PubTrawlr, a search engine for scientific research founded by Dr. Jonathan Scaccia, is the first tenant to graduate from the SPARK Business Incubator at Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute, the university announced recently.
The SPARK Business Incubator is a support system through which a network of mentors, staff, and students offer participating entrepreneurs a suite of services, including business planning, branding, website development, technology transfer and digital and traditional marketing assistance.
Entrepreneurs sign temporary leasing agreements as business incubator tenants that end when they graduate the program.
“The SPARK Business Incubator provides start-up companies with a supportive environment to learn, grow and thrive. Incubator space is intended to be temporary, and incubator graduation is a call for celebration,” said Michelle Conway, director of student and client services at O’Pake. “Our ultimate goal is to incubate businesses that support the local economy and add to the brain gain of Berks County.”
Scaccia said SPARK’s services matched what he needed as an early-stage entrepreneur.
“Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I tend to want to do a lot of things myself. What SPARK did was help me realize my blind spots and then connect me with people who could help address those blind spots,” Scaccia said in comments to MediaNews Group. “For example, I knew my technology and product but not the business landscape. They guided me through the process of putting my business plan together, so I knew how to address those blind spots. Their network also proved invaluable as I built out my team.”
Scaccia’s product, PubTrawlr, is an artificial intelligence-driven platform that helps people find new and relevant scientific research on demand.
Scaccia credits O’Pake with much of PubTrawlr’s success and growth from a basement experiment to a flourishing business.
“Being near a community of people who are innovating and trying to create is energizing. There is a definite spillover effect. Yes, the world of work has changed with more of us becoming remote. Yet, there is something both tangible and intangible about working in proximity with talented and driven people,” Scaccia told MediaNews Group.
Scaccia was part of the inaugural cohort of SPARK Business Incubator tenants along with Adrean Turner and Radarra McLendon.
Turner, a life coach, author, speaker, and pageant queen, will also be migrating from the SPARK Incubator to start a new venture following her SPARK lease.
McLendon, founder of local nonprofit The Village of Reading, transitioned to a larger facility following her lease to support her business growth.
“We went from servicing 50 clients virtually in 2020, to seven tenants and 100 clients in 2021 to gradating our first incubator tenant and servicing well over 200 clients,” said O’Pake’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr. “I look forward to seeing the impeccable work our team of staff, O’Pake Fellows and Graduate Assistants will continue to do to serve local business. This is just the beginning.”
Current incubator tenants include Cemboo, an online video streaming technology company founded by Hayden Craddolph, and the O’Pake General Store, which sells O’Pake Honey.
The store has plans to expand and sell products from other incubator clients and local businesses.
Conway said SPARK will focus on early-stage technology start-ups at the start of 2023.
To that end, O’Pake is seeking a technology start-up to sign a leasing agreement as a SPARK Business Incubator tenant.
To learn more about the lease agreement and accompanying business incubator services, contact Michelle Conway at [email protected] or 484-254-2126.