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Meet Philly's first Chief Innovation Officer

Former New Jersey state CTO Adel Ebeid moves into the newly created post of Chief Innovation Officer of the City of Philadelphia, according to Technically Philly.

Described as "the perfect immigrant story" by the city's Managing Director Rich Negrin, Ebeid, who was born in Egypt but raised in Jersey City after losing as a teenager his father to cancer, rose through the ranks of New Jersey state government to become among the only cabinet level leaders that fiery Governor Chris Christie kept on. Now, after 'flatly' turning down the offer, the soft spoken and succinct Ebeid is preparing to move his wife and new daughter to a city he admits he doesn't know well to help inject innovation into the City of Philadelphia.

Source: Technically Philly
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Barcade's craft beer and video arcade to open in Fishtown

Expanding south, the Brooklyn-born Barcade concept comes to Philadelphia next month, according to Inc. Magazine in this profile of its founders

As a kid, Paul Kermizian was younger than most everyone else at the local arcade. He got pushed aside. He had to wait in line.

Not anymore. Today he can play whenever he wants—and he doesn't even have to keep a pocketful of quarters. Kermizian, now 36, is the owner of Barcade, a hybrid craft beer bar and—yep, you called it—video arcade. With four partners, his longtime friends Jon Miller, Scott Beard, Kevin Beard, and Pete Langway, he launched the bar in two locations: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Jersey City. And their retro empire is growing: a third Barcade is scheduled to open next month in Philadelphia.

Source: Inc. Magazine
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Monkeyreader: From bookstore to childhood literacy advocate

The Associated Press checks in on Philly-based online kids' bookstore Monkeyreader donates 5 percent of profits to childhood literacy.

Once upon a time, there was a bookstore. One day, the bookstore went away and reopened online with a new name and a mission to combat childhood illiteracy.

The rest of the story of year-old e-tailer MonkeyReader.com is still being written but its founders hope the ending will be happy—and successful.

"We're beginning, we're growing, we have a lot of great ideas," co-founder David Lenett of the venture, a successor of the Discovery Bookshop, a popular Philadelphia children's bookstore that closed in the 1990s and became an online storefront that evolved into the more interactive MonkeyReader site. 

Source: The Associated Press
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myYearbook sold for $100M, to stay in New Hope

Teen networking site myYearbook is expected to stay in New Hope after being sold for $100 million to Latino social network Quepasa, according to Forbes.

An unknown person once said that high school is the mouse race to prepare you for the rat race. For the next generation of million dollar milennials, that race is off to an early start.

It was a simple and irresistibly practical idea from siblings Catherine and David Cook. In 2005, the 15- and 16-year-old duo decided to trade the paper version of the regular high school yearbook for the digital one. myYearbook was born, a social networking website that the brother and sister team worked with throughout high school. The founder of the site would be Geoff Cook, the other sibling to Catherine and David, who would work to hire over 100 employees with the company. myYearbook exploded in popularity and in just six years it could proudly boast $17 million raised in financing, over 20 million members, 1.2 billion monthly page views, and $20 million in revenue as reported by both MSNBC and Business Insider.

Source: Forbes

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R5's Agnew helps N.Y. group bring Union Transfer music venue to Spring Garden St.

The Bowery Presents rock club group will open Union Transfer in Philadelphia in the former Spaghetti Warehouse building on Spring Garden Street, with help from local impresarios Sean Agnew and Avram Hornik, according to The New York Times.

The Bowery Presents empire of rock clubs and theaters has already expanded from the Lower East Side to New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine, and now it is spreading to Pennsylvania.

Working with two local partners, the company is opening Union Transfer, a new performance space near Center City in Philadelphia with room for 600 people. The first show will be Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on Sept. 21, and other coming shows include Shellac on Sept. 29, Wild Flag on Oct. 19 and Boris on Oct. 28, according to an announcement on Tuesday by Bowery Presents. About 200 shows a year are planned for the space, which was once a train depot and more recently a Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant.

Source: The New York Times

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Gigi and Big R's soul food truck earns Vendy Cup as Philly's top vendor

More than 500 people came to the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties for Saturday's Vendy Awards, reports the Associated Press.

Eight of the city's most popular food carts and trucks competed Saturday at the Vendy Awards, an offshoot of the popular New York City cook-off that started in 2005. Online voters chose the eight finalists and a panel of chefs and foodies at Saturday's sold-out and sweltering event chose the Caribbean and American soul food of Gigi and Big R's as the winner.

The 10-year-old curbside culinary business is operated by Elukene Rene ("Big R"), originally from Haiti, and Thomas Bacon ("Gigi"), from Philadelphia, and operates on the Drexel University campus.

Original source
: Associated Press
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IndyHall: We Cared About Philadelphia

AOL's travel blog Gadling makes a stop in Philly and is instantly enamored with Old City co-working space Independents Hall.

Sitting in a kitchen in a loft on Third Street in Old City, talking to one of the most enthusiastic and driven people I've met in years, I began to wonder what would happen if I quit my job, moved to Philadelphia and started my own business. Alex Hillman, wearing a t-shirt that read "I <3 my internet friends," was selling me on the cheekily named co-working space Independents Hall, of which he's a co-founder. His friend Parker Whitney was helping, telling me the story of his two years in Philadelphia.

The IndyHall guys certainly have the attention of the city, or at least some of its politicians. City councilman Bill Green is a big supporter, and government staffers are taking notice of the way things get done when fueled by passionate people-and Victory beer happy hours.

Original source: Gadling
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Berwyn firm leads benefit corporation, social entrepreneurship movements

Berwyn-based nonprofit B Lab is growing social entrepreneurship nationally, reports Inc.

The B Corp movement was founded in 2007 by 81 companies seeking an alternative to the for-profit way of doing business. According to B Lab, the B community today comprises 422 certified companies throughout 54 industries including business services firms, telecoms, banks, venture capitalists, tech firms, apparel, and consumer goods manufactures. These certified B Corps have a combined total of $1.94 billion in revenues.

There are tons of certified B Corps that are profitable businesses, says Jay Coen Gilbert, a B Lab cofounder. "Some have been getting great valuations and attracting outside capital. And some have sold their businesses for a profit."

Original source: Inc.
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Zahav chef Solomonov featured on ABC's Nightline

Chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav Restaurant in Society Hill says his grandmother's cooking inspires him, according to ABC's Nightline.

Michael Solomonov admits that as a kid he was "a terrible eater. I was like, 'I don't like tomatoes.'… I would eat … toast with sugar on it [all the time]."

The one thing he would never turn down were his grandmother's bourekas, savory puff pastries usually filled with cheese and olives. "She was Bulgarian, and they moved to Israel in '48, right after the War of Independence. She cooked these Balkan things that were foreign to everyone here in the United States, even Jews," he said.

Whenever she made a batch, Solomonov, his father and his brother "would eat bourekas and fall asleep -- kind of like face down on the plate."

Source: Nightline, ABC News

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Viridity, on the fast track to green transit, partners up for SEPTA project

Viridity Energy partners with Saft and Envitech on the first trackside energy storage system in North America, recycling energy from braking SEPTA trains and trolleys, according to the New York Times.

Subway trains need a lot of electricity to get going, turning electricity into kinetic energy, the energy of movement. When they pull into a station, many of them can do the opposite: generate electricity from their momentum. They turn their motors into generators to slow the train, producing current.

But in many systems, some of that energy goes to waste because of a bottleneck: the third rail, which carries current to the train, cannot handle as much energy as the train is generating during deceleration. Too much current pushes up the voltage, and when the voltage gets too high, the electricity is dissipated by running it through a piece of metal that converts it into heat.

But in Philadelphia, on the Market-Frankford line of the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority, a new company called Viridity Energy will install batteries to capture a lot of that electricity and hold it while the train is in the station. Then it can deliver the power when the train starts up again or store it for a time of day when it is needed more.

Source: The New York Times
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Examining Philly as America's best beer-drinking city

Philly Beer Week is viewed through the lens of Philadelphia's long, rich and tasty brewing history in this Washington Times report.

Philadelphia's role in worldly beer, though, is not limited to just German-style beer. Local publican Tom Peters, of the famed Monk's Cafe, is credited with bringing the first kegged Belgian beer to the States to be served on draft. With Philadelphia's well-known affinity for great beer, many of this country's and Belgium's beers make their way in to the Philadelphia beer market.

Therefore, local brewers, importers, and distributors have created more educated consumers who have demanded more experimentation and innovation. The circle of supply and demand remains unbroken in Philadelphia.

Original source: Washington Times
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Comcast and DreamIt fund minority entrepreneurs

Comcast Interactive Capital and DreamIt Ventures partner to provide business development to minority owned initiatives, according to TechCrunch.

Comcast Interactive Capital, the venture capital arm of the media giant, has partnered with Philadelphia based venture fund and startup accelerator Dreamit Ventures to provide seed funding, training, mentoring and other benefits to minority-led startups through DreamIt's accelerator program.

The new $350,000 fund will give five minority-led startups for its Fall Philadelphia 2011 program a extra infusion of capital on top of the funding DreamIt provides for its class of startups. For Comcast Interactive Capital, this is the first investment initiative from the $20 million fund that was created as part of the acquisition of NBC Universal. The $20 million fund will be used to invest in other minority led startups and initiatives (outside of DreamIt), mainly in the technology sector.

Source: TechCrunch
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NYT picks Philly's top coffee shops

Oliver Strand names six Philly coffee spots he loves as much as our sports, art and culture, according to the New York Times.

Philadelphia has plenty going for it: the best four-man rotation in baseball, art worth fighting over, a ruin so elegant and haunting it feels like Berlin. It also has superb coffee. Recently, I went on a coffee crawl that took me to a handful of shops where the baristas aren't just tremendously skilled, they're disarmingly sweet-natured. I found an energetic scene thriving outside the gravitational pull of the hometown giant La Colombe Torrefaction.

I was in Philadelphia to check out the local Thursday Night Throwdown --TNT to insiders -- a monthly cappuccino-off where 32 baristas compete for glory (the winner gets his or her initials embroidered on a strip of denim) and a decent-sized kitty (from the entrance fees). The evening was three hours of steaming milk in front of a crowd plied with pizza and beer. A news crew taped the throw-down, maybe because one of the judges was Winston Justice, offensive tackle for the Eagles and co-owner of Elixr Coffee, the host of the contest. Later, a good number of the competitors and spectators adjourned to a dive bar with a drag show -- the $7 cover included a can of beer and a shot of Jim Beam. Fun town.

Source: The New York Times
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Goodbye to Center City's video Beaux

When Center City's Beaux Arts Video closes its doors for good, a former customer says a long goodbye, according to The Millions.

At first glance, Beaux Arts Video didn't look like much. A cramped storefront on Tenth and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, it was a few hundred square feet of worn carpet, handmade shelves, and ceilings that dripped when it rained. The front of the shop, bright and neatly kept, was devoted to new releases; a larger, scruffier section, down a short flight of steps, held the rest of its aging stock, VHS to DVD, classics to pure dreck.

Despite its shortcomings, Beaux Arts managed a modest greatness. Its overstuffed racks spoke like an ardent fan who loved
Tootsie, Marty, and Zardoz pretty much equally. When my wife and I moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2001, we found ourselves there most nights, our eyes aglaze with choice. Kirsten browsed upstairs, moving slowly from row to row; I poked around downstairs, searching for something weird: Delicatessen, Logan's Run, maybe A Boy and His Dog.

Source: The Millions
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Cigna marks 52 percent profit in Q1

Philadelphia based insurance giant Cigna Corp. exceeded first-quarter expectations due to lowered medical claims and increased international business, according to The Associated Press.

Cigna Corp.'s first-quarter net income jumped 52 percent as medical claims fell, the international business grew again, and it raised its 2011 profit forecast like other big health insurers that also beat expectations for the quarter.

The Philadelphia company said Thursday earnings in health care, its largest segment, climbed 47 percent, and premiums and fees from its international business rose 32 percent, fueled in part by the purchase of the Belgian company Vanbreda International last year.

Source: The Associated Press
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