks ago to acquire Boomi will let its newly acquired firm keep all employees and continue all client relationships.

"They kept the team in tact, I still run the team," says former Boomi President and CEO Bob Moul. "I just have a boss for the first time in five years."

After shelling out $3.9 billion acquiring Perot Systems a little over a year ago, Dell created Dell Services, a cost-saving, business solutions arm of the business. With the acquisition of Boomi, Dell hopes to create a full service office suite so that all facets of a business can run through Dell products. For Boomi, the company cloud kings are still innovating, using the Dell name to explore partnerships with new application developers and take on projects that come their way.

"Dell wants us to continue to offer the best cloud integration platform in the world but now we also have the backing of a major, global brand that gives everybody more comfort in adopting Boomi technology," says Moul. "In the first week, I have had at least a half dozen new opportunities that we are very excited about and probably wouldn't have known about otherwise."

Source: Bob Moul, Dell Boomi
Writer: John Steele


HireOneCC.com brings Chester County job openings to the people

With unemployment hovering at 9 percent nationally, there have been hundreds of theories posited for how we have created the first "jobless recovery" in our history. Have you ever thought maybe people just aren't good at job hunting? A group of Chester County development professionals have. They launched HireOneCC.com, an online community where employers can pledge to hire at least one local worker in the next year and employers can find the companies who are hiring.

"There are 18,000 people currently unemployed in Chester County and a lot of them have advanced degrees and are really struggling trying to find new jobs," says project director Stan Schuck. "Our hope is that we can put the right resources together to get them the right set of skills or put them in touch with someone who is indeed hiring. I think traditional ways of getting jobs--blindly sending resumes out--just aren't working today."

Hire One was founded as an employment task force last July after Joseph's People president Cheryl Spaulding, who heads the faith-based social organization, contacted local development officials from the Chester County Economic Development Council about getting business involved in hiring. Since launching the site a week ago, eight businesses have already listed multiple available positions and pledged to not only hire one local employee but reduce worker reduction plans by 2.5 percent.

"In order to do this right, we had to be a resource for both job seekers and employers," says Schuck. "There are companies that don't have the financing they need or can't find people with the right skill sets. We want to make sure we link them up with the right resources."

Source: Stan Schuck, HireOne
Writer: John Steele

With Cyber Monday approaching, Monetate.com prepares for the holiday rush

Everyone is familiar with Black Friday. The frenzied dash of hungry holiday consumers to price-slashed stores the day after Thanksgiving has become an American tradition as timeless as the Christmas tree. But have you heard of Cyber Monday? Between 2008 and 2009, website retailers showed a 43 percent traffic increase on the Monday following Black Friday where online retailers begin their holiday sales.

This year, Conshohocken website optimization firm Monetate.com broke some records of its own, doubling in size over the last six months. From Dicks Sporting Goods to Urban Outfitters, Monetate offers a revolving door of keywords targeting the changing tastes of consumers without calling the IT department. As the holiday season gets underway, the quick turnaround of this solution has new clients joining up.

"If it's raining outside, the store owner pushes the umbrellas up front and adds 30 percent to the price and makes a lot of money that day," says Monetate VP of Marketing Blair Lyon. "Large retail sites have a hard time doing that because of all this overlapping technology that is in place, requiring the IT departments to get involved, preventing retailers from trying things."

With a year of record growth under its belt, Monetate isn't waiting for the holidays to make some purchases. With five open positions listed on its website, Monetate looks to hire 10 new employees in the next six months to handle the demands of an ever-expanding client list. With a veritable whos-who of Philadelphia retailers, Monetate looks to expand its footprint and hopes Cyber Monday can be its coming out party.

"We can have this implemented in minutes, giving it about two weeks to be effective," says Lyon. "That's why we are excited about attacking Cyber Monday. A lot of customers don't think there is enough time before the holidays. We can have them up and running for the holiday season right now."

Source: Blair Lyon, Monetate
Writer: John Steele

Real Time Tomography's breast cancer screening product goes to commercialization with new funding

Susan Ng and her team at Villanova's Real Time Tomography have made a living at perfecting the science of mammogram imaging. Their software products have made traditional film-screen images obsolete, allowing faster mammogram results and more accurate imaging. With a new $275,000 match grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, RTT begins the commercialization process this month, bringing their software to the giants at Seimens and GE and, hopefully, saving lives.

"With digital imaging, the image that is produced is not what the radiologist sees, it is processed and enhanced so that lesions are more visible," says Ng. "As the industry moves from film screen to digital, we can process images six times faster, reducing patient wait-time and making images clearer for doctors."

After introducing their 2-D imaging software, Adara, in 2009, Ng and her team have created a 3-D platform to give radiologists an even better view of critically affected breasts. Ng hopes commercialization goes smoothly as RTT has gone to great lengths making compatible software, not just for large companies but for small and mid-sized manufacturers as well. Because everyone deserves a great picture.

"There are a lot of mid-sized companies in Europe and a very big market opening up in Asia," says Ng. "These mid-sized companies have smaller R&D groups and often purchase their software from third parties like us."

Source: Susan Ng, Real Time Tomography
Writer: John Steele  



Advanced Mobile Solutions goes shopping with listing applications, draws investment for new hires

As anyone who has ever tried to buy a car in Philadelphia knows, dealers are closed on Sundays. The same puritanical blue laws that used to restrict alcohol sales still prohibit car dealerships, to the chagrin of salesmen and shoppers alike. Wayne's mobile application firm Advanced Mobile Solutions provides a solution to shopping restrictions like blue laws, allowing car shoppers and home shoppers to access dealer information right from their smartphones with a simple text-message code. Launching brands like Cars2Go, Homes2Go and Classifieds2Go, AMS hopes to modernize digital listings markets made famous by sites like Craigslist many years ago.

"The difference between us and (Craigslist) is that we take data that is already out there and make it mobile ready, whereas they only have data that has been edited and listed by another person," says AMS Marketing Director Dan Curry. "We take, for example a builder that has 80,000 homes nationwide. That is something that is impossible for them to go in and list in that way. With us, they can do anything on the phone that they would be able to do anywhere else."

Since its founding in 2006, AMS has shown marked growth, finding partnerships with clients like Apartments.com and Builder Homesite. Recently, the company has eyed further expansion, bringing new features to their iPhone applications and adding compatibility with the Android market. This summer the company received financing from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to expand its staff by four and prepare to increase sales and features for 2011.

"We want to go a little heavier on updating the whole platform and adding new features every month from here on out," says Curry. "The product has been proven, tested and now we are just going to go into further making this product something that no one can really touch.

Source: Dan Curry, AMS
Writer: John Steele


Wayne's Molecular Detection goes down under with Australian distribution

Something is wrong down under. Infection rates at Australian hospitals have increased over the last few years, causing patients and medical professionals to call for hospitals to come clean with infection statistics. Wayne's Molecular Detection Inc. hopes to lend a hand as they announced that the product rollout for its Detect-Ready MRSA diagnosis platform would head to Australia this week, marking the start of a global sales strategy targeting the Asia-Pacific Corridor, parts of Europe and the United States. This strategy targets countries in need of infection prevention abroad before returning to the U.S. to set up a local base.

"(Australians) have the same problems in hospitals that we have here in the states," says MDI CEO Todd Wallach. "Patients are contracting MRSA and other bacterial infections in hospitals after a successful surgery or procedure. Many hospitals have to start implementing infection control procedures that identify patients at risk and force these hospitals to really look at how they take care of a patient from entry level to exit."

Aiding in MDI's transition into the Australian market is Sydney's Integrated Sciences, a medical products and research company that, through a newly minted partnership with MDI, will aid Detect-Ready sales reps in chasing down leads and understanding the needs of the Aussie medical community.

"Our strategy has been very consistent around the world by identifying what we perceive as being the best-in-class, best-in-breed molecular diagnostic distributors," says Wallach. "They become our right-hand-man in the field. We work with them closely to ensure we get the right information conveyed but they bring the right skill set to be able to market a technically advanced product."

Source: Todd Wallach, MDI
Writer: John Steele

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele




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