Blackboard Founder Michael Chasen Speaks at Start Up Grind Philadelphia

Start Up Grind Philadelphia Chapter President Mike Maher (left) Interviews former CEO and Blackboard founder Michael Chasen (right).

Start Up Grind Philadelphia Chapter President Mike Maher (right) Interviews former CEO and Blackboard founder Michael Chasen (left).

PHILADELPHIA – Have you ever sat five feet from a someone who built a company out of nothing and then sold if for $1.7 billion? I did last night.

Michael Chasen (39), founder and former CEO of Blackboard, was the key-note speaker at last night’s Start Up Grind event hosted at Benjamin’s Desk in Center City Philadelphia.  Chasen sat with Start Up Grind Chapter President, Mike Maher, and told told the story of taking a company from five people in a brownstone in Washington D.C, to 3,000 employees and a value of over one billion dollars.

I arrived at the building located at 1701 Walnut Street just before 6 p.m.  I navigated through the under-construction entrance and squeezed into an elevator with an assortment of young professionals, all eager to make sure we made it to the event on-time.

Continue reading

A Day In the Life of Small Business Owner Bobby Reed

Philadelphia, Pa.- On Thursday April 17, 2014, I was able to follow Bobby Reed throughout his workday as he was packaging replays and highlights for the Atlanta Braves production team while they faced the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.


Bobby Reed is the president of Loaded Pixel, one of the roughly 28 million small businesses in the United States. Bobby is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and has been pursing a career in video and TV production since the age of 15. After eventually moving to Philadelphia and working free-lance work for a number of years for NBC Sports among other agencies, he was able to take the relationship he had developed with co-workers Chris McGlynn and Tim Lazone to branch out on their own.

Continue reading

It’s Official: The Nerds Are Here to Stay

On Friday April 11 at approximately 4 p.m., the city officially unveiled the re-naming of a stretch of N. Third St. from Market St. to Girard Ave to “Nerd Street”.  The “nerds” held their celebration with a BBQ at Liberty Lands park, centrally located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The event brought together members of the local and tech community, as well as City Government officials that helped the re-naming take place.

Click the link below for  the full story

The Good and Bad of Philadelphia Jobs

Philadelphia, Pa.  – Just three weeks ago Jasmine Payoute and I undertook the task of covering the niche job market here in Philadelphia.  At this point in time I would like to take a quick minute to look at the job market as a whole and the good or bad happenings as of today.


Reported by Natalie Kostelni of The Philadelphia Business Journal, the company will be brining 60 new jobs to its office in the Naval Yard, you can read the full story here.  What’s an important take away from this other than the 60 jobs that are being added, is the growth and success of the Navy Yard as a growing business center.

Francis Hilario, also of The Philadelphia Business Journal, is reporting 1 in 5 Philadelphia workers are looking to change jobs, for the full story read here.  The important take away again is that if workers are looking to change job means that there are jobs available.


If you are out of work and have been out of work . . .you are out of luck.  Recently U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Pa(R), voted NOT to extend unemployment benefits for those who are out of work.  This action is taking place at a time when the region has been hit hard by harsh weather conditions; causing families to incur additional energy, food, incidental and repair costs.  For more related content click HERE or HERE.

Bags That Can Bear The Load

Owner Rolland Burns sits at R.E. Load entrance. /Photo credit Zachary Rendin

Owner Rolland Burns sits at R.E. Load entrance. /Photo credit Zachary Rendin

Philadelphia, Pa. – Finding a place in the fast-evolving consumer-driven marketplace isn’t all high-tech software development.  There is no better example right here in Philadelphia than R.E. Load.

Rolland Burns and Ellie Lum founded R.E. Load, located at 608 N. second St., in 1998; the name came from the first initials of each of their names.  Ellie and Rolland were both bike messengers at the time striving for a better product.

“Ellie and I didn’t like our bags and she knew how to sew.  We started making new bags and people just started asking us about them,” said Rolland.  The growth occurred organically over time.

In the early stages there was no storefront, it was just run out of a warehouse and began as mostly all custom orders.  A tipping point was in 2000 when the Cycle Messenger World Championship came to town.  “It brought all kinds of people from around the world into our shop,” said Rolland.  Today R.E. Load is able to distribute their handmade-in-America product globally to distributors in Japan, Germany and Switzerland.  Rolland estimates they move roughly 1000 bags a year, mostly through the online marketplace, but are still able to meet the needs of all the riders in Philadelphia as well.  This is all accomplished with just three employees, who typically don’t come from a background with strong sewing skills.  “Our employees are mostly artist or creative people, who fit in and can learn quickly.”

Geric Forsten works at R.E. Load /Photo credit Zachary Rendin

Geric Forsten works at R.E. Load /Photo credit Zachary Rendin

According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia as of 2008 at least 36,000 residents commuted to work via bicycle at least once a month.  Also, The League of American Bicyclist reported in 2012 that Philadelphia had a 300.6 percent increase in commuters via bicycle since 1990.  There is clearly a market for this product not just globally, but also right here at home.

The success of the product seems to be based on quality, word of mouth being the primary means of how others found out about the product.  A commitment to quality as well as customer care is paramount to R.E. Load.

“Quality, Philly-made, great people,” were words used by Heather DeRonck, who along with husband Bryan Van Arsdale, owns Bike Revolutions on 756 S. Fourth St.  “It’s a great product that they stand behind”, she said, “Whether you grab one off the shelf or customize your own they will last forever.”  This husband and wife team has owned the shop since 2006.   She continued, “Another great feature of the product itself is Rolland . . .you want to see independent like-minded people succeed.”

Of course the product is not just for bicyclist, really anyone who wants a high-quality customizable bag, to use for anything from fly-fishing to hiking.  R.E. Load arose without a grand scheme or business plan.  It began with two like-minded people willing to work hard and create a good product.  Their success came from making the best product out of the best materials, while maintaining a commitment to remain environmentally conscious.