Three firms have been picked to share office space with The Inquirer and other PMN news outlets in the Project Liberty Digital Incubator, the latest local space dedicated to small and start-up information technology businesses.
The firms, selected by PMN adviser and incubator operator Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, are CloudMine, a smartphone applications developer platform headed by CEO Brendan McCorkle; ElectNext, headed by Princeton political scientist Keya J. Dannenbaum, which is developing an app to help voters choose candidates; and SnipSnap, a print-to-mobile coupon scanner conversion service headed by Ted Mann.
“We’re providing these companies free rent, free office equipment, and the infrastructure to operate their business, day-to-day, for a six-month period, while they agree to develop a media product for consideration" by The Inquirer and other PMN publications, which include the Daily News, Philadelphia SportsWeek and Philly.com, spokesman Mark Block told me.
PMN isn’t guaranteeing it will use these apps. After six months, the incubator will consider new applicants, which will join the company at its planned new offices at Eighth and Market Streets, Block said. The incubator is funded by a $250,000 Knight Foundation grant and aided by Drexel University, which supplies interns to the firms, and DreamIt Ventures, which helped all three firms build their business models.
"We're looking forward to seeing these projects benefit from the incubator, and ultimately produce models that help strengthen both community news and information here in the fourth largest media market and throughout the country," said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
More on SnipSnap from boss Ted Mann: "We've built the first mobile application to let you scan, save, and redeem printed coupons on your smartphone. All a user needs to do is simply snap a picture of the offer and the app works its magic to scan all of the printed text and images. Once scanned, you can easily search and retrieve the coupon, and the app also provides in-store notifications and expiration-date reminders." See SnipSnap's DreamIt presnetation at http://youtu.be/tq0XWDdWXt8
Mann is a newspaperman: "I worked in the newspaper business for the past six years, first as a writer and editor, and more recently as the head of digital operations for Gannett's 6 NJ papers. I'm 34 and live in Haddonfield, and was also on the winning team at the Fall Philly Startup Weekend (for the "Eff the PPA" app).
"My co-founder, Brad Goldoor, was a digital sales superstar at Gannett and CareerBuilder, and we got to know our technical co-founders, Hari and Mahe Bayireddy (brothers), from the apps they built for CareerBuilder clients...
"I expect our companies to incubate PMN as much as the other way around. We're already eager to put together a speaker series, drawing from our contacts with local entrepreneurs; we plan to organize skill-share sessions, ranging from a primer on "agile development" to mobile backend tricks; and we're each already actively engaged with different departments at the Inky."
Specifically, I'm working with Doc Holliday and his sales team on incorporating SnipSnap into their pitches to pre-print publishers (i.e. Inserts like Target, Best Buy, Valassis). ElectNext has been talking with Wendy Warren about using their voting site as a kind of white-label Election Center for Philly.com. And Cloudmine is aiming to power the mobile backends for the next generation of PMN mobile apps.